Pipe organ advice and search

The reinstatement of a pipe organ is a significant aspect of the Wesley Centre project. In the spring of 2017, the Church appointed Andrew Hayden MPhil BMus FTCL, an accredited member of the Association of Independent Organ Advisers. Andrew is a church musician and has been an organ consultant since 2013, and other bodies he has worked with include the Churches Conservation Trust, the Norwich Anglican Diocese, and the British Institute of Organ Studies as Historic Organs Certificate Scheme Assessor and Casework Officer. 

A suitable instrument was subsequently identified in St Mary's Parish Church, Hailsham, in East Sussex. The Hailsham PCC was seeking a new home for the instrument, so that their long-standing plans for re-ordering their medieval Church could proceed. Following a survey of the instrument by Malton’s Organ Adviser, the submission of a detailed proposal, and the gaining of the necessary permissions, the Hailsham PCC was pleased to be able to gift the instrument to Malton Methodist Church (The Wesley Centre, Malton).  The Wesley Centre is very grateful to Hailsham Parish Church.

The 1877 Forster & Andrews pipe organ

There’s a strong demand for good quality music in the district of Ryedale.

Bucking the trend in Methodism and some other denominations to dispose of their redundant pipe organs, The Wesley Centre in Malton is reinstating the historic Forster & Andrews organ to its 1811 Grade II* listed former preaching chapel.

Rescued from redundancy, the Forster & Andrews pipe organ is a large three manual and pedal instrument of 31 stops originally built in 1877 by the Hull firm for the Concert Hall of the Royal Normal School for the Blind and Music Academy, in Upper Norwood, South London. The organ cost £900 in 1877.

Considered to be one of the great northern organ builders, the work of the Hull firm of Forster & Andrews was built to endure and such instruments during the late 19th Century were produced during a period of prolific activity by the Hull firm. The organ, opus number 728, is significant for other reasons and it is characterised by unusually good material, containing some fine reeds and orchestral stops.

The 1877 Forster & Andrews Organ: an important instrument with an outstanding provenance

The organ is considered to be of significant merit and has an outstanding provenance.  It is a large three manual and pedal instrument of 31 stops originally built in 1877 by the Royal Normal College for the Blind and Music Academy, in Upper Norwood, south London. It is characterised by unusually good material and contains some fine reeds and orchestral stops.  In its original form, the building of this organ was part of a contract for three instruments (the other two were small practice organs) commissioned by the Royal Normal School for the Blind, which was founded in 1871. The organ cost £900 to build in 1877.

In 1906 the organ was rebuilt by Hill & Sons who converted the action to tubular pneumatic and built a new console. In 1921, the organ was extensively refurbished again, by Hill, Norman & Beard who undertook some tonal revision and added the Trombone/ Tromba unit made available on the Great, Choir and pedal. The College in south London was evacuated soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, and the organ was placed into storage between 1939 and 1944 by Henry Willis & Sons. The instrument was eventually installed in St Mary’s Parish Church in Hailsham, East Sussex in 1955, by Hill, Norman & Beard. In essence, the organ remains as left in 1921.

A choir rehearsal during the 1890s in the Gardner Concert Hall of the Royal Normal College for the Blind, showing the Forster & Andrews organ on an elevated platform in the background; (the hung banner, ‘Musica Lux In Tenebris’, is interpreted as ‘Music is Light in Darkness’)

One of the great 'northern' organ builders

Between 1843 and 1956 Forster & Andrews built more than 1,300 instruments for predominantly Anglican churches and cathedrals, Methodist Central Halls and churches, other free churches, and town halls throughout the United Kingdom. It also built instruments for churches overseas including in Australia, Africa, Newfoundland, and Central and South America. Some of the firm’s most famous work included installations in the City Temple Church London, and in Hull itself, including the organs of Holy Trinity, City Hall, and the former Queen’s Hall Methodist Church in Hull. Forster & Andrews is considered to be one of the great northern organ builders of its time.

The Forster & Andrews organ, opus number 728, is significant for other reasons. In 1876/77, the new Concert Hall in Upper Norwood had been largely funded by its President, the Duke of Westminster and other benefactors including William Henry Smith, a trustee of the Royal College – the founder and magnet of the bookseller and newsagent group, WHSmith. The Gardner Concert Hall was opened by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyle – the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, the College Patron. The Patron today is HRH The Prince of Wales.

Alfred Hollins

Most notably, the 1877 Forster & Andrews organ is the instrument on which the famous blind-from-birth Yorkshireman, organist and composer Alfred Hollins, first learned to play the organ from 1878, and on which he later spent much of his career teaching other blind students.

Hollins was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire and after first studying in York was enrolled by his father to the Royal Normal College for the Blind in Upper Norwood in 1878, just one year after the Forster & Andrews instrument had been installed.

Organ specification

This is the current specification of the 1877 Forster & Andrews Organ:

Pedal Open Diapason 16
Bourdon 16
Quint 12
Flute 8
Trombone 16
Great Contra Geigen 16
Open Diapason 8
Hohl Flute 8
Gamba 8
Harmonic Flute 4
Principal 4
Fifteenth 2
Mixture III
Harmonic Tromba 8
Swell Bourdon 16
Open Diapason 8
Rohr Flute 8
Salitional 8
Voix Celeste 8
Principal 4
Harmonic Piccolo 2
Horn 8
Oboe 8
Tremulant
Choir* Violoncello 8
Dulciana 8
Lieblich Gedact 8
Flauto Traverso 4
Flautina 2
Orchestral Oboe 8
Harmonic Tromba 8
Corno di Bassetto 8
* Enclosed
Couplers Swell to Pedal
Swell to Great
Swell to Choir
Swell Octave
Choir to Great
Choir to Pedal
Choir Suboctave
Great to Pedal

Gifted superstar of his day

It is the instrument on which the famous blind-from-birth Yorkshireman, organist and composer Alfred Hollins, first learned to play the organ from 1878 and on which he later spent much of his career teaching other blind students. Hollins was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire and after first studying in York was enrolled by his father to the Royal College in south London in 1878, the year after the Forster & Andrews instrument had been installed.

Hollins soon impressed the Principal of his potential as a musician and later became a virtuoso performer, travelling extensively on tour throughout the world giving recitals in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century; Hollins was considered a remarkably gifted superstar of his day, able to commit a vast repertoire of music to memory, and he was often dubbed – "Alfred the Great".

Restoration and rebuilding of the organ

In December 2018, a £226,500 restoration and rebuilding contract was placed with Henry Willis & Sons of Liverpool – one of Britain’s greatest organ builders since 1845; the firm started this work during April 2018 and the restored organ will be ready for re-building in the Wesley Centre from late 2019.