History of the Horsley pipe organ

The organ, built by the firm of Nelson & Co. in 1906 (National Pipe Organ Register, website references K00870 and K00869), was first installed in Hill Crest Methodist Church in Tow Law in 1907. This was thanks to one of the first donations by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The organ is pictured on the right, in its position behind the pulpit, at the time of the centenary of the chapel’s foundation in 1946. Sadly, Hill Crest closed in the early 1960s and the congregation, together with the organ, moved to the former Wesleyan Methodist chapel just down the road. The organ was re-installed there by Nelson & Co. in 1964, replacing an older and inferior instrument. This chapel also closed in 1994 and the Methodist Circuit kindly donated the organ to Horsley Church.

The Church of the Holy Trinity at Horsley, near Rochester in Northumberland, was built in the 1840s by the first Earl of Redesdale and his agent, Edward Lawson. As far as can be discovered, the music for services was provided by harmoniums up until the 1990s when a series of electronic keyboards were employed. Two of these are visible in the picture on the left. The harmoniums became infested with woodworm, and the mice also feasted on the leather. Mice also love capacitors and damage to these components brought about the demise of the keyboards as well! So the congregation decided to look for a pipe organ which would provide music on a long-term basis. Eventually, we found a suitable instrument in Tow Law.

  • bach jb ciacona - before

Horsley Church is a neo-romanesque building, the main body of which covers an area of 15 metres by 6 metres. The walls are roughly 5.5 metres high and the roof reaches about 7.7 metres at its apex. It therefore provides a very useful acoustic space. We examined the possibility of siting the organ at ground level, but decided that we would have to remove too many pews. Our solution was to build a gallery to house the organ against the back wall of the church, which, as the photograph opposite shows, was relatively bare and unused. (When you compare this image with the one on the home page, you can see what a difference the gallery makes to the back of the church.) Our reasoning was that this position would provide not only the best location for the organ from an acoustic and visual point of view, but also a measure of protection against the ravages of the church mice.

Click here to explore the history of the organ in more detail.