Shrewsbury Abbey

Organ

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WILLIAM HILL ORGAN IN SHREWSBURY ABBEY
PROPOSED SPECIFICATION OF THE COMPLETED ORGAN
RENOVATION OF THE ABBEY ORGAN
ORGANISTS, MASTERS OF MUSIC AND DIRECTORS OF MUSIC 1806 to DATE

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WILLIAM HILL ORGAN IN SHREWSBURY ABBEY

 Organ

[The casework]

The 1911 Hill organ replaced an 1808 Gray instrument. This organ was originally above the porch at the West end of the Abbey and during the 19th century was moved towards the East end of the nave. Extensive renovation of the Abbey building also took place at this time, and Pearson’s East end 'extension' was finished late in the 19th century. There was talk of the Abbey becoming the cathedral church for a Shropshire diocese, and a larger organ was felt to be necessary. William Hill and Sons were commissioned to install a new organ but the full specification was never completed. Pipe-work from the 1808 Gray organ was not used in the new Hill organ -- the 1911 instrument pipe-work was all stamped during manufacture by Hill with the 'Job Number 2412'.

 The Hill organ was inaugurated on 17 September 1911. The cost of the organ was 850. At the time, it was hoped to add the choir organ the following year at a further cost of 250, but the timing of this second phase of work has not been verified.

 

William Hill Organ

[The William Hill Organ]

 

An electric blower was installed in 1921 replacing a hand blown mechanism. In 1937, Hill, Norman, and Beard carried out work to:

  • Install the Great Posaune (in memory of a chorister, Mr Lee).

  • Add mechanism to enable the great double open diapason to be shared as the pedal violone.

  • Add a second Great open diapason. The original no 1 diapason became the no 2 diapason, and a much larger rank of pipes added as the new no 1 diapason. The new rank was second hand, of 1920s Hill, Norman and Beard manufacture, and had a broader and more ponderous tone than the former no 1 diapason. It is possible the pipe-work came from the Glyndebourne music room organ which had been broken up in 1936.

  • Clean the instrument.

  • Add the casework by Sir Charles Nicholson utilising pipes from the Great Double Diapason in display.

     

In 1945 the Swell horn was added (in memory of a former organist, Mr Tunstill using second hand pipes) and at the same time the existing 8’ oboe was transposed down to become the missing 16' reed. It is not known when the swell fifteenth was added in the soundboard slot intended for the 4’ flute, but it could well have been at this time.

There was a general cleaning of the organ in 1958 and, at the same time, changes were made to the choir organ. Until then, the choir box had contained the two solo reeds only, as was usual in Hill organs of the time, but in 1958 the box was extended, existing ranks moved in, the soundboard extended to take a new 2 2/3’ nazard and 2’ piccolo, and the shutter alignment changed.

There has been no major work to the work since 1958, and no cleaning work undertaken.  In this period a number of schemes for renovating, completing, refurbishing etc the Hill organ have been prepared, and at least two faculties obtained, but none of these have come to fruition.

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PROPOSED SPECIFICATION OF THE COMPLETED ORGAN

Original (1911) specification(Hill)

Current (2011) specification

May 2011

 specification

Comments

Pedal Organ

 

Open wood 32

Prepared for

1

Sub bass 32

New, from 3

Violone 16

Violone 16

2

Violone 16

Shared with great double

Open wood 16

Open wood 16

3

Open wood 16

 

Bourdon 16

Bourdon 16

4

Bourdon 16

 

Octave 8

Octave 8

5

Octave 8

From open wood

Bass flute 8

Bass flute 8

6

Bass flute 8

From bourdon

Cello 8

Prepared for

7

Principal 8

New

 

 

8

Fifteenth 4

New, from 8

Trombone 16

Prepared for

9

Trombone 16

New

 

 

10

11

D’ble trumpet 16

Trumpet 8

Duplicates 21

New - from 9

Swell Organ

 

Bourdon 16

Prepared for

12

Bourdon 16

New

Open diapason 8

Open diapason 8

13

Open diapason 8

 

Salcional 8

Salcional 8

14

Salcional 8

 

Voix celestes 8

Voix celestes 8

15

Voix celestes 8

 

Stopped diapason 8

Stopped diapason 8

16

Stopped diapason8

 

Principal 4

Principal 4

17

Principal 4

 

Flute 4

Prepared for

18

Flute 4

New

Fifteenth 2

Fifteenth 2

19

Fifteenth 2

 

Mixture 11

Mixture 11(19, 22)

20

Mixture 111

New third rank

Double trumpet 16

Prepared for

21

Double trumpet 16

New

Oboe 8

Contra oboe 16

22

Oboe 8

Revert to 8’

Horn 8

Horn 8

23

Horn 8

 

Clarion 4

Prepared for

24

Clarion 4

New

Choir Organ

 

Dulciana 8

Dulciana 8

25

Dulciana 8

 

Viol di gamba 8

Viol di gamba 8

26

Viol di gamba 8

 

Lieblich gedacht 8

Lieblich gedacht 8

27

Lieblich gedacht 8

 

 

 

28

Gemshorn 4

New

Suabe flute 4

Suabe flute 4

29

Suabe flute 4

 

 

Nazard 2 2/3

30

Nazard 2 2/3

 

 

Piccolo 2

31

Piccolo 2

 

Clarinet 8

Clarinet 8

32

Clarinet 8

 

Oboe 8

Orchestral oboe 8

33

Orchestral oboe 8

 

 

 

34

Tuba

Great posaune revoiced

Great Organ

 

Double diapason 16

Double diapason 16

35

D’ble diapason 16

 

