Whitchurch Methodist Church

Penlline Road, Whitchurch Cardiff CF14 2AA

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The History of the Church Organs at Whitchurch Methodist Church

The Pipe Organs of Whitchurch Methodist Church

From the establishment of the first Melin Griffith Chapel until the early 1900s, the congregational singing was led by a small group of musicians mainly using stringed instruments. The rumours are that the size of the group was unpredictable. When the Sunday School was established, the music was led by a harmonium. This appears to have been so successful that the Church decided to purchase its own harmonium for Church use until 1897. In that year, a decision was made to purchase a small pipe organ. The cost was £63. Until recently, little was known about this instrument until the records of LLanishen Methodist Church were researched. It showed that Llanishen Church had purchased an organ from Whitchurch Methodist Church in 1912. It consisted of a single manual and a pedal stop. From the details available at Llanishen, it is likely that the specifications were as follows:

One Manual Pipe Organ

Manual                                                           Pedal

8’ Open Diapason                                           16’ Bourdon

8’ Stopped Diapason

8’ Dulciana

4’ Principal

**(2’ pipes)


** Although the organ at Llanishen did not contain these pipes in 1937, space was available on the sound board for the 2’ pipes to be placed. This organ became the basis of the rebuilt two manual organ at Llanishen by Chas Gill of Cardiff in 1937. This has only recently been replaced by an organ from a Church in Peterborough. Details can be seen on the LLanishen Methodist Church website.


The Jardine Pipe Organ


This pipe organ was built and installed by Jardine and Co. of Manchester at a price of £300. This would be equivalent to £50,000 at current prices. It was completed in 1912. Many efforts were carried out to raise the money and a donation was received from the Andrew Carnegie Trust. This organ was
operational until the 1970s. It had seriously deteriorated and the Trustees decided that repair was not an option. The specifications were as follows:


Great Manual                                                            Pedal

Open Diapason           8’                                Bourdon                      16’

Clarabella                    8’                                 Bass Flute                    8’

Stopt Diapason           8’

Dulciana                      8’

Stopt Flute                  4’

Piccolo                         2'                    


Swell Manual

Lieblich Bourdon        16’                               3 Toe pistons to great

Open Diapason            8’                                 3 Toe pistons to Swell

Viol D’Orchestra         8’

Lieblich Gedecht         8’                                Swell to Pedal

Flute                              4’                                 Great to Pedal

Voix Celest                   8’                                 Swell to Great

Cornopean                    8’                                Swell Octave

Oboe                              8’




 When the organ was installed the present organ loft was the sanctuary. Verses of scripture were painted across the walls at the back and sides of the sanctuary. There were several verses from the Lord’s Prayer and the psalms e.g. “The Lord is my Shepherd”


The organ was placed in the sanctuary at the front of the Church and, as a result, the communion rail and the dais were extended forward into the congregational area to replace the space that had been lost as a result of the organ construction. The earliest organists are not known, but thanks are recorded to Dorothy Kate Wills in the early 1900s. She is likely to have been the first organist playing a pipe organ in the Church.


The next major period of expansion of the Church occurred in the period 1967-1968 when the toilet block, new Minister’s vestry, Beginners’ Room and the connecting corridor between the new School Hall and the other buildings were constructed. A decision was  made in 1970 to remove the old organ due to its poor condition and the cost of the necessary rebuild. The organ loft was therefore converted into storage facilities.


A replacement electric organ made by Wyvern (B225) was installed at the original console at the front of the Church and this remained usable for a period of about three years. Following its demise, the Church Council decided to purchase an Allen MDC organ with the console being placed in the position of the Baptismal Font and the speakers placed within the old organ loft. Major problems developed and the instrument needed a number of amplifiers, computer boards and constant attention. It is believed that the reason was due to a constant fluctuating mains voltage caused by the local Regional Radiotherapy Centre. The speakers were eventually sited in the front corners of the Church to try and improve the sound production.


The New Organ


During 1988, the Church Council grew very concerned about the Allen Organ that had been in the Church for several years. A decision was made to replace the instrument. Many options were considered but, finally, it was decided to purchase a replacement pipe organ that had become available near Burton on Trent.


The Brindley and Foster Pipe Organ.


This instrument was originally built by the Brindley & Foster Organ Company in 1927. It was constructed in a Church called Breaston Methodist church. This is a village in the South of Derbyshire between Derby and Nottingham. It is in the Methodist Nottingham and Derby district. The Church was built in a period similar to our own Church in 1875. The seating capacity was about 150. An American Organ was originally purchased for the Church prior to the installation of this organ.


