The United Benefice of Sharnbrook, Felmersham and Knotting with Souldrop The Pipe Organs of St. Peterís.

The 19th. Century.

      In  rural parishes until and around the middle of the 19th. century, it was the custom for hymn accompaniment and music in Church to be provided by local musicians. This was the case in St. Peter’s  as the following somewhat derogatory comment was made in 1854 by an article  written by W.A. Although the west window is not hidden from view, a singing gallery has been erected," miserably interfering with the general view of the interior, and the congregation regularly face about when the music plays. If these instru­ments, with their choirs, were placed on the basement, galleries might be abolished, and this irreverent custom abandoned. This gallery had been erected in 1824 and almost certainly projected into the nave from the West Tower Arch. In 1858 a faculty requested that it be removed (with the organ) to be eventually replaced in the Tower Arch. So there was an organ of some sort – possibly a harmonium - prior to 1858. This may well have been the first in the Church and that mentioned in the annual accounts of 1876 when payments were made to a Mr. Trustam of Bedford for his services as organist. In 1879  the Misses Carruthers and Teally were paid a total of £12 for their efforts as organists, however Josiah Trustam, also the local organ builder (see below) continued as the main organist until 1898. In 1882 an organ was loaned from Mr. Strolmeyer suggesting that the previous one had given up the ghost. In 1883 Charles Maxey (son of George) was paid a salary of £0-18s-0d for his services as organ blower. In 1885 a sum of £10 was received for the sale of the old organ. This does not seem much until it is realised that the total income to the Church that year was just £64-18s-2d. In 1893, the organ that was to serve St. Peter’s until the year 2000 was erected at the West End on a new platform by Messrs. Adams & Son, organ builders, Brixton. This platform may have been in the Tower but it is not clear at what level. The organ was given by Mrs. Spencer Watson, formerly of  Riverside House (now Ouse Manor), in memory of her husband who died in 1889 and her eldest daughter who died in 1893. The origin and original maker of the organ is not known. The inscription is shown opposite.        In 1895 a faculty  requested that the organ be moved to the Toft chapel in the open arch adjoining the chancel. This was rejected but probably around 1897-8 it was moved to the East end of the North Aisle when the entry in the churchwardens' account book stated: "Trustram removing organ, tuning, and erecting a new platform for
£15.4s.6d." Curtains round the organ were provided for £1.12s.1d. Trustams were a well known local firm of organ builders, - James and Son were in business in 26 Midland Road, Bedford between 1864 and 1880 and Josiah and Arthur in 42 Castle Road  until 1885. Arthur and John Stokes continued the business until around 1914.  Many local organs were built, installed and maintained by Trustams including Bletsoe and Ravensden to name but a few. The 20th. Century  Between 1905 and 1908 the organ was turned round to put the organist on the East side, moved forward slightly towards the West and provided with a new case by Trustam. The result can be clearly seen on the Ruff postcard of the Church dated around 1908. (Below Left)  At this time the Choir sat in front of the screen as the existing chancel was the domain of the Gibbard family and used as their ‘Family Pew’.   On 18th April 1906 the death was reported of George Maxey, for many years the organ blower and verger at St. Peter 's. The organist F. Dickins had a salary of £13.0s.0d per annum. Around 1933 the organ was moved to a new organ loft built over the tower vestry, one possible reason being that the Choir had moved into the now vacated ‘Gibbard Family Pews’ in the Chancel and  were unable to be seen by the organist. Also the new incumbent: Rev. C.E. Howlett was not happy with the obstruction to the Toft chapel. In 1952 Bertie Hales was appointed as organist at an annual honorarium of £20 and in 1955 the organ was overhauled by Mackenzie Frazer and an electric blower fitted. The Specification of this organ at its replacement in 2000 was as follows:  
Trustam organ in West Tower position. Trustam Organ Console

Towards the Millennium

  Following  a report by Eric Pask, the Diocesan Organ Advisor in 1992 it became obvious that either the organ needed  a major overhaul or complete replacement. Following the consideration of options a replacement by a new or refurbished instrument was considered the best solution. An experiment was also initiated for a new position in the East end of the South Aisle to  overcome the problem of communication with the choir and alleviate over-warming by the new heating system.  A small house organ loaned from the diocese was used for this experiment following the moving of the pulpit to the North Side.  Peter Wilks, a long time enthusiast of St. Peter’s musical tradition had recently died and bequeathed a sum of money to start an organ replacement fund.  Following a few years of experiment, searching and fundraising, eventually an organ became available from St. John’s Church, Letty Green near Hertford which was being made redundant.  It was considered suitable both in size and condition to be installed in the new South Aisle position. Accordingly Robert Shaftoe, the local organ builder from Pavenham was commissioned to carry out the work. This organ had been originally built  by J. W. Corps and installed in Letty Green in 1889 at a cost of £260. James .W.  Corps, born soon after 1800, was apprenticed to the firm of Flight & Robson, builders of the ‘Apollonican’ and also small barrel organs.  It appears that he stayed with them until the break-up of the partnership in 1832, joining another firm after this.  By 1839, he was working on his own, advertising barrel organs from 40 guineas and finger organs from 50 guineas. Corps set up in Reading, appropriately for his name, with an undertaker, and did work at St Giles (a contract which he gained from Bishop & Starr) and St Lawrence.  By 1847 he had left Reading but was doing business in Norwich; in 1853 his letterhead contained Hampstead. The organ had been overhauled at St. Johns with tonal changes by Peter Collins around 1970 and a balanced swell had been added.  During the summer and cold winter of 1999 Robert Shaftoe completely refurbished the whole organ and it was installed in St. Peter’s and dedicated by the Archdeacon of Bedford on April 12th. 2000. Eric Pask gave the inaugural recital. During 2001 the old Trustam organ was recovered from the west gallery revealing  the newly refurbished west window and  restoring the 'Musicians Gallery' that  the choir have made use of at our recent Christmas Carol Services.
Letty Green Church. Corps organ in Letty Green Church. Experimental Organ
The specification of the refurbished organ is as follows:

In Memoriam:

 A plaque on the organ  in memory of Peter Wilks and  Roger Lewis Roberts, (a previous rector of the parish) marks major contributions to the replacement fund. Hundreds of pipes were also sponsored, the major front pipe sponsorship is shown in the table below:
These 19 front pipes are just part of of one rank (Great:Open Diapason). The organ contains 11 ranks and approximately 600 pipes. All sponsorship is recorded in a book kept in the organ case.
Pipe 1
Pipe 19

Organists at St. Peter’s

The following is a list of known organists that have served in St. Peter’s Church
Peter Sagrott, Peter Wilks, Audrey Edwards and David Deeley have also assisted at evensongs and other services during the last 40 years.

 Recording of  Organ:

    A recording has recently been made by Colin Scott and Kate Ritchie of St. Peter's Organ entitled  'Usually on a Sunday'     If you would like a copy please contact  the Webmaster.  (A minimum contribution of £5 is requested for Church Funds.)
Listen to two sample tracks: 1) Canon in D, Pachelbel: (Colin Scott) 2) Toccata in D BWV 565, Bach (Kate Ritchie)
The United Benefice of Sharnbrook, Felmersham and Knotting with Souldrop This page last updated 24/05/2024                      Comments / feedback: please contact: webmaster