For this church:
The original organ, installed in St Catharine’s church in 1896 was built by Mr Sims of Southampton. It had two manuals and twenty two stops, and was fitted with tubular pneumatic action throughout. Three days after the church was consecrated Dr W.Lemare, a well know organist of the period, gave a Sunday afternoon recital which included the air As pants the heart by Spohr, and Andante by Heller. Mr G.Farnsworth was appointed the first organist at the newly built St Catharine’s church.
The original instrument gave excellent service, and continued in use for forty nine years and nine months, until 16th August 1946 when it was destroyed by fire. The alarm was raised by a small boy, who, seeing smoke coming from the church roof ran into a local shop and raised the alarm. The cause of the fire was not discovered, but it was thought that an electrical fault was the most likely explanation.
For two years musical accompaniment was provided by the use of a Broadwood Boudoir Grand Piano.
Whilst the original instrument was well loved by the eight organists who played it over its lifetime, the church was extremely fortunate in being able to purchase a replacement which is today regarded as ‘probably one of the most important organs within the diocese’. It is not recorded how the church located the organ, or its purchase price; possibly it was advertised in a church or organ publication. What is known is the organ’s history and the details of its rebuilding in St Catharine’s.
The organ was removed from the Great Hall of Tockington Manor near Bristol in 1948, when the Manor was sold by the son of Colonel Henry Thomas Salmon, who had owned the house since 1872. As the major part of the organ work has been dated to early 1870, and the case to the 1760s, it can be assumed that the organ was probably installed by Colonel Salmon soon after he purchased the property.
The case of the organ is much older, being a magnificent example of the work of organ builder Richard Seede of Bristol. Produced about 1760, it is one of only three examples of Seede’s work know to have survived. The display pipes with bay leaf mouths are also of English workmanship circa 1760. The mahogany case inlaid with a large oval of kingwood on the console cover is in excellent condition with only small sections of the cross-banded border missing. The thickness of the veneer, nearly one eighth of an inch, can be seen at these points and supports the reported age of the organ case.
The organ when housed in Tockington Manor is known to have been rebuilt by August F.H.Gern as a salon organ in the early 1870s. Gern (1837-1903) was a native of Berlin, and from 1860 to 1866 served as erecting foreman in France for Aristide Cavaille-Coll. It is almost certain that the organ contains a considerable amount of pipe-work made in Paris, as Gern was not manufacturing his own until after 1872.
The Tockington Manor Organ specification was:
The organ was rebuilt at St Catharine’s by Roger Yates in 1948. The work was done under the guidance of Ralph Downes, later the designer and curator of the organ in the Royal Festival Hall, London. Tonal modifications were designed to increase the resources of the organ while preserving completely its original characteristics.
Specification of the new organ:
All metal pipework including reeds, with the exception of the lowest octaves of the Open Diapason, Flute Harmonique and the Viola de Gambe which are of zinc, are of fine spotted metal. The lowest octave of the Quintade is of plain metal
The original organ had been installed in the first arch of the north wall of the cancel. The Gern organ was re-sited into the second arch moving it nearer to the altar, with its working extended into the choir vestry.
The organ was dedicated on 29th September 1948 by Rev Canon R.F.Wilkinson. The dedication service is recorded in the publication from which most of the above information has been extracted. After the dedication Ralph Downes gave a recital on the new organ. The pieces played were;
Tocata and Fugue in D minor J.S.Bach
With the redundancy of St Catharine’s, the organ has now been moved to the church of Shelford St Peter.