Charles Anneessens 1889
Laycock & Bannister 1968
Nicholson 1993, 2005
With very few church visits taking place during the pandemic, this feature will be temporarily suspended from the start of 2021.
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Substantial parts of the present organ date from 1889, when the Belgian firm of Anneessens was awarded the contract for a large three-manual instrument to replace a smaller organ situated on a west-end gallery. The cost was £1000, equivalent to about £150,000 today. The 32ft Contra Tuba, which the present organ retains, claims to be the largest scale pedal reed in northern Europe, its bottom C pipe having a diameter of over 60cm.
The organ had to be rebuilt in 1909 when fumes from a gas engine, installed to supply the wind, caused serious damage. The later Compton rebuild included a new console with electric action.
Its conversion to four manuals took place during the 1960s rebuild by Laycock & Bannister. By the 1980s, the organ was becoming unreliable, partly because of the various additions and modifications it had endured. A revised scheme involving a new building frame as well as tonal modifications and additions was completed by Nicholson & Co in 2005.
A small group of BOA members were priviledged to hear the present instrument during a recital given by Nathan Laube in 2018: a wonderful experience indeed! If you have not yet visited the Priory to hear this famous instrument "live", do add it to your list for when - hopefully not too long in the future - restrictions due to the pandemic are eased.