Parish of St Leonard with Holy Cross and St Michael’s Methodist-Anglican Church Centre

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St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, Kent

Arthur Harrison

Thomas Harrison established his organ building company in 1861 in Rochdale, and moved to Durham in 1872, where he was joined by his brother James. The firm quickly established a reputation for meticulous craftsmanship, and a number of Harrison organs from this period are still in good working order today, after more than a century.

But it was not until Thomas's sons, Arthur and Harry, took over in 1896 that the firm began to achieve greater recognition. With Harry designing the organs, and Arthur becoming a voicer of legendary vision and perfectionism, the company made its name with an outstanding series of four-manual organs, most famously in Durham Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, King's College Cambridge and Westminster Abbey. Between 1904 and 1939 Harrisons rebuilt no fewer than nineteen of England's cathedral organs. It is the warm and exquisitely blended tone perfected by Arthur Harrison that, not without development, has remained characteristic of the firm's work.

Arthur Harrison died in 1936, and Harry retired shortly after the war, leaving the company in the hands of his son, Cuthbert. During the next period of its history Harrison & Harrison was in the forefront of the movement away from the pre-war 'orchestral' organ and towards a more 'classical' sound. In 1954 Harrisons collaborated with Ralph Downes in the creation of the four-manual organ in the Royal Festival Hall, London. The national furore which accompanied this, and the eventual acclaim for the result, marked a turning point in the history of the British organ. Other well-known work of this period included organs for the new cathedral in Coventry and for St Albans Abbey.

Harrison & Harrison is now the largest organ building company in Britain.