Organs in one form or another have been present in the cathedral since medieval times. A major refurbishment of the organ (costing approximately £4.0M) was completed, installed and “voiced” in 2020 by Durham based specialists, Harrison and Harrison. A previous organ had been built in 1886 by Henry Willis and enlarged in 1905, 1912 and 1945 before being reduced in size and rebuilt in 1978 by the specialist firm Noel Mander. It was operated from a console situated above the pulpitum screen, just visible from the quire (images 1 and 2). It had three manuals and 54 ‘speaking stops’ or sounds. Its larger pipes were sited in the choir south triforium, out of site to visitors. In 1980 a small set of pipes was added to the north wall of the nave (image 7), to improve the overall sound for listeners in the nave. The organist chose to play through the main pipes, the nave pipes, or both.
The main features of the new pipe organ (which is actually formed of six organs known as the Pedal, Choir, Great, Swell, Solo and Transept) include
- a greatly increased number of pipes (in total 6,044 of which 3,680 were reused from the previous organ)
- restoration of the 32-foot long pipes providing a rich resonating deep sound
- presence of pipes in the north choir triforium (2,362) as well as the south triforium (3,184)
- retention of the 498 pipes in the nave
- a new console with five manuals and 83 stops
- a new timber-framed organ loft (designed by architects Caruso St John) in the north choir aisle improving sight line for organist and choirmaster
What to see: Click to enlarge images and read captions.
- new organ loft (image 3) in north choir aisle containing a spiral staircase for organist (image 4)
- the top of the new console just visible (from central choir area) above the parclose screen (image 5)
- new pipes in the north choir triforium (image 6)
- the 1980s pipes on the nave north wall (centre of Image 7) the
- a list of organists 1407 to date (Image 8)
Further images and technical details of the organ have been provided by Harrison and Harrison and can be viewed by clicking here.
Sources: Huitson, Toby (nd) The organs of Canterbury cathedral (Cathedral Enterprises)
Canterbury Cathedral, The Cathedral Organ Project, The Canterbury Voice
DL, IO, AL