Norman Cocker's famous 'Tuba Tune played by Assistant Organist, Alex Fishburn:
Organistsat Wigan Parish Church
Unknown (1575-) Thomas Coates (1623-1626) Unknown (1634-) - Betts (1714-1714) - Allan (1714-1717) James Perrin (1717-1770) John Langshaw (1770-1772) - Barker (1772-1783) James Entwistle (1784-1796) Jane Entwistle (1796-1825) Thomas Roby (1825-1839) William Cooper (1839-1843) Thomas Graham (1844-1867) Sir Walter Parratt KCVO Hon Mus Doc (1868-1874) Langdon Colborne Mus Doc (1875-1877) Alfred Alexander Mus Bac (1877-1888) John W Potter (1889-1895) Charles H Moody CBE Hon FRCO Mus Doc (1896-1899) Edward C Bairstow Mus Doc FRCO (1899-1906) Edgar C Robinson Mus Bac FRCO (1906-1919) Percy W de Courcy Smale (1919-1927) William O Minay Mus Bac FRCO (1927-1943) Frank E Bailey Mus Bac ARCO FTCL (1943-1948) George Galloway FRCO(CHM) LRAM (1949-1957) Kenneth R Long MA Mus Bac FRCO (1958-1961) A G David Cutter MA ARCO (1961-1994) John Walton GFRCM FLCM FRCO(1994-1999) Karl Greenall Mus Bac (1999-)
The Present Organ
The Present organ is an excellent example of the work of Hill, Norman and Beard. In fact, it is know that after its re-build, the organ was referred to by the firm as a fine example of their work when they were approached by churches and cathedrals in need of work / new instruments. The organ, due to the tests of time, is beginning to show its age, and it is hoped that a re-build will be possible before 2017. The present organ specification can be found below, in .pdf form. You will need Adobe Reader to view this file, which can be downloaded free here: http://get.adobe.com/reader/
The earliest record of an organ in the parish church is 1620, when there was an organ on the screen between the Chancel and the Nave. A new instrument, built in 1623, was destroyed by the Parliamentarian soldiers in 1643. In 1714 another organ was built on the same site, with a passage of only twelve feet beneath it, thus obstructing the view of the Chancel. The organ remained here until 1844, after which a new organ was installed at the west end of the Leigh Chapel. This instrument was started by Richard Jackson of Liverpool, and was finished by William Hill and Son of London. It was completely re-built by Hill in 1867, and sited under the Tower. In 1877 the organ was moved to the eastern end of the Leigh Chapel. The main case, designed by Paley, dates from this time. In 1886 it was moved once again, to the western bay of the Leigh Chapel.
In 1901, when Sir Edward Bairstow was Organist, the organ was completely rebuilt by Norman & Beard of Norwich. Parts of the former organ were retained, but most of it was new. Further work to the instrument was done in 1906, and 1948. This instrument remained in use until the latest re-building.
The work of reconstruction in 1963 was entrusted to the firm of William Hill and Son and Norman and Beard Ltd., also known as Hill, Norman & Beard, who at the time had a connection of over 100 years with the parish church. Most of the 1901 instrument was retained, after careful restoration and re-voicing. The old pneumatic action was replaced with electro-pneumatic action, and a new detached console was placed in the Crawford Chapel with access to the Chancel by means of a door through the Screen.
Apart from complete re-voicing and one new rank on each division, the Great and Swell organs remained much as they were. Only the Pedal Organ was significantly enlarged. Here, there were added ranks of 4ft and 2ft pitch, also a three rank mixture and 4ft solo reed, and the Trombone was extended to 8ft and 4ft pitch. It is interesting to note that prior to 1901 there was a 4ft stop and a three rank mixture on the Pedal Organ, both of which were discarded in 1901.
The old Choir Organ was replaced by an unenclosed Positif Organ of authentic antique scale. This, together with the part of the instrument that was new in 1963 was placed in the eastern bay of the Leigh Chapel, with the Pedal Gemshorn on display.
