Gloucester Cathedral’s famous organ was originally constructed in 1666 by Thomas Harris

It is the only complete 17th century cathedral organ case surviving in this country, and the pipes displayed on the front of the case still speak to this day.

Over the next three centuries the organ was extended and modified by nearly all of the established organ builders, notably ‘Father’ Henry Willis. The then young Henry Willis described his work on the organ in 1847 as “my stepping stone to fame”, and he returned to rebuild the organ in 1888-9. Harrison & Harrison rebuilt it again in 1920, and this organ served the Cathedral for fifty years.

In 1971 Hill, Norman and Beard carried out a total redesign of the organ, under the instruction of Dr. John Sanders as Cathedral Organist and Ralph Downes as consultant. In 1999 Nicholson & Co. overhauled the organ, renovating the soundboards, pipework and wind supply and updating the computer system. A Swell sub-octave was installed, and a French-style cornet-separé and a Bombarde 32’ were added to the pedal division, as well as a pedal divide facility. In 2010, Nicholson also added a solo reed, the Trompette Harmonique, playable from both the Choir and West Positive manuals.

The organ comprises four manuals and pedals and is designed particularly to play from its position on the Quire screen to both East and West. This stipulation has brought about some unique design features. The Swell, situated in the centre of the case at console level, is controlled by two swell pedals, one for each side of the case. The Great organ, directly above the Swell, is split into East and West divisions, comprising two separate principal choruses. And the fourth manual is a West Positive, mirroring the Choir organ in function for the West side of the Cathedral. The organ’s position underneath the eastern part of the Nave roof takes full advantage of the unparalleled acoustics of the Cathedral, projecting into both sides of the building with the utmost clarity. The organ is essentially “neo-classical” in its approach, with balancing choruses in each division based on the Werkprinzip ideal.

Click on the links to find out when you can hear the organ at our regular services and organ recital series.

Click here to view our policy for the use of Gloucester Cathedral's organ

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