Organs on the Isle of Man

This page is a copy of the notes prepared by  Ms F. Coakley  © in 2002 for, as she describes it, an 'organ crawl', in much the same way as members of the West Gallery Music Association do from time to time in different areas of England, but in their case looking for the galleries in which gallery music was performed and appreciated by the congregations of those churches who enjoyed their weekly church services. In many ways the notes below serve as an illustration of what went on before the days when organs were introduced.

Ms Coakley's notes are reproduced in their entirety (as her web page read in 2002 - but has since been updated, so visit it to see what is new) and any comments on them should please be referred to her. (See the note at bottom of this page). There are many links in his work to other pages of great interest in Manx history and music, and are well worth a few hours (literally) surfing. Enjoy!!

Organs on the Isle of Man

So breathed the breath of his preluding,
And then the fugue began—

Organist in Heaven, T.E.Brown

The impetus behind this page was an 'organ crawl', a now annual event in which the IoM Organists Association arrange a series of short recitals at various churches/chapels and the audience moves between sites thus experiencing some of the various insular organs in a single day.

The following notes are approximately in date order of installation - in many cases the earlier instruments have been replaced or considerably rebuilt. The Methodist Chapels also installed organs when money permitted and it may be that some of those being replaced from the established church were transferred to chapels, though the story told of the period of introduction (late 19th century) of a Primitive Methodist talking to a Wesleyan 'I hear you've got an organ in your chapel - all you need now is a monkey!' To which the Wesleyan replied 'Yes, all you need is the organ!' - reflects the sometime heated opposition to their introduction by certain members, especially within Primitive Methodism.


St. George's Douglas

The first mention of an organ on the Island is associated with St George's, Douglas - by the Act of Consecration of the said Chapel, dated 29 Sepr. 1781, the Lord Bishop reserved to himself and his successors the right of nominating and collating a proper and sufficient Clerk or Chaplain, and also of appointing and licensing an Organist for the said Chapel [see 1831 IoM Charities]. An organ was purchased soon afterwards funded by the rental of pews - Feltham in his visit of 1797/8 describes it as 'handsome' - a report in the Manx Advertiser [26 May 1825] states that

"preparatory to the Musical Festival the organ of St. George's has been sent off the Island for repair. Its having been in the possession of Handel makes it more interesting than an ordinary instrument would be. It was long considered well built."

The Musical Festival was reported 30 July 1825 which describes the newly returned organ thus:

It would be impossible to pass a detailed judgement on the quality of the organ, which we understand had been built by Handel, from this first trial, Its pedal notes are true, and it possesses very considerable compass. The organist under whose management the whole of the musical performances were conducted, exhibited great skill on the instrument and uncomparable talent in the selection and management of all the services.

Unfortunately no further description has yet been found but it would appear that the organ was probably small in order to be set off the Island, it had some pedal notes and possibly a small console as otherwise it is difficult to see how the organist conducted the performances (assuming by conducting the report meant musical conducting). Miss M.L. Wood, writing of the 1860's however describes it as a 'wretched little organ, hidden away in a little gallery near the roof'. Probably the pedal notes were added in 1825 as Grove's Dictionary of Music states that few British Organs possessed them prior to 1790 though they were common in Germany.

A new organ was opened on 19th April 1865 within a newly built organ chamber part of the rebuilding of the old semicircular apse to provide a new chancel, vestry and organ chamber.

It is thought that the old organ eventually found a home in Sulby Methodist Chapel. The Handel connection might come via Fishamble Street Dublin but no definite documentary evidence exists to give credence to the 1825 newspaper report.


Ballure Chapel, Ramsey

A large barrel organ was installed in 1787

"the inferior clergy and the inhabitants of the parish of Ramsey entered into a subscription for a large Psalmodic or Barrel-organ, to be erected in their Church, to perform all the tunes in Dr. Miller’s Selection with additional interludes and voluntaries of his adoption "

History of Churches of South Ramsey


St Mary's, Castletown

A petition was got up in 1806 for the purchase of an organ in the then insular capital - to be funded out of the fine fund (i.e. money taken as fines in the law courts!).

In 1811 an organ was provided, Mr Philip Caley being appointed organist in 1815 — having played the organ for about three years. In 1823 he is described as professor of music and organist at St. Mary's, a description is given by W.H.Gill.

