Stricklandgate Methodist Church

The Organs

The first organ of which we hear was described as "new" in 1865. It was built by Thomas Wilkinson of Kendal. His father had established the firm a generation previously but this was one of their first larger instruments, and Thomas had visited organs in France and Germany.

The church building at the time was on the same site as the present one, so the organ had to be taken out and stored whilst the present chapel was being built. In 1883 there was a special re-opening service, at which a recital of sacred music was given, which also involved a small orchestra. There were nine ranks of pipes (stops) for the great organ; eight for the swell; and one for the pedals. The action was mechanical. This was one of the high periods for the Wilkinson firm and the specification suggests an impressive instrument for the time.

In 1924 a new, larger, instrument was installed by Blackett and Howden of Newcastle. This instrument incorporated three manual keyboards and one pedal keyboard. There were eight stops on the great; eight on the swell; four on the choir; and four on the pedal. The keyboards were longer than the Wilkinson instrument and the "electro-pneumatic action and finger stop keys were the most modern of the time", according to a report in 1958. Some of the old Wilkinson organ pipes were re-used, but the wind pressure was different, so we will never know how they sounded originally. This organ and its console were also on the gallery at the front of the church, but it was altogether larger and more substantial, and its heavier sounds reflected the fashions of its period.

That same 1958 report also said "the present condition of the organ today is giving grounds for some anxiety and a major repair and re-voicing is long overdue". That didn't happen. But in 1991, along with major changes in the chapel, a new detached console was provided downstairs in the body of the church. Its electric action simply triggered, as it were, the old action left in the gallery, and no changes to the stops or their sounds were made.

In 2009 a number of builders and experts were consulted. This was also the year in which a major review of the whole life and future of the church was undertaken. There was easy agreement that we did not possess a truly valuable or historic instrument which should be restored but we did have a substantial pipe organ. The costs of doing something worth while with it for the long term were going to be in the region of at least £50,000.

The decision was to go for a digital organ. The contract was awarded to Hugh Banton, an independent builder, who would provide, for just over £20,000, a bespoke instrument. He would be able to reuse the 1991 console.

What has happened to the old Pipe Organ?   

To tell you the truth, it has gone! During the summer weeks professional organ makers took down out the pipes one by one, carefully numbering each for reassembly in its framework when the organ is rebuilt at Nairobi Cathedral, in Kenya, and all the parts were then carefully placed in containers ready for shipping.



We now have our new digital organ.
We have a substantial specification but no pipes to be seen anywhere. We are still in the process of adjusting where the speakers should best be placed and settling on the finer details of its voicing.




Revd Jeff Thomas has recently been out to Kenya and took these two photograph of the organ in its new ‘home’. The people there are particularly grateful for the gift of the organ, which will form an integral part of the additional premises at the Cathedral. 





The history of Anglicanism in Kenya goes back to 1844, when the first missionaries arrived from the Church Missionary Society. The English-style All Saints’ Cathedral was completed and consecrated in 1952.