The Organ that is currently installed in St Peter’s church, Harrogate, is not the original instrument. The story starts here:
The one that got away ...
The first instrument was installed in the summer of 1877. It was loaned to the church by two Carter sisters, who had bought it from its original owner, Thomas Stuart Kennedy, an engineer, alpinist and keen music lover, who had commissioned it from the firm of J F Schulze of Germany for his house, Meanwood Towers, Leeds, as a gift for his wife. Meanwood Towers was a neo-Gothic mansion with exotic chimneys, which had been built to the design of Pugin the Younger. While touring Switzerland, Mr Kennedy made a detour to visit the famous Schulze workshops in Paulinzelle, Germany and ordered a small house organ. The proposals for the organ, however, gradually grew in size, which eventually necessitated the building of a separate organ house, capable of seating 800, in the grounds of the house. The organ was finished on 20th July, 1870, and the last batch of pieces was despatched to Leeds. Edmund Schulze, who had taken over the company on the death of his father, J F Schulze, in 1858, took up residence at Meanwood for several months to oversee its installation and to “finish” each of the 3603 pipes to suit its surroundings. The organ opened with a private recital given by S S Wesley. By 1877 Mr Kennedy was obliged to sell the organ because of his wife’s ill-health and the dampness of the organ house. The purchasers, the Misses Carter, decided to lend it to the newly built St Peter’s church, where it was installed on 16th August 1877. On 24th August 1877 Edmund Schulze died.
In 1879, however, following a dispute with the then vicar regarding the conditions of the loan of the instrument, the Carter sisters had it removed from St Peter’s church and a smaller replacement organ was ordered from the Schulze company, which was duly opened in St Peter’s on 28th June 1879. The Carter sisters advertised their organ for sale in the small advertisements and it was purchased by H W Eyres – an Armley cloth magnate’s son – for installation in the church of St Bartholomew, Armley, Leeds, so that it could be played at his forthcoming wedding in order to impress his future bride. Fortunately this nomadic organ remained untouched tonally. After the addition of two extra stops, overseen by Eduard Schulze, it was inaugurated at St Bartholomew’s on 23rd August 1879. The original Schulze organ is still housed there in a splendid walnut case by Walker and Athron located in the north transept, standing on a vaulted stone screen.
Edmund Schulze – master organ-builder
It is sad to ponder on the loss of this magnificent organ from St Peter’s. England has many fine organs built by skilled craftsmen, but in spite of technical advances unknown to Schulze at the time, his masterpiece at Armley never fails to thrill the listener, whether as a result of the grandeur and magnificence of the Swell and Pedal organs, or of the beauty and delicacy of the stops of the Choir and Echo organs. A visiting organist to St Bartholomew’s once said:
“It is the cohesion that makes this organ.” Many believe that the Armley Schulze organ is one of world, rather than regional or national significance.
Edmund Schulze (1824 - 1878), who was also responsible for the organ in Cologne Cathedral, was well-known at the time for his on-site voicing of pipes, as opposed to doing it in the factory. No musical instrument is more sensitive to the acoustics of its surroundings than a pipe organ. He was committed to the consistently careful balance of one rank of pipes with the next, and to the relative effect of the different departments in relation to their scope and position. His organs are characterised by positive colouring combined with a certain refinement of tone in the detail. The finest effects come from the blending of opposites. Schulze was also the first to introduce to England the full value and variety of the “flute” family, thereby pointing the way forward to artistic tonal colouring in organ stops.
The second Schulze organ at St Peter’s
All these fine attributes are to be found in the second, two-manual Schulze organ installed in St Peter’s, which featured an unusually large Great sound board. Over the decades various builders have left their mark on the organ. In 1905 tubular pneumatic action was introduced to replace the original tracker action, and a new console and pistons were added. In 1952 the firm of Walker’s undertook a major rebuild, in which some of the original Schulze pipe work was retained. The opportunity was also taken to extend the instrument more or less to its present size – four manuals. In 1986 Prested cleaned and re-leathered the organ, as well as adding two electronic 32 feet pipes.
The renovation of the organ carried out by the firm of Peter Wood and Son, Harrogate was completed in 2002. The dangerous cotton-covered wiring of the 1950s has been replaced as part of this overhaul, and a computer stop management system has been incorporated.