Church Music

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Music has played an important part in the life of the Church for many centuries.
Before the introduction of the organ a village band probably played at the services.

The present organ came from All Hallows Church, Pirnough, near Ditchingham, in south Norfolk and was in poor condition before its restoration by Homes & Swift. It is a rare example built by Mark Noble of Norwich in about 1840 and was first installed in Worstead.

G. M. Holditch's organ
G. M. Holditch's organ

It is now surrounded by new woodwork made by Michael King incorporating cedar from Mannington Hall Gardens.
In order to fund its restoration and installation, an enormous effort was made by the congregation in 1994-1995, led by Mrs. Megan Fowell. Together they raised £8,000.

It was dedicated by the former Bishop of Norwich the Rt. Revd. Maurice Wood in October 1995. At a special evensong it was played by the Norwich Diocesan organ advisor, Dr. David Baker with Joan Welsby as the solo singer.

The previous organ was smaller and known as a 'Positif' and was placed against the North wall.
It was built in 1860 by William Hill and came from Horsford Parish Church in 1974.

The Positif organ
The Positif organ

Near the alter is the harmonium or 'American organ' that was used before the Positif was installed. This American organ was then subsequently lent to the Primitive Methodist Chapel on the Wolterton Road. When the chapel closed it was returned to St Mary's.
Although called an American organ, the name is a trade name, not a nationality. A Frenchman invented and patented the harmonium, which blows air through the reeds, whereras the American organ, in order to get round the patent, sucks air through them. This example was actually made by Bell & Co. in Ontario, Canada.

I was one of the organists under Derek Elton (I played from 1972-1979, and also at Wickmere, and Lt Barningham), and so the 'Positif' organ was installed in my time. (Derek was also responsible for acquiring the Little Barningham organ - from St Margaret-de-Westwick in Norwich; it cost £5.00, and came over in the churchwarden's lorry!). The 'Positif' organ was dark red when we got it, and Richard Bower repainted it, but there was a miscalculation, and it came out salmon pink! Richard also restored the swell shutters on the front (seen clearly in the sketch), which had been removed. It was an excellent instrument for leading a small congregation. The only drawback was that its pedal board was positioned a fourth higher than normal, and so was virtually unusable!
Nick Groves MA, BMus, ThSoc, FSAScot - 4th April 2005

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 01263 713658 or

Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004
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