Little Malvern Priory
(Church of England)

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Restoration of the Organ

The organ in Little Malvern Priory is one of the musical gems of Worcestershire. It was built by the London firm of William Hill & Sons for a Mrs. and Miss Walker who lived at Rock House in Little Malvern.  At a time when there were two good local firms (John Nicholson in Worcester and Eustace Ingram in Hereford), the choice of a major London firm demonstrates that the Walkers’ had both high aspirations and the financial means at the time.

This simple instrument enjoys a perfect west gallery position, from where its beautiful sound has provided the musical backdrop for the last 135 years. Although modest in size, there is nothing diminutive about the quality of construction. This would have been one of the finest organs of its size that money could have bought at that time.

Regular and visiting organists have stated that there are high-pitched whimpering sounds coming from the organ when some stops are drawn. This has been a longstanding problem with the Priory instrument, and is due to the condition of the soundboard.

The only solution is for the restoration of the soundboard which will have to be carried out off-site and will require major dismantling of the instrument. Given that the rest of the instrument is in a tired, worn and dirty condition, and that the work on the soundboard would represent a large proportion of the work, it would not make sense to dismantle the instrument to undertake the soundboard work without addressing other aspects of the instrument.

Nicholson & Co undertook a cleaning and light overhaul of the organ in 1977, but the instrument has never been restored at any stage in its now very long life. After many years of service, it is now in such condition that it requires significant work to safeguard its long term future.  It is planned to have the organ restored to its former glory by Nicholson & Co in 2019.   

BERROW’S WORCESTER JOURNAL,

 19 AUGUST 1882, p4

Little Malvern

 

Opening of the New Organ –

The new organ which has just been built by Messrs. Hill, of London was opened on Thursday, the 10th instant. The only portions of the ancient Priory Church of Little Malvern now remaining are the choir and tower, the nave having altogether disappeared, and the transepts being in ruins; but the large number of clergy who were present, and the excellent congregation, who, in consequence of the exceeding smallness of the church, were admitted by ticket ( which were given free of charge), proved how great an interest is felt in the little church, as it is probable that for upwards of 300 years so large a number of “white robed priests” have not joined in the Church’s services within these walls as did on the day of the opening of the new organ. Prayers were said by the vicar the Rev. Frederic Peel; the sermon was preached by the Rev. The Hon. Maurice Ponsonby; and the Rev. Gregory Smith, vicar of Great Malvern, and the Rev. Cosby White, vicar of Newland, read the lessons. The organist on the occasion was Mr Frank Spinney, organist of the parish church, Leamington. Mr. Spinney’s very beautiful playing showed the capabilities of the organ, which is a very fine toned instrument and in every way was suited for the church. Mr. Dyson, Mr. Milward, and two of the choristers from Worcester Cathedral took part in the musical portion of the service, as well as Mr. Brown, the principal basso of the Great Malvern Choir. Miss Mildred Tait of London, an accomplished amateur, was the leading soprano, and other ladies also assisted. The anthems were both taken from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”, the first being “cast thy burden”, and the second “”Oh come everyone that thirsteth”. In the evening, as no sermon was preached, a selection of sacred music was given. Miss Tait sang “Rejoice greatly”, her voice which is a highly-cultivated, fresh and pure soprano, filled the church. Mr. Dyson’s singing of “ If with all your hearts ye truly seek him” was excellent and Mr. Milward’s voice was greatly admired in the grand solo from “Elijah” “Lord God of Abraham”. Mr. Brown, who has a fine base voice, sang a solo from “The Messiah” with exceedingly good effect. Mr. Frank Spinney’s solo on the organ left nothing to be desired. Although most of the congregation had already subscribed handsomely towards the erection of the organ, the offertories were good, and only a small debt remains, which will doubtless be speedily be paid off if the very liberal manner in which the appeal has been responded to may be taken as an indication. The committee for the purpose of raising funds for the new organ, the appeal for which was only issued last Easter , included the name of Dr. John Hullah , who has, from the first, taken the liveliest interest in the matter and was present on the opening day.

(John Pyke Hullah was an English composer born 1812, died 1884.)

 

 
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