he original estimate for this organ was £1000, to be paid for privately by Robert Singleton, but constant additions to the original order raised the final cost to £2000.
Telford’s considered it the largest and finest organ ever made in Ireland, so it was accorded a public performance before export. The performance was attended by all the Dublin notables (except the Lord Lieutenant who was ‘so busy with the rebels that he could not spare the time.’) Such was ‘its power that it had the honour to make some ladies sick to their stomachs.’ [Reviews from the Freeman’s Journal and The Evening Mail can be found here]
In 1853 it was dismantled and sent back to Ireland to be shown at the Dublin Exhibition: pedal 32 was added at this time in thanks for the loan.
It survived in use at Radley until the 1930s, being moved from Singleton’s original chapel to the new one constructed in 1895. For much of its life, the organist responsible for it was George Wharton, Precentor at Radley from 1862 until 1914. Wharton constantly upgraded it. Two new stops were added in 1867-8, the Tuba and the Harmonic Flute, both in commemoration of Augustus Henry Woodward, who died of pneumonia on 19th March 1868, aged 18, the first boy to die at school, and his cousin Alfred Woodward, of the 12th Foot, who died at sea in 1867, returning from the First Maori War. The organ received its first overhaul when these were added in 1868, when it became a four manual organ with 60 stops. The work was carried out by JW Walker of London, who thought Telford’s mechanism faulty. Four years later, in 1872, the Vox Humana stop was added.
In the autumn of 1889 it was taken down for its second overhaul, this time by C Martin of Oxford, and in future was to be blown by gas rather than bellows. Wharton ordered the first hydraulic gas engine from Crossleys on September 24th 1889 (serial no 14796). This was a 5manpower vertical engine, sent and installed on 15 November 1889. It was re-installed at the beginning of 1890 – it was now a five manual echo organ with sixty-six stops and nearly 4000 pipes. Wharton tested the gas engine with full organ on January 30th 1890, and it was a 'grand success'. However, the next day the 'engine collapsed altogether’, and Crossley's man had to be summoned to attend. After his ministrations it ‘behaved better'. But a fortnight later the engine was 'most provoking and vexing', and as it was 'obviously temperamentally unsuited to the job, was ejected and a new one installed.' The first engine was sold on to James Crabtree on 25 June 1890. The second engine, serial no 15388, was sent on 5 March 1890 and was an 1/2 hp vertical. It was used for the first time on March 13th 1890. Wharton’s notice in the Radleian magazine, June 1890, states that the blowing apparatus was ‘worked by a very clever device, invented by Mr Martin, whereby … the instrument is at the organist’s command at any moment.’ In December 1890 a new swell box and two new couplers were installed and Wharton declared that the Radley organ was now ‘as complete and perfect as possible’; however, in April 1891 Martin started to add a fifth manual, which was first used in May that year.
In 1895 Radley opened a new Chapel, and the organ, complete with gas engine was installed in a new location. However, the engine had always been temperamental, did not respond well to the move, and was returned to Crossley's London office on 17 May 1897.
The organ continued in use. A carillon was added in 1898, and a carved wooden case by Jackson, the architect who designed the new chapel. An electric motor was installed to power it in 1927, although it was described by AK Boyd as ‘itself by this time little better than a ruin.’ The last voluntary was played in 31st March, 1938, after which the work of dismantling began. A few stops were incorporated into the organ which replaced it in 1938, part of the oak case was given to East Hagbourne Church, and a bell from the carillon was converted into a hand-bell for use by the Warden at the daily meeting of Radley dons.
It is listed on the National Pipe Organs Register http://www.npor.org.uk/ item no. E01020
Information on Crossley’s engines supplied by Ruth Weinberg; on George Wharton and the organ from The Radleian magazine and Wharton’s unpublished diaries now held in Radley College Archives]
Last modified 7 February 2013