Pipe Organs of Durham and the North East
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St Margaret of Antioch, Crossgate, Durham
St Margaret's Church sits at the bottom of Crossgate, the ancient route west from the City, on a bluff overlooking Framwellgate Bridge. The organ originates in an 1865 instrument by Wadsworth of Manchester, built for the price of £200. In 1880 Harrison & Harrison worked on the instrument, but in 1916 estimated for a new "two manual" using pipework from the previous instrument. The organ was made however with three manuals, the Choir division being donated by the Harrison brothers, this being the Harrison family church - with the then Works in Hawthorn Terrace nearby. It is of remarkably compact design, multum in parvo, with 25 stops over three manuals and pedal. The action is tubular pneumatic throughout. It was conservatively restored in the 1970s.
The photograph above shows the organ as seen from the back of the nave, with its simple but pleasing façade to the north aisle (this hides the back of the Choir box facing into the organ). Unfortunately the position is not ideal, being "penned in" by stone walls and solid woodwork, so that the undoubted vigour of the organ is lost in the body of the church, away from the console. Though designed for choir accompaniment, a low arch is a poor route for sound from the pipework to the chancel (see photograph below). The organ's potential is very much constrained - the organist "drowning" in sound, whilst having to guess what a congregation or choir is doing, or whether the registration is appropriate.
Despite its desperately unfavourable position, and extreme voicing used to cope with it, this instrument contains many beautiful registers, and great versatility. The Great chorus is gritty, and can use the Swell Mixture III to top it, but is powerful and imposing. Ear plugs are needed with Full Swell coupled through at the octave. The Swell chorus is typically thinner than the Great, but not anaemic as many examples are. The reeds add unmistakeable fire and grandeur, the Contra Oboe speaking cleanly right down to bottom C. Use of the piston marked "Oboe 8'" makes use of the Contra Oboe 16', Octaves Alone and an extra octave of pipes in the treble to afford a full compass 8' stop. The strings are keen, with a good bite, but are more than subservient to the remarkable Choir Viola da Gamba. This stop really sizzles, and calls to mind most effectively the Gambes et Célestes of Cavaillé-Coll, or a vicious Willis or Lewis Gamba. The two flutes are absolutely delicious, with smooth, creamy intonation throughout the compass. The Clarinet is a delightful solo voice, not so powerful as a Corno di Bassetto, but with just sufficient bite to each note so prevent it becoming cloying and tiring to the ear. The Pedal department suffers from underdevelopment, but the large rolling Open Woods certainly make their presence felt. The Subbass 16' is gentle, and quite able to accompany the ppp Swell strings without overpowering them.
|Double Salicional||16'||Violin Diapason||8'||Harmonic Flute||8'|
|Large Open Diap.||8'||Lieblich Gedackt||8'||Viola da Gamba||8'|
|Small Open Diap.||8'||Echo Salicional||8'||Concert Flute||4'|
|Hohl Flute||8'||Vox Angelica (c)||8'||Clarinet||8'|
|Stopped Diapason||8'||Gemshorn||4'||Swell to Choir|
|Wald Flute||4'||Contra Oboe||16'||Pedal|
|Octave Quint||22/3'||Trumpet||8'||Open Wood||16'|
|Swell to Great||Octaves Alone||Octave Wood (ext. 16')||8'|
|Choir to Great||Flute (ext. 16')||8'|
|Gt & Ped Comb||Great to Pedal|
|Swell to Pedal|
|Choir to Pedal|
Left: organ viewed from the south side of the ChancelRight: piperack above the console, composed of pipes from the Large Open Diapason 8'