The succession of organists at Durham Cathedral

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organ history

  • John Brimley 1541-76
  • At Masses held in the Cathedral at the time of the Rising of the North (1569) John Brimley played the organ 'in the loft over the quier door' and was subsequently called to account, but afterwards he was reconciled and no action was taken against him. 

    His gravestone in the Galilee Chapel says: 

      John Brimleis body here doth li 
      Who praysed God with hand and voice 
      By musickes heavenlie harmonie 
      Dull myndes he maid in God rejoice 
      His soul into the heavens is lyft 
      To prayse him stil that gave the Gyft 
      Obiit Ao.Dni.1576 Octo.13. 
  • William Browne 1576-88

  • William Smith 1589-98
  • Wm Smythe repaired 'one paire of orgaynes wh. standeth above the Quere doore...' in Sept.1589. 
    Not to be confused with another of the same name (1603-45), also a minor canon but not organist, who was the composer of the celebrated Preces & Responses by Smith of Durham.
  • William Browne (again) 1598-1607+

  • Edward Smith 1608-12

  • Richard Hutcheson 1613-Interregnum (died 1646)
  • The Chapter Minutes report that in April 1628 
    'In regard of Richard Hutchinson frequent haunting of Aile houses and Divers other his evill demeaners, and especially for breaking of the head of Toby Broking one of the Singing men of this church with a Candlesticke in an Ailehouse wounding him verie dangerously ...' He was warned that time, but a month later was suspended [until November] to mend his ways!
  • John Foster 1660-77
  • The new organ by George Dallam was first played on by Mr.John Forster on St.Stephen's Day 1662.
  • Alexander Shaw 1677-81 (died 1706)

  • William Greggs 1681-1710
    • The completion of Father Smith's new organ, with two extra 
      notes per octave ("quarter tones"), required 'a person well acquainted with this peculiar keyboard to avail himself of its 
      use'. Greggs was given leave for three months in 1686 'to goe 
      to London to improve himself in the Skill of Musicke'. 
  • James Heseltine 1711-63
  • In January 1711 James Hesletine of London was appointed organist, aged 19, at £70 per annum from Lady Day, increased to £100 in 1750.
  • Thomas Ebdon 1763-1811
  • Appointed on a salary of £80 pa, increased to £100 in 1783, "[plus] 5/- per day when he attends the Cathedral service morning and evening" (1802].
    NB. George Ashton and Wm. Evance were paid for deputising for Ebdon in
    1805/6, and again Evance during Ebdon's final illness.
  • Charles Clarke 1811-13
  • Appointed aged 15, on "the same salary as Mr. Ebdon".
  • William Henshaw 1814-62                             Henshaw

  • Appointed aged 22 on "the same salary (without the daily  allowance) as Mr.Clarke"- who had moved to Worcester Cathedral.   In a report of the Parliamentary Commissioners at the time of the Cathedrals Act 1840, the Durham Organist's salary of £209 was noted as "the highest". 
    [The Dean's income became £3000 as a result of the Act]. Henshaw lived at 13 Bow Lane, resigned on a pension for life of £260 pa, and died in 1878.
  • Philip Armes 1863-1907 [link to longer article written for centenary of his death]
  •    Armes     
    Appointed on a salary of £260 pa, increased to £300 pa in 1870. As a result of national pressure through a Statement from the Royal College of Organists concerning the position of Cathedral Organists Armes salary increased from £191 per quarter to £210 per quarter in 1898. Armes lived at 20 North Bailey from 1864 to 1872, then 17 North Bailey. He retired on a pension of £250 pa pre-arranged in 1905.

  • Arnold Culley 1907-32             Culley

  • John Dykes Bower 1933-36   Dykes

  • Conrad Eden 1936-74

  • Richard Lloyd 1974-85            Lloyd

  • James Lancelot 1985-2017     Lancelot

  • Sub-Organists

  • Rev.J.L.Bennett 1895

  • F.E.Leatham (in 1901 during Bennett's temporary absence)

  • William Ellis 1903 (to Newcastle Cathedral)
  • Ellis
  • Basil Maine  Autumn 1918 - May 1919. Appointed at £150pa [Act Book] - to journalism.

  • Cyril Maude 1919
  • Maude      
    A pupil of Sir Walter Parratt, he served under three Organists. In 1939, when Conrad Eden went to war Maude assumed full duties for the duration,, maintaining his other work as Organist of St.Margaret's Church, teacher at Neville's Cross and St.Hild's Colleges, and the Durham Girls' Grammar School, with private tuition and war-time duties with the choir men in the Royal Observer Corps. Choristers of that time remember him with great affection, his Yorkshire wit, often sarcastic but delivered with a twinckle in the eye, and his insistence on high standards at all times.
    [from the service sheet at the dedication of a music desk in his memory: 18th October 2008]

  • Bruce Cash 1968

  • Alan Thurlow 1973 (to Chichester Cathedral)

  • David Hill 1980  (to Westminster Cathedral)

  • Ian Shaw 1982 (to a post in Opera)   
  • Keith Wright 1985 (to St.Peter's School, York)

  • Oliver Brett (to Australia)
  • Francesca Massey: from 2011                                             



    Placed by Richard Hird  []
      revised Feb.2018

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