The Organ of the Carmelite Priory

The organ cases - click to enlarge

The original Edward Welby Pugin-designed church housed an 1866 Cavaillé-Coll organ which was subsequently altered and enlarged prior to its destruction, together with the church, by incendiary bombs on 20th February 1944.

The present organ was built by J.W. Walker & Sons in 1965 to a design by Ralph Downes (Brompton Oratory, Royal Festival Hall) and is sited in the spacious choir gallery at the East end of the church in two imposing towers either side of the East window with façade pipes of burnished copper. The Swell is in the North tower, the Great in the South, and the Pedal divided between the two (on the upper level). The console is detached and faces the North tower. Key action is electro-pneumatic, the stop action is electric. The opening recital was given by Dame Gillian Weir on 13th April 1966.

The specification, immediately identifiable as the work of Downes, has been augmented by the addition of the horizontal Great Trompete.

8          Open Diapason
8          Rohrflute
4          Octave
4          Stopped Flute
2          Blockflute
II         Quartane
IV-VI  Mixture
8          Trompete

Swell  enclosed
8          Viola
8          Celeste (AA)
8          Gedackt
4          Venetian Flute
2 2/3   Nazard
2          Principal
II         Tertian
III        Cimbel
8          Cremona

16        Sub Bass
8          Octave
8          Gedackt
4          Spitzflute
16        Fagotto
4          Shawm

The Console - click to enlarge

The organ has eight memory levels, each with 4 divisional pistons per department and 6 general pistons. Great & Pedal pistons do not combine; this jamb was replaced by the Great Tremulant to create space for the new Trompete jamb. Now in the couplers division, it was re-engraved ‘Tremulant to Great’ in order to blend in – a rather misleading move since the Great Tremulant is independent.

The generals are slightly unusually arranged: 4 are thumb pistons and 2 are toe pistons which, despite being labelled 1 and 2, do not duplicate the thumb pistons. The dial to change memory levels is concealed behind the hinged music desk. Swell/Great plays through the Great/Pedal coupler. A feature rather rare on organs is the duplication of all the couplers as toe pistons.

The organ deploys an enormous variety of colour and adapts well to a wide range of repertoire. The somewhat lively upperwork on the Swell is better-suited to solo work than choral accompaniment; the Swell, in the context of the organ’s Downes-inspired Baroque leanings, functions as a quasi-Brustwerk. The fluework on the Great particularly lends itself to early English works and provides an ideal partner to the choir’s focus on this repertoire.

You can view more videos recorded on the organ here.