Organ

History

1821

St. Mary’s opened as the Trinity Chapel. An early plan in the Bristol Records Office shows a small organ in the north east corner of the church.

1871

The chancel and sanctuary were added in a major redevelopment. The organ was moved a short distance to a bay in the north aisle of the new chancel. The organ was funded by the Misses Mirehouse following a fund-raising bazaar at the Zoological gardens. A contemporary report states, ‘The organ is in the hands of Mr Vowles, who is re-erecting it and supplying it with new manuals and pedals, and introducing many of the most recent improvements’. A builder’s plate reads:

W. G. Vowles
(Late J. Monday)
Organ Builder
69 Castle Street, Bristol

Vowles was the son-in-law of Joseph Monday and seems to have taken charge of the business around 1858.

1938

Vowles overhauled the organ and moved it to a purpose-built platform at the west end of the church. A detached console was commissioned from J Holt of Birmingham and placed behind the choir in the space previously occupied by the organ. A second builder’s plate reads:-

W. G. Vowles Ltd.
3 St. James Sq.
Bristol
1938

 These premises were destroyed in the blitz of 1940 along with, it seems, most of the company records.

1948

Hele of Plymouth were engaged to clean the organ and carry out revoicing work. At some point octave and sub-octave couplers were added to the swell organ. It is not known for certain, when, and by whom, this work was carried out. Percy Daniel and Co. Ltd. were looking after the instrument in the years leading up to 1984.

1984

The organ was cleaned and some remedial work undertaken by John Coulson. John had worked on the organ when apprenticed to Hele’s. He continued to look after it until his death.

2009

Clevedon Organs (UK) Ltd took over the care of the organ. During the next few years it became clear that a major overhaul of the instrument was overdue. A formal appeal was launched in September 2018 and active fund-raising commenced. 

2020

Anthony Hall and his team from Clevedon Organs (UK) Ltd started work on the instrument in June 2020. The work was completed at the end of November. The restoration work included a deep clean and overhaul of all mechanical components, repainting, the addition of a new bassoon stop, and the upgrading of the 1938 analogue electronics to a digital system. This also means we can now use a computer to record and play back organ performances.

The restored instrument was first used at the evening service on Sunday 6th December 2020. It both sounds and looks magnificent.

Specification

GreatSwellPedalCouplers
Open Diapason 8′Open Diapason 8′Gravitas 32’*Great to Pedal
Claribel Flute 8′Stopped Diapason 8′Open Diapason 16′Swell to Pedal
Bell Gamba 8′Viola Di Gamba 8′Bourdon 16′Swell to Great
Dulciana 8′Viola Celeste 8′Bass Flute 8′Great Super Octave*
Principal 4′Gemshorn 4′Bassoon 16’*Swell Sub Octave
Flute 4′Flageolet 2′ Swell Unison off
Twelfth 2⅔’Bassoon 16’* Swell Super Octave
Fifteenth 2′Cornopean 8′ Tremulant
Clarinet 8′Oboe 8′  
* new addition in 2020

Recordings

Click the player to hear a selection of music being played on the organ by Richard Morgan.

A demonstration of the organ being played by a computer