The opening concert was -"A Grand Selection of Sacred Music taken from the Sublime Oratorio of the Messiah, Redemption and Creation, composed by Handel and Haydn to be performed." Tickets were to be had from Mr. Gray, the Organist, for 5/- and at the shops of Messrs. Callow Co. and Harrison. The Manks Advertiser in January 1812 describes the scene . . . "On Tuesday the 31st ulto. at Castletown Chapel a grand Oratorio of Sacred Music was performed for the benefit of Mr. Gray, the Organist, upon which occasion nearly 'fifty guineas' were collected. It was numerously and most respectably attended. Personages of the first rank and fashion honoured the occasion with their presence, and were highly gratified. In short the whole performance could not fail to afford universal satisfaction."


Braddan Parish Church

Braddan old church had no organ by 1832 as Hugh Stowell Brown commented on the fact though one was loaned in 1837 by Mr Dale of Leece Lodge, this organ was bought (after money raised by sermons) in 1839 for £20 4s. - this organ was damaged during a break-in in 1849 and apparently rebuilt in 1860. It was transferred to the new church which opened 1876 where a new organ was installed in 1892. Gelling gives some of history of this - a meeting had been called on 12 November 1891 to consider buying a new organ, the meeting decided to hold a bazaar which was held at the Palace and which made a profit of some £751 of which no more than £500 was to be spent on a new organ (the remainder, after all other expenses deducted, of £130 being spent on the chancel). Accordingly Brindley & Foster built one which was first used on 21st May 1893. The old organ was moved to St Luke's Baldwin where it remained until 1916, but the parishioners there could not raise the removal and re-assembly cost and eventually most was paid by the organ committee.

Currently there is no organ in Braddan.


Roman Catholic Chapel, Douglas

A brief mention is found in the Manx Advertiser 4 June 1839

We are informed that on Sunday next the organ recently purchased for the Catholic Chapel in this town will be 'opened' with a selection of works from Mozart etc. The service will commence at the usual time half past 11 o'clock and every accommodation will be attended to strangers.

At this period the Catholics met in a converted theatre, stiled St Francis Xavier's, at the Prospect Hill end of Athol street (St Mary's was opened in 1857) - the theatre eventually passed to the Methodist New Connexion before they built in Derby square. The new St Mary's is described as having an organ loft but the description does not include any of the organ.

In Dean Walsh's Ireland and the Isle of Man is the final comment:

The last souvenir of Ireland transported to the Isle of Man was the organ that for so many years served its exalted purpose in the Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, Dublin. When a movement for a new organ was set on foot, towards the close of the sixties, the old organ was advertised for sale, and the then Rector of Douglas, Canon Kennedy, crossed over to Dublin, and speedily effecting a purchase, had it taken down and removed to Douglas, where it was set up in the beautiful church built by Monsignor Carr.

Thus it would appear that the organ was installed c.1870.


St Barnabas', Douglas

A new organ was bought in 1842 and rebuilt in 1861 (opening concert by Mr F Gunton of Chester Cathedral).

Miss Wood describes it in the 1860's as ' a small two-manual organ, in a gallery over the Communion Table, where also the choir sat' .

A new organ was bought for £500 in 1875 - Manx Sun for 23 April 1875 carries following:

New Organ for St Barnabas

A new organ has been ordered from the firm of Whiteley Brothers, Chester, for St Barnabas' Church. The contract has been signed and the new instrument is expected to arrive about the latter end of June. It will be placed at the south-east end of the church and the choir will be moved from their present position in the top west gallery to the centre pews at the east end of the church. The new organ will have a case of pine wood, of ornamental design, varnished and with decorated pipes in front. The west side will be enclosed similar to the front and be provided with decorated pipes. The organ will cost about £500. The following is a copy of the specification:-

To have two complete manuals - compass of each CC to G 56 notes
Radiating pedals CCC to F 30 notes


Great Organ

1 Bourdon (prepared)

16ft tone

2 Open Diapson

8 ,,

3 Gamba

8 ,,

4 Dulciana

8 ,,

5 Stopped Diapason - bass

8 ,,

6 Stopped Diapason - treble
7 Flute Harmonic

4 ,,

8 Principal

4 ,,

9 Twelth

2 2/3 ,,

10 Fifteenth

2 ,,

11 Clarinett

8 ,,

12 Mixture - 3 ranks-(Prepared

168 pipes

Swell Organ

13 Bourdon

16 ft tone

14 Open Diapason

8 ,,

15 Keraulophon

8 ,,

16 Lieblich Gedact

8 ,,

17 Gemshorn

4 ,,

18 Fifteenth

2 ,,

19 Cornopean

8 ,,

20 Oboe

8 ,,

Pedal Organ

21 Open Diapason 16ft

30 pipes

22 Bourdon 16 ft tone

30 pipes

23 Violoncello (prepared)

30 pipes

Couplers - Swell to Great; Swell to Pedals; Great to Pedals. Three composition pedals to Great Organ; two composition pedals to Swell Organ

The pipe organ from the demolished St Barnabas was installed in Marown Parish Church in. 1959.


