St. Bartholomew's, Armley

The Schulze Organ Story



The organ at Meanwood Towers, designed by Pugin the younger, stood in the grounds 110feet NE of the SE corner of the mansion, but no trace of it now remains. It appears on the plans of 1925 and 1940, but not on that of 1946, the site now being occupied by No. 29 Towers Way, and the whole width of the road fronting No. 29. In the plan, as shown on the deeds of the property, it was an irregular Latin cross measuring externally 65 feet in length and 44 feet in width, the central aisle being 21 feet wide. The latter width corresponds to the final internal measurement of 20 feet given by Kennedy in July, 1868, as the space available for the organ.

In Albutt’s words:

The First Recital
Naturally, when the organ was complete, the Kennedy’s wished to have a formal “opening” by some great exponent of the instrument, and Samuel Sebastian Wesley, organist of Gloucester Cathedral and foremost amongst catherdral organists of his day, both as composer and performer, was the obvious choice because of his earlier connection with Leeds. Great nephew of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, grandson of Charles Wesley the hymn writer, and son of Samuel Wesley, a brilliant organist and composer, the young Samuel Sebastian was appointed organist of Hereford Cathedral in 1832, aged 22. He moved to Exeter Cathedral in 1835, but was frustrated and constantly in dispute with the Dean and Chapter, owing to the low ebb to which English cathedral music had sunk at that time. In 1842, at the invitation of Dr. Walter Farquhar Hook, Vicar of Leeds, Wesley became the first organist (but not choirmaster) of the rebuilt Leeds Parish Church, where he established the high standard of choral and organ music for which the church has ever since been famous. He brought with him the young William Spark, later to become the first City Organist of Leeds and a great admirer of the Armley Schulze organ. The choirmaster from c.1845 was Robert Senior Burton, who succeeded Wesley as organist in 1949, and, in later years, together with Leeds Parish Church Choir, took part in the opening of the Schulze organ both at Harrogate and Armley. His association with Wesley at Leeds was not a happy one, owing to a conflict of personalities.

Wesley was only persuaded to give the opening recital with considerable difficulty, as he was unwilling to play before a party of guests, and it was only on the hard condition that no one should be present except Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, Schulze and Allbutt, that the master consented to play at Meanwood Towers. Allbutt describes the recital thus:

The Specification of the Original Organ
The original case, stop action, pneumatic lever and tracker actions, keyboards, pedals, hand-blowing and hydraulic-blowing equipments have all vanished, and of the original console only the stop knobs (with two exceptions), the stop jambs and the organ bench remain.  Preserved for many years by J. J. Binns in the voicing room of the factory at Bramley, the stop knobs, mounted on the original jambs, were acquired by the Leeds Corporation in 1953  (when Messrs. Binns, Fitton & Haley,  successors  to  J. J. Binns, closed down) for the Kirkstall Abbey Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds, but were only exhibited there for a very short time, being stored elsewhere until 1975, when they were only located with considerable difficulty and returned to the organ loft at Armley.

The original left-hand stop jamb
from the Meanwood Organ.

Left and right, are the original straight stop jambs on which the stop knobs are now mounted in what is not necessarily the original order, but these afford the only authentic record of the original specification of the organ. 

The knobs are turned from rosewood to a uniform pattern, including those of the two pedal stops added in 1879. Inset in the face of each knob is a glazed white ceramic plate bearing the name and pitch of the stop (or coupler) in English block letters (right). The knobs have evidently suffered many accidents, two plates being so damaged as to be illegible (Trompete of Hauptwerk and Horn of Schweller), whilst many are cracked and two knobs have vanished entirely (Cornett of Chorwerk and a coupler of unknown function). The names on the plates are in many cases well preserved in black characters, but others are very faded, although still legible.

Since the latter are distributed in a random manner over the jambs, it seems unlikely that the fading is due to the action of light, but rather that Messrs. Schulze & Sons obtained the plates in batches, as required, and that the present set includes plates from at least two batches differing in permanence. 

The original right-hand stop jamb from
the Meanwood Organ.

The plates of the Metal Principal Bass 16ft. and Sub Bass 32ft. are clearly different from the remainder of the Pedal stops, being of a more opaque white ceramic base and inscribed in different characters. When these two stops were added in 1879, the double row of Pedal stop knobs was extended and, to accommodate the additions, the plate inscribed "Pedal" was moved upwards on the jamb, the old screw holes remaining visible.

The right jamb includes the brass pulley for the "tell-tale" and the left jamb has a roughly-cut hole, now covered by an oak patch, which probably contained the starting valve for the hydraulic engine.

The rectangular plates denoting the various departments of the organ, Hauptwerk, Echo and Pedal on the right jamb; Coppel, Chorwerk and Schweller on the left jamb, were probably painted white originally (now yellow with age), with the name of the department in large black letters between horizontal red and black lines.  Affixed to the jamb by the original brass screws, these plates have a most unorthodox appearance to the eye accustomed to the neat ivory plates of the English console.

The group of couplers from the
left jamb

The workmanship of the jambs appears rough by comparison with the Binns console now in use, and the massive stop knobs (1.7 in. in diameter and 2.7 in. long) each attached to an oak stop rod 0.85 in. diameter, and with a long straight draw, must have rendered changes in registration very difficult whilst playing, unless assisted. It is by no means certain that the ceramic plates, or even the stop knobs, are of German origin, since in a letter to Kennedy of 26th June, 1868, Messrs. Schulze & Sons wrote:

“We quite agree with you that it is better to obtain the little plates and knobs for
the stops in England. But there is plenty of time to order these when our
Edmund comes to visit you”.

