COPY OF AN ARTICLE IN BIOS REPORTER - Volume Thirteen, No. 3 (July 1989)
by Gerard Verloop
This organ, advertised for sale in the BIOS Reporter for July 1980 (Vol.4 No.2 p.7) because it was considered too feeble for the chapel of Westfield College, London, went to Holland to a private owner. It is now in the Kooger Kerk in Zuid-Scharwoude (near Alkmaar), a church under supervision of a foundation and often used for cultural purposes, including many concerts.
Much of the instrument's history remained obscure until very recently. The tuning files of Rushworth & Dreaper, who looked after it at Westfield College, mentioned William Pilcher as the builder and gave the date 1844, but without mentioning the source from which this information was derived. On the Bourdon windchest is written in pencil: W.Pitcher 1850. It was not clear if this might indicate an addition or alteration, or the original builder's signature. Paper glued on the bellows showed the year 1837, the style of the case, too, seemed to point to cl844. Of the subsequent history very little was known before 1946, when the organ passed from the hands of the original family into the possession of Westfield College.
Through the very generous hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Cams, the retired Head of Brimingham School of Music and living in Powick near Worcester, I was given the opportunity to investigate further. Before 1946 the organ had been in their family, and an important part of the family archive is stored at their house.
The investigation was most rewarding. To my great surprise it was not only possible to derive some interesting details from account books, letters and diaries, but also three original documents from 1851 were discovered. One of these, a description written by the first owner, gave the specification and other details of the organ when new; the other was a receipt signed by the builder and the third was a sketch drawing of the organ.
The name of the builder appeared to be correct: William Pilcher. He made the organ in 1850-51 for Miss Eleanora Grant Macdowall, who lived with her widowed mother in London, at 65 Baker Street She paid £145 for the organ - not very much for a two-manual chamber organ of 9 stops in a sizeable osewood veneered mahogany case with quite a bit of carving. She wrote in her diary that it was finished on April 20th, 1851.
The organ is relatively well preserved: apart from five or six pipes all the original pipework is still present. About the voicing some doubt seems to be justified. Possibly August Gem changed it slightly in 1898 when he received £5-10-0. It is to be regretted that the original pedalboard is lost: the organ now has a radiating pedalboard of 30 notes, made by Hele in 1899 but in all probability attached to the organ by Rushwonh & Dreaper.
Anyone interested in the organ is most welcome to visit it. Just make contact with me (address given below) and you will have ample opportunity to play it and the main organ in the Kooger Kerk, a 24 stop Van Dam instrument of 1881. Both are in excellent condition and are used for specific organ recitals once a month.
Miss Macdowall's description of the organ
Height - 10 feet 6 inches -Depth - 3 feet 2 ditto -Width of Front - 6 feet 4 do. -
Great organ - five octaves -
Swell organ - four octaves - extends to tenor C.
an octave and a half of (german) Foot pedals -
4 Composition Pedals -
A General Venetian Swell.
Foot and Hand Blower -
Stop Diapason Bass
Stop Diapason Treble
Double Diapasons -
Ditto to Great organ -
Thoc are also Pedal - Key. & Coupler (Stops)
The receipt for the organ
April 28th 1851 Miss Macdowall
To Wm Pilcher
For a Rosewood organ with Two Rows of Keys as agreed - £145
Allowed for old Square Piano _15. 130
Received account April 28th 1851 the Sum of Eighty Pounds, [signed] Wm. Piflher
June 14th Received fifty Pounds being in Full. [signed] Wm. Pilcher