Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : Visit to St. Michael's Barton and Christ Church Penrith : 14 September 2023

12 members and one visitor, Richard Hird (the DOA from Durham), enjoyed an interesting visit to two recently restored organs organised by Mike Town who knows both instruments well.

The first was in St. Michael's, Barton, near Pooley Bridge, a 12th century Norman church, well worth a visit in its own right for its unique and striking architectural features and monastic layout. Mike introduced the 2-manual organ built by Isaac Abbott in 1871 with a rousing piece by Noel Rawsthorne, "Exultemus". Abbott was a pupil of William Hill who built the 1866 Patterdale organ which this instrument unsurprisingly resembles. It was originally installed in the distant chancel, separated from the nave by an arched tower. Consequently it has a  very loud Open stop on the Great though in its present position at the back of the north aisle it is clearly audible to the congregation. In 2019 Andrew Carter was invited to tune it and found air leaking from the bellows mechanism together with severed trackers and multiple other problems. A planned programme of restoration was agreed with the church authorities which was carried out in 2021-3 and is now nearing completion.


After several members had enjoyed playing it, we adjourned to the Clickham Inn for an excellent lunch.

Fortified, we made the short journey to  Christ Church, Penrith, a sandstone edifice whose gloomy Victorian interior was somewhat relieved by the view of Beacon Hill through the (mostly) clear glass of the East window. Its 3-manual organ was built by Jardine in 1874. This had also been re-sited from the west end to its present rather inaccessible position in the north aisle behind the choir. Mike introduced it with another Rawsthorne piece, "Marche Triomphale". Work carried out in the 1920s, 80s and 90s resulted in an instrument with more stops on the Swell than the combined Great and Choir.

On being asked to tune it in 2019, Andrew Carter found debris from a plaster fall in the unenclosed Choir as well as bellows failure, the culprits this time being "Tunes" wrappers and woodworm! Restoration work in 2020-21 has resulted in a fine-sounding instrument whose varied range was enjoyed by those members prepared to brave the precarious descent to the organ pit!

National Pipe Organ Register Links

St. Michaels's, Barton
Christ Church, Penrith