The readable stop knobs on the jambs present some problems. The stop knob shows the Mixtur of the Hauptwerk (Great Organ) as having five ranks when the organ arrived at Armley, which is confirmed by the Press specifications of the organ when at Harrogate and when removed to Armley. Similarly, the Rausch Quinte  appears as a two-rank  mixture (II fach) with the two ranks drawn together, as at present.  It is therefore very singular that, in the two Press specifications mentioned above, the ranks are described as being drawn separately, and as Twelfth and Fifteenth in one case, but as Octave Quinte and Superoctave in the other case.  Further, the latter nomenclature is repeated both on the sheet printed for the opening of the organ in 1879 entitled:

“Description of the Organ in St. Bartholomew’s, Armley, the gift of H.W.Eyres, Esq.
Built by Edmund Schulze, of Paulinzelle, Germany (erected by Messres. Brindley & Foster)”
and as late as 14th August, 1889, in the specification printed with the programme of a recital given by Mr. T. Cawthra.  Since the Press specifications differ in the stop nomenclature used, it is probable that they were both in error when written, due to inaccuracy in recording the legend on the stop knob and subsequent correction to correspond with organ design customary in this country.

An original stop knob from the Swell, turned from rosewood and with a glazed white ceramic name-plate inset, bearing the name in English block letters but retaining the German nomenclature.

Fortunately this point is made clear by the writings of Dr. William Spark, City Organist of Leeds, who wrote a series of articles on "Sunday Musical Services in Leeds," published "in a weekly contemporary" c. 1885.  Cuttings of the third article, preserved with the Armley Church records, deal with the services, choir and organ of St. Bartholomew's.  In the specification of the organ, the stop nomenclature has been greatly altered by Spark to conform with English usage (e.g. "Open Diapason" in place of Major Principal; "Dulciana" in place of Dolcissimo) and the Piccolo of the Choir Organ is incorrectly stated to be of 2ft. pitch, but in the Great Organ stop No. 9 is clearly described as "Twelfth and Fifteenth (on one slide) 2⅔ft. and 2ft."  Finally, examination of the Great Organ soundboard, which appears to be original, shows that the Rausch Quinte slider is too narrow ever to have allowed separation of the two ranks, and it is in any case most unlikely that any organist would have had them united as a two-rank mixture if they had been separate originally.

The couplers present a problem made more difficult by the fact that one stop knob is missing from the coupler group. The Press specifications of the organ at Harrogate and when first at Armley, the specification printed for the opening of the organ in 1879, and that included with the recital programme of 1889, all agree in listing five "Coppel" i.e. couplers:

1. Hauptwerk zum Scheller 2. Chorwerk zum Scheller 3. Hauptwerk zum Pedal) 4. Scheller zum Pedal)
5. Chorwerk zum Pedal

(Great to Swell) (Choir to Swell) (Great to Pedal) (Swell to Pedal) (Choir to Pedal)

Of these, Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 remain on the stop jamb , although in the case of No. 5 the spelling "Pedale" is inconsistent with the remainder. No. 1 is replaced on the stop jamb by a knob carrying the reversed legend Schweller zum Hauptwerk - the normal Swell to Great coupler in England, and a sixth coupler is assumed to have occupied the vacant hole in the jamb, which appears to be original. There is no evidence of any removal of the name plate "Coppel" above the coupler group to a fresh position on the jamb and the grouping of the knobs suggests strongly that there were originally six couplers present. Since the early Schulze specification of 6th October, 1866, included both Oberwerk to Grosswerk and the reverse coupler Grosswerk to Oberwerk, it is consistent to assume that the missing coupler on the stop jamb was Hauptwerk zum Schweller, as listed in the Press and other specifications. 

If this were so, it is difficult to understand the omission of the Schweller zum Hauptwerk coupler when the specification was recorded. Another possibility, suggested by Mr. J. J. F. Watkins, a former organist of the church, is that the missing coupler was Chorwerk zum Hauptwerk.  The ceramic plates of the coupler knobs show the variation in permanence of the lettering described above, not all being of one batch, and it is not possible to exclude changes in the couplers on transfer of the organ to Harrogate, or later to Armley, or even during the early years at Armley.
Manual blowing equipment existed until the 1956 renovation at Armley, consisting of six feeder bellows operated by two large hand wheels, the wind passing into a long wind chest on the top of the mechanism, and thence into the main wind trunk leading from the blowing chamber.  Mr. Watkins witnessed the removal of this apparatus in February, 1956, and found from the condition of the interior of the feeders that they had been very little used.  He considered that four men would have been required to blow the organ.

Although only hydraulic blowing equipment is mentioned in the German correspondence, the rather primitive manual apparatus described may well have been provided by Messrs. Schulze & Sons, either at Meanwood or on removal to Harrogate or to Armley.  The great Schulze organ at Doncaster Parish Church was provided with a larger blowing mechanism operated by the weight of the men so employed!

The following is the specification of the organ as it is believed to have been built at Meanwood Towers, derived from a comparison of the original stop jambs and knobs, removed by Binns in 1905, with the recorded specifications mentioned above.  The stop nomenclature is exactly as shown on the original knobs, with the addition of the Chorwerk Cornett II-V fach, of which the knob is now missing, completion of the legends on the damaged knobs and correction of the "Chorwerk zum Pedale" error. Two alternative suggestions are included for the missing coupler.


How to find us

Wesley Road, Armley, Leeds, LS12 1SR 

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£20.00, payable on 15th March each year.
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stbartsarmley@gmail.comm (omit the final m)

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Organ History M. Collins