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A BEACON OF LIGHT
Newcastle Cathedral organ
The first recorded instrument for St Nicholas’ Parish Church was built in about 1670 by Renatus Harris, comprising just Great and Choir, with 17 stops. The Harris double fronted casework still remains, the distinctive east case design surviving as the central section of the present transept front, whilst the Harris west front now faces east into St George’s Chapel.
The organ was rebuilt as a 3 manual instrument in 1767 by Snetzler. Further significant work was carried out by Wood, Small & Co. of Edinburgh (1814), Bruce (1839) and John Nicholson of Newcastle (1844), resulting in a 28 stop instrument including two pedal ranks. In about 1880 Lewis made what was essentially a new organ incorporating older material – a substantial four manual instrument with 58 stops and tubular pneumatic action. The Great contained a typically virile Lewis chorus, from Double Open through to seven ranks of Mixtures. Just 31 years later, after St Nicholas became a Cathedral, Harrison & Harrison rebuilt the instrument in Edwardian style, moving the physically separate unenclosed Choir division closer to the console, and adding a handful of stops. The same firm did further work in 1954.
The present state instrument dates from a substantial re-ordering by Nicholson & Co. (Worcester) in 1981, resulting in a four manual instrument with seven divisions and 110 stops. Tonally, the organ was considerably brightened, and much upperwork was added. A second console (moveable, of three manuals) was provided, based in the transept, in 1991.
The instrument really comprises two separate entities: the Main organ (Great, Swell, Chaire, Bombarde and Pedal) in the North Transept, and the Choir organ (Great, Swell and Pedal) in the Quire. The main console is adjacent to the Choir organ, in the westernmost bay of the north Quire arcade.