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St. Thomas’ Church, Heigham, Norwich, Norfolk
St. Thomas’ Church, Heigham, Norwich, Norfolk
Specification
Swell (enclosed)
Clarion 4
Horn 8
Bassoon 16
Cymbale 29-33-36
Quartane 19-22
Larigot 1 1/3
Octave 2
Bourdon Flute 4
Principal 4
Gedackt 8
Salicional 8
Open Diapason 8
Tremulant
Great
Trumpet  8
Mixture 19-22-26-29
Sifflute 1
Tierce 1 3/5
Fifteenth 2
Blockflute 2
Nazard 2 2/3
Octave 4
Koppel Flute 4
Stopped Diapason 8
Principal 8
Open Diapason 8
Bourdon 16
Tremulant  
Pedal
Schalmey 4
Trombone 16
Mixture 19-22-26-29
Gedackt Flute 4
Fifteenth 4
Quint  5 1/3
Stopped Flute 8
Octave 8
Bourdon 16
Open Wood 16
Principal 16
PISTON COUPLERS
Gt & Ped. pistons coupled
Sw. & Ped. Pistons coupled
COUPLERS
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Swell to Great
6 pistons to each department adjustable on the capture system
10 General Pistons
10 levels of memory

The small two manual Norman and Beard organ of 1890 was destroyed with the church in 1942 and after the reconstruction the church obtained their three manual Abbot and Smith organ of 1892 from St. Mary’s Castlegate, York. This organ had a chequered history at St. Thomas’ and by 1976 was in a near unplayable condition.

RECONSTRUCTION

The reconstruction of the organ had to tackle a formidable problem. Not only was the pipework in a deplorable condition, the action was heavy, inaccessible and unadjustable, and the basic frame- work was insecure and unsafe. The tonal scheme was ponderous, particularly in the pedal organ.

Our scheme was to marry old material with new, to provide a versatile instrument with all the qualities of a new organ.

The result is an organ complete in all departments, rich in its variety of tone colours. The old Abbot and Smith swell and great soundboards have been retained and to these have been added two new slider soundboards for the pedal organ. Each soundboard has its own wind regulator built in, and this gives a perfectly stable supply of wind under all conditions.

Manuals and pedal all have new mechanical action, and because of the necessarily complex layout of the organ aluminium trackers emerge from the rear of the console at five different levels. The manual actions incorporate shock damped self-adjusting floating beams, to ensure stability of key touch. The electro-pneumatic drawstop action, and the freely adjustable capture piston system were especially developed for this organ.

The roll top console, designed to compliment the oak screen which encompasses the lower section of the organ, was superbly constructed by Mr. W. Reed, in conjunction with ourselves.

The Classical inspiration of the scheme is reflected in the console. Ebony naturals and ivory capped sharps are matched by the pedalboard with ebony naturals and maple sharps.

The thumb pistons are of ebony and the drawstop heads are re-turned out of the ivory knobs of the Abbot and Smith organ. Engraving of the knobs and pistons was hand done in a flowing Old-English Script, beautifully executed by Mr. E J Woods. The layout of the drawstops compliments the Classical theme. Each department has three columns of knobs:- the first is for the diapasons, the middle one the flutes, and finally the reeds.

Only eight completely new ranks and five from other sources have been added to the old pipework. However, only a handful of stops remain as they were on the old organ; all of the rest have been re-pitched, rescaled, revoiced, and sited in different places.

The Pedal Organ is of necessity divided into two sections, and both have mechanical action. The large pedal section is sited on two massive steel girders above the Vicar’s Vestry, to the East of the main organ, and this carries the two open 16 ft. flues, the 8 ft. and 5.1/3 ft. diapasons, with the wooden Trombone, at the front. The rest of the pedal organ - the 16, 8 and 4 ft. flutes, diapason upperwork and 4 ft. reed - are sited on a lower pressure soundboard underneath the swell organ, positioned to give clarity to the organist and congregation, and especially in more exacting music such as trios.

The casing of the West facade of the organ was designed by the late Mr. G. Anderson, and dates from 1959. During the present work, the diapason and dummy pipes were removed from the chancel arches, to enable the organ to speak more freely into the church, leaving the Great organ pipework visible from the Chancel. The front and polished rank is the Tierce, and behind this stands the Trumpet. High at the back stands the large Swellbox, and to the right can be seen the tops of the Pedal Trombone with the 16 ft. Principal and Open Wood behind.

A FEW TECHNICAL FACTS ABOUT THE ORGAN

The organ has thirty-six speaking stops, and every stop (including the eleven pedal stops) is of full independent compass. Each department has a complete diapason, flute, and reed chorus.

The Diapason choruses, with the exception of the Swell Cymbale these consist of old pipework, but most of this has been revoiced, repitched, and rescaled from other stops.

The Flute choruses; most of the flutes are old pipework the only new ranks are on the Great - namely the Tierce, Blockflute and Koppelflute. The Stopped Diapason is made from the old Clarabel.

