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

The Organ

Records of organs in St Leonard’s Church go back before 1480. The present instrument was built in 1936 by the firm of Harrison and Harrison (Durham and London) but used some pipes from the church’s previous two organs - a few from the work of Mr England of 1812 and far more from the organ by J W Walker & Sons of 1878. The England organ had stood on a gallery in much the same position as the present one, backing onto the church tower. The singers of the choir (and other instrumentalists) were also placed there. The Walker organ had been in the chancel south aisle, approximately where the large marble Panel depicting Christ's removal from the Cross and (formally reredos to the high alter). Though of good quality, to the congregation in the nave it sounded rather distant. Originally hand pumped, from the 1920s wind was supplied by an electric blower; this is still in use!

The 1936 organ was the last instrument voiced by Arthur Harrison, the organ-builder with the greatest reputation at the time in terms of the quality of workmanship, richness of sound and hence cost of his contracts. Harrison died before the next instrument he was working on (Westminster Abbey) was finished. The Hythe organ was a gift to St Leonard’s Church by two local businessmen - Mr G L Mackeson (proprietor of the town’s brewery that produced the milk stout drink carrying his name) and Mr E Osbourne (of the Hythe Cabinet Works, which constructed the case). The advisors were eminent - Sir Walter Alcock (organ) and Sir Charles Nicholson (casework)

In 1991 the organ was conserved in a rebuild by the Kent firm F H Browne & Sons using funds provided in a bequest from Mrs Arnold Hollinghurst (Mr and Mrs Hollinghurst had been long-term supporters of the church and its music). This restoration involved replacing some of the electric action connecting the keyboards to the pipes; the latest technology now enables this to be achieved using a single small coaxial cable. Care was taken to preserve the unique sound of the pipes as near as is feasible with the intentions of Arthur Harrison. Five new stops were added to improve its ability to accompany singers. Also, the console from which the organ is played was made mobile. Normally it is sited in the north transept but can be moved to the centre of the church or further down the nave for concerts. When needed, a television link enables the organist to see the altar and singers in the chancel.

Most of the pipes are contained in the imposing main case at the west end of the nave. This is made of oak, reputedly from old sailing ships (the wood certainly came from Portsmouth), with carvings by Mr Dennis Hooker that took some 600 hours to complete. Here are the pipes of three manual keyboard divisions, two contained in large boxes with Venetian shutters to vary the volume and tone, and the largest pedal pipes. The impact of the pipes on listeners is direct and immediate from this position. This part of the organ can be very loud!

In the chancel, high up in the triforium on the north side, are more pipes. In effect, these form a separate organ of two manuals and pedals that is used for accompanying singers in the choir stalls (the congregation would not hear them if the nave’s west organ were to be used for this purpose). Both the west end and chancel sections are played from the single three-manual mobile console, and the two can be used together. In total there are 59 stops and 2,440 pipes (1,722 in the main case, 718 in the chancel triforium).

Since the rebuild of 1991 the continued good condition of the organ has been assured by a bequest from the late Commander Charles Beckwith, an enthusiast for this instrument over very many years and an ardent supporter of organ music at St Leonard’s and elsewhere. By the start of the 21st century the leather parts of the organ's mechanism, dating from 1936, were losing their suppleness, leading to problems such as notes failing to work occasionally. During 2005-6 the action was completely re-leathered. Revisions were also made to the console and a 4’ flute added to the West Great, filling a significant gap in the specification. It is hoped that the organ will continue to be reliable for many further decades before major work is required.

Arthur Harrison

Builder of St Leonard’s 1936 Organ

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The Organ Specifications


1.  Open Wood 16 (Walker 1878 transposed with Harrison bottom pipe)

2.  Sub-bass 16 (1878 Walker revoiced)

3.  Geigen 16 (from Great)

4.  Quint 102/3 (from No 2) (Harrison/James 1987)

5.  Octave Wood 8 (from No 1)

6.  Flute 8 (from No 2)

7.  Ophicleide 16 (from Choir Tuba)

8.  Great to Pedal

9.  Swell to Pedal

10. Choir to Pedal


11.  Double Geigen 16 (Harrison 1936)

12.  Large Open Diapason 8 (Harrison 1936)

13.  Small Open Diapason 8 (part Walker 1878 and revoiced, 19 new bases)

14.  Hohl Flute 8 (wood) (Harrison 1936)

15.  Octave 4 (part Walker 1878, rescaled, 4 new basses)

16.  Open Flute 4 (Browne, 2006)

17.  Octave Quint (22/3) (Walker 1878)

18.  Superoctave 2 (Walker 1878)

19.  Mixture (22.26.29) (Harrison/James 1982)

20.  Swell to Great

21.  Choir to Great


22.  Violin Diapason 8 (Harrison 1936)

23.  Lieblich Gedackt 8 (Walker 1878 Stopped Diapson revoiced)

24.  Echo Gamba 8 (Harrison 1936)

25.  Voice Celeste 8 (tenor C) (Walker Echo Gamba revoiced)

26.  Principal 4 (England 1812(?) Rescaled and revoiced)

27.  Mixture (15.19.22) (Walker 1878 rescaled/revoiced)

28.  Oboe 8 (Harrison 1936)

29.  Double Trumpet 16 (bass Harrison 1936; trebles Walker 1893(?) Horn)

30.  Trumpet 8 (Harrison 1936)

31.  Tremulant

32.  Octave

West Choir (all Harrison 1936)

33.  Viol d’Orchestre 8

34.  Harmonic Flute 8 (metal)

35.  Salicionel 8

36.  Concert Flute 4 (metal)

37.  Clarinet 8

38.  Tuba 8 (enclosed, with extra top octave)

39.  Tremulant

40.  Octave

41.  Swell to Choir


East Organ (in triforium) Pedal

42.  Bourdon 16 (Harrison 1936)

43.  Bass Flute 8 (from No 42 with 12 pipes Browne 1991)

44.  Contra Fagotto 16 (from No 54)


East Great

45.  Claribel Flute 8 (Harrison 1936)

46.  Gemshorn 4 (Harrison 1936)

47.  Twelth 22/3 (old pipes, Browne 1991)

48.  Fifteenth 2 (formerly Dulciana, Walker 1878, transposed/revoiced Browne 1991)

49.  Tierce 13/5 (old pipes, Browne 1991)


East Swell

50.  Stopped Diapason 8 (additional old pipes (Hill?) revoiced Browne 1991)

51.  Salicional 8  (additional old pipes (Hill?) revoiced Browne 1991)

52.  Harmonic Flue 4 (Harrison 1936 with extra octave of pipes Harrison 1975)

53.  Mixture 19.22 (Harrison/James 1979 revoiced Browne 1991)

54.  Contra Fagotto 16 (Gray and Davidson (?) 1930s revoiced Browne 1991)

55.  Octave coupler (all but 53 have an extra octave of pipes)

56.  Unison off

57.  Chancel on Choir keys

58.  Pedal to Swell pistons

59.  Great and Pedal combinations coupled



Two swell pedals (1 West Swell; 2 West Choir and East Swell switchable)   

Five thumb pistons to each west division

Three thumb pistons to each chancel division

Eight thumb pistons to Generals

Pistons settable with 62 channels

General cancel

Reversibles Great/Pedal and Swell/Pedal

Five toe pistons to Pedal

Two toe pistons for Swell 4 and 5   

Reversible toe pistons Great/Pedal and Ophicleide 16

Pressures: West Great 3.5”; West Swell 4.5”; West Chancel 4”; Chancel 3”; Action and Tuba 9”