The Organs of Westbourne

 

It is not generally known that organs date back to the 3rd century BC, the first organs being “water organs” (i.e. powered by water in that the air pressure was controlled by hydraulics) with the design attributed to Ctesibius, an engineer who worked in Alexandria.  The first organs appeared in England in the latter half of the 9th century (eg Winchester Cathedral) but these were vast, primitive noise machines.  Organs of a more acceptable size and sound appeared in this country from the 12th century and, surprisingly, were finding their way into parish churches as early as the 14th century.  The tiny village of Branscombe in Devon is recorded as having a pipe organ in 1307 and Orpington, Kent, as possessing a pipe organ in 1340.  At Wetheringset (Suffolk) one William Bradway is recorded as having left the sum of £10 to the church for the provision of an organ (fragments of which are around today) “that God's service might be the more solemnly sungen”.

Unfortunately nothing is known of organs at Westbourne (if indeed there were any) before 1819 and even then records relate only to the installation of an organ in that year but tell us nothing more.  Like many other churches which installed barrel organs around that time, it is thought probable that Westbourne installed some sort of organ when the musicians and their Minstrel’s Gallery became redundant during the first half of the 1800’s but exactly what and where is a matter of speculation.

We do, however, know a great deal about the organ which was installed in 1862, much of which became the Great division of the instrument which accompanied services here until its final service of Evensong on Easter Sunday 2001.  This was a one manual instrument made by JW Walker and it was installed at the head of the north aisle (where the altar now stands in the side chapel).  The organ must have been quite a feature of the church in that it possessed 14ft high gilded front pipes, which were re-gilded 3 years later - possibly because they had become tarnished during the removal of the Minstrel’s Gallery, its windows and the false ceiling in 1864.  At that time the organ was also slightly enlarged.

The total cost of the organ in 1862 was £180 guineas.  It measured 14’ high by 8’ 9” wide and 5’11” deep. It was encased in a Venetian Swell, with the aforementioned gilded, speaking (i.e. working) front pipes and a 30-note ‘German pedal board’ with 3 composition pedals.  The specification of the organ was as follows:

           

1862 – JW Walker

Open Diapason

Stopped Diapason

Dulciana TC

(cont. to CC by Stopped Diapason)

Principal

Flute

Fifteenth

Mixture

Spare slider for Trumpet

 

Bourdon Pedal  (CCC – F)

 

Coupler – Manual to Pedal

3 Composition Pedals

 

 

8

8

8

 

4

4

2

III

 

 

16

 

 

1864 – 1865  Enlarged JW Walker

(still a one-manual instrument)

 

“Stopped Diapason cut to form Bass to Keraulophon”

 

 

 

 

“Keraulophon 8ft TC, inserted on slider”

 

“Open Diapason 16ft inserted in place of  Bourdon CCC to F Tenor 30 pipes”

 

New bellows with double feeders

Front pipes re-gilded

 

Then in 1876, the organ was enlarged to a 2-manual instrument with the addition of a Swell division and couplers to the Great and the Pedal at a cost of £237.17s.0d.  Records show that the Swell was comprised of 6 stops, 5 of them new, with the Keraulophon now “being employed on the Swell” together with the “Stopped Diapason Treble taken from Great organ”. A new stop “Wald Flute Treble was substituted in Great for Stopped Diapason Treble Pipes taken for Swell”.

Specification of Organ as in 1876 (Walker)

 

Great

Open Diapason 

Wald Flute*  

Dulciana TC

Principal

Flute

Fifteenth

Mixture

 

8

8

8

4

4

2

III

 

 

Swell

Horn Diapason*

(metal to TC, then wood, stopped)

Stopped Diapason

Keraulophon TC

Harmonic Flute*

Suabe Piccolo*

Horn*

 

*new pipework

 

8

 

 

8

8

4

2

8

 

 

 

Pedal

Open Diapason

 

 

 

 

Swell to Great

Swell to Pedal

 

 

 

16

 

 

 

 

 

Specification of Organ as at Christmas 1890 (Haywood additions)

As above - plus Swell Oboe 8ft and a Pedal Open Wood 16ft

 

We know that Alice Anne Marten provided funds not only for the addition of the Swell organ but also for an organ chamber to be built on the outside of the SE corner of the church, into which the re-built organ was housed in 1876 and remained there, with modifications, until its removal last summer.  The organ chamber (now the Clergy Vestry) was so well blended with the rest of the building that few people were, or are, aware that this part of the church is only 125 years old.  The windows were built into the chamber but then boarded up with thick, tongued and grooved oak planking to provide some insulation to the chamber against extremes of the weather.

Fourteen years later, in 1890, WJ Haywood of London carried out further modifications to the organ, adding an 8ft Oboe to the Swell Division and a  16ft Open Wood to the Pedal division and completing the work in time for Christmas that year (see specification previous page).  Nothing further was done to the organ until 1935 when Hele & Co Ltd of Plymouth overhauled the organ and undertook its tuning and maintenance.  At this time the only changes made were to the Flute stops on the Great.  They modified the old Walker 4’ flute to become the Chimney Flute 8ft and, at the same time, somewhat confusingly, they added their own Wald Flute 4ft. Electric blowing was installed in 1938, the organ having been pumped manually prior to this by means of a large handle operated by boys from the village who were known as ‘blowers’.  Many of them inscribed their names on the inside of the wood panels which encased the organ chamber and a section of this is amongst the display of memorabilia of the old organ.  The organ was cleaned again by Hele in 1952 and then, in 1967, it was decided that they should rebuild the instrument, replacing the mechanical action with electro-pneumatic action and resulting in the final specification (but see 1982 note) below:

 


Organ Specification after the 1967 Hele Re-build

Great

Open Diapason 

(with Hele Bass)

Chimney Flute  

Dulciana TC

Principal

Wald Flute

Twelfth

Fifteenth

 

 

Swell to Great

Swell to Pedal

Great to Pedal

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

8

8

4

4

2⅔

2

 

W

 

W

W

H

H

W

W

Swell

Open Diapason

(ex Horn Diapason)

Stopped Diapason

Keraulophon TC

Gemshorn

Fifteenth

Mixture     19,22,26

Trumpet (Ex Horn)

Oboe

 

Thumb pistons:

4 to Swell

4 GP combs

Swell to Great reversible

Ditto Toe pistons

 

8

 

8

8

4

2

III

8

8

 

 

W

 

W

W

H

H

H

W

HW

Pedal

Open Wood (a)

Bourdon (b)

Octave ext. (a)

Bass Flute ext. (b).

Octave Flute ext.. (b)

 

 

 

 

 

Balanced Swell Pedal

Discus Blower

 

W = Walker

HW = Haywood

H = Hele

 

 

16

16

8

8

4

 

 

HW

W

H

H

H

 

[1982: Willis swapped over the Great and Swell Fifteenths, revoiced the Keraulophon to make it less reedy and more of a Salicional and turned the whole organ around, fitting a new Swell Box so that the organ spoke out into the Nave, rather than the Chancel].

Although much of the original Walker pipework was carefully restored and incorporated, the organ had now become something of a hybrid.  The 1876 Swell Harmonic Flute 4’, Suabe Piccolo 2’ were removed and the Great Mixture III was replaced with a Swell Mixture of unusual double-quint design. The inaugural recital was given by Harold Darke, recordings of which still exist although they are unfortunately of very poor quality.  

 

Elisabeth Alder