Foxearth Parish Church — The Organ

Ken Nice wrote the following a number of years ago but the information contained therein is still both relevant and useful. We publish it for your information.

From the 17th century onwards it was the custom of organ builders in England to give to the man they considered to be the best in their profession at the time the appellation of “Father” In the 19th century, for some 40 years or so, this honour was accorded to Henry Willis of London – and Foxearth Church is the proud possessor of a Father Willis organ.
It is rare to find small examples of Willis’ craft still in use; Halstead has one – but the real monster is in the Royal Albert Hall in London! The organs in St. Paul’s. Canterbury, Salisbury and Truro cathedrals are just four of the many large Willis organs still in use.

The Foxearth organ was built in 1862/3 at a cost of 300 guineas at the instigation of John Foster, Rector of the parish from 1845 until his death in1892, and it was officially opened at a service on Tuesday, 10th October 1863 to commemorate the completion of Foster’s restoration of the church.

What a wonderful sight the church must have been on that day with its recently erected tower and spire – 150 ft high and built by Foster in memory of his second wife, Margaret who died on Easter eve 1861. Inside the church the gold leafing and varnish would have glistened in the light of gas jets supplied from the rectory gas works – another Foster innovation!

Over the years the organ has undergone several renovations and is now of course electrically blown.The organ has two manuals and a limited pedal board and a rather difficult-to-operate swell box. Also the original tracker action remains as does the pipework according to a contemporary account of the opening service. – In fact there were actually three services on that day and Henry Willis himself played the organ with each service having its full quota of canticles, psalms and hymns with a large surpliced choir.

KN 2005

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