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Hexham Abbey [Back to Library]

Producer: DigitalVPO
Country: United Kingdom
Manuals: 2
Pedalboard: Yes
Audio Ouput:
Date Built:


The Organ.
The early history of the organs of Hexham Abbey remains shrouded in mystery. An 18th century engraving shows that an organ was siste on the medieval screen but no futher details can be traced.

The organ of 1856 came from Carlisle Cathedral and contained some 1804 Avery pipes. Fashion changed (and the nave was rebuilt) and the organ was enlarged and revoiced a number of times, notably in 1905 by Norman and Beard. By the early 1970s the large four manual organ had ben recast so many times that it had become utterly worn down and unreliable. (Only the console and swell organ remained on the screen, with Great, Choir, Echo and Pedal divisions spread throughout the Quire and South Transept Triforium.)

The visionary decision to build a new mechanical action organ was taken, and in 1974 the Phelps organ was installed. Thought there are only 34 stops, whis is relatively small compared to the previous instrument (or compared to instruments in similar churches and abbeys) it is almost universally renowned for the quality of its craftsmanship and artistry. It still has a modern appearance, which though controversial at the time, receives more praise today. Many internationally famous recitalists have played at Hexham Abbey, and much interest is still generated by this instrument.

The precision of and lightness of the console action is testiment to the incredible craftsmanship of this instrument and the genius of Lawrence Phelps. It is tonally exquisite and despite its modest specification is an incredibly versatile instrument which is certainly more than capable of filling the expanse of the Abbey.

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