At the time of the dedication of St Aldhelm’s Church in July 1894 a small temporary organ had been provided. This was installed by Messrs Gray & Davidson Ltd, and was situated at ground level on the north side of the choir. In 1926 it was decided to reconstruct the organ as a memorial to Canon Macleane, who was Vicar of Branksome Park from 1914 to 1922 (at that time St Aldhelm’s was part of his parish).
The original organ proved to be inadequate and the church authorities made plans for a much larger instrument. To provide a completed organ of the size and specification envisaged would have cost at least £3,000 but due to limited resources this was not found to be possible. As a result, in 1927, a two-manual instrument was built by Messrs Gray and Davidson Ltd: this provided a ‘dummy’ choir manual which could be completed when sufficient capital became available. The Great, Swell and Pedal Organs also all contained preparation for additions at a later date. This instrument was built in a gallery to the north of the choir with the console directly below.
Except for minor repairs and cleaning carried out in 1952, the organ remained untouched in its incomplete state. Over the years the condition of the instrument deteriorated and successive organists found the position of the console to be unsatisfactory.
By 1967 it was obvious that major work was long overdue. The celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Dedication of the church was thought to be a good time to put the instrument in good repair. Work was started by Messrs Geo.Osmond of Taunton in January 1967 to provide an organ more suited to the needs of the church. The rebuilt instrument was given a new action, it reverted to having two manuals, and the opportunity was taken to fulfil part of the original intention by adding the extra stops which had been prepared for in 1926. The organ now had 27 speaking stops and the console was moved to its present position in the south aisle adjacent to the chancel screen. In this position the organist was able to hear both the instrument and choir to advantage; he could also control the music effectively irrespective of whether the choir was seated in the chancel or the nave.
This instrument would lead the worship at St Aldhelm’s until 1995 by which time the need for major restoration was clear; in addition it had become clear that the instrument was no longer effective in leading the increased congregation in the demands of the revised liturgy. As a result, a complete rebuild of the instrument was proposed which, while retaining as much of the original instrument as possible, would incorporate some new pipe-work in order both to increase the effectiveness of the instrument in accompaniment and make it more versatile as a solo instrument. Furthermore it was thought prudent to take full advantage of modern technology in providing a really reliable action along with all the accessories which have become essential on an instrument of this size. Inevitably this meant that the console would have to be redesigned due to the increase in the number of draw-stops and pistons.
The contract for the rebuild was awarded to Lance Foy of Truro and the organ was dismantled on December 27th 1995 – the aim being to have it re-instated in time for all the forthcoming Easter services. It was a real team effort with parishioners getting involved with many of the non-technical tasks such as polishing the front pipes and painting the inside of the swell box. All this was of course done under Lance Foy’s ever-watchful eye! The whole project progressed smoothly and by Easter all but the final touches were completed. The Easter services of 1996 were accompanied on the rebuilt instrument and it was immediately apparent that the rebuild had surpassed all expectations.
St. Aldhelm’s Church now has a fine instrument of which it can be extremely proud. It will provide for the musical needs of the parish well into the next millennium and our thanks must go to Lance Foy and his team of craftsmen for all their superb workmanship.
With grateful thanks to Sean Tucker (who was Assistant Organist at the time of the rebuild of 1996) and John Kilminster.Compiled by Andrew Hill B.Mus(Hons). FTCL Director of Music
1895 to 1943 Charles Chizlett Taylor
1943 to 1946 J H Raybould
1946 to 1952 William H Blyth
1952 to ? Charles D Goodwin
? to ? Malcolm Davies
? to ? Vivian White
? to 1964 Dennis Baker
1964 to 1973 Derek W Dorey
? to 1974 Peter Czorny
1974 to 1975 Paul Fearnley
1975 to 1976 Geoffrey Thornton (Died in 1978 aged 21 and ashes buried in St Aldhelm’s Garden of Remembrance)
1977 to 1978 Mrs Aileen (or Aline)
1981 to 1983 Christopher Greenwood
1983 to 1987 Clifford Brown
(?)1988 to 1989 Christopher Greenwood
1989 to present date Andy Hill