Organ and Restoration

The restored 1865 Hill organ at St Bride’s. Photo: Max Hepburn

(completed March 2018)
See below for details, and click HERE to see Organ Restoration gallery.

“… an organ of a superior description …”

On Sunday 15 January 1865, the first pipe organ to be legally installed and authorised for use in Divine Worship in an ‘Established’ Church of Scotland (after the Reformation) was inaugurated at the new Anderston Parish Church. It was built by the renowned London organ building firm of William Hill & Son, with the Glasgow Herald of the following day observing “We may add that an organ of a superior description has been fitted up in the building, and this instrument was yesterday played upon by Mr Lambeth“. Mr Lambeth had been Organist to the Glasgow Corporation since 1853.

Minor alterations were undertaken by Harrison & Harrison of Durham in 1882, under the direction of organist Josiah Ives (later the City Organist of Adelaide, Australia).

As a result of the union of the Church of Scotland congregations in the Anderston district, the church building (by then known as Anderston-St Peter’s Parish Church) became redundant, and sadly was demolished in 1969 when the M8 motorway was built. The venerable Hill organ was removed to storage and installed, with minor alterations, in St Bride’s in 1972 by James A. MacKenzie, a noted Glasgow organ builder. It replaced a nine-stop three-manual and pedal Peter Conacher chamber organ, which had been in the church since 1916.

In 2011 BBC Radio Scotland recorded a fascinating interview with Chris Bragg at St Bride’s about the Hill organ. You can listen to it HERE.

Classics Unwrapped

The William Hill & Son organ (1865) of St Bride’s Episcopal Church, Glasgow

Restored console, with new pedalboard and bench. Photo: Max Hepburn


Open Diapason                   8
Stopped Diapason              8
Dulciana                               8
Principal                              4
Wald Flute                          4
Twelfth                         2 2/3
Fifteenth                             2
Mixture                             III
Trumpet                              8


Bourdon                             16
Open Diapason                   8
Stopped Diapason              8
Principal                              4
Fifteenth                              2
Mixture                              III
Horn                                     8
Oboe                                     8


Open Diapason                   16
Bourdon                               16

Great to Pedals
Swell to Pedals
Swell to Great

Three composition pedals to the Great Organ
Balanced swell pedal

Mechanical action

Manual compass 56 notes, pedal compass 30 notes
Watkins & Watson “Discus” blower

The Hill organ in its original home, Anderston-St Peter’s Parish Church

Fortunately the St Bride’s organ escaped modernisation, a practice that was prevalent amongst organ builders in the 1970s, except for the worn-out (straight and flat) pedalboard, which was replaced by a new (radiating and concave) pedalboard. Therefore the magnificent organ in St Bride’s today is more or less in its original, tonally unaltered state. It is an organ not only of considerable historical interest, but also a musical instrument of outstanding quality and of national importance in its own right. In recognition of this, in 2010 it was awarded a Historic Organ Certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies.

Honorary Patron: Dr George McPhee MBE DUniv BMus FRCO DipMusEd Hon. FRSCM Hon. FGCM, Director of Music, Paisley Abbey

Project Officer: Max Hepburn

Inevitably, 150 years of almost constant usage, wear and tear, dust and damage had taken their toll. The time had come for our wonderful Hill organ to be completely restored to its original glory. We have saved not just a musical instrument, but also a priceless part of Glasgow’s musical heritage and social history. More than this, we hope to use the restoration to open the doors of St Bride’s more frequently to the wider community, by holding many more concerts, guided tours and events. Please see our Concerts web page, Facebook page, and Organ Recitals listing for full details of events involving the restored Hill organ:

St Bride’s Facebook

St Bride’s Organ Recitals 2017-18

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the following individuals, groups and organisations:

Dr Miles Gaythwaite
Dr George McPhee MBE, Honorary Patron of the Organ Restoration Appeal
The estate of the late Robert Lamont, former Choirmaster of St Bride’s
The estate of the late Lily Bland, former Organist of St Bride’s
AS Scaffolding Ltd
The Bellahouston Bequest Fund

The John Pilling Trust
The ON Organ Fund
The Edenhall Charitable Trust
AllChurches Trust Ltd
The Douglas Estate
The Angus Estate
Glasgow Society of Organists
Everyone who has supported the Organ Appeal in any way

What was wrong with the organ?

