The Organ of St Oswald’s

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The Organ of St Oswald’s Parish Church, Ashbourne

The first organ of which there is any record was set up in the church in September 1710 by Henry Valentine of Leicester. The Rev. Nathaniel Boothouse, who was the Vicar at the time, noted in the church register, that its installation and dedication were celebrated by a series of services and recitals in which musicians from the choir of Lichfield Cathedral and other places took part. Ashbourne was, of course, in the Lichfield Diocese at that time. The Vicar noted further that the proceedings ended “…on the Wednesday night of the following week with a fine consert of Instrumental and Vocall Musick in the great parlour of the Blackamore’s head.”

That organ seems to have lasted until 1858 when William Hill of London installed the tracker action instrument that has developed into the present fine organ. When fitted, it had three manuals and pedals. There were eleven stops on the Great Organ, eleven on the Swell and six on the Choir with six pedal stops, five couplers and six composition pedals. It was dedicated to the memory of Edward Corden, a wealthy benefactor of the town and church.

In 1882, it was raised to its present position and improved, in recognition of the work of Benjamin Parkin, who had at that time been organist of the church for 25 years. He continued for a further 23 years so that when he retired in 1904, he had been organist for 48 years.

In 1951, a major rebuild was undertaken. The old tracker action was replaced by a detached console with electro-pneumatic action and stop keys. Some new stops were also added. Then in 1982, a further restoration took place. A new action was fitted together with an Ellen Playback Transmission System by Hill, Norman and Beard. This incorporated digital control so that the console could be moved to the tower crossing to provide for more effective use in concerts and recitals.

In 2011, Henry Groves and Son, restored and improved the organ. New stops were added and a nave division created. Two new blowers were incorporated. All shutters were improved and new shutters added to the west wall of the swell chamber.

Download the full specification of this wonderfvul organ here:  St Oswald’s organ – specification

Download a full list of Organists and Masters of Choristers here  Organists and Masters of Choristers