The specification was drawn up by Mr A. G. D. Cutter, the Organist at the time, in consultation with Mr R Mark Fairhead, of Hill, Norman & Beard Ltd., who was responsible for the tonal finishing of the organ.
"The Organs"; adapted from 'A ramble round the Wigan Parish Church' by W J True (written 1901)
"The earliest record of an organ at Wigan Parish Church dates back to 1620, when some restoration to the organ was undertaken. A restoration in 1878 remarked that 'Some of the pipes appear, from their age, to have belonged to the original organ in the Chancel Aisle." An inscription found on that particular instrument stated that the instrument was erected in 1575.
On Easter Tuesday in 1623 the parishioners met in large numbers in church to pass the financial accounts of the Wardens, elect new Wardens and to 'lay money for the organs' (1). Thomas Coates was commissioned to build the instrument 'over the old chancel', most likely on a quire screen, and in fact not only was Coates appointed builder, he is the second recorded organist at Wigan, and, the first to hold the post in addition to that of the Parish Clerk.
A manuscript is found in the British Museum, 'A Relation of a short survey of 26 counties' made by a Lieutenant of the Military Company in Norwich, mentions vising Wigan and hearing the organ played in 1634. Traditions die hard in the Church of England: the manuscript describes the hospitality of the organist:
"Mr Organist did arrest us, in their fayre Market Place, & kindly invited to the mornings draught, A Whiskin of Wiggan Ale, wch. they as heartily, as merrily whiskt off, as freely and liberally they calld. for it: it was as good as they gave it, for better Ale and better Company no Travellers whatsoever would desire"!
There is no mention of the organ from 1623 to 1667, and although the instrument survived the order of parliament on May 9th 1644 for "All organs and the frames and cases wherein they stand in all Churches and Chapels aforesaid shall be taken and utterly defaced, and none other hereafter set up in their place"; it was destroyed in the great rebellion of 1680.
However, in 1696, provision was made for a new organ despite the protestant sentiment of the day that organs were dangerous innovations. But it was not until 1709 that work commenced: at this time, the arch which devides the nave from the chancel housed the Mayor's stall and he was unwilling to give up the prime position for the situation of a new organ. Undeterred, the Rector and Wardens proceeded to pull it down! The vestry book of 1709-10 records about 330 signatures from parishioners in favour of the new organ to have "...the worship of God performed in our church..." A faculty was obtained by the Rector from the Bishop's Vicar General to appropriate rents from the west gallery to pay a salary to the organist. The new organ eventually was brought into use on August 6th 1714. In 1723 it was painted and guided at a cost of £22 18s 6d.
In 1783 there was a great deal of excitement in the town when James Entwistle was recommended for the post of organist at Wigan. In fact the whole town took a vote on the matter, the only time that the position of organist was made following such a vote in the parish. James Entwistle died on July 28th 1796, and to mark the esteem in which he was held the Rector, Rev George Bridgeman, ordered his internment underneath the organ. James Entwistle was 13 years old at the time of his appointment. Jane Entwistle, his sister and the only woman to hold the position of organist at Wigan, succeeded James, and was organist for 29 years until her death at the age of 53 years.
At the vestry meeting of Easter 1827 a sum of £200 was allowed for the rebuidling of the organ and Samuel Renn and Partner was employed for the work. The rebuild saw the organ complete with 21 speaking stops over three manuals and pedal organ.
Thomas Graham recorded his appointment to the post of organist in a Psalter: "T. Graham visited Wigan for the first time Jan 12th 1844. Played for the situation of Organist against nine candidates, January 28th, and was unanimously elected on Wednesday 14th Feb 1844". Graham is credited with raising the standard of the choral singing at Wigan and began building the musical library which is equal to any church in the country.
Soon after Graham's arrival the organ was again giving cause for concern and the decision was taken to completely rebuild it. Richard Burlan JP observed that "The organ stood in a gallery under where the chancel arch stood, the arch at some time being removed to receive it. The organ completely obstructed the view of the chancel, the passage under it not being above 12 feet high, the approach to the organ and singers gallery being up the north turrett. The boys [of the choir] belonging to the Blue Coat School wore white gowns and comprised part of the choir. Part of the organ was used in building the present one". The new organ was placed in the first bay of the restored Leigh Chapel. Baines, in his description of Lancashire (1836) says "In the north gallery is a powerful organ, venerable and melodious."
