History of the Organ


A revised account of the history of

The Organs in

Ormskirk Parish Church

Mark D Rawsthorn

December 2011
Revised 2018

The first record of an organ in Ormskirk Parish Church dates from 1552, when an inventory reference is made to ‘The organs bought of the King’. Whether this is a reference to an organ bought from the King, or to an organ installed for the period in 1495 when Henry VII was resident at Lathom and worshipped in the church is not known. A more likely possibility is that the organ was removed from Burscough Priory at the Dissolution, when the property rights would have been assumed by The Crown. Ormskirk Church with its endowments had been bestowed on the Canons Regular of Burscough Priory (about two miles distant) by Robert, Lord Lathom, in 1189. In any case, an organ was already in use in the church in the mid-1500s . The use of the plural does not imply more than one instrument; this was common usage at the time, in the same way as we would now talk about ‘scissors’ or ‘trousers’ when referring to a single item. In any case, Ormskirk must have been unusual amongst small provincial towns in possessing an organ at all; in most cases, accompaniment of whatever music was involved in the liturgy would have been by other musical instruments. This was also common following the Restoration, by which time most pre-existing organs had been destroyed. Perhaps, though, having an organ in the church reflects the greater relative importance of Ormskirk as a town pre-1800; Mona Duggan tells us that a survey of rooms and stabling available in 1686 showed that Ormskirk had 64 beds whereas Wigan had only 33, indicating something of the relative sizes of the two towns. Many old churches did not invest in an organ until the c19, when a great wave of civic pride and patronage (often by incredibly wealthy industrialists) found, in the organ, a vehicle to demonstrate prestige. In Ormskirk, however, in 1679, reference is made to ‘one old organ case with some old organ pipes’ in the ‘bell house’. As these are obviously the remains of a previous instrument, no new organ-building occurring before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, they must be taken to be the remains of the organ mentioned in 1552, dismantled and stored in the tower during the Commonwealth.

Old case
1731 Case, by Shepard

Documents still extant make reference to repair work done in 1735 by one John Rogers of Chester, at the expense of Jane Brooke of Chorley, who is cited as the donor of the instrument. Although Mrs Brooke is referred to as, ‘of Chorley’, it would seem that this is merely a reference to her late husband’s family, being the Brookes of Astley Hall. Mrs Brooke (née Hesketh) was, in fact, a resident of Ormskirk, and was the aunt of Dame Elizabeth Stanley, wife of Sir Edward Stanley of Bickerstaffe, Bart., whose family chapel occupies the east end of the north aisle. Notes detailing payments from Mrs Brookes to Samuel Shepard, the organ builder, still exist; a painted board in the tower room at Ormskirk dates it at 1731, and says that the best pipework from the previous instrument was incorporated into the 1731 instrument*. The total cost was £135 16s 3d.; almost £29000 at today’s prices. A vestry meeting decided that a salary not exceeding £25p.a. should be paid to an organist, coming from a levy on all those who paid the poor rate; those who paid were to have the right of appointment of the organist. The first Organist appointed thus was James Parrin. However, in Jane Brooke’s will of 1742, it was stated that there had been difficulties in raising sufficient money and she left £300 to the Earl of Derby to invest for the organist’s salary, the right of appointment resting with the Earl, suggesting that the descendants of Parrin might be suitable.

*An illustration of the case of this instrument is held in the Lancashire Record Office, Preston, and was uncovered by the celebrated organist, Lady Susi Jeans, whilst researching the Ormskirk organ; her husband, Sir James Jeans, the renowned astronomer (himself an amateur organist) having been born and baptised here.

In 1758, when the organ provided by Jane Brooke needed attention, a new instrument was commissioned from Richard Parker of Salford. This may have incorporated good pipework from the previous instrument, as was (and is) common practice. Parker was a

Old case
The Parker case in Ormskirk in the C19, showing swell box to rear

partner in the firm of Glyn/Gwyn and Parker, and is mentioned in the will of Thomas Gwyn, organ builder of Shrewsbury, proved in January, 1754, i.e., before the Ormskirk Organ. With premises ‘At the sign of the organ’ in Chapel Street, Salford, and variously in partnership with Gwyn, he built many fine instruments, including those for St Ann’s Church, Manchester (the parish church) (1730), The Collegiate Church of Ss. Mary, Denys & George (now Manchester Cathedral) (1746), Rochdale Parish Church (St Chad’s) (1746), where he rebuilt the 1660 Dallam organ from Manchester Cathedral, and St Peter’s, Church Street, Liverpool (later the pro-cathedral) (1766). Parker also built the organ for All Hallows-the-Great, Thames Street, London (1749), where the famous c17 organist and composer William Boyce was Organist; a fact confirmed by the Vestry Records which state that the payment was made to Richard Parker, and not Thomas Parker, the contemporary London organ builder. Many sources also believe that it was Richard

Parker organ case 1760 ii edited
Drawing of case by Parker (1758)

Parker, and not Thomas Parker, who was contracted by Handel to build the organ in the Foundling Hospital, London. George Ashdown Audsley, in his tome ‘The Art of Organ-Building’ (1905) concurs with this thinking, saying, ‘The most distinguished provincial builders at this period (first half of the eighteenth century) were Glyn and Parker, who, in partnership, carried on business at Salford, Manchester’ and, referring to the Foundling Hospital, continues, ‘Handel opened the latter organ; and it is believed that it was through his recommendation that the work was entrusted to Glyn and Parker, to the disappointment of the metropolitan builders.’ This final observation seems to point away from Thomas Parker, who would have fallen into that ‘disappointed’ category. Clearly, Ormskirk was in good company.   Richard Bury, Organist of St Ann’s, Manchester, gave the opening recital on the Ormskirk organ in August 1758, as recorded in the Liverpool Courier. An account written within George Lea’s ‘Handbook to Ormskirk’ (1893) by former chorister and Organist Thomas Hariot (see below), recounts the situation at the time of his boyhood, 60 years earlier, and refers to

