Monday, January 12, 2015

Vaughan to house Organ from Westminster Abbey

The Vaughan is to provide a new home for a chamber organ belonging to Westminster Abbey. The organ dates from the 18th Century and was formerly housed in the Abbey's Lady Chapel.

This picture shows the organ in its new home in the Vaughan's Oratory.

The instrument was built by a Swiss organ-builder called John Snetzler (1710-1785) and is actually a composite of two instruments. The casework dates from 1766-7 and was originally built for Mr Kershaw (1737-1806), a Yorkshireman with extensive business interests, who lived in Halifax.  The pipework came from an organ built by Snetzler in 1759 for Clyffe House, Tincleton near Dorchester, Dorset.

A note in ink in an eighteenth-century hand, pasted onto the front of the soundboard, records:

Built by Snetzler/In 1766-7 For/Mr Kershaw [of] Halifax at/The same time the/Halifax old Church/Organ was Built. The organ has been documented by several authors, who identified that the soundboard dated from 1759.  

The instrument was formerly housed in the Lady Chapel (also known as the Henry VII Chapel) at Westminster Abbey. This chapel, paid for by Henry VII in his will, and completed in 1520, is perhaps most renowned  for its vaulted ceiling (picture below), regarded when it was built as the wonder of the world. The chapel holds the remains not only of Henry VII but also Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and Mary, Queen of Scots.

It is a great honour for the Vaughan to have been asked to house this historic instrument and we are very grateful to the Dean of the Abbey, the Very Reverend John Hall, and the Organist of the Abbey, James O'Donnell (who is a patron of the Vaughan's Schola) for offering it to us. They were keen that the instrument be used liturgically and in its new home in the chapel it will be played during the School's Benediction and other services.


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