St. Bartholomew's, Armley

The Schulze Organ Story



Mike Collins (1940-2013) wrote:

In the late-September of 2000, the Church exterior was rapidly being cocooned in scaffolding. Fittingly, Prof. Graham Barber gave a short closing recital to visitors at the Leeds Heritage Open Weekend on Sunday afternoon, 16th September, 2000. He concluded with a requested performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which, despite a storming presentation, managed to adequately show up the faults and problems that lay within.

The organ remained silent throughout 2001, as the interior of the Church underwent its transformation.

At last, in May, 2002, work began on the organ. Harrison and Harrison of Durham were on site over a period of five weeks, taking out the whole of its interior. Most of it was transported to their workshop, leaving only the lower end of the 32-foot Pedal rank in situ, along with a variety of pipes which would require little more than cleaning.

Above: the Organ chamber,
bereft of pipes.

Pedal pipes, stacked along the North side-aisle of the Nave.

Left: Pedal pipes, adorning the Benjamin Gott statue.

Left: A sight to remember

The Swell soundboard in transit

The stripped down Manuals at the Harrison & Harrison’s

New frame being built at Harrison & Harrison’s in Durham

Pipes piled on scaffolding in the Lady Chapel

Of great interest was the question of overall layout. To the best of our knowledge the various organs were arranged in a similar fashion to their original set-up at Meanwood, and later in St. Peter's in Harrogate. Judging by the somewhat cramped layout before 2002, the arrangement of the various departments must have been retained as at St. Peter’s, perfectly fitting the south transept there. It appears that no opportunity was taken to house the organ differently within the extra space afforded by the gargantuan proportions of St. Bartholomew's. In the former layout the bulk of the Great Organ was felt to somewhat obscure the Choir and Echo, both of which were situated behind the console and below the level of the Great, the Echo being against the north wall of the transept. Where the sound would have filtered out within the confines of the Meanwood chalet, it tended to appear muffled from the back of the large auditorium at Armley. Hence the proposition to bring both the Choir and Echo up to a position level with the Great. Also advantageous was the positioning of the soundboards running at right angles to the face of the organ, the pipes being planted semi-tonally, from the smallest at the front.

The new arrangement prompted the moving of the Swell Organ upwards and forward. Further to that, new shutters were fitted which give a greater dynamic breadth. Our advisors underlined the fact that decisions regarding the voicing of the pipes could only be taken following further study and research, after examining other existing examples of Schulze's work. The overall policy was for a comprehensive and meticulous restoration, in which aspects of the organ's musical and mechanical state would be paramount. Materials and methods conformed as much as possible to the original works.

The organ is now protected from the elements, and will enjoy less violent temperature fluctuations in the future. This also goes for humidity variations that recent records showed varied considerably. To balance this, an automatically controlled humidifier has been added to the pump room feeding directly into the wind supply. With the changes within the church the organ is also rid of damaging fumes and water vapour. Audiences at concerts are now more comfortable, with suitable lighting and relatively silent and effective heating, and they will ultimately enjoy facilities compatible with a modern concert hall.

From June, 2003, several contractors were used to provide electric points and lighting, a water supply and humidifier. Now the interior of the chamber is illuminated to provide excellent facilities for tuning and maintenance, and power points are strategically placed (except for the later discovered omission of one to fit a small heater to warm up the organist!). Harrison & Harrison’s contractors again erected scaffolding, this time to the full height of the organ. This enabled them to clean and gently polish the whole case, and the uppermost angels were part gilded by local labour. From July onwards the organ frame was reconstructed and the organ returned to the new layout.

In early January, 2004 the organ was ready for the final pipe installations and for final voicing and tuning. This was a long and laborious operation and was only partly completed when the organ was heard again for the first time on Sunday, 22nd February. It was prematurely rededicated, along with the church, by the Archbishop of York on March 3rd.

This stunning picture, taken by Phill Davis, shows part of the Great (front), some Pedal box pipes, the full rank of the Echo, and much of the Choir.

The boxed Swell rank is on the floor above.


How to find us

Wesley Road, Armley, Leeds, LS12 1SR 

To make a regular contribution to the Schulze Organ Maintenance Fund,
by Standing Order,


£20.00, payable on 15th March each year.
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Organ History M. Collins