Valletta 2
The former case from Chester Cathedral, in its new home;  this may be the case referred to by Watts

the dark wood case and gilt pipes of the organ, saying that the tone of its flutes and diapasons were unrivalled, save in the old (sic) organ at Chester Cathedral. The Musical Times at the close of the nineteenth century says that in around 1850, a Mr Watts was appointed Organist and wrote a pamphlet on the history of the organ, which he said to have dated “from the time of Father Smith”, i.e., the late 1600’s. Certainly, the old (1758) case bears a resemblance to those by Harris or Smith. It is one of those classified by Boeringer as ‘Alate Chester’, taking its name from the very instrument referred to above. Interestingly, that instrument, in a revised form, still survives, having been bought by St Paul’s Cathedral, Valletta, Malta, when it became redundant in Chester. The article also states that his predecessor, Mr Heathcote, had been in post since 1794. However, there was some confusion here, as Heathcote was not Watts’s immediate predecessor; a plaque in the church records Heathcote’s death in 1835, at the age of 77, having been Organist there for 52 years, i.e., since 1783. In fact, during Michael Heathcote’s final illness, as his faculties failed, the playing was done by Thomas Hariot, who had been a boy soprano in the choir*, along with his father and grandfather. Hariot’s appointment was then ratified by a certificate of appointment from the Earl of Derby, the last organist to be so nominated. He appears to have been succeeded by George Watts. Incidentally, Watts’s thinking was that the instrument had been built by ‘John Harris’, son of the celebrated organ-builder Renatus Harris and grandson of organ-builder Thomas Harris who had returned from France after the Restoration. His rationale was that the case was an exact copy of one known to have been built by Harris (although which that was is not specified), and that the Stopped Diapason was made in metal, rather than in wood, a practice unusual in England and characteristic of Harris, “… and very pure and mellow it is.” We know that John Harris died in 1743 and his business was carried on by his brother-in-law, John Byfield. Might Harris have been the builder of the 1731 instrument? It would seem, at first sight, a tenuous link, especially as we know that the organ case described by Watts was not the original one, and was most likely constructed by Parker in 1758. However, the present-day organ restorer/historian Dominic Gwynn believes that the Gwyn and Parker partnership had roots in Thomas Swarbrick (or Schwarbrook) and Mark Anthony Dallam, both of whom had trained with Renatus Harris, John Harris’s father. They would, therefore, have been connected with, and of the same ‘generation’ as, John Harris. A further, and even more more tenuous connection, is that Thomas Dallam, who was considered the greatest organ builder of the late c16, and was grandfather of Renatus Harris and therefore great-grandfather of John Harris, was born in 1570, in the village of Dalton, about five miles from Ormskirk. Dallam had been sponsored by Queen Elizabeth I and, amongst other work was responsible for the organs in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, King’s College, Cambridge (where his organ case still stands on the screen), Worcester Cathedral and the Chapel Royal, Holyrood, Edinburgh.

*Incidentally, the choir at the time was ‘amateur and permanent’, and consisted of John Hariot (Leader and Tenor), George Hariot (son of John) (Bass), Thomas Hariot (son of George; the aforementioned boy soprano), John Sourbutt (Tenor), ‘the aged and venerable’ Stephen Houghton (Bass) and Ralph Balshaw (Alto).

The Swell Organ was added in 1796, built by ‘Wilkinson’ (although too early for the famous Kendal-based builder) and paid for by members of the parish. In 1850, the organ was enlarged by Joseph Roome of Avenham Road, Preston, who carried the Swell down from Fiddle G to Tenor C, added pedals and a set of pedal pipes, along with a number of other stops.

Michael Ockenden states that there was an unsuccessful bid to move both organ and singers from the west gallery in 1840 and again in 1862; however, the organ was merely overhauled and enlarged in 1862. Robert Postill of York is recorded in 1872 as having rebuilt the instrument (he is also recorded as having built organs at St John’s Lathom – presumably Lathom Park Chapel although possibly St John’s RC Church, Burscough, whose official address is Lathom – and at St Helens), so this would seem very likely to be the work done in 1862. Postill did very little work in Lancashire and the only other jobs recorded are St John’s, Burscough Bridge (1859) and West End Congregational Church, Southport (1867). A Choir Organ was added at this point, some stops were ‘retained’ at the subsequent rebuild; notably the Clarabella, Clarionet and a 4’Flute.

