The organ was built in 1888 by ‘Father’ Henry Willis, replacing his two-manual instrument of 1857 which had been located in the West Gallery. Although he re-used some pipework from that earlier instrument, it was all re-voiced to suit his entirely new 1888 tonal scheme and located at the east end of the church on the south side of the chancel.
Some time between 1888 and 1925 a Vox Humana stop was added by a builder other than Willis. A rather more serious indignity befell the instrument due to a lightning strike to the church in 1925: the resulting fire led to significant heat, smoke and water damage to the organ, though mercifully there was no direct fire damage thanks to the south transept wall. Following this near tragedy, the Willis firm carried out a complete overhaul in 1926, repairing or replacing damaged pipes and re-leathering the action.
The opportunity was also taken at this time to complete the original specification by adding the Great 16’ Trombone and third Open Diapason. Additionally, the Swell Piccolo was moved to the Choir division as the 4-foot Lieblich Flöte, the Vox Humana was re-voiced and furnished with a bottom octave, and a balanced Swell pedal was fitted. This is the composition of the present instrument.
Another mercy was extended to the organ by its escaping any serious injury during the blitz of 1940-41, despite significant bomb blast damage to the church. In 1948 the Willis firm undertook a complete clean and overhaul, a process which was routinely repeated in 1977 by the local firm of Rushworth & Dreaper. The instrument is now in the care of David Wells Organ Builders of Liverpool.
A possibly unique feature of the Christ Church organ is the pitch selection mechanism for the Pedal division. The four speaking stops sound only if drawn in conjunction with either or both of the pitch drawstops (16’ and 8’), each 16’ rank being extended up the extra octave. This early example of extension makes for a more versatile Pedal division than is found in many British church organs of the period. Intriguingly, an occasional deputy organist at Christ Church was the notable organ-builder, Robert Hope-Jones – whose later, radical development of extension organs in America from 1903-14 formed the basis of the Wurlitzer theatre organ. There is, of course, no further extension work in the Christ Church instrument.
Text by Paul Broadhurst (April 2008) with reference to David H Williams in “The Organ” (April 1959).
Keyboard compasses: manuals CC-G, pedals CCC-F,
Total drawstops: 54 (42 speaking stops and 12 couplers etc.)
Combination pedals: 4 to Great/Pedal combined, 3 to Swell
Single toe pedal for removing Gt. to Pedal and octave/sub-octave couplers
Balanced Swell pedal
Willis “Floating Lever” to Great and Swell; tracker to Choir; pneumatic to Pedal.
7.5 inches for Swell Trumpet and Clarion, Great reeds and Pedal reed;
3.5 inches for remaining pipework; 8 inches for action
Total number of pipes: 2,284
Display pipes formed centrally by the Great Open Diapason No.1 and peripherally by the Pedal Violone
|Bourdon||16||Double open diapason||16|
|Open diapason||8||Open diapason no. 1||8|
|Lieblich gedact||8||Open diapason no. 2||8|
|Salicional||8||Open diapason no. 3||8|
|Contra Fagotto||16||Flute harmonique||4|
|Ophicleide||Viola da gamba||8|
|Pedal pitch drawstop||16||Harmonic flute||4|
|Pedal pitch drawstop||8||Lieblich flöte||4|
|Swell to Great octave||Corno-di-bassetto||8|
|Swell to Great||Tremolo|
|Swell to Great sub octave|
|Swell to Pedal|
|Great to Pedal|
|Choir to Great|
|Swell to Choir|
|Choir to Pedal|