Webpage created: July 18, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 18, 2017
Alderman Rooker always considered that an organ was 'a natural and inevitable supplement to the great hall' and started off a subscription list with the first donation of £50. Events would have proceeded quickly but for the fact that it was considered impractical to install an organ in a new building that was not thoroughly dry. In time the committee appointed to deal with this matter invited Doctor Stainer, the organist at Saint Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall, in London, to design an organ suitable for the Plymouth Guild Hall.
Upon his recommendation, Mr Henry Willis, also of London, was selected to build the instrument, which cost £2,100 exclusive of the carriage to Plymouth. He was praised for not only completing the task within budget but also with the inclusion of several free extras and refinements.
The instrument had 2,500 pipes and was at first blown by hand. In addition to the Great Organ there were also the Swell Organ, the Choir Organ, the Solo Organ, the Pedal Organ and the Couplers.
Installing the organ required major alterations to the interior, where new accommodation for 200 musicians of the orchestra had to be constructed. This included cushioned seats with pitch pine back rails. Mr R Stanlake was responsible for the carpentry work.
The first public recital was given on the evening of Tuesday October 22nd 1878 by Doctor John Stainer himself, in spite of having performed at Saint Paul's Cathedral in the morning. Mr Willis himself had tuned the organ in the morning and found that although it had laid untouched for a month since installation, it required very little attention. The Mayor of Plymouth, Mr J Wills, was also present.
Age took its toll on the Guild Hall organ, however, and around 1900 Mr Harry Moreton, the Borough Organist, prepared a report on its sorry condition. This was supplemented by a further report by Sir Frederick Bridge. However, funds were sadly lacking and the work had to be postponed.
During the early 1920s Messrs Hele and Company were contracted to renovate the organ, replacing the pumping system that had occupied four men by four 15-horse-power hydraulic engines and also replacing some eight miles of tubing. On Mr Moreton's 25th anniversary as Borough Organist, Wednesday August 13th 1924, the organ was re-opened with a magnificent recital in the presence of the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr Solomon Stephens.
Sadly the organ was badly damaged during the Second World War and was never replaced. The Plymouth Guild Hall no longer has an organ.