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organ 128

February 2013

2 manuals
18 speaking stops

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Great Hall
Westonbirt House


Vowles, 189? ??

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Margaret Phillips

This house organ is the work of W G Vowles of Bristol, a well-respected firm established from the early 19th century in Bristol.

It was built for Sir George Holford, who inherited Westonbirt House from his father in 1892, so the (undated) organ was presumably built shortly after that.  During the 2012 IAO Congress, delegates were able to hear the organ in a short recital by Margaret Phillips of several works from the late 19th / early 20th century that might have been played on it during its early life, including God save the King! by Adolph Hesse and Fantaisie in C by Saint-Saens.

Sir George died in 1926 without issue, and the estate eventually passed into the ownership of the Martyrs' Memorial & Church of England Trust to be transformed into a boarding school for girls, which opened in 1928 and continues to flourish today.  In 1956, the grounds were acquired by the Forestry Commission and remain open to the public and known as the National Aboretum of Westonbirt.

The Vowles firm survived until it was taken over by J W Walker & Sons around 1958, and its name appears on hundreds of organs in Bristol and neighbouring counties.

Margaret Phillips recently recorded the complete organ works of Bach.  Brief excerpts feature as Feb 13's Music of the Month.

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