St Matthew's, Douglas

Manx Sun 12 Sept 1845 carries a brief comment that a new organ has been set up in St Matthew's Chapel, it having been purchased by the congregation.

A description of the 1922 organ in new St Matthew's, built by by Ernest Wadsworth Limited, organ builders, Manchester, is available.


Malew Parish Church

(NB. The link above is to the old church, but links thereon will take you to the present day building)

Two reports in the Manx Sun for 9th & 16th March 1850 report on the new organ - the first [9 Mar 1850] stated "a fine toned organ manufactured by Mr Minay of this town [Douglas], for the Parish Church of Malew will be opened tomorrow".

The following week saw a more detailed report:

A Beautiful new organ was opened last Sunday. James Burman, esq., presided at the organ and he accompanied the psalmody in an able and masterly style. This noble instrument contains 7 stops viz: open diapson throughout - stop diapson - dulciano - principal - twelth - fifteenth - haut boy. The lofty and majestic tones of the organ, which reverberated throughout the ancient building, were greatly admired by the crowded congregation. Mr Lewis Philip Garrett of Douglas played the voluntary with great taste and judgement at both morning and evening services. The organ does great credit to the ingenuous artist who manufactured it; as now that we have a talented builder residing amongst us it is probable that organs will speedily adorn most of the churches and chapels throughout this diocese

D Minay is noted in 1841 guide as an Organ Builder in Prospect Hill

The organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1897 - it was also moved from the gallery to the south side.


St John's National Church

Organ St John's

The organ was built by R. Jackson & Sons of Liverpool, at a cost of £150. It was opened on 7th March 1852 - originally in the west gallery, in 1907 it was moved, because of damp, to the north transept. Described as a full-toned organ, of thirteen stops, with swell it was completed some years after the consecration of the church.


St Thomas's Douglas

A lengthy report of the opening of the new organ in St Thomas's was carried by the Manx Sun 3 April 1852

We stated in our last that the organ recently manufactured for St. Thomas's Church had arrived ; it was erected so as to be used on Sunday last during the ordinary services, when it was presided over by Mr J. Wilkes, R.A.. We have seldom heard an instrument which gave such unqualified satisfaction, and cannot but congratulate the indefatigable Minister of St Thomas's district, and the Committee who have acted with him, upon the happy selection they have made in appointing Messrs Forster and Andrews of Hull as the builders, on whose skill and judgement it reflects the highest possible credit. These gentlemen were for some years pupils of the celebrated organ builder, Bishop, previous to 1841.

The organ is on the true German scale, having two full sets of keys, from C.C to G. in alto. In the list of stops, which is given below, it will be seen that there are several quite new to the Island. We may remark about the Diapasone (especially the open one on the great organ, which is on a very large scale,) are particularly effective, and, assisted by the two Tenoromns, they produce a richness and full body of tone which is quite surprising. The Solo stops too, are singularly sweet and delightful, especially the Viola di Gamba, Hautboy, and Clarabel ; the powerful trumpet-tone of the Horn is very striking. There are likewise many modern improvements in the machinery of this organ. The Swell is on a new principle for reflecting the sound, which has been successfully followed by the talented builders of this instrument for the last two years. There are three combined Pedals (the clever invention of Bishop) which, by a slight pressure of the foot, draw out and also take in the various stops in groups, thereby enabling the performer to produce many pleasing effects. A very excellent and simple plan is adopted for keeping the machinery of the keys silent, and for reducing the friction, thus rendering the touch much more flexible. The design of the case is strictly in keeping with the architecture of the Church though as the instrument is placed in the tower on the north side of the building it can be seen by only a very limited number of the congregation ; the propriety of this position is questioned by many, and certainly some effects to be produced from the instrument are on this account interfered with; the Bourdon pipes especially do not give forth that body of tone they are capable of producing were they heard from the western gallery. We understand that although the congregation have come forward liberally with their contributions a large sum yet remains unpaid. Mr Reeves is appointed organist, and we doubt not will soon obtain the assistance of an efficient choir.