The church was re-consecrated in 1850 and and full account of the restored organ exists by J W Heighway which is worth recounting here:
"The organ, this noble piece of workmanship, will attract our attention from the interest which attached itself to the old, as well as to the new organ. Our readers will be interested to know the origin of the old instrument, which was removed in 1833, as well as the new one just erected.
It has been generally believed and asserted that the organ as it was was one of the finest organs in the kingdom, and that it was built by Father Schmidt [Father Smith]. The facts are simply these, so far as we have authentic record: In the year of our Lord, 1708, Mr Welles, gentleman, presented a small organ to the Parish Church of Wigan. Now Father Schmidt died in this very year, 1708, whilst engaged in the erection of a large organ in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge; and as he did not live to complete it, it was finished by his son-in-law, Christopher Schrieder, May 3rd 1708. Father Schmidt had a formidable rival in Harris, who came to this country from France a few months after Schmidt arrived from Germany, and who successfully contended with him by the erection of many larger organs than his. From this we conclude that if that portion of the old organ presented by Mr Welles, in 1708, called the Great Organ, was built by Father Schmidt, it must have been built some time previous to that date, and, moreover, must have been a small finger organ, with but one manual. From the great similarity of the pipes used by the contemporary organ builders, Schmidt, Schrieder, and Harris, it is impossible to say which was the builder, as it is only to by the pipes that organs of different periods and builders can be recognized.
For the space of sixty-three years there appear to have been no additions made to this organ; but in the year 1701 we find an entry in the Church books, that a swell organ were added by Byefield and Green of London, and this work was unquestionably the best portion of the old organ. During a lapse of many years the organ had evidently been much neglected, and the tuning, etc., committed to very unskillful hands. On examination, many of the pipes were choked up with dirt, and the ends of the metal pipes torn open, so that a great part of the organ, it appears, had long been disused until Mr Jackson, the present organ builder, was engaged by the late Mr Fairhurst, then Churchwarden, to repair the organ. Still, after all that could be done for it, the wind-chest was fast going to decay, and other parts completely rotten, so that when the organ was taken down to be repaired and enlarged it was found impossible to put it together again. This state of things led to a determination to rebuild the organ and to introduce all those improvements, which of late years, have excited the admiration both of mechanics and organ connoisseurs. The old organ in its completest state was simply a finger organ with three rows of keys, and one octave of German pedal pipes. The compass was GG to E in alt, Choir and Great organs. The Swell from F below Fiddle G to E in alt, in all twenty-one stops.
The organ, as rebuilt by Mr Richard Jackson, of Liverpool does him infinite credit, both for the mechanism, the execution of the work, and the beautiful quality of tone. This is the most perfect organ in the county, if not the largest and most expensive also. It contains four complete organs, all independent one of another, and yet so constructed that any two or three, or all four, may be coupled and used in combination. The complete organ occupies the whole space between the tower and the first arch in the Chancel, which is twenty-one feet by fourteen feet six inches, and stands near the east end of the north aisle. A cellar four feet deep has been excavated to receive the bellows. The four departments of this surprising instrument are arranged in the following order:
The Grand Organ - Compass CC to Alt - 56 notes. Those marked * are new to this part of the country
Double Diapason* to CCC
Large Open Diapason
Small Open Diapason
Principle (this is a new stop introduced by Mr Jackson and it's effects are exceedingly brilliant)
Sesquialtera, three ranks
Mixture*, three ranks
The Grand Swell Organ - Compass CC to G in Alt - 56 notes. This is ingeniously enclosed in three large boxes, 10 feet 6 inches high, the fronts opening on the plan of Venetian blinds.
Double Diapason CCC
Echo Dulciana Cornet, three ranks
Hautboy, to Tenor C reed
Trumpet, to Tenor C, 8 feet reed
Clarion, to Tenor C, 4 feet reed
The Choir Organ - Compass CCC to G in Alt - 56 notes.