Great Open Diapason, Trumpet, Mixture showing accumulation of dust and debrit
Great Open Diapason, Trumpet and Mixture showing accumulation of dust and debris. Photo: Matthew Hynes
  • The interior of the organ was choked with dust, making it impossible to keep in tune (see photo, right)
  • Water from the leaking roof (now repaired) had badly damaged the bellows, the Swell box, the Swell soundboard (on which the pipes for the Swell keyboard sit, and from which they draw their wind), the mechanical linkages (‘action’) to the Pedal Open Diapason stop and some wooden pipes on the Great
  • The important Swell Horn stop had been rendered completely unusable
  • The bass pipes of the Swell Oboe stop had mostly collapsed (see photo below)
  • The modern pedalboard fitted in 1972 was worn out and had become unreliable
  • The key and drawstop mechanisms throughout the organ were showing significant wear and tear
  • The Swell expression pedal did not stay fully closed
Swell, collapsed Oboe bass pipes with Fifteenth in front
Collapsed bass pipes of Swell Oboe stop. Photo: Matthew Hynes

What did the project entail?

  • The organ was dismantled and moved to the workshop of Harrison & Harrison in Durham, for six months
  • The pipework was cleaned, and damaged pipes were repaired
  • Special techniques were used to restore the collapsed bass pipes of the Oboe stop
  • The bellows (12 ft long by 3 ft wide) were completely re-leathered
  • The soundboards (on which the pipes sit) were overhauled
  • All mechanisms (for the keyboards, pedalboard and stop controls) were restored
  • The two stops added to the Swell in 1972 (Fifteenth and Scharf Mixture) were revoiced and the Mixture was re-composed in a manner befitting the Victorian aesthetic of the instrument
  • The modern, radiating/concave pedalboard added in 1972 was replaced by a straight/flat pedalboard faithful to the style of the original
  • The front casework was stripped and refinished in a more natural wood colour
  • The console was cleaned and the stop knob engravings were re-filled


Fr Kevin Francis, Rector of St Bride’s

“Music has a very special place in the life of St Bride’s. Our services on Sundays and other Feast Days are in most part sung, and we host a range of concerts, recitals and community events. In all this, our wonderful and historic Hill organ plays a central part. But now over 150 years old, it needs some urgent help, to which this appeal is directed.

I hope you find the contents of this web page inspiring in at least three respects: First, the craftsmanship of the organ builders and all those entrusted with the instrument’s care; secondly, the dedication and commitment of our team to restoring the organ to its original glory; and thirdly, the desire of all concerned to continue to use the organ in our worship, to enrich the lives of the community, and bring joy to music lovers everywhere.

Please join us and contribute to this great project!”


George McPhee, Director of Music, Paisley Abbey
George McPhee photo

“I am delighted to support the restoration of the Hill organ at St Bride’s (Scottish Episcopal) Church, Glasgow. I have had a long acquaintance with this instrument stretching back to the 1940s, when my father was organist at Anderston-St Martin’s Church of Scotland. The organ was installed there in 1865. Sadly the church was demolished in 1969, but very happily the organ was re-installed in its present situation, where it now enhances the church’s liturgy and acts as a notable recital instrument. The years have taken their toll on the organ, however, and much work is urgently required. Fortunately it is in very good hands, as Harrison & Harrison Ltd of Durham will carry out the work in 2017, under the very capable supervision of Matthew Hynes.

This superb and historic instrument deserves to be lovingly restored and, as Honorary Patron of the Appeal, I heartily endorse the project so that future generations can enjoy the organ’s unique qualities.”

Thomas Heywood, International Concert Organist (Melbourne, Australia)Thomas Heywood

“As every pipe organ is completely different, it has been said that pipe organs are rather like people: some good, some bad, some indifferent. If the glorious Hill organ now in St Bride’s was a person, it would be someone you’d want to be around, someone you’d want to spend a lot of quality time with. Apart from the invaluable cultural and historic worth of the instrument – there’s even a 19th-century Australian connection! – the major point is that it is such an incredibly beautiful and worthwhile ‘person’. And that ‘person’, surviving and celebrating their 150th birthday in 2015, deserves our praise and tangible support.”

How much did it cost?

The total cost of this comprehensive restoration, the first such undertaking in the organ’s lifetime, was £150,000 + VAT. Once restored, the organ should not require any significant work for up to 100 years. All contributions to the Organ Fund from now on will guarantee the future maintenance of the instrument.

