St. Bartholomew's, Armley




It is appropriate that the Schulze family shared the Thuringia area of Germany with Johann Sebastian Bach, missing out on being contemporaries by no more than a whisker. J.S.B. died in 1750, while Johann Andreas Schulze was born three years later, to become a renowned organ builder in the area. He was succeeded by his son, Johann Friedrich in 1806. It seems that J.F.S. took the art he had inherited and expanded the horizons by studying acoustics, and associating with Gottlob Tõpfer, professor of music and organist of Weimar, a position not exactly unknown by Bach himself.   J.F.Schulze moved from Milbitz to the neighbouring village of
  Paulinzelle, (now Paulinzella) in 1826, where he set up house and workshops for what was becoming one of the most renowned organ building firms in Europe. He was well known by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg who was shortly to get his under the table of the British throne.  It was natural that Albert, setting up his Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851 should think of Schulze when it came to providing an organ for Crystal Palace, after which the name Schulze became the musical flavour of the gentry, especially 'oop north', in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where the brass was.


J.F.Schulze had six sons, and on his death in 1858, the eldest, Heinrich Edmund took over the firm, ably assisted in various ways by the rest of the family. Oskar, for instance, was greatly respected for his knowledge of the acoustical aspect, while Herwart was an accomplished wood carver and joiner. No doubt the great front doors to the family home were a result of his efforts, with their carved panels displaying the joiner's and organ builder's arts.


(left) Front door to the family house. (right) Main door panels, undoubtedly carved by the family.




Paulinzella, site of the former workshops of J.F.Schulze & Sons was the birthplace of the Armley Organ. In our case it was the '& Sons' who carried out the work. This small village, which was known as Paulinzelle in the Schulze era, lies 100 km south-west of Leipzig in Germany, and not far from Weimar. It is best described in a contemporary account in the way that T.S.Kennedy and his companion and chronicler of the early days of the Armley Schulze, Thomas Clifford Allbutt, came upon it in 1866. This is Allbutt's account as set out in 'The Armley Schulze Organ' by Kenneth I.Johnstone (no longer available):
"... we drove through the uplands and woodlands of Thuringia till we arrived on a certain hilltop whence we looked down upon a village in a dale not very far from Weimar [30 km to the north-east]; a little way out of the village beside a stream running down from a glen in the Schwarsburg we saw the organ works of the brothers Schulze, whose father had been an organ builder there before them. In a rustic building with a small water wheel, little more than a roomy carpenter's shop, we were fortunate to find the artist at home. ... we passed an idyllic two days with this simple-hearted and gifted family in their beautiful home; some hours we spent with them on the hills, some in the humming shop by the little beck ..."


From left to right: the Schulze Family home, the Finishing Shop
                                                 and  the Workshop beside the stream.




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Meanwood, now a suburb of Leeds, was the site chosen by Thomas Stuart Kennedy for his home. Kennedy, who commissioned the Organ from the Schulze family, built himself a large mansion, known as 'The Towers', the house name no doubt derived from the towering chimney stacks which characterised the building. (It might well have become known as 'The Stumps', since the chimneys were prone to toppling in high winds.) In Kennedy's day, the house would overlook Meanwood Valley, now a dribble of greenery following a small tributary to the River Aire, running from Leeds' green belt down towards the city centre. There would be a strong awareness at the time of the local leather industry, Meanwood being home to one of the city's large tanneries, completed in 1857. Capable of dealing with 70,000 hides at a time, the works along with neighbouring ones at Kirkstall had to import raw materials from as far away as India, since it's demand easily out-stripped the home supply.


Still standing, the house looks quite incongruous as it centres a small estate of mid-20th century housing. No.29, Towers Way, and the full width of roadway fronting the property, now stand on the site of the former Organ House.




Meanwood Towers, in the mid 20th century.

Area once occupied by the Organ chalet.


