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The Organ

St Matthew's is home to arguably the finest parish church organ in the country. The fine four manual organ was built in 1895 by the firm J W Walker and Sons and is now of great historical importance. In 2005/6 the organ underwent a major restoration project costing in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.

The organ is one of the church's many artefacts donated by the Phipps family. Various members of the family gave generously, including the original benefactor's widow, Mary, who provided the Organ. Contemporary accounts referred to the instrument as one of the twelve best to be built in the country around that time. Today, the
St Matthew's organ is one of only a few Walker instruments of the period to remain in their original form and may be favourably compared with such instruments are those in Bristol Cathedral and St Mary's, Portsea, Portsmouth.

No significant changes were made to the instrument between its completion in 1895 and 1971. At that date the actions and console were replaced. No other changes were made, which is a cause for great satisfaction as the structure and pipework survive in their entirety.

In 1978 the church installed a forced-air heating system and the organ was fitted with a humidifier shortly afterwards. In 1980 a new blowing plant was installed, replacing the previous equipment dating from the 1920s and in 1982 tuning slides were fitted to the pipework to protect it from damage. In 1990 the Solo Organ actions, reservoirs and tremulant were fully overhauled and re-leathered.

Organ Restoration


During the 1990s and early part of this century the organ became increasingly unreliable and difficult to maintain. The decline of the instrument has been accelerated by the damaging effects of the forced-air heating system. The new system, installed at the same time as the organ was rebuilt, is designed to greatly minimize these effects benefiting the organ and fabric of the church generally.

It gradually became apparent that the instrument was in fundamental need of complete restoration. To this end, in January 2004, Harrison & Harrison of Durham were invited to inspect and report on the Organ's

condition and draw up proposals for its restoration. After due consideration of the many aspects of such an undertaking, the Parochial Church Council commissioned this work to be carried out from May 2005. The work, carried out jointly by Harrison & Harrison and Kenneth Tickell & Co may be summarized as follows:

To rebuild and restore the four manual 1895 Walker organ, as detailed in the report and proposals of Harrison & Harrison, Durham

All pipework work to be repaired, cleaned and set to correct speech, the action to be fully overhauled and a design defect modified, the soundboards to be fully overhauled, grouted and re-palleted

The wind system to be re-leathered and overhauled and 'breakdown' reservoirs reinstated in the crypt

The 1971 console to be remade in the style of the original with new manual keyboards and drawstops, the electrical systems will be renewed

The Pedal Trombone to be extended to 32ft pitch

The entire organ cleaned, all parts adjusted, and any minor repairs carried out so as to leave everything in first-class condition

The extremely comprehensive proposals have been carried out to the highest standards with utmost regard for the original builder's intentions. No other tonal alterations have been made, except the extending of the Trombone rank, and all original components retained and repaired. The organ is acknowledged as an outstanding example of the organ builder's art and has responded well to sympathetic restoration. The instrument has been restored to first-rate performance and equipped with contemporary playing aids, greatly increasing its versatility.


"There can be no question about the organ's superlative quality and historic value. Its impressive tonal structure and physical layout remain unchanged, and command respect. It has a monumental integrity, and is ideally suited to the church."

(From a report by Mark Venning,
Managing Director, Harrison & Harrison of Durham)

Further history of the Organ can be found in the excellent new St Matthew’s PCC publication, The 1895 Walker Organ of St Matthew’s Church, Northampton. Priced at only £5 the book gives a detailed account of the Organ’s life from 1895 to the present day. Copies may be obtained by contacting the Parish Office.

Organ Specification
Pedal Organ   Swell Organ

Double Open Diapason

32   29. Contra Gamba 16

Open Dispason (Wood)

16   30. Open Diapason 8

Violone (Metal)

16   31. Stopped Diapason 8


16   32. Violin Diapason 8


8   33. Echo Gamba 8


8   34. Vox Angelica (Tenor C) 8

Contra Trombone

32   35. Principal 4
8. Trombone 16   36. Flute 4
i Choir to Pedal     37. Fifteenth 2
ii Swell to Pedal     38. Mixture III
iii Great to Pedal   39. Vox Humana 8
iv Solo to Pedal   40. Oboe 8
  41. Contra Fagotto 16
Choir Organ (unenclosed) 42. Horn 8
9. Lieblich Bourdon 16 43. Clarion 4
10. Gamba 8 ix Tremulant  
11. Lieblich Gedact 8 x Octave  
12. Dulciana 8 xi Sub Octave  
13. Dulciana Principal 4  
14. Flute 4 Solo Organ
15. Harmonic Gemshorn 2 44. Harmonic Flute 8
v Swell to Choir   45. Harmonic Flute 4
  46. Harmonic Piccolo 2
Great Organ 47. Clarinet 8
16. Double Open Diapason 16 48. Orchestral Oboe 8
17. Open Diapason No.1 8 49. Tuba (Unenclosed)  
18. Open Diapason No.2 8 xii Tremulant  
19. Open Diapason No.3 8  
20. Wald Flute 8 Combination couplers
21. Principal 4 Great and Pedal pistons Couples
22. Wald Flute 4 Generals on Swell foot pistons
23. Twelfth 2 2/3  
24. Fifteenth 2 Accessories
25. Mixture III

* Eight general pistons and general cancel
* Eight foot pistons to the Pedal Organ
* Eight pistons to the Great Organ
* Eight pistons to the Swell Organ
  (duplicated by foot pistons)
* Five thumb pistons to the Choir Organ
* Five thumb pistons to the Solo Organ
* Reversible pistons: i - viii
* Reversible foot pistons: ii, vii, 1,7
* Eight divisional and 64 general piston
Balanced expression pedals to Swell
   and Solo Organs

26. Double Trumpet 16
27. Trumpet 8
28. Clarion 4
vi Choir to Great  
vii Swell to Great  
viii Solo to Great  

* The actions are electro-pneumatic
* Manual compass is 61 notes; the pedal
   30 notes

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