St Mary’s Church Organ
We claim St Mary’s has the oldest organ in Wales that is still in use. The history of music and of the organ in the Church are well recorded in Patricia Barker’s ‘A History of St Mary’s Parish Church, Haverfordwest, in the Nineteenth Century’, published by The Friends of St Mary’s Church in 2002.
The Church has been fortunate in having a fine organ since 1737 when a gallery and organ loft were erected at the west end of the nave. The cost of £600 was met by public subscription and constructed of wood from the Picton Estate provided by Sir John Philipps. It was probably built by Byfield and Harries, the renowned London organ builders. Richard Fenton in his ‘Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire’ (1811) provides a detailed description of St Mary’s and includes that “At the west end of the nave there is a handsome gallery with a noble organ”. It was an important asset to the church and local newspapers of the c19 carried many reports of organ recitals by accomplished organists both resident and visiting. It is more than twice the size of any other in the county with the exception of the Cathedral organ in St David’s.
It was a two manual instrument with the upper manual working the great organ (11 stops) and the lower the swell (3 stops) and choir (5 stops) organs.
In October 1860 restoration by John Banfield of Birmingham added fifteen stops, seven of which formed the swell organ, four in the choir and four new couplers. The scale of the instrument was altered from the short octave to the modern German scale and two octaves of German pedals were incorporated. In 1889 it was moved from the west end of the nave to occupy the eastern arch in the chancel with a new console and ornate gold leafed pipes. The old oak case was retained and is now in the north aisle.
The work of rebuilding and enlarging the organ was carried out by Messrs Hill and Son resulting in a total of 1,825 pipes.
For most of the c20 maintenance and repair work was necessary but in 1983 general deterioration made it essential for major renovation work which was undertaken by Percy Daniel and Co of Clevedon. At a cost of £25,000, a new console and pedal board were provided and the manual, pedal, coupling and draw-stop actions were electrified. The great and choir organs were coupled and thumb and toe pistons installed. A swell vox humana stop was replaced by a new block flute 2′.
Many well-known organists have given recitals on the instrument which is also used to good effect in services and as an accompanying instrument in the many concerts which take place in the church. It is our intention to promote many more recitals and concerts in the fine acoustic space which is St Mary’s Church.