William Denman of York was contracted to rebuild the organ in 1887, whilst a Mr Heild was standing in as Organist in George Watts’s absence. Denman had worked for Postill from c.1844 to 1864, so he had probably already worked on the Ormskirk instrument in Postill’s 1862 rebuild and this may explain the choice, Postill himself having died in 1882. The consultant appointed for the project was the 34-year-old Henry Hudson, F.R.C.O., A.R.C.M., L.R.A.M., L.T.C.L., Organist of Holy Trinity, Southport, and renowned as the premier musician of the town. Michael Ockenden contends that the work was not completed until 1894, but appears to be confusing two different episodes, as the Parish Magazine of October 1887 records the work as having commenced.   Denman’s instrument is recorded as having incorporated stops from the previous instrument. The intended instrument apparently had the unusual feature of an Echo Organ enclosed in its own box, located within the main Swell box. The Echo Organ, however, was to have been played from the Swell key-board. Ventils were planned to control the wind to the Swell and Echo organs. Three composition pedals were specified to Great & Pedal, and likewise three to Swell & Pedal. In the plan, the metal pipes were (and remain) of best spotted metal and no zinc pipes were used. Wind pressures ranged from 1 ½” (Echo) through   2 ½” (Choir) and 3” (Great and Swell, to 4” (Pedal). The cheapest stops cost £7 10s., whereas the most expensive were priced at £50. The console is detailed as having keyboards and angled stop-jambs projecting from the case, i.e., an attached console. The pedalboard was radiating and concave. Furthermore, the case is stated as being from the previous instrument, although the present case, installed at a later date (but before 1895), appears to have been designed by Paley and Austin, the church architects at the building’s restoration. Correspondence between the church and Denman in 1887 details a number of changes made to the specification whilst the work was underway, including the abandonment of the Echo organ and the distribution of the stops elsewhere. Interestingly, a photograph of the church in 1895 shows the stonework of the organ loft to be cantilevered out with a stone parapet; this was replaced by the present (Austin & Paley) loft in 1927. Although the original specification details pneumatic action, by 1991,

Interior view, circa 1895. The Choir Organ cases are not yet present

Denman was again submitting a new specification, in which he determined to adopt the electric action system developed by the Hope-Jones Organ Company, and an article in ‘Musical Opinion’, June 1894, details the organ as built. Hope-Jones provided a mobile console for this instrument with the coupler-board and expression-shutter action; the rest appears to be Denman. Mobile consoles were a common feature of Hope-Jones’s work at this period, seemingly provided simply because it was possible! The mobile console appears on the 1895 photograph at the front of the nave, in the space latterly occupied by the lectern. Hope-Jones also included a ‘stop-switch’, being a device whereby

Hope Jones console
Very grainy photograph showing the Denman/Hope-Jones mobile console, located next to the lectern

the action of the stop-controls became temporarily isolated, allowing the organist to set up the next combination of stops at his leisure before power was restored to the controls and the stop-change effected. Three composition pedals were provided to each of Great, Swell and Pedal. The total weight of the organ was 15 tons and the cost, including the case, was £1500; £187,500 at today’s prices. A 1500-core cable connected console to organ. Blowing was effected by a 3 horsepower gas engine, which also drove a dynamo to provide electric light to the chancel. The opening recital was given on 27th April, 1894, by Mr Arthur Mitchell of Scarborough, about whom nothing more is mentioned. An Arthur Mitchell had a store including a Post Office at Kingston Road and Birchmount, Scarborough, by 1907; furthermore, the Hope-Jones/Denman alliance had built the organ in Holy Trinity, Scarborough (with a mobile console on a 150’ cable!) only a year earlier, in 1893, so it is possible that Mitchell was the Organist of this church. Although we know nothing of Mitchell’s abilities, we do know that a new and well-qualified organist, Richard Pitcher, Mus. Bac. (Dunelm), F.R.C.O., A.R.C.M., was appointed to Holy Trinity in 1896, and it would be fairly safe to assume, in those days, that this would reflect the musical status of that church and, presumably, its appointees.

The 1894 work was not without criticism at the time; Walter Bernhard, who wrote a regular column entitled ‘Organana’ in ‘Musical Opinion’, wrote, in November 1894:

“The pedal organ in the very fine instrument in Ormskirk Parish Church (the specification of which was published in the June number of this journal) presents a striking instance of wasted money. There is an octave coupler with the extra twelve notes. Well, when this coupler is drawn, with full pedal, this is the result; no stop of 32’, four of 16’, seven of 8’ and six of 4’. Now, with what possible objective was this designed? As a matter of course, octave passages appear in organ music to be played with both feet, and if an organist cannot play them properly, he had better turn his attention to pieces more suited to his powers. But surely all this additional work was not introduced to help incompetent organists? Yet what other use remains?   As it stands, it can hardly be styled a pedal organ at all; only the lower octaves of a very ill-balanced great organ. In an organ of the size of that under notice (which has more than fifty stops), the presence of a 32’ stop is imperative, but there is not even a sub-bourdon, while eighty or ninety superfluous pipes have been thrust in as if for a mere freak.”

The instrument was subsequently ‘rebuilt’ in 1897, only a few years later, by Hope-Jones and E Franklyn Lloyd of Chester Street, Liverpool, who had also worked with Hope-Jones on a number of other instruments. By this point, the Vox Humana appears to have migrated from the Choir Organ to the Swell. A more confusing issue arises with the evidence in two undated photographs (one tinted) which show the original structure of the organ loft but with additional organ cases high in the extreme eastern corners of the Sanctuary. These can only have been controlled by electric action, i.e. post Hope-Jones. These housed the Choir Organ; their removal is noted in reference to the 1927 rebuild by Rushworth and Dreaper, when the panelling was re-used to construct the new organ gallery. Perhaps these were the subject of the work done in 1897 by Franklin Lloyd, and

The Choir Organ cases present in the early C20 – tinted photograph

they appear to have contained a not unsubstantial amount of pipework additional to that in the present instrument. They also bear a resemblance to a Choir case installed in Thirsk, Yorkshire, by Denman in 1884, which instrument had also been built by Postill in 1877. Furthermore, a cross-sectional elevation of the original design shows the Choir Organ behind and beneath the Swell, a location presently occupied by the lowest 12 notes of the Choir 16’ flue. The Choir Organ appears to have been moved in 1897, as it does not appear on an 1895 photograph.