The following is the list of stops in the great manual :- 1 Teneroon; 2 Bourjon ; 3 Viola di Gamba ; 4 Claribella ; 5 Stopt Diapason ; 6 Wald Flute ; 7 Principal ; 8 Sesquialtra ; 9 Fifteenth ; 10 Large open Diapason ; on the swell manual, 11 Tenoroon ; 12 Open Diapason ; 13 Principal ; 14 Stopt Diapason ; 15 Fifteenth ; 16 Horn ; 17 Hautboy ; 18 Coupler Swell to Great Manual.

We learn that Messrs Forster and Andrews have entered into a contract to supply an organ for St Paul's Church, Ramsey, which is to be completed during the summer.

Lewis Garrett was organist at one period, W.H.Gill gives a brief pen picture.

Manx Sun 10 Nov 1877 carries an interesting story of male chauvinism -

St Thomas's Church

We understand that Mr P.L. Garrett will tomorrow resume the post of Organist at St Thomas's Church which post he resigned some weeks ago from ill-health. The office was then offered to Mr J.S.Mylrea who after a few days consideration refused to accept it. The office was then offered to Miss Wood who was then appointed organist; but the new incumbent making the point of having a male Organist, Mr Garrett has been prevailed upon by him to return. We cannot pass over the singing last Sunday without remarking on the great taste and feeling thrown into the hymns and must say that it is to Miss Woods infinite credit and shows her proficiency as an organist and choir mistress to have effected so much in such a short space of time with comparatively speaking a new choir.

This organ was replaced in 1886 by a new organ with 1,682 pipes designed by Mr W.T. Best (a personal friend of Lewis Garett, and who was organist at St George's Hall, Liverpool). It was built at a cost of £1000 by William Hill of London; it had a hydraulic blowing mechanism.


St Paul's Ramsey

Organ - St Paul's Ramsey

An Organ was put in by Foster and Andrews in 1852; this was replaced in 1883 also by Foster and Andrews, at the cost of £540. Described as not one of the easiest to play with a heavy action but a quality instrument from one of the leading builders of the day.


Bishopscourt Chapel

A new organ costing £200, designed by Mr Jackson of Ballaugh, and described as the biggest on the Island was installed in 1858

In 1878 a new organ was installed and the old one given to Kirk Michael parish church.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, R.C. Church, Ramsey


The opening of the first church, in 1864, mentions an organist so probably a small organ was installed

Rushen Parish Church

An article in Manx Church Magazine of 1892 states that:

The organ, which, well maintains its excellence, was placed in the Church in November, 1864, during the incumbency of the Rev Hugh Gill, It superseded a violincello, a flute, and a clarionet, on which instruments, as all the older parishioners could testify, the late Messrs Thos. Qualtrough, James Turnbull, and Edward Kneen were wont to discourse most excellent music, to the no small edification and content of the congregation

A newer and larger organ was installed in 1904 in the west gallery. 


Sulby Methodist Chapel

An organ was installed in Sulby Methodist Chapel in 1871 and transferred to the new chapel in 1914. As mentioned under St George's this is thought to be the instrument installed in the 1780's. A description provided by a local organist suggests that it is an 18th century chamber organ, originally dating from c.1750, the top key having the date November 5th 1776 inscribed on the side. It has been modified in various ways - in around 1880 by by the addition of a pedal board, pedal board stop, a swell box (now disconnected so as to give greater volume) and swell stop.

Manuals: one - 54 keys on keyboard, 25 on pedal board

Stopped Diapason (8ft)
Open Diapason (8ft)
Flute (4ft)
Principal (4ft)
Fifteenth (2ft)

Pedal Bourdon (16 ft)

Coupler stop: Pedal to keys

It has an attached console, all departments, except pedal stop, are in the swell box - the pipes are mostly original as is probably the veneered casework with its dummy gilded front. Key and Stop actions are mechanical, with draw stops and a straight keyboard.

In a reported lecture to Manx Methodist Historical Society Mrs F Bazin stated that perhaps three instruments had been married.


Kirk Michael, Parish Church

This is reported in 1927 as having been previously in use in St. Nicholas' Chapel, Bishop's Court, which was being replaced by a new one and was presented by Bishop Hill in 1878.


Ballaugh Parish Church

A new organ with 9 stops and 312 pipes built by Foster and Andrews of Hull at a cost of £165 was opened on 7th April 1878 (the opening was by Miss M L Woods organist of St Thomas's. Philip Teare of Ballaugh was appointed organist.


St Catherine's, Port St Mary

A report in Manx Church Magazine of Sept 1892 refers to the recent completion of the decoration by Mr Flaxney Stowell and the completion of the organ by Mr Hewitt of Leicester.


