Christchurch, St Leonards on Sea, Sussex
Christ Church, St Leonards on Sea
Original Holdich Pipework
             Sub Bass 32 A, 1-12 stopped
             Open Bass 16 A
             Open Diapason 16 B
             Bourdon 16
             Lieblich Bordun 16 C
             Principal 8 independent  B
             Flute 8 C
             Octave Flute 4 C
             Trombone 16
             Tibia 8 unenclosed
             Flûte à Cheminée 8
             Viol d'Orchestre 8
             Flûte Ouverte 4 Flute
             Flûte Harmonique 4 unenclosed
             Nazard 2 2/3
             Piccolo 2
             Tierce 1 3/5
             Corno di Bassetto 8 TC, unenclosed
             Tuba 8 unenclosed, 12" wind
             Double Diapason 16
             Lieblich Bourdon 16 C
             Open Diapason No 1 8
             Open Diapason No 2 8
             Clarabella 8
             Dulciana 8
             Octave 4
             Flute Couverte 4
             Octave Quint 2 2/3
             Super Octave 2
             Harmonics III 17.19.22
             Tromba 8
             Clarion 4
             Open Diapason 8
             Stopped Diapason 8
             Aeoline 8
             Voix Celestes 8
             Principal 4
             Suabe Flute 4
             Twelfth 2 2/3
             Fifteenth 2
             Mixture III 17.19.22
             Trompette 8  Oboe
             Clarinette 8
             Waldhorn 16
             Trumpet 8
             Clarion 4

The organ was originally built by G M Holdich in 1882 and was sited in the Christ the King chapel to the South of the High Altar, with the console overhanging the sanctuary. It was George Holdich’s last great work and a fine instrument. The Picture, in St Leonard's Christchurch parish magazine of Sept 1927, shows the organ in this position.

Strangely Norman & Beard Ltd of Norwich “entirely” rebuilt the organ in 1901.

The organ was moved to the West Gallery and rebuilt there in 1930, without a case, by Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.. A Faculty for the organ case, to a design by Messrs.' Milner and Craze of 5 Racquet Court, London EC4, was granted in 1936.

The original Holdich specification appears to have been as follows:-

(this is the announcement in Musical Opinion Jan 1881)
The organ at St Leonard’s Christ Church has been enlarged by Mr. G.M. Holdich. In the opinion of the gentleman to whom we are indebted for the specification appended, “the tone of the instrument is very good, and is altogether one of the finest church organs on the south coast:”-

Double Diapason 16
Open Diapason (1) 8
Open Diapason (2) 8
Gamba 8
Clarabella 8
Principal 4
Harmonic Flute 4
Twelfth 2 2/3
Fifteenth 2
Sesquialtra 3 rks
(on heavy wind)
Tromba 8
Tuba Clarion 4

Open Diapason 16
Montre (metal) 16
Bourdon 16
Octave 8
Trombone (metal) 16

Swell Organ
Double Diapason &
Sub-bass 16
Open Diapason (1) 8
Open Diapason (2) 8
Stop Diapason & bass Stop. Diapason 8
Keraulophon 8
Principal 4
Wald flöte 4
Twelfth 2 2/3
Fifteenth 2
Mixture 2 ranks
Double trumpet & Trombone (bass) 16
Cornopean 8
Hautboy 8
Clarion 4

Dulciana 8
Gamba 8
Principal 4
Flute 4
Piccolo 2
Cremona 8

SOLO (Heavy wind)
Clarabella 8
Harmonic Flute 4
Harmonic Piccolo 2
Tuba mirabilis 8

Solo to great
Swell to great
Choir to great sub.
Swell to pedals
Great to pedals
Choir to pedals.

5 Large reservoirs
8 Feeders
5 Composition pedals
3 Bellows handles.

Norman and Beard’s rebuilding in 1901 replaced the swell second open diapason with a Voix Celeste, added the 32ft Contra Bourdon and combined the solo and choir onto one keyboard and applied tubular pneumatic action. Holdich’s four manual organ was therefore tracker. Norman & Beard’s work (job 406) also included a new console, a new tuba, & various ranks increased in scale; Holdich’s casework remained and his bellows “but an extra pair of feeders to be added”.

In 1914, Norman & Beard did more alteration as well as cleaning and overhauling (order book, no 12540):-
CHOIR ORGAN. Provide new Viol d’Orchestre 8-ft, metal, in place of present Dulciana.
Provide new Stopped Diapason 8-ft, from Tenor C, in place of Gamba.
SOLO ORGAN. Provide Corno di Bassetto 8-ft, Tenor C, together with necessary alterations to upperboards, to stand on present Piccolo slide.

