A brief history of the Bevington
organ installed in David Sanger's home in the English Lake District.
The Bevington Organ was first built as a house organ in December 1876 for George
Mence Smith, an Ironmonger, who owned a large white house in the Broadway, Bexleyheath in
Kent. After only three years he gave the organ to the local Congregational Church and duly
became their organist. In the organs early life there was a tonal change: Bevington
substituted an Harmonic Piccolo 2 for the two-rank Mixture on the Great. It is quite
likely that this change took place in 1879. When the organ was installed in that church it
was erected in as small a space as possible, presumably because seating was at a premium
in those days of full churches, and consequently maintenance was difficult, if not
impossible. As a result the pipework is extremely well preserved.
In 1961, the organ was completely overhauled by Colmer Bros. of Thornton Heath (now
non-existent). The opportunity was then taken to pull the organ away from the wall,
placing some of the pedal pipes behind (originally a single stop - a full-length Open Wood
16 on pneumatic action) to allow easier access for maintenance. A balanced
swell-pedal was added which never functioned particularly well. At that time it was fashionable
to modernise anything Victorian and the dark-stained casework was covered with plywood in
places and stripped of its stain elsewhere. Fortunately the tonal scheme was left
In 1987 the Bexleyheath church was closed to make way for a road scheme. A new church
has since been rebuilt on another site, but the Bevington organ was considered the wrong
shape and size for the new building. Various options were considered, but the church
authorities were keen that the instrument should basically retain its original form, and
that it should not be reduced in size or electrified for the new church. The
English Lake District in Cumbria was where it was destined to go, returning to its
original function as
a house organ. The ceiling had to be raised one foot in order to accommodate it, and the
Pedal Open Wood pipes had to be discarded, except for those gracing the sides of the case.
A new more versatile Pedal department was desirable for both practising and teaching, and
the swell pedal was returned to the ratchet variety as it was from 1876 until 1961.
This work, together with the complete restoration of all moving parts, was carried out
by Martin K Cross, Church Organ Builder from Grays in Essex, and his assistant Richard
Sheppard. They also oversaw the dismantling, removal and re-erection of the Bevington
in Cumbria. Plenty of willing helpers from both north and south gave much time and effort to
help with dismantling and reassembly. A local man, Canon Frank Hambrey, whose hobby since
retiring has been woodwork, carved missing side members of the case and replaced some
The pedal stops are all second-hand, the wooden pipes being by Aeolian, the metal
Principal 4 probably by Gray, but the wooden Trombone is of unknown provenance. This
latter stop has received new brass tongues throughout. A second blowing plant provides the
wind to the pedal department, ensuring that the additional stops do not rob wind from the
Great and Swell. The organ is fully mechanical except for the electric current to the two
blowers and the stop action to the pedals.