The organ was free standing at the front of the Church. The instrument was about nine feet square and had a large dark oak detached console that was situated on the other side of the Church from which the organ was played. It was built by using pneumatic action.
The original specifications were as follows:


 Great Manual                                                            Swell Manual

Principal                      8’                                Tibia Minor                  8’

Flauto Amabile          8’                                 Viol D’Orchestra         8’        

Dolce                            8’                                 Unde Maris                  8’

                                                                           Flute Douce                 8’

                                                                           Corno Muto                 8’


Pedal Organ

Harmonican                 16’


Couplers                                                         Special Effects

Swell to Great                                                 Clarinet Solo

Swell Octave to Great                                    Flute Solo

Swell Sub Octave to Great                            Oboe Solo

Great to Pedal                                                 Horn Solo

Swell to Pedal                                                  Echo to Swell

Balance Swell Pedal                                       Bringradus Crescendo Pedal



Though well intentioned, the design was unsatisfactory both tonally and mechanically. Undue emphasis was placed on the provision of dull-toned 

stops with poor blending qualities, and the pneumatic action featured a quantity of ingenious but unnecessary and unreliable gadgetry, with a result 

that the organ had become virtually unplayable.


The Organ and the Church Rebuild.


The organ was rebuilt by Groves of Nottingham in about 1973 when the action was replaced by direct electric action and the organ re-leathered. The

 Brindley devises were removed. The tonal quality was remodelled. The original Brindley Crescendo pedal was removed along with the

 combination pistons.


The following specifications were introduced:


Great Manual                                                                  Pedal Organ


Principal                      8’                                                        Harmonican                16’ (Large metal stopped 16' pipes)

Dolce                            8’                                                        Swell to great

Octave                          4’                                                        Great to Pedal 

                                                                                             Swell to Pedal

Swell Manual

Tibia Minor                 8’

Salicional                     8’         (Base from Dulce)

Flute Douce                4’

Principal                      2’

Corno Muto                8’         (Revoiced)


Emphasise was placed on the greater clarity and brightness of the tone to obtain a wider variety of colour from a small number of stops. A major modernisation of the church was undertaken in 1983 and Mr. M. Thompson, Organ Builder, then cleaned the pipe work and fitted a new blower to the organ. Unfortunately in 1984, following re-opening of the Church, the old wooden floor was found to be unsafe due to dry rot that had even penetrated the concrete flooring and the new walls of the rebuilt Church. The organ had to be removed so that a solid floor could be installed. The organ was therefore placed in store for the interim period in a piano workshop in Castle Donnington near Derby. Following the repairs to the Church and the provision of a new concrete floor, the Members of the Church did not feel that they were able to raise the money for the re-installation of the organ and so it became available for purchase.


The Brindley Organ Company


The Brindley Organ Company was widely respected in the Sheffield area where a large number of organs had been built. It is well known for the voicing of its pipe work in a German style. Its console equipment was of good quality. The provision of a crescendo pedal that gradually makes more stops work was unusual. Another feature of the organ that can still be seen is the system of placing the notes on the soundboards with the biggest pipes on the left side and gradually getting smaller to the right side of the sound boards. This is not common among organ builders. Very few of his organs survive in original condition in Britain; though at least one has been converted to electric action with the transformers retained. The firm exported a number of organs, principally to the South Pacific and South Africa - their magnum opus (IV/P 62) is at Pietermaritz Town Hall. At least eight went to Australia, including one for Brisbane Catholic cathedral.The firm seems to have employed a modified action on organs intended for overseas. Perhaps there were doubts about the ability of the delicate metachotic system to survive travel.


The Rebuilding of the Organ


This organ was rebuilt in the store room at Castle Donnington where it was seen by several members of the Church. It was decided to go ahead with the installation and the instrument was brought to Whitchurch in several deliveries during November 1989. The instrument was then installed in the old organ loft which had recently been completed cleared and redecorated. The organ would have been too small for the needs of the worship at Whitchurch and

 a new specification was drawn up in collaboration with Mr. Mike Thompson, the organ builder, for a major expansion of the organ.


The original organ console was seen and was considered to be too big for the Church. An alternative console was selected that would blend in much better with the colour and style of the Church furniture. The extra organ pipes were obtained from various other organs that were being rebuilt or dismantled. A donation was given to purchase a trumpet stop for the great manual and these pipes were revoiced.


New and additional sound boards have been used for the additional stops. Several parts of the console such as the stop tabs and preset stop mechanism 

have been obtained from previous instruments to reduce the cost of such items.