The Reed choruses, the Swell Clairon is a truly French stop, made for us on the continent and spelt this way by the pipemakers. This stop has open domed shallots. The Swell Horn is the old stop, but has new resonators of larger scale in the treble.

The Bassoon Hautboy is what it says - a bassoon up to middle C, and an Hautboy above middle C, which being a 16 ft. stop, speaks tenor C of an 8 ft. compass, here providing a useful solo voice of beautiful character. The bassoon is of half length and is voiced in a full free-speaking manner. This rank has open conical shallots in the 8 ft. register.

The Great Trumpet is the Abbot and Smith trumpet, revoiced as a full chorus reed with open beaked conical shallots.

The Pedal Schalmay is a 4 ft. solo or ‘Cantus Firmus’ reed - it is an oboe schalmey - in fact it is an old oboe, revoiced with small half open conical shallots.

The Pedal Trombone is constructed from the wood of a 16 ft. Open Diapason. The shallots are integral with the blocks, and were turned from Brazilian Mahogany. They are domed, and of large bore heavily leathered; the design is reputed to have been used by Cavaillé Coll, but the scales are our own.

All of the reed tongues are new, and are of a special alloy of brass.

There are 2218 pipes in the organ - ranging in speaking length from ¼” to 16 ft.

The wind is blown by the original 1 HP blower supplied for the organ by Abbot and Smith, and is available at the following pressures:

GT 2½” wg.
SW 2.7/8” wg.
Small Ped. 3” wg.
Large Ped. 4½” wg.
The mechanical action contains over 2,500 precision bearings, and the total length of lightweight aluminium trackers is enough to reach from the church to the Norwich Ring Road!

The Large Pedal Soundboard was constructed by us out of massive timbers formerly in the roof of the now demolished nearby St. Philip’s Church; the sliders on this soundboard are 15 ft. long.

The small pedal soundboard was made entirely from plywood; both pedal soundboards have aluminium pallets and plastic sliders with modern slider seals.

The swell and great soundboards, though positioned differently to before are (apart from complete renovation) as originally constructed by Abbot and Smith; the great organ soundboard is nearly six feet wide, and carries all thirteen full compass stops side by side.

BELLOWS

During October 1997 the bellows of this fine organ were removed for extensive repairs and re-leathering. This work was again carried out by Bower and Co. who had rebuilt this organ between 1979-1982

This work was essential as the bellows were leaking air and were in a worse state than first feared.

IMPROVEMENTS

During 2006/7 the organ had its first major clean since its rebuild. It was also an opportunity to make some additions and improvements. A faculty was applied for and the following work was agreed and carried out:-

1 - The Great III mixture was to be replaced with a new IV Mixture.
2 - The divisional pistons were increased from five to six and ten general pistons were added with 10 levels of memory. 3 - This replaced the specially designed piston system used at the last rebuild.
4 - The addition of a tremulant to the swell and great organ.

It was a pleasure to award the contract to Bower and Co to make these improvements. Richard Bower’s skills have given St Thomas’s church an organ of which we are very proud. The organ is a living instrument that will sing majestically in this church for years to come. It is the envy of many churches and organists and many distinguished organists have given recitals here over the years.


ORGAN RECORDINGS

The organ was recorded during the 19th & 20th May 2010 on the Priory Label by James Parsons.

Finally it is through the skill of Mr. Richard Bower that we hear this much acclaimed organ today. Saint Thomas’s church and myself will always be indebted to him for giving us such a magnificent instrument.

- Mathew R Martin, Director of Music

A NOTE ABOUT THE ORGAN BUILDERS

E. & W. Storr and Richard Bower met in 1968. Following a happy partnership, Richard Bower continued as sole proprietor in 1972, and throughout the period since then, the firm has always, continued to overhaul, rebuild and restore organs throughout the county, and beyond.

Our interest in more radical and logical organ building, with more Classical tonal schemes, and mechanical action was first shown with our organ at Wroxham in 1973. The present organ shows our increasing ability to apply Classical ideas to an existing instrument. We are also developing our skill and interest in building new small organs, as may be seen in our new instrument recently installed at Swannington.

Our labour force is very small, and this, together with our policy of making as much as is practical so to do ourselves, encourages a high standard of proficiency and craftsmanship. Occasionally a rare opportunity for apprenticeship may exist.

Richard Bower would like to put on record his thanks as follows:-

I must thank the organists and Vicar of St. Thomas’s, and all who have assisted us in our work, and especially

Philip Carriage without whose full time assistance during the original rebuild, I would have found it hard to manage.
Paul Carver who voluntarily did innumerable helpful jobs during the work in the church

Derek Jones of “Pipecraft”, who made the new metal pipework, and repaired many pipes in the church during the first rebuild and whose last work was the making of the new Great mixture.

Also, Mr. J. G. Bower my great grandfather who was once church-warden of St. Thomas’s and who’s engineering skills I may have inherited.