St Mary’s organ is one of the largest and finest in the Northwest. It was built in 1913 by J. J. Binns of Leeds. It originally had 3 manuals and pedals with 40 stops.

The organ occupies the space at the eastern end of the north aisle and rises to the full height behind fine oak casework with gilded pipes on both the chancel and gallery sides.

This organ was a fine example of an Edwardian Parish Church instrument and typical of the Binns workshop displaying high quality materials and construction.

The opening recital was given by Sir Edward Bairstow, organist of York Minster.

1960 – 1979

In 1961 the organ was considerably enlarged by Nicholson & Co. of Worcester; the Binns ‘Choir organ’ became the ‘Solo organ’ on a 4th manual and a new ‘Choir organ’ was placed at floor level in the space occupied by the original Binns console. The action was electrified and a new 4 manual detached console was located on the south gallery opposite the organ.

More importantly, considerable changes were made to the voicing of the pipes towards what was perceived to be a more ‘continental’ sound, as was the trend during the 1960s. The specification now stood at 64 stops. The opening recital was given by the Italian concert organist Fernando Germani, organist of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.

1979 – Alterations following a fire

Following the fire of 1979 George Sixsmith & Son of Ashton under Lyme made further alteration and additions over the course of a number of years; the console returned to ground level standing on the south side of the chancel, and the specification rose to 83 stops. Unfortunately, this led to making access within the organ for tuning and maintenance difficult and to problems of instability of wind supply.

2008 Restoration

In 2008 the organ was restored by Principal Pipe Organs of York. The specification was reduced to 62 stops, new keyboards were provided together with a full ‘solid-state’ electrical control and transmission system. Efforts were made to return the sound nearer to that of the original 1913 instrument and to make the more recently added stops blend-in better. The opening recital was given by concert organist David Briggs formerly organist of Gloucester Cathedral.

The specification of the organ in its current state can be found here on the National pipe organ register together with the specifications of the organ in its previous states.

Organists of St. Mary’s

Henry Shaw – Mus. Bac, FRCO 1910 – 1949

Charles Myers – ARCO, LRAM, ARCM, LTCL, FLCM 1950 – 1989

Michael Pain – MA, FRCO, LRAM, ARCM 1989 – 2003

James Lonsdale – MA, ARCO, LRAM, ARCM 2003 – 2015

David Thornton – BEd, FRCO, LRAM, ARCM 2016 – Present