More Organ from the House of Bishop

Article excerpt

The second article by Ralph Bootman on interesting Organs in Norfolk

Although long gone, another transplant was to be found at Edgefield, near Holt. Built by James Chapman Bishop in 1824 for St Mary Aldermanbury in the City of London, this Organ is no more but has an interesting story. In 1886 the then Rector, Canon Marcon, bought the instrument from St Mary's with, it is said, a legacy from an old pedlar woman who frequented his Church. When she died, in 1886, Canon Marcon had the Organ transferred to Edgefield by its original builders and it became known as 'Old Margaret's Groan Box'! The care of the instrument later went to Henry Willis and Sons. When it was undergoing repairs in the late 1930s one of Willis' odd-job men fell into the instrument from the top of the Swell Box, breaking his back He was taken to Cromer Hospital where, a couple of days later, he died of his injuries. The then incumbent, proclaiming his death to be the work of the Devil himself, tore down the Organ completely and burned it in the Churchyard. Thus perished an historic Bishop Organ, to be replaced by a poor second-hand affair by Thomas Jones from a private house in North London!

The Bishop Organ had been bought for 150 and had the following Stop List: IMAGE FORMULA4

*These Ranks were put in by Norman & Beard at the request of Canon Marcom. They replaced the Great Sesquiltera and the Swell 12.15 Mixture.

The Swell ran from tenor C and took the bottom octave from the Great. There were five Composition pedals.


Great Hockham Church stands in isolation, surrounded by fields, in that part of Norfolk called Breckland. Here the Organ is dated 1892 and it stands still at the West End of the Nave. According to the firm's Order Books, it was made from both new and 'stock' parts and, apart from cleaning and overhaul and the revoicing of the Open Diapason by Dennis Thurlow in 1971, is in its original condition. IMAGE FORMULA8

Attached Drawstop Console. Tracker Action. Lever Swell Pedal. Discus Blower.

There is a somewhat similar instrument at Great Plumstead, just to the east of Norwich, dating from 1894 but here there is no Oboe; instead there is a 4' Geigen Principal.


Just before entering partnership with John Starr, Bishop built an Organ for Kirby Cane, in the Waveney Valley. All unenclosed, it still stands to the North of the Chancel and has the following stops: IMAGE FORMULA11

At some time, a 16' Bourdon was added to the pedals and placed at the rear of the Organ and a straight and fiat 29-note Pedalboard, permanently coupled to the Manual, was fitted. William Christmas Mack of Great Yarmouth is thought to have done this work.


Nine years earlier Bishop made a Barrel and Finger Organ for Stanhoe Hall, in North-West Norfolk and when it was no longer required there, in 1956, it was purchased for North Lopham Parish Church, not far from Diss, the move being carried out by W and A Boggis of Diss. They also restored the barrel mechanism to playing order and at least one barrel remains playable. IMAGE FORMULA15

All pipework except the Open Diapason and the Bourdon is enclosed and a Lever Swell Pedal is provided.. Tracker action. Attached Drawstop Console. Discus Blower.


Paston Sixth Form College at North Walsham is home to a much-travelled Bishop Organ, built for the well-known writer on Russian Church affairs and amateur musician, the late W J Birkbeck for his house in London's Brompton Road. The firm's Work-in-Hand Book records its details: IMAGE FORMULA18

Bishop's moved the Organ to 30 Thurloe Square in 1884 and inserted the prepared-for Twelfth and Fifteenth, to again, from there to 32 Sloane Square in 1890. …