The organ was a gift of a wealthy parishioner, Miss Carrie March, whose name can be seen on the brass plaque on the side of the console (as well as at the base of the west case). The specification was drawn up by Mr Herbert Walton (organist of St. Mark’s Church, Woodhouse) and Binns began work on the organ in 1894. The beautiful casework was designed by Crawford-Hick and was built in Binns’ own workshop.
The organ was due to be ‘opened’ on Ascension Day 1896, but the Vicar, Samuel Mumford Taylor would not allow Binns into the church to work during in Lent, as he wanted to keep an atmosphere of ‘peace and tranquillity’. As a result, the organ was not completed on time, yet the service went ahead as planned…..without the organ!
The organ at St. Aidan’s is acknowledged to be one of the greatest examples of James Jepson Binns’ work and it is certainly one of the last untouched examples of his art. Indeed, Binns was so proud of this instrument, that he featured it on the front cover of his publicity brochure for many years.
Binns returned in 1928 to add a fine Tuba stop to the Choir Organ, which is situated in the lower chamber, along from the console.
Apart from regular routine maintenance, the instrument has remained mechanically and tonally untouched, using ‘Binns Patent Tubular Pneumatic Action’, which is certainly one of an increasingly rare breed. In 1998, the British Institute of Organ Studies awarded the instrument with a ‘Historic Status’. The organ is currently in the care of Malcolm Spink, who is undertaking a careful restoration project. When completed, the organ at St. Aidan’s will once again sing with a commanding voice.
Sound Clips of the Organ
Excerpt from Messiaen’s Transports de joie (L’ascension) played by David Houlder. This is a live recording taken from a concert in May 2010.
Excerpt from Robert Cockroft’s Soliloquy played by David Houlder. This piece received a world premiere during a concert in May 2010.