(Extracts from) A REPORT on THE ORGAN NICHOLAS THISTLETHWAITE March 2020 ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH, HARTFORD A Report on the Organ
1.0 The history of the organ 1.1 The organ was supplied by the London organ-builders, Hill & Son. It was ordered by the then Vicar, The Revd J. Ripley, who had received a quotation of £205 from Hill on 19 November 1873; the instrument was probably installed early in 1874. 1.2 Hill & Son was one of the most eminent firms of English organ-builders during the Victorian period. William Hill (1789-1870) had been employed in the workshop of Thomas Elliott (1759-1832) in what is now Euston Road; he married Elliott’s daughter and became his business partner. Hill became a leading innovator, transforming the English organ from its modest Georgian proportions into the technically-sophisticated and musically resourceful instrument increasingly found in cathedrals and concert halls after 1850. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas Hill (1822-93), who was responsible for the firm’s surviving magnum opus, the organ in Sydney Town Hall, which, at the time of its construction, was one of two or three instruments claiming to be the largest in the world. The firm also built the organs in Westminster Abbey, King’s College, Cambridge and Birmingham Town Hall, as well as countless smaller instruments for churches and chapels at home and abroad. 1.3 The Hartford organ was typical of Hill’s small church instruments. It would have been constructed in the organ factory in Camden Town before being sent down to Huntingdon by rail and then assembled in the church. It had a single keyboard, twenty pedals, and eight stops. All the pipes apart from those of the open diapason were enclosed in a swell box equipped with shutters so that the organist could cause the sound to get louder or softer by operating a pedal. The specification was as follows: Manual (C-g3) Open Diapason 8 Claribel (stopped bass) 8 Dulciana (stopped bass) 8 Keraulophon (c) 8 Principal 4 Wald Flute 4 Oboe 8 Pedal (C-g) Bourdon 16 Great to Pedal (coupler) 2 composition pedals
1.4 The organ originally stood at the west end of the church, though I do not believe it is known whether it was on the floor or in a gallery. About twenty years after its installation it was moved to the north side of the chancel. This may have been to enable it to accompany the choir more effectively, but there is also a story that it did not hold its tuning well at the back of the church (perhaps due to draughts from doors and windows), and it was thought that a location over the boiler house might provide a more stable environment! This was not a wise move. Over-heating an organ is as bad (if not worse) than exposing it to draughts of cold air; it can dry out the timbers, causing them to split and allow wind to leak out. However, the organ seems to have survived in its new location. Apart from the need to adapt its appearance to suit the chancel position, the only significant change made to the instrument seems to have been to apply tubular-pneumatic action to the Pedal pipes. The principle of this system is that the traditional mechanical connections between the pedals or keys and the pipes are replaced by a series of small leathered motors charged via lead tubing with air under pressure; when the motor is charged it inflates and opens the pallet (valve) which admits wind to the pipe, causing it to sound. The system was widely used between about 1890 and 1930. 1.5 An electric blower was later installed, perhaps between the wars, and then at some subsequent date (probably in the last fifty years) changes were made to the organ’s tonal scheme. The keraulophon and oboe were removed and replaced (respectively) with a 2-rank mixture and a fifteenth. The intention must have been to strengthen the main chorus to assist with congregational accompaniment (it is likely that the shortcomings of the organ’s now buried location had become apparent). Unfortunately, the mixture is only short compass from tenor C the bottom octave is missing, as with the original keraulophon which somewhat diminishes the success of this strategy.
2.1 The organ has given good service for almost 150 years tending to suggest that the expenditure of £205 in 1873 was a good investment! However, the time has now arrived when steps must be taken to secure another extended period of service. The organ is showing its age. The soundboard (a large wooden chest on which the pipes stand, enclosing the mechanisms that enable the player to elect the stops and keys, and supplying the pipes with wind) is leaking because its timbers have been subjected to adverse environmental conditions, and the bellows and power motors to the Pedal need to be re-leathered. (A number of the Pedal pipes are not sounding because the motors are defunct.) The electric blower is now very noisy indeed and should be replaced with a new machine. Although it is very difficult to inspect the organ in any detail because access is restricted, it is evident that it is due a comprehensive cleaning and overhaul, alongside these more specific problems. 2.2 For all its mechanical failings, the organ is basically sound and a comprehensive renovation by a suitable contractor will set it up for a further period of service. The tonal quality of the surviving Hill pipework is good, and if it could be enabled to ‘speak’ better into the building, this would be more apparent. 2.3 There are two ways in which this might be achieved. First, the instrument could be restored essentially in its present form and in its present location. The possibility of completing the compass of the Mixture should be explored, otherwise the existing pipework would be retained and carefully cleaned, regulated and tuned. The most significant change I would suggest would be to remove the swell box. It is of limited musical usefulness, and the attractions of its occasional use in solo repertoire or accompaniment are, in my view, out-weighed by the possibility of allowing the whole instrument to project better into the building were it to be removed. It would also improve access to the interior of the organ for maintenance purposes. 2.4 The second means of improving projection which should be mentioned, at least for the sake of completeness would be to re-site the organ elsewhere in the building. If a way could be found to return it to the west end of the church, the instrument would be much better heard, and therefore better able to accompany congregational singing. I recognise that such a move would present significant challenges; it would entail a major re-ordering of the tower space and probably the re-siting of the font, and it also raises the question of where the choir might be placed so as to remain in communication with the organist. It may well be a nonstarter. But it should be mentioned, so that the PCC has as full a picture as possible of its options.
