The Organ of St Margaret's Church (and a choir)

by RW Standing

When Rev. William Kinleside put aside his beloved cello for the last time in 1836, perhaps this was also the beginning of the end for the church band at Angmering, which he is said to have encouraged in every way. The Rector was a music lover who would drive by coach to Chichester for a concert, at a time when there were no railways, and it might take a couple of hours and more by horse. 

In an incumbency of over sixty years, old ways die hard. It may be no coincidence that the very next year, in 1837, replanning the church got under way with rearranged and new pews.  A second gallery was installed in the south aisle, joined to the old west gallery against the tower, where the band would have played. While outside, the ancient churchyard was at last extended by a new south addition. Who exactly paid for the work in the church is not recorded. Subscriptions covered the parish costs and there are no accounts as yet seen, but the principal donor may not be hard to guess at.

The new Rector, by the way, was Henry Reeks, whose family moved to East Preston after he died in 1866. All were under thirty years, and yet described as annuitants in 1871, at which time Davis occupied “South Sea”, Walter occupied “Alma”, and Henry was at “Preston Cottage”. They were married and beginning to take part in social life, in the cricket club, when one after another from 1876 two of them and their wives died. However, Davis departed the village and it may be trusted had better fortune.

Rev. Kinleside is also notable, for marrying a daughter of the last in line of the true Gratwicke family of Ham. His son William Gratwicke Kinleside attached another Gratwicke to his name and carried on the dynasty until 1862, after he succeeded to the estate in 1822.  WGK Gratwicke had everything - wealth, long and powerful ancestry in the village, no family ties of his own, and now the opportunity to indulge himself as a Victorian philanthropist. There is some evidence that he had more ambitious ideas than those he did achieve, in building a new school, church and vestry. Other 'gothic' style cottages were probably planned near the church, which would have markedly changed the character of the centre of Angmering.

The Organ

J.F.F. Gardner   St Margaret, Angmering.  1946
Until late in the 19th century the Church music was supplied by a barrel organ with about eight tunes.  A man was required to turn the handle.  Mrs Alexander, who lives in the village, and is the daughter of Rev. J.B. Orme, the Rector from 1866 to 1913, possesses a cello which was played in Church before the installation of the present organ. It bears a label to the effect that it was made by Henry Jay in Windmill Street, near Picadilly, in 1783.  The present organ was given in memory of Getrude, wife of Lancelot Fletcher, who died on the 5th August, 1878.

The very cello that William Kinleside bought in 1783, the same year as the peal of six bells was cast for the church, at his instigation.

The term 'barrel organ' tends to be confused with hurdy-gurdy, a much more humble instrument unlikely to have been inflicted on the church. Some of these organs that survived into the 20th century were quite sophisticated instruments, with large assemblies of pipes much like any other church organ.  They originated in the 16th century and became extensively used in during the 18th century, and nearby Ferring and East Preston churches had their versions well into the 19th century.

Nothing is known of the Angmering instrument, but it may have been needed as a standby to take over from the band, and had undoubtedly been obtained during the incumbency of Rev. Reeks.  Plans made shortly before 1853, show this 'organ' at the back of the west gallery, set into the tower arch. It occupied a space of 5 feet by 2 feet 6 inches, no mean size. [1500mm by 750mm]  Otherwise there are no details.  Eight tunes was quite a normal repertoire, but it must have palled rather after a few years.

WGK Gratwicke set out on his ambitious rebuilding scheme in 1852, and a year later services began in the new church.  Plans of this building complete with furnishings, admittedly with alternative arrangements, had no space or provision for an organ of any kind on the main floor.  The west gallery did not now exist and although a north aisle gallery was installed, it was not a likely place for such an instrument.

At this very time the use of hymns and surpliced choirs was becoming fashionable. A hymnal of 1827 was succeeded by 'Ancient and Modern' forty years later. In this diocese an Association of Parochial Choirs held its first festival at Chichester Cathedral in 1863, and from 1872 local choirs held their own festival each year. Angmering hosted that first event, with choirs from Littlehampton, Poling, East Preston, Ferring, Goring, and Clapham.  In 1873, "The pretty village of Angmering was alive with children and other members of the choirs... while the beautiful peal of bells rang out."  Next year Arundel was the host, in the presence of the Bishop himself.

Musicians and barrel organs were now being replaced by more 'respectable' organs, to accompany the congregation and choirs.  Sadly, the grass roots participation of villagers in the music of the church came to an end, replaced by the lone figure of the trained instrumentalist, often enough the village school master.

In answer to this demand,  in 1860 WGK Gratwicke again stepped into the breach. [WSG June]   An excellent toned organ has been erected in Angmering church, kindly presented by W G. K Gratwick Esq of Ham. It is a beautiful instrument & was built by Mr Gates of Brighton who opened it on Sunday last when the principal part of the Cathedral service was executed to good effect. The Rev H Reeks took the opportunity of giving an address to his parishioners on the use of cultivating good congregational singing on the occasion. 