Jurby Parish Church

Juby Organ Pipes & casework

The organ installed in a west gallery originally came from Peel Christian Road Primitive Methodist Chapel, when this closed in the 1970's it was moved to Finch Hill Congregational church, when this too closed (and later demolished) in the late 1990's it was moved to Jurby. The mechanism was converted to electric operation on the move to Finch Road and thus it is one of the few Insular organs with a separate console.


Andreas Parish Church

An organ had been installed by 1864 as it is reported to have been moved during the extensive alterations to the church in 1864. A new organ by Morgan and Pollard (of Douglas) was opened on 24th November 1898 by Miss McKnight.


Arbory Parish Church

A new organ was opened on 3rd July 1881.


Bride Parish Church

A new organ by Hewitt of Leicester at a cost of £65 replaced an earlier one (for which £15 'trade-in' allowance was given). - it was opened on 3rd September 1882.


Maughold Parish Church

Maughold organ - pipes and casework

A new organ was opened 16th June 1878.

Current organ is a rebuilt Morgan & Pollard originally in Prt St Mary Methodist (later Baptist) church.


Colby Mission Church

A second hand organ installed in 1884.


St Luke's, Baldwin

Organ - St Luke's Baldwin

From the guide:

The large pipe organ came from Kentraugh Mansion House, but had been vandalised and lay broken down for 46 years. In Millennium Year 1979, we decided to repair the organ and Messrs Wood Brothers of Huddersfield, Organ,Builders, undertook the work. It was necessary to purchase another organ from Hewsome Chapel, a Methodist Chapel in Huddersfield, before it was demolished, in order to obtain the new woodwork and wooden pipes to match up with our metal pipes. We have a very handsome instrument which is in use every Sunday one of the very few hand blown organs still is use in the British Isles.

Since the guide was written electric power has reached this church and the organ now appears to be electric blown though the lighting is still oil!


Santon Parish Church

A mention of a 'barrel organ' is made by La Mothe -

The barrel organ in the church had a secular and a sacred barrel, the sacred barrel beginning with the " Old Hundredth," and the secular one with the "College Hornpipe." Mr Geneste changed the barrels, and on one Sunday morning, when the parson gave out the "Old Hundredth," he was astonished to hear the " Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ra, ra," of the College Hornpipe. Great was the consternation of the parson and clerk at the supposed mishap. This was evidently an "organic" defect!

A similar organ appeared to have been installed earlier in Ballure Chapel, Ramsey No date was given but trick reportedly played on Mr Gelling who was vicar 1835-1865. The barrel organ is now in the Manx Museum.

A new organ was installed in 1895.


King William's College

New organ provided for new chapel in 1868 and a further new organ in 1886 which in turn was replaced in 1897 by a new organ with 32 stops at a cost of £600.


Wesleyan Methodist, Waterloo Road Ramsey

A new organ was noted in 1861 as recently added .


Rosemount (Trinity) Methodist, Douglas

Organ at Trinity (Rosemount) Methodist Church

A splendid organ noted in a guide - The organ was opened by the famous W.H. Jude, in 1889


Thomas Street (Victoria St) Methodist Chapel

An organ was added during the past year (Thwaites guide 1863); replaced c.1910.


St Peter's Peel

A new organ was installed in 1860; noted shortly afterwards as 'contains a good organ' (Thwaite's guide 1863)


Finch Hill Congregational

Manx Sun 15 Dec 1877 - Organ by Mssrs Foster & Anderson - recently erected opened by W. H. Jude.


St Andrews, Presbyterian Church

An American Organ is noted as having been installed in 1880s.


Cathedral, Peel

Organ - Peel Cathedral

An organ was installed in time for the opening of the church in 1884 (not then either the Parish Church or the Cathedral).


St Stephen's Sulby

A new organ installed in 1899.


Kirk Michael Methodist Church

Morgan & Pollard Organ. Restored 1993.


All Saints, Douglas

Jardine & Co. rebuild of a Morgan & Pollard organ - church is highly reverberant


Peel Athol Street Methodist Church



Port Erin, Station Road Methodist Church

Organ transferred here from Victoria Square Chapel (now the Arts Centre).


Victoria Road Methodist Church, Douglas

New Organ opened 19th Nov 1908 - church now demolished



Organ - Lonan







J. Gelling A History of the Manx Church Douglas:Manx National Heritage 1998 gives some history of the installation of organs in the churches though no description of the instruments themselves.


 Manx Note Book




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2002


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