Pipe Organs of Durham and the North East
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St John's Church, Neville's Cross, Durham  [NPOR ref. N14949]

The delightful instrument at St John's, Neville's Cross, was built in 1912 by the local firm of Harrison & Harrison. Despite being sited in a tight chamber in the north east corner of the church, the organ speaks well into the church, providing solid support for this lively congregation. 

The original specification provided just eight stops, but since then two "prepared for" stops have been added (the Swell Echo Gamba in 1915, and the Great Fifteenth in 1976, this latter utilising second hand pipework). A Pedal Open Wood and Great Geigen, for which there are stopheads, remain prepared for only, and the provision of pipework for these stops seems unlikely - in fact the space for the Pedal pipes has been taken.

An Historic Organ Certificate (Grade II) was awarded by the British Institute of Organ Studies in 2010. The organ's centenary  was amply celebrated in 2012 with a recital by the church's organists, with a  small exhibition of archival material - showing that ranks from an earlier organ were used in the present instrument.

Great   Swell   Pedal  
Contra Dulciana (c) 16' Violin Diapason 8' Open Wood * 16'
Open Diapason 8' Echo Gamba $ 8' Subbass 16'
Claribel Flute 8' Lieblich Flöte 4' Great to Pedal  
Geigen * 8' Cornopean 8' Swell to Pedal  
Principal 4' Octave      
Fifteenth + 2'      * prepared for  
Swell to Great       + added in 1976  
        $ added in 1915  
Two fixed combination pedals each to Great and Swell
Balanced crescendo pedal to Swell
The Great is founded open the large, firm Open Diapason, which provides solid foundation tone throughout the church. The Principal and Fifteenth which build upon it are smaller and brighter, resulting in a clear and lively chorus. The creamy Claribel Flute is stunning, with exquisite voicing throughout its compass. It is sufficient to support the 4' and 2' stops, useful when the Open Diapason is just too large. The Contra Dulciana is beautiful, and it speaks cleanly down to its bottom note (tenor C) - played up an octave it is a useful quiet rank, but the gravitas it adds to the chorus is undeniably useful as well.

The Swell is somewhat hampered by its limited size, although the mechanical Octave coupler provides extra opportunities and added brightness, within the limitations of the compass and key weight. The Violin Diapason has a pleasant edge to its tone, but with the box shut provides a pleasing soft intonation. The Echo Gamba has quite a kick, though its general usefulness is restricted as a result. The Lieblich Flöte itself is a pleasant, fresh sounding rank, and there is no 8ft flute, so there are colouring but no real chorus possibilities in combination with either of the open metal unison stops. On the other hand the Cornopean is surprisingly fiery, and couples through to the Great with considerable impact. It also provides a useful voice added to the Pedal to counter the Great chorus. The Pedal Subbass is weighty, more than able to support the fuller ensembles, whilst importantly never overpowering the quieter stops.

The disposition and scope of the different types of stop on this organ require some ingenuity from the organist in order to play many works, but the effort is more than worth it. Restored just a few years ago by Harrison & Harrison - one of the first jobs from the new Works in Meadowfield down the road, it is currently in perfect condition, sparklingly clean inside and out, and a beautiful example of British organ building at its best. The crisp mechanical action is a delight to play, and the whole instrument a delight.


Left: Great pipework (L to R: Dulciana 8', Claribel Flute 8', Principal 4', [vacant slide], Fifteenth 2')
Right: Swell Cornopean 8'

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