Through our own fundraising endeavours, and with the very generous contributions of many donors and grant-awarding bodies (see list above), we reached our target. The VAT incurred was reclaimed through the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.

How can I help?

Your donation, large or small, will help to ensure that our wonderful organ is able to contribute to the life of St Bride’s and the wider community for generations to come; the organ is used extensively for Services, and for teaching and practice purposes by students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and other musicians, and also for concerts and community events. Your support will also help to safeguard a priceless musical heritage and a unique piece of Scotland’s social history. Future donations will go towards the maintenance of the instrument.

You can send a cheque payable to ‘St Bride’s Episcopal Church’ (please write ‘ORGAN FUND’ on the back of the cheque) directly to us at our address (if you are a UK tax payer, Gift Aid will add an extra 25% to your donation at no extra cost to you – see below for a printable Gift Aid / Sponsor a Pipe form). Of course everyone is welcome at all of our Services throughout the week, and you can find out more there and make a donation to the fund.

Sponsor a Pipe!

Did you know that the organ at St Bride’s has no fewer than 1224 pipes, ranging in size from under six inches to 16 feet long? This is your chance to adopt one! For each pipe you adopt, you will receive a certificate. Alternatively, you can sponsor a pipe in memory of a friend or relative, or as a special gift. Full details about the Sponsor a Pipe scheme can be found in our Organ Restoration Appeal booklets (including Sponsor a Pipe/Gift Aid form) which are available in the church and via the PDF link below.

St Bride’s Organ Restoration Appeal booklet (PDF) including Sponsor a Pipe/Gift Aid form

A separate PDF of the Sponsor a Pipe form on its own can be found HERE. Simply print the form, fill it in, including the Gift Aid declaration if you are a UK tax payer, and send the form with your donation cheque (payable to ‘St Bride’s Episcopal Church’) to the St Bride’s address on the form. Please write ‘ORGAN FUND’ on the back of the cheque.

‘Organs in Glasgow’ CD now available to purchase!

We now have copies of this excellent 2004 recording by Delphian Records, of six magnificent historic organs in Glasgow, featuring our own Hill organ, played by world-renowned Bach specialist Prof. John Butt OBE. The other organist on the recording is the highly respected Dr John Kitchen MBE, and the music includes works by Mendelssohn, Parry, Leighton, Vierne, JS Bach, Tomkins, Brahms and Karg-Elert. The CD costs £12, or you can buy two for £20. All proceeds go towards the St Bride’s Organ Fund.

To order a CD, please write to St Bride’s Episcopal Church, 69 Hyndland Rd, Glasgow G12 9UX. Give your name, address and contact email / phone number, state how many CDs you would like to purchase, and enclose a cheque payable to ‘St Bride’s Episcopal Church’ with your order. One CD = £12, two CDs per order = £20. Your CD(s) will then be posted to you.

Organ CDs


EuroAGO visit - group
Visit to St Bride’s by the European Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, April 2016. Photo: Alison Gifford.

Organ Restoration Appeal Display

The two pictures below show our Organ Restoration Appeal display which is now installed at St Bride’s. It has lots of information about the project; you can also discover how an organ works. Come along and have a look!

Organ display 2     Organ display 3

Who was William Hill?

William Hill

William Hill (1789-1870) was the most progressive organ builder in 19th century England. Born into the genteel cultural world of Georgian England, the organs he grew up hearing were soft, delicate instruments of sophisticated refinement. Playing the organ with one’s feet, common in Germany since the 15th century, was almost unheard of in Britain. With his famous organs at Birmingham Town Hall, York Minster and elsewhere, Hill was a pioneer who dragged the English organ into the Victorian age. Together with Henry Gauntlett (composer of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’), and thanks to the furore created by Felix Mendelssohn’s ground-breaking performances of Bach’s organ works on Hill’s Birmingham organ in the 1830s, he introduced the ‘German System’ of organ building to Britain. The new organs had, in common with the organs of the Continent, full pedalboards and standardised keyboards, allowing the performance of much organ music – notably the works of J.S. Bach – for the first time in Britain.

Most of William Hill’s organs have been lost or substantially altered to suit the musical tastes of the times; the St Bride’s instrument is a rare surviving, and virtually unaltered, testament to his skill.

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