Organ recitals on the new ‘electric organ’ were delivered by a number of noted organists, examples of which include (quotations, where present, are from the announcements):

October 10th 1894; “Mr D Clegg gave a performance on the electric organ at the parish church”; programme:

Symphonique Concertante – Widor

Communion in D – Merkel

Berceuse and Air varied – Clegg

March of the Assyrians and Chorus of Worshippers (Judith) – Parry

Lamentation in D minor – Guilmant

Gand Fugue in G mino – Bach

Short selection of French pieces:

Dream Visions – Lumbye

Chorus of Monks and Prayer (from Convent Music) – Renzi

Chant de la Forge – Georges Stern

Descriptive piece; Whisperings by the Shore – Clegg

Overture – Wagner

(David Clegg was Organist of Littleborough Parish Church from 1890 and Borough Organist of Salford from 1907, giving regular concerts in such places as The Crystal Palace, Albert Hall and The Alexandra Palace. He was involved in other opening recitals, including one jointly with the celebrated blind organist, William Wolstenholme.)

November 1894; Mr W Silkstone-Dobson, L.R.A.M., L.Mus., T.C.L., Organist of Southport Parish Church (Christ Church) and subsequently Sub-Organist of St Peter’s, Eaton Square, London. No details of the programme presented are recorded.

November 20th 1896; W. Maynard Rushworth, Organist of Sefton Parish Church, and later of All Hallows, Allerton; programme:

Variations on a theme of Handel – Lux

Serenade – Schubert

Prelude and Fugue in D – Bach

Adagio Cantabile – Hopkins

Offertoire – Batiste

Lied – WM Rushworth

March for a Church Festival – Best

March 1897; “On the electric organ at the parish church, Mr Jos. Ormesher, A.R.C.O., recently played the following:

Cornelius March – Mendelssohn

Study in Bb – Heller

Pilgrims’ Chorus – Wagner

Introduction and Allegro – Brown

Andante and Allegro – Best

Andante in B minor – Batiste

Allegretto (Fourth Sonata) – Mendelssohn

Offertoire in F – Wély

Cavatina – Raft

Cantilène and Grande Choeur – W Faulkes

The organ was rebuilt in its present form in 1927 by Rushworth and Dreaper, through a generous donation from George Blundell, Esq., adding a small number of new ranks, including the Tuba (playable on Choir and Great). The Organ Consultant on this occasion was Sir John Priestman, the self-made millionaire shipbuilding magnate from Sunderland. It would seem that he had an interest in the Church of England, and in the preservation of its organs in particular, although his connection with the Ormskirk case is personal; he was the then Vicar’s brother-in-law.   Nevertheless, he insisted on some changes to the original proposals by Rushworth and Dreaper; it is Sir John (who signed ’Jack’) whom we have to thank for the enclosure of two of the Choir flutes, R&D having originally proposed to enclose only the two small reeds. All ranks are independent, except for the 32’ Acoustic, one 8’ Pedal extension and the duplexing of the Tuba. This non-use of extension or ‘borrowing’, even in the Pedal Organ (where, furthermore, an extra octave of pipes is provided to each rank for use with the Octave coupler), is lavish in the extreme, and a feature generally found on only the best, even of cathedral organs. The construction of the organ was radically altered at this stage; the Choir Organ was retrieved from the Sanctuary and relocated immediately behind the west-facing case and the conversion to pneumatic action necessitated a complete reconstruction of the gallery, with anew organ loft floor, designed by Austin and Paley, successors to the architects at the restoration of the 1880’s. Interestingly, the soundboards for both the Great and Swell Mixtures are bored out for five ranks, as per the 1894 build, although only three ranks remain in each case. The stop-knobs showing ‘III’ appear contemporaneous with the others, the implication being that two ranks on each have been removed at or before the 1927 rebuild; maybe a function of the musical tastes of the time. Wind pressures were raised at the time to their present levels, as follows:

Pedal flues:                                  4½ ”

Pedal reeds:                                 10”

Choir:                                            4”

Great (light wind)                      4½ ”

Great (heavy wind)                   6”

Great Tuba                                 10”

Swell (light wind)                      5”

Swell (heavy wind)                  10”

The Great, Swell and Pedal speak into the Chancel through a very small aperture (the case belies the size of the opening) and the effect at the console is very different, in terms of balance, from that heard in the building. Furthermore, both divisions of the Choir Organ speak down the North Aisle, again upsetting the balance from the organist’s point of view.

The cost of the work undertaken in 1927 amounted to £2900 for the organ building and a further £265 for the alterations to the gallery and blowing chamber; a total of £3165, amounting to approximately £189,000 at today’s prices; however, this does not take into account the above-inflation rises in organ-building prices due to reducing demand for the skills, so the actual comparative price would probably be far greater.

In more recent years, the pneumatic action has been electrified and the piston system completely renewed with a capture system, giving 8 pistons to each department (except the Choir, which has only 6) and 8 generals, all available at 8 levels.   The Organ remains, at 56 speaking stops and 72 registers, the largest pipe organ in a parish church in the Diocese of Liverpool and second in size only to that in Clitheroe Parish Church in the County of Lancashire. Specifications of the organ through its history are appended at the end of this account.

Great Ormskirk Parish Church

The ‘Brooke’ Organ built by Samuel Shepard in 1731, maintained by John Rogers of Chester, rebuilt by Parker (1758); Swell added by Wilkinson 1796; pedals and additional stops (marked + below) added 1850 by Joseph Roome of Preston; Choir Organ added 1864, possibly by Robert Postill (Watts says by Rushworth, but this would have been very early and we know Postill was working here at the time).

