Visit to St Giles, Bermondsey, and St James, Camberwell, 16th March 2019

Join us on a visit to two great South London organs and discover a fascinating period of change in British organ-building.

St James’ Church in Bermondsey was consecrated in 1829 and James Chapman Bishop & company won the contract to build what was then one of the grandest organs in the country. Contrary to most British organs of the time, it contained an almost complete pedalboard – and the discovery of the works of Bach, which were being championed in Britain by the likes of organist such as Samuel Wesley and Henry Gauntlett, were able to be heard by new audiences. Indeed, the pedals were so unfamiliar at the time that a small pedal keyboard was provided for an assistant to play. Of special note at St James’ is the Claribella (or Clarabella) stop which was introduced for the first time. Alterations to the organ were made in 1877 before the organ was dismantled in situ for a long period during the 20th Century. But much has survived and it was restored as close as possible to 1829 condition by Goetze and Gwynn in 2002. Click the here to get to St james’ website and here to get to the NPOR information

The ancient church of St Giles’ in Camberwell was destroyed by fire in 1841. A young, unknown architect called George Gilbert Scott won a competition to design a new church that was completed to great acclaim – securing Scott with the foundation to an extraordinary career. The famous organist and composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley (so-named by his father Samuel’s adoration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach) had been organist at the old St Giles’ and by all accounts had been very happy there. He was invited back to design a new organ with J.C. Bishop and played it at the consecration of the new church in 1844. The organ was restored in 1891 and most recently in 1961 under the supervision of Ralph Downes. Click here to get to St Giles’ website and here to get the NPOR information.

Details of visit

11am – 1pm St James’ Church, Bermondsey, Thurland Road, Bermondsey, SE16 4AA

 A short talk will commence at 11am at St James’ to introduce the organ and then you are very welcome to play. Please note when choosing music to bring along that the straight pedal board is GG compass and not in the usual alignment to the manuals. The organ also retains an early tuning system with very pure thirds!

Bermondsey Tube station is two minutes walk away from the church and busses 47, 188, 381 and C10 stop nearby. The journey between St James’ and St Giles’ require a couple of changes by bus and members may find it easier to share a taxi. Transport directions and support will be provided on the day.

1.30pm – 3.30pm, St Giles’ Church, Camberwell, Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, SE5 8RB

A short talk and demonstration will take place at 1.30pm at St Giles’ and some light refreshments will be provided. Please note when choosing music that the organ has a very heavy touch and that the concave pedalboard has slightly thinner pedals than modern instruments.

Denmark Hill Railway station is a brisk ten minute walk from the church and Camberwell Green is under ten minutes walk away, with many bus stops serving routes to Brixton, Elephant & Castle, Oval and Vauxhall tube stations.

Ashley Valentine