GREAT ORGAN. The Gamba to be replaced by the Dulciana removed from the Choir, the latter to be revoiced.

PEDAL ORGAN. Convert Principal 8-ft into Flute 8-ft, revoicing same to balance present Bourdon.
Increase wind pressure of Open Diapason 16-ft, and Contra 32-ft, and necessary voicing
Connect up the present 16-ft metal Open which forms the West front.

Norman & Beard (of Norwich) in effect ceased trading in 1915 and the firm became Wm Hill & Son and Norman & Beard Ltd of London. The firm revoiced the swell Cornopean and releathered the (pneumatic) membrane couplers in 1922.

It was in 1930 that the organ was rebuilt by Henry Willis & Sons and moved to the West Gallery of the newly extended Christ Church.

The Henry Willis Specification for the scheme is dated 3rd June 1929; the instrument would consist of three manuals CC to C, 61 notes and a “Willis” pedal-board CCC to F, 30 notes. There would be 45 speaking stops and 23 couplers etc, making a total of 68 registers. . . Covering complete restoration of the old parts, removing and re-erecting organ in divided form in a suitable and agreed site on the West Gallery. . . . The provision of casework, or other ornamental treatment of the organ as fitted in divided form is excluded being dependent upon architects designs, the specification covering a completed organ as a individual unit without cases.

Such is substantially the organ as is now, with one exception, that the Oboe 8ft was replaced by the Trompette 8ft in 1940.

I have put the above together to justify my claim that the organ is substantially the organ which George Holdich built in 1882. My own observation of the organ confirms that most of the pipework is that by Holdich. I can also confirm that the upper parts of the soundboards on which the pipes stand, are those of Holdich and that the pipes substantially stand in their original holes; these of the swell, great, choir and solo. Holdich had a habit of carrying his C# side of pipes up to middle C#, and this is a feature found here. I also suggest that the building frame construction holding these soundboards is basically that of the Holdich organ, giving us substantially the Holdich layout as it was at the East end.

May I surmise my views of the history of the organ in relation to the retention of the Holdich parts.

Holdich 1882; this organ had tracker action; possibly it also had pneumatic assistance to the great organ which would have helped the coupling of the manuals. The pedal action may have been supply pneumatic. Holdich was at the end of his reign and built in a sturdy but sound old-fashioned manner.

In my view Willis did little more than capitalize on the merits of the Holdich/Norman & Beard organ; he moved the organ and divided it on the gallery, replaced the N & B under-actions to the older soundboards with Willis ones and installed the Willis console. He also fitted an entirely new wind system, the only bellows being new single rise ones, those for the manuals being placed vertically. Tonally he did what he stated and little more beyond extensive regulation; the flue pipework remained substantially unaltered; the reeds were substantially re-voiced on higher pressures. Even so the reeds are completely Holdich (apart from the N & B tuba and Corno di Bassetto, and the 1940 Trompette). Even the huge pedal trombone is Holdich. Of the original 41 stops I suggest that 32 are still in the organ.

I believe that Christchurch still has the largest Holdich organ in existence and that so much of it remains as Holdich made it that it is very worthy material for restoration. It is the heart of the Christchurch organ and should remain so.

In planning for the future of the organ the Holdich organ remains the sure sound basis for whatever is to be done.

The original specification suggests to me that there could have been Barker lever assistance to the great keyboard. These items would have given the vibrant control of the organ now missing and offer the clue as to how to successfully recreate the organ both honouring Holdich and in offering a fine organ for the next generations.

Why was the Holdich organ rebuilt less than 20 years after it was built?

We don’t know, but there are pointers as to why.
- The likely weaknesses in the Holdich organ would have been of a heavy and noisy key-touch at a time when the newer Norman & beard pneumatic actions were proving to be slick and quiet.
- Holdich, born in 1816, was at the end of his reign; he sold the stock in trade of his business in 1894 (to Eustace Ingram, and they traded as Holdich and Ingram for two years); he died in 1896. His tonalities were of the old school and whilst they had moved towards Edwardianism they had not reached it.
- To modern ears this is of course why his pipework sounds so inspiring, but by 1900 it was too bright, lacking in fundamental tone and thoroughly old fashioned.

- His organ was built to be blown by hand (it had 3 blowing handles) and it was later adapted for mechanical blowing by a gas engine. We don’t know how inefficient or otherwise that this was. (But I do suspect that some other factor may have adversely affected it; it may well be that it had become desiccated by over heating or soaked by a leaking roof).

Here is my speculative drawing of Holdich’s layout together with my embryo drawing for the possible reconstruction the organ in the West Gallery.

                            Click  an image to see full size.