Compass GG to D (4 1/2 octaves)

  1 Open Diapason no 1
  2 Open Diapason no 2 + (Replaced 1731 Cornet)
  3 Stopt Diapason
  4 Principal
  5 Harmonic Flute (added 1864)
  6 Twelfth
  7 Fifteenth
  8 Sesquialtra (sic)
  9 Open Pedal Pipes; 1½ octaves to GGG +
Swell  Compass Tenor C to D from 1850; originally G-D (2 1/2 octaves)
  10 Double Diapason +
  11 Open Diapason
  12 Stopt Diapason
  13 Keraulophon
  14 Principal
  15 Cornet (3 ranks)
  16 Horn +
  17 Hautboy
  2 composition pedals, couplers, etc.
Choir Compass GG to D (4 1/2 octaves) (Added 1864)
18 Stop Diapason
19 Clarabella
20 Keraulophon
21 Flute
22 Clarionet
Ormskirk Parish Church

The Organ by Denman of York 1887/ Hope-Jones 1894

incorporating pipework (*) from the previous instrument (1731/58 & 1862)

Pedal Compass-low C-high g1   32 notes
(1887 proposal) (1894)
1 Double Open Diapason* 16 Open Diapason
2 Dulciana 16 Open Diapason (spare)
10 2/3 Quint
3 Violone 16 Violone
4 Bourdon 16 Bourdon
5 Violincello 8 Violoncello
6 Flute 8 Flute
7 Trombone 16 Ophicleide
8 Trumpet
8 Pedal Octave Pedal Superoctave
9 Swell to Pedal Swell to Pedal
10 Great to Pedal Great to Pedal
11 Choir to Pedal Choir to Pedal
Choir Compass-low C-high a3  58 notes
16 Lieblich Gedacht
12 Open Diapason*(ex Gt.) 8 Open Diapason
13 Clarabella* 8
14 Lieblich Gedact 8 Lieblich Gedacht
8 Viola da Gamba
15 Dolce 8 Dolce
16 Flauto Traverso (triangular) 8 Flauto Traverso
17 Harmonic Flute, TC*(ex Gt.) 4 Harmonic Flute
18 Lieblich Flute* 4 Lieblich Gedacht
19 Gemshorn 4 Gemshorn
20 Flageolet 2 Flautina
21 Clarionet, TC* 8 Clarionet
22 Vox Humana (with Tremulant) 8
23 Swell to Choir Swell to Choir (double touch)
Swell Superoctave to Choir
Great Compass-low C-high a3  58 notes
24 Double Open Diapason 16 Double Open Diapason
25 Open Diapason 1 8 Open Diapason
26 Open Diapason 2 8 Open Diapason
27 Bell Gamba 8 Gamba
8 Salicional
28 Flute Harmonic 8 Harmonic Flute
29 Stopt Bass and Clarabel Treble 8 Claribel Flute
30 Doppel Flute 8 Doppel Flöte
31 Principal 4 Principal
32 Harmonic Flute 4 Harmonic Flute
33 Nason Flute 4 Nason Flute
34 Twelfth 2 2/3 Twelfth
35 Fifteenth 2 Fifteenth
36 Mixture III Mixture (V)
37 Trumpet 8 Trumpet
38 Clarion 4 Clarion
Great Octave
39 Swell to Great Swell to Great Suboctave
40 Choir to Great Swell to Great (double touch)
Swell to Great Superoctave
Choir to Great
Swell Compass-low C-high a3  58 notes Enclosed
41 Lieblich Bourdon 16 Lieblich Bourdon
42 Open Diapason 8 Open Diapason
43 Violin Diapason 8
8 Hohlflote (8)
44 Salicional 8 Salicional
8 Vox Angelica
8 Voix Celestes
45 Rohr Flute 8 Rohr Flute
46 Viola 4 Viola
47 Suabe Flute 4 Suabe Flöte
48 Twelfth 2 2/3 Twelfth
49 Harmonic Piccolo 2 Harmonic Piccolo
50 Mixture IV Mixture (V)
51 Contra Fagotto 16 Contra Fagotto
52 Horn 8 Horn
53 Oboe 8 Oboe
8 Vox Humana
54 Clarion 4
Echo Compass-low C-high a3   58 notes Enclosed
55 Dolce 8
56 Vox Celeste 2 ranks 92 pipes, grooved bass 8
57 Dolce Mixture III
Ormskirk Parish Church