Harrogate, the second home of the Armley Schulze, was by the end of the 19th Century a thriving and fashionable spa town. Nicholas Carter, of Spring Bank in the town, was one of the main developers of Harrogate as a spa, and it was his two daughters who purchased the Organ from Mr.Kennedy. Over 80 springs provided the town with its main attraction, now a thing of the past, surviving at present only in museum form. (Currently there are plans to restore them to their original glory.) Since the middle of the 20th Century Harrogate has taken off as a major conference centre, along with its horticultural connections. It hosts the renowned annual flower show in the near-by grounds of the Great Yorkshire Show. From Leeds, the popular view of Harrogate is one of superior company, or more to the point 't'folk theer are nobbut stuck up'. Certainly, in the period when our Organ was moving around the County, it was the haunt of the select.
St. Peter's,  where  the  Organ  rested  briefly,  is a  very attractive town centre church, built in 1876. It is happily able to boast  the  fact  that  it  is  open every day, so there is little

restriction to visiting what turned out to be Edmund Schulze's last organ (the replacement for the one bought for Armley). However, the instrument can hardly now be labelled as the work of Schulze, as it has been considerably altered over the years by various builders, especially in 1952 when it underwent a major re-build, during which they 'used some old pipework, but also took the opportunity to extend the instrument'*. In 1986 they even had two electronic 32 foots added, stepping even further away from the Schulze recipe! As a contemporary, St.Peter's could hardly be more different from the Church at Armley, and a visit makes it obvious that in terms of organ design, what suited one could hardly sound right in the other. The visitor should also note that Schulze was obliged to install the Meanwood organ in the wide but stunted South Transept of St. Peter's, making it remote from the main body of the Church. It's replacement commands a much better position in the former vestry area to the south of the chancel.

* From the current organ leaflet on display in and available from St.Peter's.


For details of St.Peter's Organ restoration programme -



St.Peter's, Harrogate.

The current organ, adapted from the original replacement Schulze.


Armley, in Leeds, is now described by the loaded term 'inner city'. From no more than a hamlet in the 18th Century, it had grown into a township of around 30,000 people by 1900. This came about purely through industrialisation, marked in Armley's case by many mills, some of which still exist, albeit dormant or serving some other purpose. In its day, towards the end of the 19th Century, Armley was a concentration of back-to-back terraces, with still enough whiff of the country to be home to a number of wealthy industrialists. Before long, these leaders of society were obliged to seek more salubrious out-of-city areas, leaving behind a growing working class population and the embarrassment of abandoned manor houses. For this reason, the Church of St.Bartholomew's now stands out like a sore thumb, above the clutter of modern streets and basic housing. It was the wealth and rivalry of the local notables which lumbered the people of Armley with this cathedral-like edifice (in terms of internal volume it is the largest church in the whole of the Ripon and Leeds Diocese, not counting the cathedral at Ripon itself). Contemporary wealthy jostling adorned the Church with the extravagances of late-Victoriana, fortunately stopping short before all the wall panels were filled with colourful mosaics. While it is a worthy auditorium for the mighty Schulze Organ, the Church is now quite incongruous in the local community, yet it remains as the focal identity for the populace.




      A recent picture of Gott's Park Mansion

Armley, in common with many other places, if you try hard enough, can be traced back to pre-Domesday times, as the fortified settlement of a Danish chieftain. It really came into its own in the 18th Century, with the arrival of the woollen mills, with Armley Mills being at one time the largest woollen mill in the world.   Later, Armley Mills was bought and augmented by Benjamin Gott, the main benefactor of the original church next to the present site of St.Bartholomew's.



Armley Mills is now preserved as a fascinating industrial museum. Armley's less proud boast is the impressive castellated structure of Armley Gaol, with its central tower, romantically presumed by all the local youngsters to be the place where the many executions took place.
From a position of localised wealth in the late 19th Century, Armley has fallen into the implied poverty which 'inner city' brings to mind.  Certainly, no-where within its bounds is there the wherewithal to support unaided a Church the size of St.Bartholomew's or the particular appreciation of an inheritance such as the nationally unique Armley Schulze Organ.






The  vast  auditorium of  the  'New'  Church  of  St.Bartholomew,  Armley

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