The William Hill Organ at St Gabriel's Church, Aldersbrook, a Brief History

The present church in Aldersbrook, dedicated to St Gabriel the Archangel, was completed in 1914 replacing an original 'tin mission church' of 1903 which then served as a parish hall for many years. The new church was designed, built and equipped to the very highest specification but it would seem that the money ran out before an organ was commissioned.

Undaunted, the parish evidently did the next best thing and hired one. The end of year accounts for 1916 show the sum of £10.00 paid to Messrs Hill and Son for the hire of an organ.

The parish then set about raising the necessary funds to build the present organ and the records show all sorts of fund raising initiatives; from morris dancing and whist drives to concerts and a farthing fund. One parishioner pledged the cost of the Tremulant of the new organ to the delight of the vicar Fr. Manthorp, who suggested this good example be followed by others in his letter in the Parish Magazine November 1933.

In March 1934 he wrote; “in view of the fact that we now have well over £1000.00 in the new organ fund it has now been decided to go ahead with this matter. Members of the sub-committee have already been busy over various specifications, and after visiting several churches and listening to their organs, they unanimously advocated the acceptance of an offer from Messrs William Hill and Son. We are therefore to have a fine three-manual organ which will be really worthy of the Church, and which will bear comparison with any organ in the district”

On July 8th 1934 the old organ breathed its last and the installation of the new organ began. At 7.00pm on the evening of Saturday 22 September 1934 the new organ was dedicated by the Bishop of Chelmsford and the opening recital given by G.D. Cunningham FRAM, FRCO City Organist of Birmingham one of the most popular and eminent organists in the country at that time. The cost of the new organ and blower was £2,582. 3s.7d

Tonally and in terms of it's specification the organ is a fine example of Edwardian building. It has remained virtually unchanged since it was built, the only alteration being the substitution of a 4' Chimney Flute for a large and unwieldy 8' No1 diapason on Great. Following a generous bequest from the late Gladys Turvey , who died in 1991, it was possible to renew the Electro Pneumatic action and to add 10 general pistons and a computerised multi channel piston selection system.

During the 1960's the external appearance of the organ suffered a well intentioned but undignified fate when, during redecoration of the church, the visible pipes were painted with a poor quality gold paint which tarnished quickly and attracted a great deal of dust. The original lustre of the pipes was lost entirely and the overall effect very quickly became one of stygian gloom. Thanks to a generous donation in memory of June, Mabel and Lionel Porter the pipes have now been completely restored and re-painted in their original bright gold colour, providing the instrument with a well deserved face lift for its 70th birthday. At the same time, (and by the generosity of the same donor), the Choir swell box pneumatic shutter motors were also restored and re-leathered making it not only more efficient but much quieter in operation.

The organ is a versatile and extremely expressive instrument which is used for recitals and concerts as well as accompanying the church's liturgy day by day. It is a delight not only to listen to but to play and generally regarded as one of the finest instruments in East London. The organ is presently tuned and maintained by Mander of East London. The original intentions of Fr. Manthorp and the Church Council of 1934 have been not only realised but perpetuated. Fr. Manthorp wrote in July 1934;

“Every effort has been made to provide as complete an organ as possible for the money, variety of quiet work has been aimed at as well as sufficient power for the size of the church. But the beauty of the new instrument will lie mainly in its power of building up from a whisper to full organ, of its contrasted tonal colours, its expressiveness and its real church tone. It should be an efficient instrument for either recital work or its real job, the accompaniment of church services”.


Organ Specification

Pedal Organ - CCC -  F - 30 Notes

  1. Harmonic Bass  32 Acoustic from 2 &4
  2. Open Diapason  16
  3. Violone   16 From Great
  4. Bourdon  16
  5. Echo Bourdon  16  From Swell
  6. Octave    8 From swell No 2
  7. Bass Flute   8 From swell No 4
  8. Contra Fagotto  16 From swell
  9. Trombone  16 ext of great Tromba, 8ft

 

Great Organ - CC to C - 61 Notes

  1. Contra Viola  16
  2. Open Diapason    8
  3. Claribel Flute    8
  4. Principal     4
  5. Chimney Flute                 4
  6. Twelfth     23/8
  7. Fifteenth     2
  8. Mixture (IV ranks)
  9. Tromba     8 on heavy wind
  10. Swell to Pedal
  11. Swell to Pedal 4 ft
  12. Great to Pedal
  13. Choir to Pedal
  14. Choir to Pedal 4ft

 

Accessories

Five thumb pistons each to Swell, Great and Choir (all adjustable)

Ten General Pistons (all adjustable)

Five Pedal Pistons to Pedal

Five Pedal Pistons duplicating Swell pistons

Thumb Pistons Great to Pedal, Swell to Great, Choir to Great

Pedal Piston  Great to Pedal

Two balanced pedals to Swell & Choir

Swell Organ - CC to C 61 notes

  1. Lieblich Bourdon  16
  2. Open Diapason    8
  3. Rohr Flöte    8
  4. Salicional    8
  5. Vox Angelica (Tenor C)   8
  6. Principal     4
  7. Fifteenth     2
  8. Mixture (III ranks)
  9. Oboe     8
  10. Contra Fagotto*  16
  11. Trumpet     8
  12. Clarion *    4
  13. Tremulant, light wind
  14. Octave
  15. Sub Octave
  16. Unison off

 

Stops marked * are extensions of the trumpet

Choir Organ - CC to C 61 notes (enclosed)

    1. Double Dulciana*  (Tenor C)         16
    2. Dulciana     8
    3. Lieblich Gedact               8
    4. Gamba     8
    5. Wald Flöte     4
    6. Dulcet*     4
    7. Harmonic Twelfth    2 2/3
    8. Dulcetina*     2
    9. Tierce*     1 3/5
    10. Clarinet     8
    11. Tromba     8  from Great
    12. Tremulant
    13. Octave
    14. Sub Octave
    15. Unison Off
    16. Swell to Choir

 

Stops marked * are all extensions of the Dulciana

In 1934 Mr Norman Bardell, the organist at St Gabriel's wrote to Hill, Norman and Beard as follows;

“Now that I have used the new organ at St. Gabriel's for some time, I feel I must express my entire satisfaction with the splendid job you have turned out.

The console is delightfully simple to play and everything that one needs is just where one expects it. The 'cancel'  bars to the various departments are infinitely better than any of the other systems I have tried and much safer to use in rapid changes of stops. I have repeatedly analysed each stop, separately and in combination, and there is not the slightest improvement that I can suggest. Each stop has its own characteristics and yet the build-up of the ensemble is stupendous.

I could go on enumerating the fine points, but anybody who tries it can discover them for themselves. If you want to show any organist or Church authorities how an organ should be built, bring them to St Gabriel's and let them hear and see the perfect organ. Let them hear the glorious swells, which sound as if they are never going to stop crescendoing and yet, when shut are mere whispers; let them see the excellent workmanship of the inside, the delightful woodwork of the exterior; let them feel the wonderful control of the console.

And if they want to know more, we can tell them how splendidly your staff worked and behaved in the Church, how helpful and obliging they were in matters great and small, so that now they have gone, the job is complete and marvellously satisfactory in every detail.

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