ii   as rebuilt by Rushworth & Dreaper, 1927

* denotes stop apparently from 1887/94 organ

** denotes stop claimed to be from 1731/58/97 & 1850/62 instrument

Pedal Compass-low C-high f1   30 notes
1 Acoustic Bass 32 (from no. 2)
2 Open Diapason** 16
3 Violone* 16
4 Bourdon* 16
5 Octave 8 (ext. 2)
6 Violoncello* 8
7 Flute* 8
8 Ophicleide* 16
9 Trumpet 8
10 Octave†
11 Choir to Pedal
12 Great to Pedal
13 Swell to Pedal
an extra top octave of pipes is provided to each rank for use with the Octave coupler
Choir Compass-low C-high c4   61 notes. Part enclosed
Unenclosed division:
14 Lieblich Gedackt 16
15 Open Diapason** 8
16 Flauto Traverso* 8
17 Viola de Gamba 8
18 Dolce* 8
19 Harmonic Flute** 4
20 Gemshorn* 4
21 Flautina* 2
Enclosed division:
22 Lieblich Gedackt* 8
23 Lieblich Flute** 4
24 Orchestral Oboe 8
25 Clarinet 8
26 Tremulant
27 Tuba 8
28 Swell to Choir
29 Unison Off
30 Sub Octave
31 Octave
Great Compass-low C-high c4  61 notes.
32 Double Diapason* 16
33 Open Diapason 1 8
34 Open Diapason 2* 8
35 Open Diapason 3* 8 Old Gamba converted
36 Doppel Flute* 8  
37 Hohl Flute 8 Old Claribel bass; new from Tenor C
38 Dulciana 8 Old Salicional converted
39 Principal* 4
40 Harmonic Flute* 4
41 Nason Flute* 4
42 Twelfth* 2 2/3
43 Fifteenth* 2
44 Mixture* III
45 Trombone 16 New; in place of Harmonic Flute
46 Trumpet* 8 New; Harm. Trebles from Treble C
47 Clarion* 4 New; Harm. Trebles from Mid.C
48 Tuba 8 New; Harm. Trebles from Mid G
49 Gt and Ped Combs Coupled
50 Choir to Great
51 Swell to Great
Swell Compass-low C-high c4  61 notes.   Enclosed
52 Lieblich Bourdon* 16
53 Open Diapason* 8
54 Geigen Diapason* 8
55 Rohr Flute* 8
56 Viol de Orchestra 8
57 Voix Celestes* 1887 Echo Organ 8
58 Vox Angelica* 1887 Salicional? 8
59 Principal 4
60 Suabe Flute* 4
61 Twelfth* 2 2/3
62 Harmonic Piccolo* 2
63 Mixture* III
64 Oboe* 8
65 Vox Humana* f1887 Choir Organ 8 Remade
66 Contra Fagotto* 16 New bottom Octave
67 Horn* 8 New Harm. Trebles from Mid G
68 Clarion* 4 Harm. Trebles new from Ten G.
69 Tremulant
70 Unison Off
71 Sub Octave
72 Octave
IMG_0019 (1)
!927 Rushworth & Dreaper console, slightly remodelled to accommodate updated piston capture system
Bass Stop Jamb
IMG_0016 (1)
Treble Stop Jamb
R & D Publicity photo
Publicity photograph used in 1927, showing the remodelled organ loft (Austin & Paley) and the original cases (Paley & Austin)
Copy (2) of PICT0398.JPG
Great Soundboard looking towards the main case; heavy pressure chest in foreground.  The Tuba stands on its own chest immediately behind the case and is all but invisible here.
Copy (2) of IMG_0203
Looking into the main swell-box; the 10″ heavy-pressure chest is in the foreground
Copy of IMG_0207.jpg
Looking down on the Unenclosed division of the Choir Organ; part of the 1731 pipework is visible in the background.  Note also Denman’s use of triangular pipes for his Flauto Traverso
Part of the Pedal Organ slider chest

If you have found this account interesting, please do not hesitate to get in touch, to come along and see and play this monumental instrument for yourself!


(In addition to the primary sources within Ormskirk Parish Church, and the photographic archive held there)

Audsley, George Ashdown (1905) The Art of Organ-Building New York, Dover Publications, p.82
Beechey, Gwilym (1971) Memoirs of Dr. William Boyce The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 87-106; Oxford, OUP
Bennett, Joseph (1898) Recollections of Watts’ ,in Facts, Rumours and Remarks The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol 39, No. 666 (Aug.1, 1898), pp 526-527; London, Musical Times
Bernhard, Walter (1895) Organana Musical Opinion, November, 1895
Body Text, 1894? Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk, Ormskirk Parish Church (private collection)
Body Text, August, 1887 Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk, Ormskirk Parish Church (private collection)
Body Text, July 1887 Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk, Ormskirk Parish Church (private collection)
Body Text, March 1887 Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk, Ormskirk Parish Church (private collection)
Body Text, October 1887 Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk, Ormskirk Parish Church (private collection)
Body Text, September, 1887 Ormskirk Parish Church Magazine Ormskirk,
Boeringer (1986)

Clutton, Cecil and Niland, Austin (1963)

Organa Britannica


The British Organ

Cranbury, New Jersey, Associated University Presses

London, Batsford

Dawe, Donovan (1968) New Light on William Boyce The Musical Times, Vol. 109, No. 1507 (Sep., 1968), pp. 802-807
Duggan, Mona (1998) Ormskirk – the making of a modern town Stroud, Sutton Publishing
Duggan, Mona (2007) Ormskirk – A History Chichester, Phillimore
Duggan, Mona (2011) The people of Ormskirk Stroud, Amberley
Elvin, Lawrence (1986) Family Enterprise; the story of some north-contry organ builders Lincoln, Elvin (privately published)
Fox, David H. (1992) Robert Hope-Jones The Organ Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia
Franklyn Lloyd, Edward Advertising Feature Musical Standard, 1897
Griffiths, David (1992) A Musical Place of the First Quality – A history of institutional music-making in York, c.1550 – 1990 York, York Settlement Trust

APPENDIX – Additional Historical Materials:

  1. Receipt from Samuel Shepard for payment by Mrs Brook, 1729Payments to Samuel Shepard 1729 i edited 1729
  2.   Contract re. Organist, 1731:Contract re Organist 1731
    Contract Regarding the provision of an Organist, Ormskirk Parish Church, 1731

    At a vestry meeting held in the Parish Church of Ormskirk this Seventeenth day of September, One Thousand Seven Hundred Thirty and One

    It is agreed by the parishoners then appearing at the said Vestry that a competent yearly sallary shall be allowed a Sufficient organist not exceeding the yearly sum of twenty five pounds to be yearly payed and called upon all and every the owners and occupyers of lands and estates within the said parish usually payed to the poor. The provision of the organist to be by the inhabitants of the parish rated to these here. Provided that the owners of all lands and estates not heretofore taxed to the repairs of the church do consent to the agreement signifyed by their signing hereof otherwise the agreement to be of no effect.