Open diapason 8

Open diapason 8

36

Open diapason 8

Replaced

Open diapason 8

Open diapason 8

37

Open diapason 8

 

Hohl flute 8

Hohl flute 8

38

Hohl flute 8

 

Principal 4

Principal 4

39

Principal 4

 

 

Harmonic flute 4

40

Harmonic flute 4

 

Twelfth 2 2/3

Twelfth 2 2/3

41

Twelfth 2 2/3

 

Fifteenth 2

Fifteenth 2

42

Fifteenth 2

 

Mixture 111

Mixture 111 (17,19,22)

43

Mixture 111 (17,19,22)

 

Posaune 8

Posaune 8

44

Posaune 8

New

 

 

45

Clarion 4

From 44

 

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RENOVATION OF THE ABBEY ORGAN

Shrewsbury Abbey’s Hill organ was inaugurated in September 1911, therefore it is now 100 years old. The quality of the Hill organ and the richness of its Edwardian tone, still shine through and the organ is a wonderful and fitting complement to the beauty of this ancient Abbey church. It is treasured by the Abbey Parish Church Council (PCC), choir and congregation.

The original Hill specification has never been completed. Over the years, various additions and changes have been made, but Hill’s original scheme is incomplete.

The original tubular pneumatic action and winding systems are now showing their age. The organ is increasingly susceptible to the vagaries of the weather and relative humidity levels, and is becoming progressively more unreliable. It was virtually unplayable over the Christmas 2010 period and gave a very poor lead to the Abbey’s seasonal congregations.

 The PCC has therefore decided that the organ has to be renovated. Whilst this major work is carried out, with the organ completely dismantled, the original Hill design should also be completed.

 At the same time, the PCC, the Vicar and the newly appointed Director of Music are taking steps to develop the wider musical life of the Abbey. The renovation and completion of the 100 year old Hill organ is a key part of this ambition.

 Objectives

The PCC requirement is that the work on the organ must achieve a number of clearly defined objectives, which are:

  •  The quality and integrity of Hill’s design and sound must be preserved. Where appropriate, changes made subsequent to the 1911 original installation can be reversed. Preserving the quality and richness of the Hill sound is of paramount importance.

  • The 100 year old actions are to be modernised, and electro- pneumatic actions installed. The PCC believes this to be the most cost effective way of reducing the future maintenance burden of the organ. This means the Abbey will preserve the integrity and quality of the Hill “sound” with modern key to pipe technical arrangements. These changes will also facilitate the addition of electric player aids to the console.

  • The organ currently lacks the “punch” needed to give musical leadership to large congregations. Completing the original Hill design, and making improvements to the internal layout of the organ should increase the projected sound and definition of the organ.

  • The PCC and its advisers have considered whether any minor tonal additions are needed. The probable specification does reflect this, and the PCC believes the changes envisaged are wholly in keeping with other Hill early 20th century organs and will enhance the Hill organ sound for congregational and musical purposes.

  • Finally, the PCC’s intention is to have an organ which gives a substantial period of maintenance free life - which is more resilient, far less susceptible to the vagaries of atmospheric conditions and fit for purpose for the rest of the 21st century.

 

Other important aspects of the specification of work to the organ are that:

  • A structural change will also be made to the way the organ is positioned in the Abbey. By installing a new steel frame, and lifting the base of the organ, the risk of future flood damage to the organ will be alleviated.

Then -

 All existing pipe-work is to be cleaned, renovated as necessary and reused. New pipe-work has to be to a Hill standard of specification and sound quality

 There will be new winding arrangements which in turn will release a considerable area of space under the organ for secure storage of music, robes etc.

There is to be no change to the external appearance of the organ, with the 1937 Nicholson case retained, but cleaned, and patched/renovated where necessary

 The present organ console is a fine Edwardian example and comfortable to use. This overall ambience is to be retained, although modern player aids will be installed

 Access to the console needs to be improved, as the current staircase is difficult to use.

 A temporary organ will have to be installed for the period of the work when the Hill organ will been removed.

 Cost

For planning purposes, we are currently assuming that the cost of this work will be around 500,000 (including VAT), but it may easily surpass that number before it is completed.

Fundraising

The work will not be formally contracted until 75% of the cost has been raised or committed. Our fundraising programme, 'Sponsor an Abbey Pipe' is underway. Details can be found on the webpage under 'Abbey Renaissance'.

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ORGANISTS, MASTERS OF MUSIC AND DIRECTORS OF MUSIC 1806 to DATE

18066- 18200    T     Thomas Tomlins

1820 - 18311    J     John Amott

1831 - 18477    J     John Hiles

1847 - 1865         William FletcherWilliam Fletcher

1865 - 18922    J     James Warhurst

1892 - 1919         Percy William PilcherPercy William Pilcher

1919 - 1922

1922 - 1937         George Walter TonkissGeorge Walter Tonkiss

1937 -19455         G A TurnerG A Turner

1945 -19477         Edgar DanielsEdgar Daniels

1947  - 1974        John R StanierJohn R Stanier

1974 -19766         Ray WillisRay Willis

1976 -19788         Robert GillingsRobert Gillings

1978 -19844         Kenneth GreenwayKenneth Greenway

1984 -19866         Charles Joness

19861986                     Sean Tucker

1986 - 1988          Keith Orrell

1988 - 1992         Paul DerrettPaul Derrett

1992 - 19944    J     James Lloyd-Thomas

1995 - 1999         William HaywardWilliam Hayward

20000 -20066         David LeekeDavid Leeke

20077 -20100    T     Tim Mills

2011 - 2013         Tom Edwardss

2013 to present    Duncan Boutwood

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