No record of this has been seen so far in parish archives.  This must have been one of his last acts of charity for the village, as he died two years later. A history of the bells by Miss Davis, does have an interesting note that "Towards the end of the 1870 's a gallery was erected in the tower to accommodate the organ". It may be suspected this took place slightly earlier to accommodate the Gratwicke organ.

As built in 1853, the church had a small vestry, only about 10 feet by 8 feet inside,  with a door into it from the north side of the chancel. In 1890, without a specific faculty being thought necessary, this small chamber was, extended northwards in line with the aisle wall.  At a later date another extension must have taken place to provide the eastern room. [EpI/22/2]  In the mean time no doubt,  the inconvenience of an organ in the midst of the church was soon felt.  When Gertrude, the wife of Lancelot Fletcher, died in 1878, Henry Fletcher of Ham Manor took the opportunity to provide a memorial and make his own mark on the church. [Par 6/4/7] "To build an Organ Chamber on the North Side of the Chancel of the Parish Church ... and to provide boys seat and Desk ... with power to remove the said Three flat stone slabs provided the same be replaced in a suitable position"  All at his own cost, as he specifically stated in an accompanying letter. In fact the faculty cost several pounds to the parish, but the organ and building costs were not revealed.
Old organ installed 1879

Letter headed "Ham Manor, Arundel"
To the Overseers and Rate Payers of the Parish of Angmering Sussex
It has been proposed and sanctioned at a Vestry Meeting of the ratepayers that certain alterations shall
take place as regards building an organ chamber etc in the Chancel of Angmering Church with a view of
placing therein either the present organ or a new one and I hereby guarantee that the whole expense
of the above alterations will be borne by me and that the parish will not be called upon to contribute in any way
I remain yours etc Henry Fletcher
Febry 15th 1879'

Notably there was a question as to whether the Gratwicke organ or a new instrument would be installed.

This work unfortunately entailed building between the vestry and the north aisle.  As a result one of the chancel windows was removed, containing stained glass.  This space is today a store attached to the vestry.

In the event it seems a new organ was obtained, built by Arthur Hill. [see photo right]. A leaflet published in 1990 has the full technical history of the instrument, and its improvements. It goes on to mention an improvement made by Hill and Son in 1909, with a specification. No confirmation of this has been found, vestry minutes are lacking for that period. This leaflet does not mention the Gates organ, so that whether any of it survived in 1879 and 1909 is not stated.

It would appear that the enclosed organ chamber was never very satisfactory.  So much so that in 1924 it was resolved, "that from a musical point of view it was desirable that an arch should be formed in the north Aisle to allow the Organ to be heard properly in the Church".  In the event this was not carried out, and it was another sixty years before radical action was taken.

Some improvements were made. In 1928 the old gas lighting to the church was replaced by an 'invisible and diffused' scheme, by Messrs Peskett & Co of Angmering.  The opportunity was immediately taken of providing an organ blower. to replace the manual system. 

The post of organist was fairly well paid, so far as most people in the parish would have believed. Miss Orme, a daughter of the former Rector, retired in 1925, and Mr CH Payton took over at a salary of £40.  It would be interesting if all the organists could be traced and their salaries.
Organ pipes after 1988

[Neil Hare 1990] 
In the mid 1980s and after 70 years of service the action of the organ was beginning to show its age. The pneumatic system in particular was becoming sluggish and unreliable. This, coupled with the growth of congregational participation, and the inability of the organ to provide a substantial lead to singing in the nave gave the church the necessary encouragement to undertake the present major rebuilding and resiting of the instrument. Several organ builders looked at the instrument and all were agreed on the necessity to bring the pipework out of the Chancel position and place it in front of the Tower Arch. [see photo left] The construction of a new ringing gallery provided an ideal opportunity to prepare a suitable organ platform.

....... a scheme which was of great benefit to the acoustics of the organ, and assistance to the bell ringers. rather less benefit to the aesthetics of the church, obscuring the fine large tower arch, and the west window, with its stained glass given by George Olliver of Kingston.

On June 2nd 1988 the PCC took the unanimous decision to place the order for the rebuilding and resiting of the organ with Deane Organs of Taunton, Somerset. All the old Hill pipework has been retained and we now have an instrument of great aesthetic and musical beauty.  On June 22nd 1990 the organ and bells were rededicated at a special service. At this stage only the swell organ and 16' pedal pipes were available. The final pipes went in on Friday 24th August 1990. On the following day it was used for the first time as a complete instrument at two weddings  The organ was opened by Jane Watts on Saturday 24th November 1990. The finished organ sounded remarkable for an instrument of such a small size.


RW Standing
August 2007