    Edwd. Stanley

    Richard Walmsley

    Jdl. Worthington

    Marmaduke Roberts

    Wm. Barlow

    Alex. Radcliffe


    John Jonsrooth(?)

    Peter Benton

    John Prescott

    James Prescott

    Thomas Pemberton

    Saml. Parr

    J Brooke

    Ed. Dicconson

    Tho. Stanley

    Tho. Hesketh


    1. Edge

    Wm. Hill

    Bryan Wilcock

    Henry Gill

    Jo. Plumbe

    Wm Taylor

    Wm. Kingsley

    Hy. Monk

    Hen Barton

    Roger Topping

    George Crane

  3.   William Denman – maker’s plate:Denman Maker's Plate
  4.   Construction details; first page, 1887Construction 1887 iParticulars of Construction 1887The soundboards to be long and roomy, giving ample room for all the pipes to speak properly; the tables, sliders, footboards, &c. to be of well-seasoned mahogany. The bellows to be horizontal, double-leathered inverted ribs, double blowing action and double feeders. There will be 4 bellows varying in size from 12’X7’ to 4’X2’ containing between 170 and 180 cubic feet of air. The action work to be highly finished and easy to manipulate. The squares and key levers to be made of mahogany and the centres finished with cloth for silent movements. The couplers to be highly finished and to work easily and smoothly. All the lever frames and square frames to be varnished. The swell boxes to be on the most improved principle, with Venetian shutters and balanced action. The main swell box to be 2 in thick, the Echo box 1 ½ in thick; the Vox Humana box 1 ¼ in thick. All to be lined with strong paper and painted outside. The Vox Humana box to be varnished. The bellows, building frame and very large work to be painted in oil. Most of the wood pipes will be varnished so as to shew the quality of the material. The metal pipes to be made of the best spotted metal containing about 60 per cent tin, the tin pipes made of an alloy containing 90 per cent pure tin; the Pedal Dulciana of an alloy containing 30% tin – this is the only stop made of plain metal. No zinc pipes to be used at all.

    All iron work to be of either wrot iron or malleable iron. All iron squares to be put in our improved ‘chairs’ and which work in ‘dead adjustable centres’, and any individual square may be adjusted to any degree of nicety – a great improvement upon the old plan, when no adjustment can be made at all. The whole of the work will be completed and finished to the satisfaction of any one the Organ Committee may appoint. The words ‘Henry Hudson Esq.’ appear in pencil in the margin.

    The organ to be kept in thorough tune and order for 12 months from the completion by the builders.

    We will guarantee all the materials to be thoroughly well seasoned and dry, and free from knots and sap free, the work executed by skilled workmen and as the major portion of it is varnished, the quality can clearly be plainly seen.

    Great Organ CC to C. 61 notes

    1. Double Open Diapason                 16
    2. Open Diapason, no.1                 8
    3. Open Diapason, no.2                 8
    4. Bell Gamba                 8
    5. Salicional voiced pp                 8
    6. Harmonic Flute                 8
    7. Clarabella                 8
    8. Doppel Flöte                                                 8
    9. Principal                 4
    10. Harmonic Flute                 4
    11. Nason Flute, with pierced stoppers 4
    12. Twelfth 22/3
    13. Fifteenth 2
    14. Mixture, V ranks Various
    15. Trumpet 8
    16. Clarion 4

    Nos.6, 10, 15 & 16 on 5 ins wind

    Remainder on 3 ins wind

    Wm Denman & Son

    Swell Organ CC to C. 61 notes

    1. Lieblich Bourdon                                 16
    2. Open Diapason, new                 8
    3. Höhl Flöte M(?)                                      8
    4. Salicional                                 8
    5. Vox Angelica                                                 8
    6. Voix Céleste, tenor C (to’waver’ with Vox Ang 8
    7. Röhr Flöte                 8
    8. Viola                                                                 4
    9. Suabe Flute, mahogany                 4
    10. Twelfth                                                 22/3
    11. Harmonic Piccolo                2
    12. Mixture, V ranks Various
    13. Contra Fagotto 16
    14. Horn                                                                 8
    15. Oboe 8
    16. Vox Humana 8
    17. Clarion 4

    Nos 11, 13, 14 & 17 on 5 in wind

    Remainder on 3 in wind

    Swell box 3 ins thick

    Wm Denman & Son

    Choir Organ, CC to C. 61 notes

    1. Lieblich Gedact 16
    2. Open Diapason (Old Gt.) 8
    3. Dolce 8
    4. Viola de Gamba 8
    5. Flauto Traverso 8
    6. Lieblich Gedact metal down to tenor C 8
    7. Harmonic Flute, tenor C (Old Gt) 4
    8. Gemshorn 4
    9. Lieblich Flute (Old Ch.) 4
    10. Flautina 2
    11. Clarionet, ten.C (Old Ch.) 8

    On 2¾ in wind

    Wm Denman & Son

    Pedal Organ, CCC to G. 32 notes

    1. Open Diapason, old one with 2 new 16
      pipes added to the bottom and 5 to
      the top
    2. Spare slide for metal Open Diap 16ft
    3. Violone 16
    4. Bourdon 16
    5. Quint 102/3
    6. Violoncello 8
    7. Flute 8
    8. Trombone 16
    9. Trumpet 8

    Nos. 8 & 9 on 5 in wind

    Remainder on 4 in wind

    Each stop to be carried up 12 notes above clavier for

    purpose of Octave Coupler

    Wm Denman & Son

  5.   Transcript of Questions and Answers relating to changes to the proposed specification, 1887:York31st Dec 1887

    Dear Sir,

    We are in receipt of your letter dated 29th Dec. and shall have pleasure to answer your questions altho’ we have done so before.

