The Organ in St Paul's Church
The first documented organ in St Paulís was built in 1830 by James Bishop. It was sited on the gallery at the west end of the church. Banfield enlarged the organ in 1838 including a new Swell division which was probably a replacement for Bishopís Swell rather than an addition. Bevington and Sons rebuilt and enlarged the organ in 1871 and again worked on it in 1897.
The organ was moved to its present location in 1927 by Conacher Sheffield & Co. and was extensively rebuilt. Unfortunately the organ case could not be accommodated in its new position unaltered. The wings had to be removed and are now joined together to serve as the screen facing the north gallery, along with some recycled pew doors. The side towers could not fit between the mouldings on the north arcade bases, so the entire case-front was raised so that the corbels of the side towers cleared the mouldings. This caused the side-tower cornices to conflict with the arcade capitals, so the cornices were removed.
Following war damage and the resulting weather-related damage, the organ was noted to be in a poor state by 1953, notably the Choir division was completely Ďbombed outí. Hill, Norman & Beard remodelled the organ as a two manual and pedal instrument in 1964.
This is the organ present today albeit with some incongruous additions to the piston system added in 1996. There is a mixture of mechanical and electro-pneumatic actions and soundboards of differing compasses. The pipework consists of some of the original Bishop ranks, arguably the best sounds in the organ at present, some second hand pipework from Hill Norman & Beardís stock in 1964 and one new stop Ė the Great Stopped Diapason.
It is a credit to the pipe voicer of 1964 that the organ sounds so fine and complete!
In addition to its important role within the weekly liturgy, the organ has, over the years, been used for many recitals, broadcasts and concerts. It was for a time one of the main teaching instruments of the Birmingham Conservatoire and former Birmingham School of Music.
Organ recitals take place on the first Thursday of every month at 1.15pm.
St Paulís has some of the finest acoustics in the city of Birmingham and this helps the existing instrument to still sound rather fine, mainly due to the presence of some unaltered 1830s pipework by James Bishop. However, during the next few years the organ is going to require much drastic and very expensive work. Although currently it sounds fine the poorly conceived mechanics are now in a bad state of repair and are increasingly unreliable. The soundboards are now in a very poor condition and some of the pipework is showing signs of collapse. Unfortunately only some of the pipework, mainly the original Bishop ranks, will be worth restoring either economically or artistically.
We are preparing to launch a major appeal to build a new organ which incorporates the historic Bishop pipework in a remodelled case.
© 2007, revised 2008.
This brief history written by Paul Carr
(Organist and Director of Music)
with grateful thanks for clarification of historical facts by
David Wickens, The Revíd Malcolm Jones and Kenneth Jones.
>Thursday Live Monthly Organ Recitals