© Maggie Kilbey & Marcel Glover 2021-2022
Barrel Organs in English Parish Churches
This website provides a summary of surviving organs with barrel mechanisms that were used to play metrical psalms, hymns, voluntaries and chants in English parish churches from the late eighteenth century onwards. Each instrument is described on a separate page accessed via Surviving Instruments. With the exception of six instruments, recordings of all the tunes are given. The instruments include: barrel organs: can only be played by barrel improved barrel organs: have three barrels mounted in a frame that can be rotated barrel & finger (or finger & barrel) organs: also have a keyboard dumb organists: attachments that enable a compatible finger organ to be played mechanically
Barrel organ
Barrel & finger organ
Dumb organist
Improved barrel organ
Only a handful of these instruments are still in the church where they were originally located. Many were acquired second-hand, sometimes resulting in the removal of the original organ builder’s name, and the addition of a barrel mechanism. It seems likely that some provincial builders purchased a barrel mechanism for inclusion in a locally-built organ. Although many surviving barrels are labelled with the name of the organ builder, in some cases they were supplied at a later date. Furthermore, some organs were supplied with no case, so that a local carpenter could provide one more economically. All these factors contribute to potential difficulties in dating instruments unless there is clear supporting evidence. The majority of the tunes listed on this website are those originally pinned on the instruments, but most of the organs and some of the mechanisms have undergone repair or restoration work. Some barrels were partially or completely repinned with new tunes during the mid- to late-nineteenth century, reflecting changing attitudes to church music-making. The Bibliography gives details of all the references given on this website. To find out more about the historical context for the use of church barrel organs see Maggie Kilbey, Music-making in the Hertfordshire parish 1760 to 1870 (Hatfield, 2020). Unless otherwise indicated, on this website all the recordings were made and the photographs taken by Marcel Glover.
© Maggie Kilbey & Marcel Glover 2021-2022
Barrel Organs in English Parish Churches
This website provides a summary of surviving organs with barrel mechanisms that were used to play metrical psalms, hymns, voluntaries and chants in English parish churches from the late eighteenth century onwards. Each instrument is described on a separate page accessed via Surviving Instruments. With the exception of six instruments, recordings of all the tunes are given. The instruments include: barrel organs: can only be played by barrel improved barrel organs: have three barrels mounted in a frame that can be rotated barrel & finger (or finger & barrel) organs: also have a keyboard dumb organists: attachments that enable a compatible finger organ to be played mechanically
Barrel organ
Barrel & finger organ
Dumb organist
Only a handful of these instruments are still in the church where they were originally located. Many were acquired second-hand, sometimes resulting in the removal of the original organ builder’s name, and the addition of a barrel mechanism. It seems likely that some provincial builders purchased a barrel mechanism for inclusion in a locally-built organ. Although many surviving barrels are labelled with the name of the organ builder, in some cases they were supplied at a later date. Furthermore, some organs were supplied with no case, so that a local carpenter could provide one more economically. All these factors contribute to potential difficulties in dating instruments unless there is clear supporting evidence. The majority of the tunes listed on this website are those originally pinned on the instruments, but most of the organs and some of the mechanisms have undergone repair or restoration work. Some barrels were partially or completely repinned with new tunes during the mid- to late-nineteenth century, reflecting changing attitudes to church music-making. The Bibliography gives details of all the references given on this website. To find out more about the historical context for the use of church barrel organs see Maggie Kilbey, Music-making in the Hertfordshire parish 1760 to 1870 (Hatfield, 2020). Unless otherwise indicated, on this website all the recordings were made and the photographs taken by Marcel Glover.
Improved barrel organ