Brindley Organ Specifications on Installation (1989)


Great Manual                                                            Swell Manual


Bourdon                      16’                              Lieblich Gedeckt                    8’

Diapason                     8’                               Salicional                                 8’

Stopped Diapason     8’                            * Viol D'Orchestra                    8'

Dolce                            8’                             *Salicet                                       4'

Octave                          4’                               Lieblich Flote                          4’                          

Wald Flute                  4’                                Fifteenth                                  2’

Nazard                         2 2/3’                          Cornopean                              8’

Flageolot                     2’                                

Larigot                         1 1/3’                          Pedal

Tromba                        8’                            
                                                                          Contra Bass                            16’

                                                                          Bourdon                                  16’

                                                                          Octave                                      8’
                                                   Flute                                         8'

                                                                          Flute                                         4’

                                                                          Flute Quint                              5 1/3’


Swell to Great

Swell Sub Octave to Great

Swell Octave to Great

Swell Super Octave

Swell Sub Octave

Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

Swell Octave to Pedal



1 Reversible Great to Pedal Piston

4 Adjustable thumb pistons to Great

4 Adjustable thumb pistons to Swell

4 Toe pistons to Swell (duplicate Thumb pistons)

4 Toe pistons to Pedal


Switch to link Great and Pedal Pistons

Balance Swell Pedal


The Finance of the Scheme


The financial commitment for such a scheme was of concern following the recent investment in the Church buildings. The final approval for the Scheme was given at the February meeting of the Church Council. The aim was to raise the money over a period of eighteen months. Generous support was shown including several bequests. A gift day and a Bazaar were held. We received a grant of £1,000 from South Glamorgan County Council. The Allen organ company agreed to buy back the old organ on a resale basis expecting to raise £1, 500.00. The fund raising was finally closed in March 1990 with the sum of £10,000 raised within one year.
After a period of about two years, the organ suffered a severe damp problem due to water ingress from the end wall of the Chapel at the rear of the organ chamber. This extensively damaged  the leathers in the Swell box and led to severe cyphering between most of the ranks of  pipes in the swell box. Some plaster also fell from the roof of the organ chamber and the back wall plaster began to crumble. Repair work was undertaken to the outside of the church wall above the roof of the Epworth Hall.
All the pipework of the great organ was removed and the swell organ pneumatic action was replaced with direct electric action magnets. The inside wall and ceiling of the organ loft was repaired with new plaster and a large sheet of MDF board was fixed to the back wall of the organ loft above the swell box. An opportunity was taken to replace the Pedal to Swell octave coupler with a Tromba 8' borrowed from the Great Manual to improve the power of the Pedal Section.
The entire organ was cleaned and retuned. One of the low voltage transformers has also been replaced.
The Rebuild and Extension of the Organ 2010 


A major rebuild and expansion of the organ was proposed following the great success of the current instrument. The small size of the swell box has limited the usefulness of the instrument. The overpowering cornopean (trumpet) stop on the Swell masked all other stops when it is being used for large congregations and special effects.  A number of proposals were discussed with interested individuals and a final scheme was agreed with the Organ Builder, Mr. Mike Thompson from Burton on Trent, who had installed and maintained the current instrument.  A donation in memory of the Perry and Nash families has funded the development. The work was carried out early in 2010. The major proposals were as follows:


a.       To provide a Choir Manual of about eight stops

b.       To exchange the Cornopean stop on the swell for an Oboe stop.

c.       To use the replaced Swell trumpet as a solo stop on the Choir manual

d.       To extend the number of stops on the pedal by borrowing from the new pipework.

e.       The console would be rebuilt

f.        A new combination & capture system and computer board would be installed.


            The total expected cost of the Scheme was about £25K. Three manuals have been obtained in very good condition along with 50 draw stop action pistons for use with the rebuilt organ. Work commenced on Monday February 14th 2010. The console was removed for a period of weeks to the Organ Builder's workshop in Burton on Trent for a rebuild to incorporate the three manuals and the ranks of draw stops etc. The console was returned to the Church and  further work was undertaken including the repositioning of multiple pipes and the addition of the Choir organ.
            The funding for this rebuild was given in memory of the Perry and Nash Families of North Somerset
                Following the total rebuild, the organ was completed in November 2011, the detailed organ specification can be found: and detailed  below. The rebuild of the organ involved the extension of the organ into a space created above the organ passage and storage area to the left side of the organ loft. This space was filled by the new choir organ with all its pipework and new air reservoir. The pipework of the Great Tromba and the new Great Clarion pipework was placed against the back wall of the organ loft in an elevated position to speak directly through the front pipework of the case. The Choir organ was obtained from the redundant organ of Newtown Methodist Church in Powys.
          The computerised module controlling the organ was placed behind the front wall of the organ loft. Its connection to the console was by a single small cable with an input connection on either side of the Church. The flute extension for the great was left in its original position. The data was transmitted as midi files from the console to the organ.
          Several ladders were built to allow easy access to the swell box and great pipework as well as to the new choir. A selection of pictures relating to the rebuild are available here.  

