National Pipe Organ Register N09762
The 1613 Churchwardens’ Accounts tell us that an 'organ player of Ludlow' was paid for 'his paines to come to see the organes'. It seems that an organist's yearly wage in 1638 was £10. All we know of the organ is that it was destroyed in the Priory fire of 1699.
A replacement was purchased in 1737, which was repaired and improved in 1797 by Messrs Avery of London at a cost of £95. The instrument, originally in front of the west window, was now moved to a gallery in front of the east window. A Mr Peene, the organist in 1805, applied to the Corporation to have his salary increased 'on account of the high price of provisions and for other reasons' and he was given a generous extra £5 on a salary now approaching £25 a year.
In the mid-1800s, when the church was re-ordered by Sir Gilbert Scott, the organ spent 13 years banished to the east bay of the north aisle of the Norman nave. Only when this work was finished did it return to its position in front of the east window. During all this time the 1737 case had been retained, with its console beneath the shining array of ‘mock’ pipes.
The Evolution of the Present Organ
Built in 1924 by Nicholson & Co (Worcester) Ltd, to a specification by Dr J C Bridge, organist of Chester Cathedral, this organ was again housed in the 1737 case. It was now placed in the south aisle, set to face into what is now St Paul’s Chapel. Added to this was a new matching face to the west, and oak paneling to the rear. The only parts of the older instrument retained at this time were pipes of the 32' pedal stop.
In 1947 the organ was overhauled, some additions made, and the old console was replaced by a new remote console in its present position beneath the second arch of the Norman south arcade. The Swell and Choir balanced pedals were mechanically connected to their shutters via a 50 foot trench under the then chancel. The instrument was reopened in 1950 with a recital by Dr J Dykes Bower of St Paul's Cathedral, London.
The organ was restored in 2015-2016.
Leominster Priory is one of the dwindling number of churches that retains its historic and very active choral tradition. It has a Church Choir for the main Sunday Service and for a monthly Choral Evensong, as well as for special festivals within the Church year. Under the guidance of the present Director of Music, Hilary Norris, training is offered to younger members of the choir through the RSCM scheme.
Director of Music, Hlary Norris
The organ is used regularly as a teaching instrument, used particularly by the Diocese of Herefordshire Organists Training Scheme and for other training opportunities by a variety of organ societies. The Priory welcomes visits from organ societies, and other interested parties, every year.
The Priory, as the town’s largest concert venue, is used for a wide variety of musical events, including visits by the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, as a venue for the Leominster Festival, concerts by the Leominster Choral Society and several other visiting choirs, organ recitals, and many more. The organ plays a vital role in offering an instrument of high specification and quality for these and other community occasions.
The Priory also has a small, one manual chamber organ, built by Bevington in 1853, which has recently been awarded a Grade II listing by the BIOS Council. We are fund-raising to restore it at the present time.