Organs and organists of Chichester Cathedral

The quire and Main Organ

The organs of Chichester Cathedral are the major source of instrumental music at the cathedral, being played for daily services and accompanying the choir, as well as being used for concerts and recitals. There has been organ music at Chichester Cathedral almost continuously since the medieval period, with a break in the mid 17th century during the Commonwealth period.

There are now five pipe organs at Chichester Cathedral, with pipes of the Main Organ dating to the Restoration, the Hurd Organ to the late 18th century and the three most recent organs dating to the late 20th century.

The earliest recorded organist of Chichester Cathedral is William Campion in 1543. Several well-known composers have served as cathedral organist, including Thomas Weelkes during the early 17th century, and Edward Thorne who in the 1860s composed his anthem "I was Glad" for the reopening of Chichester Cathedral after the restoration of the spire.



Main Organ

Details of the Main Organ from the National Pipe Register

The earliest organs in the cathedral were destroyed by the forces of Colonel Waller during the period of the Commonwealth. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy, Renatus Harris built a one-manual organ on the screen in 1678; the pipes of the organ still form the heart of the present instrument. In 1725, John Byfield added the Choir Organ and Thomas Knight added the third keyboard, the swell, in 1778. Further additions were made in the 19th century by George Pike England (1806) Henry Pilcher & Sons (1829) before, in 1859, the great Victorian organ builder William Hill was employed to move the organ from the screen to its present position. The collapse of the tower and spire in 1861 left the organ a mid-19th century instrument, as all the money that could be raised at the time was spent on the building and furnishings rather than on the organ. The organ was restored further by Hele of Plymouth in 1904, but neglect dictated by financial constraints meant that in 1972 its working mechanism was in such a parlous state that the organ had to be abandoned as unplayable. After a silence of fourteen years it was eventually restored by Mander in 1984-86. Today it is widely regarded as a very special part of the heritage of English organs and it is the only surviving example of an English classical, rather than romantic, cathedral instrument.

Nave Organ

Details of the Nave Organ from the National Pipe Register

The Nave Organ was a gift of the Poling Charitable Trust, the Nave Organ was built by Mander as part of the organ project in 1986. With one manual of six stops, plus a single pedal stop, the Nave Organ is designed to reinforce the presence of the main organ in the nave, or for use in its own right for in the "nave-only" services. The Nave Organ can be played either from its own console downstairs, or direct from the main organ.

Walker Organ

Details of the Walker Organ from the National Pipe Register

The Walker Organ, built in 1980, is a continuo instrument of one manual (no pedals) containing six stops and an integral blower. It is usually housed in the Lady chapel, and accompanies services held in that part of the cathedral. It is, however, readily moveable and is frequently used for concerts of baroque music in the nave.

Hurdis Organ

Details of the Hurdis Organ from the National Pipe Register

The Hurdis Organ was built c.1780 at least partly by the Reverend James Hurdis, who was headmaster of the Prebendal School who went on to be Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. In 1947, the Hurdis family gave the organ to the Prebendal School who, in turn deposited it on loan to the cathedral. It is currently housed in the retrochoir, where it is regularly used to accompany services at the Shrine of St. Richard.

Allen Organ

The Allen Organ was brought into the cathedral in 1972, at the time when the main organ was abandoned, and was used to accompany all main services intil 1986 when the main organ came back into use. Thereafter, the Allen Organ was repositioned in the triforium at the west end of the cathedral as a concert organ. It is one of the earliest digital electronic organs in this country and continues to play an important part in the provision for musical events in the cathedral.

Cathedral Organists

Organists and Masters of the Choristers

  • 1545 William Campion
  • 1550 Thomas Coring
  • 1560 Edward Piper
  • 1569 Michael Woods
  • 1571 Clement Woodcock
  • 1599 Jacob Hillarye
  • 1602 Thomas Weelkes
  • 1623 William Eames
  • 1636 Thomas Lewes
  • 1668 Bartholomew Webb
  • 1673 Thomas Lewis
  • 1674 John Reading
  • 1677 Samuel Peirson
  • 1720 Thomas Kelway
  • 1744 Thomas Capell
  • 1765 Richard Hall
  • 1771 Thomas Tremain
  • 1775 William Walond
  • 1801 James Target
  • 1803 Thomas Bennett
  • 1848 Henry Bennett
  • 1861 Philip Armes
  • 1863 Edward Thorne
  • 1870 Francis Edward Gladstone
  • 1873 James Pyne

Assistant Organists

  • c.1876 Edward Bartlett
  • 1887 Hugh Percy Allen
  • 1892 P.A. Whitehead
  • c.1908 W.H.H. Lambert
  • c.1911 R. Swanborough
  • 1915 Cyril Herbert Stone
  • 1920 ?
  • 1931 J. E. Snelling-Colyer
  • 1932 Leonard Fergus O’Connor
  • 1934 ?
  • 1936 Claude Appleby
  • 1942 Anne Maddocks
  • 1949 ?
  • 1961 Richard Seal
  • 1968 Michael Davey
  • 1971 Nicholas Cleobury
  • 1973 Ian Fox
  • 1978 Richard Cock
  • 1980 Kenneth Sweetman
  • 1981 Jeremy Suter
  • 1991 James Thomas
  • 1997 Mark Wardell
  • 2010 Timothy Ravalde

Organ Scholars

In common with nearly all cathedrals in the UK, Chichester appoints an organ scholar each year to take a share of the playing of services in the cathedral and the training of the choristers and probationers in the Prebendal School. The organ scholarship is a one year non-renewable post usually held by someone in their gap year between school and university, or in the first couple of years after graduation. The organ scholar gives a solo recital in the cathedral during the course of the year.


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