           Pipe Organ Specifications December 2011

                                    Bourdon                   16'
                                    Open Diapason          8'
                                    Dulciana                    8'
                                    Stopped Diapason      8'
                                    Octave                      4'
                                    Nason Flute               4'
                                    Dulcet                       4'
                                    Nazard                      22/3'
                                    Super Octave             2
                                    Larigot                      11/3'
                                    Tromba                     8'
                                    Clarion                      4'
                                                      Great/Swell Octave
                                                      Great/Swell Sub octave
                                    Geigen Principal           8'
                                    Salicional                     8'
                                    Viol D'Orchestra           8'
                                    Lieblich Flute                4'
                                    Salicet                         4'
                                    Fifteenth                      2'
                                    Oboe                           8'
                                                     Swell Octave
                                                     Swell Sub Octave
                                    Geigen Diapason        16'
                                    Geigen Diapason         8'
                                    Flute                          8'
                                    Principal                     4'
                                    Suabe Flute                4'
                                    Piccolo                       2'
                                    Trumpet                     8'
                                                    Choir Octave
                                    Bourdon                   16'   
                                    Dulciana                   16'
                                    Contra Bass              16'
                                    Quint                        102/3
                                    Open                         8'
                                    Bass Flute                  8'
                                    Super Octave             4'
                                    Choral Flute               4'
                                    Tromba                      8'
                                                   Gt/Ped Pistons Coupled
               38 Thumb Pistons fully adjustable at Console
               14 Toe Pistons Fully Adjustable at Console
               4 Reversible thumb pistons
               2 Reversible Toe Pistons (gt/Ped & Sw/Gt)
               Setter Piston
               All Clear Piston

The Midi Interface

The difficulty of obtaining organists for all the Services has been a constant problem in many Cardiff Churches. Following 

the organ rebuild, the possibility of an extension of the organ system by means of an interface to a computer became a

 possibility. The interface was fitted in February 2015 and enables organ music played on the pipe organ to be reproduced

 through the pipe organ controlled by a laptop computer.

The first trial service was successful and further refinements to the system were made.  A collection

 of hymns from Singing the Faith have gradually bene produced. This allows hymns and other pre-recorded music

 to be available when required. A large selection of organ midi files is available on WWW.

Further details of the system can be provided if required through the email contact on the website.

                       There follows an outline summary of the workings of the organ that may be of interest.


The working of the organ




The actual sound of the organ is made by wind blowing into individual pipes. A diagram shows an outline of how the organ works. The wind is produced by two electric motors that turn a rotary type of bellows. The compressed air is stored in a large expanding box called a wind chest or reservoir. Large tubes lead the air to the sound boards which are large pieces of wood on which the actual pipes sit. Air is then allowed into the individual pipes by small electromagnets that open valves on the sound board.


The various different sounds that the organ makes are produced by the organ pipes which are of different shapes and sizes. Some pipes are different in shape and may have holes in them in various positions and this alters the type of sound that the organ makes. The pipes themselves are either made of metal or wood. The material from which they are constructed also alters the sound they produce.

Most pipes are made of a combination of metals that are either based on lead, tin or zinc. Although several organ stops that resemble musical instruments e.g. trumpet, flutes etc, the pipes that make the sound do not look like the musical instruments themselves.


The console, which controls the organ and contains the actual keyboards, is detached from the organ. The original pipe organ in the Church had the keyboards placed below the large front pipes of the organ at the front of the Church. When a note is pressed on the keyboard, small electric switches allow power to be sent along the connecting cables to the electromagnets in the organ. These are then attached to valves that open and allow the air to go into the appropriate pipes to make them sound. When the organ was rebuilt the connecting cables were replaced by a single co-axial cable with a computer at each end to send the appropriate signals along the cable to the organ.

The small white switches above the keyboards are called “stops”. These are of two main types. Speaking stops control the number of pipes that are in use at any one time. As more of these stops are used, more sound is produced.

The second type of “stops” is not connected to the pipes but actually join various parts of the organ together. This allows the organist to play many pipes although only a few notes are depressed. The pedal notes can also be connected to the keyboards. This allows a wide variety of effects to be produced. The console is connected to the main part of the organ in the organ loft by a cable. The console can therefore be moved by a limited amount when necessary.


                              New Organ Photos(rebuild)
If you would like to play the Organ, please contact us directly via the web site contacts or email Object OR you would be most welcome to play following any service at the Service. Please approach the organist on duty.
We are a Church Community in a Village in the North of Cardiff offering worship, a welcome  and a friendly society. Please look at our Web site and contact us if you want any further information