Stopped Diapason, Bass
Open Diapason, Bass
Behind this organ, up to the tower, stands the forth department of the instrument, which is only played by the feet, and is called
The Pedal Organ - Compass two octaves and a third, from CCC to E. Natural 28 notes
Grand Open Diapason, Wood CCC 16 ft
Grand Open Diapason, Metal CCC 16 ft
Bourdon, Wood CCC 16ft
Quint, Metal 6 ft
Principle, Wood 8 ft
Fifteenth, Metal 4 ft
Sesquialtera, 3 ranks
Mixture, 3 ranks
Contraposaune, 16 ft reed
There are, besides those already enumerated, six compositional Pedals, to act upton the Stops of the Grand and Pedal organs, and six couplers to connect any two, or all four Organs together. There is also one stop to enable the performer to play upon the Pedal Organ with one foot. Thus we have a general summary, four Couple Organs, forty-seven Draw Stops, six Composition Pedals, three Manuals, one Pedal, one hundred and ninety-seven notes, on four organs, and forty-nine ranks of pipes.
Number of notes in the Grand Organ: 896 Number of notes in the Swell Organ: 694 Number of notes in the Choir Organ: 468 Number of notes in the Pedal Organ: 377 Total number of notes: 2435 Some idea may be entertained of the capabilities of this instrument if we compare it with the one in Westminster Abbey, built by Schrieder, since enlarged by Hill, which, according to statement in Hamilton's Catechism on the Organ, contains 1348 pipes, being 997 less than the above. The instrument is enclosed in a beautifully carved oak case, which is summounted with pinnacles, and is divided into several compartments. The organ has three fronts, the pinnacle of which rises majestically up to the clere storey in the Chancel, and is twenty eight feet high. It has a rich and imposing appearance, and it's massive carving and elegant workings add much to the beauty and perfection of the design. The second front which faces the north aisle to the west-ward, is exceedingly chaste and attractive, as is the third front, which faces the north-east window. The organ itself, speaking of it as a whole, is really one of great magnitude, and first-rate pretensions, and is second to none in the country. The dulcet sweetness, like the exquisite stillness on an autumnal evening, it's varied orchestral effects, with the beuatiful quality of their tone, and it's majestic pedal notes, like the murmuring of distant but audible thunder, all tend to produce sensations of delight, so great and so engaging that it would be superfluity to attempt to describe them. We are perfectly satisfied that this instrument is one of the best in it's class, and that nothing has been wanting by the talented builder which is necessary to make it effective in every department and complete in it's multiplicity"
By 1867 the organ needed repairs and extensive cleaning: as this necessitated the dismantling of the instrument, it was thought that by moving the organ to a position under the tower that this would improve the appearance of church. Messrs Hill and Sons of London carried out the work at a cost of £215. The organ re-opened in the same year and the Rev Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley preached at the dedication service. Ouseley returned to Wigan only ten years later to rededicate the organ, following extensive repairs after it was damaged by flood.
Then followed a rich vein of organists appointed to Wigan Parish Church: Walter Parratt was at Wigan for 6 years, leaving to take up a similar position at Magdalen College, Oxford, before being appointed organist at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, and Master of the Queen's Music.
Langdon Golborne succeeded Parrat from Beverley Minster, staying for only two years before moving to Dorking then onto Hereford Cathedral. Among others, Charles Moody made their mark - he was a much sought after organist, having been recommended for the position at Wigan by Sir John Stainer.
However, perhaps the best known organist to grace the loft at Wigan was Sir Edward Bairstow. Prior to his appointment at Wigan, Bairstow was articled to Sir Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey, and his appointment to Wigan followed on the nomination from Sir Walter Parratt. Bairstow oversaw the organ rebuilding of 1902 for the opening of which he composed 'Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel' ".
Click on the file below for the Dedication of the Organ booklet (in PDF form) from 1963, when the present organ was unveiled. It contains the current specification except the Swell Cornopean 8' and Clarion 4' were replaced by a new Trumpet 8' and a new Clarion 4' due to persistent tuning issues in 1970.