    1. “How soon can you inform us result of pneumatic system you are trying”?

    This we cannot say, perhaps in a week or two, or it may be a month or two, but if it is a matter of the difference of £40, we should advise that the £40 be taken out of the metal, using plain metal.

    1. “Have you made an allowance for the abandonment of the Echo Organ & for the abandonment of the Dulciana Stop in the Pedal Organ, and where is is shewn?”

    The stops that were to form the “Echo Organ” are now in the Swell and Great Organs. The Vox Angelica and Vox Celeste are now nos. 5 & 6 in the Swell. This bass when in the Echo would cost us so many shillings but when transported to the Swell will cost us so many pounds. We ought to charge more for this, but have not done so. The Echo swell box is absorbed into the swell box proper. According to the first estimate the swell box was to be two inches thick, now it is to be three inches thick. This extra inch in thickness carried over the extent of the entire swell box will make two Echo Swell boxes – WE ought to have charged more for this but have not done so. The Pedal Dulciana is replaced by a Trumpet, a Salicional and a spare slider for a large metal Open Diapason at a cost of £10! A very small amount, certainly. This was all agreed to when the Dulciana was to be taken out. You will see if you look in the first contract that there is no Salicional 8ft in the Great Organ, and no Trumpet 8ft or spare slide in the Pedal Organ. All these additions take up more room, more material, more making, more voicing, more pneumatic arrangements, more extra notes in the upper portion and much more soundboard room.

    1. action and bellows
      1. Separate soundboards £33
      2. Additional bellows room £40
      3. Ordinary pneumatic action £100
      4. Extra for pure tin £50


    1. By having three portions of the organ sub-divided to allow the use of heavier pressure wind, as advised by Mr Hudson, simply means that whereas in our first contract there are but four soundboards, each with a separate and independent action of the ordinary kind, now in the extended estimate, we have seven soundboards, each with a separate and independent action, making seven separate organs, instead of four.
    2. Additional bellows room is required and to no small extent. In our first estimate we have two pressures and two bellows, with an auxiliary small reservoir for the Choir on 2 ½ inches. Now we must have two large bellows, both much larger than required for first estimate, and seven reservoirs, one to each organ, or if not, the wind will be unsteady. Each reservoir requires an automatic regulating valve, which must do its work automatically and unseen – this is given at £40 which is simply cost price, and very likely not that.
    3. The cost of the pneumatic work has been started at £100 over and over again and agreed to – we have charged £60 for one pneumatic when you require two. You may put this item at £60 and if the remaining £40 is required (and we think it will not be) it can be taken out of the spotted metal. The pneumatics themselves require more wind to work efficiently and added to this we have four extra couplers, one unison, one up and one down and one Pedal Octave – these couplers just double the amount of wind required. If the organ, when finished, is “scant o’wind” we shall be the first to be blamed.
    4. £50 extra for tin – when we estimated for the organ in January last this was at a market price of £80 per ton, now it stands at £167! We shall require a ton or even more, therefore the £50 will not cover the outlay we shall be obliged to make.
      If the contract had concluded when tin was low we should have closed with a supply at once, but we cannot obtain now at the price which was quoted 12 months ago, nor can we afford to let you have it at 12 months ago price. This however we can meet if you wish by making some of the pipes in plain metal, that were to be spotted metal, and can also make a few of wood that were to be metal. The plain metal would be the ordinary kind of good quality and thicker in substance than spotted metal.

      • As regards the payment we will leave that in your hands, for we know you will do the best you can for us.

    5)            We cannot allow anything for the “remains” of the old organ – for when we have taken what is worth anything and put it into the new organ, what will remain will not be worth the carriage to York

    We think we have answered your questions to the best of our ability and hope you will understand the same.

    We must say we were a little surprised at the contents of your last letter. When we were to contract, everything was to be of the very best, and we hope that will not be lost sight of.

    All the additions that have been made are of a costly nature, and without they are done right they will always be a source of trouble. We cannot reduce a fraction of the cost as the organ now stands – what reducing it down must come out of the organ itself – if we cut down the price and sent an inferior instrument, it would simply be folly on our part and dissatisfaction to everyone concerned.

    We have no objection (if the Committee think the amount is more than they wish to expend) to rearrange the specification and quote at a cheaper price but we cannot do so with the present specification in its present form.

    By substituting a cheaper quality of metal in some of the stops, and doing away with part of the pneumatics, £100 difference may be made.

    The plain metal we should use would contain one fourth pure tin, and three fourths lead. This is good metal but more of it is required.

    We should advise, I any case, that some of the stops be made of plain metal. If any alteration is made, it would be best to fix a definite limit to the amount. If the full amount will not be voted let us know the limit and we will arrange accordingly.

    We are, Dear Sir,

    Yours faithfully.

    Wm Denman & Son

    Harrison Grundy, Esq.

    We forgot to say in part reply to question (2) that –

    The mixture that was to have been in the Echo is now in the Great Organ and Swell Organ – there were three ranks in the Echo, three ranks on the Great, 4 ranks on the Swell, total 10 ranks. Now there are 5 ranks in the Swell and 5 ranks in the Great, = 10 ranks. These 10 ranks will cost more than if part was in the Echo, as they will require to be stronger and larger pipes. We hope you do not think we wish to take advantage of the changing, we only fear it will

One thought on “History of the Organ

  1. A fascinating account. Thank you for mentioning the Dallam /Smith organ which Parker re-installed at St Chad’s Rochdale (where I am organist)


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