6 pistons to each department adjustable on the
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
J. G. Bower my great grandfather who was once church-warden of St. Thomas’s
and who’s engineering skills I may have inherited.