All Saints' Westbury

Westbury is a lively market town with a strong industrial heritage. It is flanked on all sides by new houses and industrial estates and appears to be competing with neighbouring Trowbridge for industrial growth. In the heart of the market place stands All Saints' Church, an interesting building once threatened with closure due to collapsing foundations; fortunately, a new method of pumping concrete pilings under the building prevented this. Apart from one or two telltale cracks, the most interesting relic of this work is a plumb line which hangs on the west wall and is used to monitor the movement of the building!

The organ is a 3 manual Bevington instrument, and was built into the chancel space somewhat removed from the congregation. A certain amount of work was done on it in the 1970's including the removal of the original Pedal Open Wood in favour of a smaller Bourdon and some extended ranks, operated interestingly by electrical switches beneath the left hand stop jamb.

As Stephen Cooke was the director of music, it was natural that he would be approached when consideration of the organ's future began. The project that is now underway consists of four main elements, which are described beneath the pictures. Click on any picture to show a larger (and in most cases more complete) version in a new window.

The first stage of the work as you can see above was to strip down, clean and overhaul the organ. At that point the frame was planted one bay west, where the roof is considerably higher and there is more room to the rear; a floor platform has been built to allow it to stand further forward into the building. The second stage was to manufacture a new mechanical action, mechanical stop action (with secondary solenoids for pistons) and coupler chassis, which was all done in-house. This included a new Pedal soundboard operated by mechanical action, allowing for additional ranks in the future.

It became clear that the organ was in no sense tonally original; there had been a good deal of horse trading and some ranks had been exchanged. A policy was adopted that the original tonal conception of the organ should be preserved with only such alterations as could be justified from other examples of Bevington's work and which would make the organ more suitable for the work it has to do, which includes RSCM festivals as well as regular choral services, weddings and special occasions.

The specification of the organ can be found below. The organ is characterised by a pronounced French influence; the chorus speaks brightly and clearly into the church and is topped by magnificent French-sounding reeds. The decision to install the prepared-for Clarinet not on the Choir (where the slide and drawstop awaited it) but on the Swell at 16' has paid off in great measure; a solo register is still available by playing up an octave, but the very small swell division enjoys a power and sense of completeness it would not otherwise have. The displaced rank - the Oboe - is moved to the Choir and speaks from there with a remarkable and very musical boldness. The Choir Sesquialtera has two sliders, each of which can be selected individually by small buttons near the setter switches. There are no visible electrical switches at the console; the pistons are on a bespoke keypad with hardwood buttons in felt-lined runners and fit into the hole vacated by the pedal stop switches, and the blower and setter system switches are also bespoke and made in our workshop. This way it was possible to avoid the often "plasticky" appearance of modern components whilst still enjoying the benefit of modern playing aids. The pistons themselves are of the "Scope" variety, where any piston can be assigned to do any job (general, divisional, reversible, ventil). It has been set up so the 20 button keypad all act as generals; the RH toe pistons (bespoke wooden items) operate Gt and Pedal, the left Sw (4) and Choir (2), with reversibles to couplers in the conventional manner. The front case pipes have been redecorated in the original design.

Westbury's organ can brilliantly fit into all the musical and liturgical roles required of it, has proved popular as a teaching instrument, is acclaimed for its versatility (which takes some time to get used to) and is a very exciting instrument upon which to improvise. While work it still in progress, it is also an interesting thing to look at & see the mechanism close at hand!

All Saints' Westbury
Bevington 1864 & 1888
Stephen Cooke 2003-2006
Violone16Stopped Diapason8Open Diapason8Double Diapason16
Bourdon16Dulciana8Clarabella8Open Diapason8
Principal8Open Flute4Principal4Stopped Diapason8
Bass Flute8Gemshorn2Twelfth2 2/3Principal4
Spare slide x 3SesquialteraIIFifteenth2Fifteenth2
Usual Couplers