Extracted from a report by Nicholas Thistlethwaite 9 March 2020
2.0 Evaluation and options
Application to the Consistory Court of the diocese for permission to carry out the renovation of one-manual pipe organ installed by W. Hill & Son in 1874
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(Extracts from) A REPORT on THE ORGAN NICHOLAS THISTLETHWAITE March 2020 ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH, HARTFORD A Report on the Organ
1.0 The history of the organ 1.1 The organ was supplied by the London organ-builders, Hill & Son. It was ordered by the then Vicar, The Revd J. Ripley, who had received a quotation of £205 from Hill on 19 November 1873; the instrument was probably installed early in 1874. 1.2 Hill & Son was one of the most eminent firms of English organ-builders during the Victorian period. William Hill (1789-1870) had been employed in the workshop of Thomas Elliott (1759-1832) in what is now Euston Road; he married Elliott’s daughter and became his business partner. Hill became a leading innovator, transforming the English organ from its modest Georgian proportions into the technically-sophisticated and musically resourceful instrument increasingly found in cathedrals and concert halls after 1850. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas Hill (1822- 93), who was responsible for the firm’s surviving magnum opus, the organ in Sydney Town Hall, which, at the time of its construction, was one of two or three instruments claiming to be the largest in the world. The firm also built the organs in Westminster Abbey, King’s College, Cambridge and Birmingham Town Hall, as well as countless smaller instruments for churches and chapels at home and abroad. 1.3 The Hartford organ was typical of Hill’s small church instruments. It would have been constructed in the organ factory in Camden Town before being sent down to Huntingdon by rail and then assembled in the church. It had a single keyboard, twenty pedals, and eight stops. All the pipes apart from those of the open diapason were enclosed in a swell box equipped with shutters so that the organist could cause the sound to get louder or softer by operating a pedal. The specification was as follows: Manual (C-g3) Open Diapason 8 Claribel (stopped bass) 8 Dulciana (stopped bass) 8 Keraulophon (c) 8 Principal 4 Wald Flute 4 Oboe 8 Pedal (C-g) Bourdon 16 Great to Pedal (coupler) 2 composition pedals
1.4 The organ originally stood at the west end of the church, though I do not believe it is known whether it was on the floor or in a gallery. About twenty years after its installation it was moved to the north side of the chancel. This may have been to enable it to accompany the choir more effectively, but there is also a story that it did not hold its tuning well at the back of the church (perhaps due to draughts from doors and windows), and it was thought that a location over the boiler house might provide a more stable environment! This was not a wise move. Over- heating an organ is as bad (if not worse) than exposing it to draughts of cold air; it can dry out the timbers, causing them to split and allow wind to leak out. However, the organ seems to have survived in its new location. Apart from the need to adapt its appearance to suit the chancel position, the only significant change made to the instrument seems to have been to apply tubular- pneumatic action to the Pedal pipes. The principle of this system is that the traditional mechanical connections between the pedals or keys and the pipes are replaced by a series of small leathered motors charged via lead tubing with air under pressure; when the motor is charged it inflates and opens the pallet (valve) which admits wind to the pipe, causing it to sound. The system was widely used between about 1890 and 1930. 1.5 An electric blower was later installed, perhaps between the wars, and then at some subsequent date (probably in the last fifty years) changes were made to the organ’s tonal scheme. The keraulophon and oboe were removed and replaced (respectively) with a 2-rank mixture and a fifteenth. The intention must have been to strengthen the main chorus to assist with congregational accompaniment (it is likely that the shortcomings of the organ’s now buried location had become apparent). Unfortunately, the mixture is only short compass from tenor C the bottom octave is missing, as with the original keraulophon which somewhat diminishes the success of this strategy.
2.0 Evaluation and options
2.1 The organ has given good service for almost 150 years tending to suggest that the expenditure of £205 in 1873 was a good investment! However, the time has now arrived when steps must be taken to secure another extended period of service. The organ is showing its age. The soundboard (a large wooden chest on which the pipes stand, enclosing the mechanisms that enable the player to elect the stops and keys, and supplying the pipes with wind) is leaking because its timbers have been subjected to adverse environmental conditions, and the bellows and power motors to the Pedal need to be re-leathered. (A number of the Pedal pipes are not sounding because the motors are defunct.) The electric blower is now very noisy indeed and should be replaced with a new machine. Although it is very difficult to inspect the organ in any detail because access is restricted, it is evident that it is due a comprehensive cleaning and overhaul, alongside these more specific problems.
2.2 For all its mechanical failings, the organ is basically sound and a comprehensive renovation by a suitable contractor will set it up for a further period of service. The tonal quality of the surviving Hill pipework is good, and if it could be enabled to ‘speak’ better into the building, this would be more apparent. 2.3 There are two ways in which this might be achieved. First, the instrument could be restored essentially in its present form and in its present location. The possibility of completing the compass of the Mixture should be explored, otherwise the existing pipework would be retained and carefully cleaned, regulated and tuned. The most significant change I would suggest would be to remove the swell box. It is of limited musical usefulness, and the attractions of its occasional use in solo repertoire or accompaniment are, in my view, out-weighed by the possibility of allowing the whole instrument to project better into the building were it to be removed. It would also improve access to the interior of the organ for maintenance purposes. 2.4 The second means of improving projection which should be mentioned, at least for the sake of completeness would be to re-site the organ elsewhere in the building. If a way could be found to return it to the west end of the church, the instrument would be much better heard, and therefore better able to accompany congre- gational singing. I recognise that such a move would present significant challenges; it would entail a major re-ordering of the tower space and probably the re-siting of the font, and it also raises the question of where the choir might be placed so as to remain in communication with the organist. It may well be a nonstarter. But it should be mentioned, so that the PCC has as full a picture as possible of its options.
Extracted from a report by Nicholas Thistlethwaite 9 March 2020