Organs on the Isle of Man
Organs on the Isle of Man
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.
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
The Musical Festival was reported 30 July 1825 which describes the newly returned organ thus:
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
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
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:
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:
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.
(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:
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
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
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 -
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
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:
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
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.
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
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
Colby Mission Church
A second hand organ installed in 1884.
St Luke's, Baldwin
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 -
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
Wesleyan Methodist, Waterloo Road Ramsey
A new organ was noted in 1861 as recently added .
Rosemount (Trinity) Methodist, Douglas
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.
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
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.