Charles William Pearce.

Notes on old London city churches : their organs, organists, and musical associations online

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Organs, Organists, and Musical Associations,





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(INCE the days of Stow there has been
no lack of literature concerning the old
City Churches of London ; consequently,
some kind of apology is needed for the
adddition of yet another book to the
already lengthy list. But, while previous works
whether in book, article or lecture form have dealt,
more or less fully, with the history and architecture of
these interesting buildings, not one has given but the
barest possible mention of the musical associations
which cling so closely to well-nigh every one of them.
It is hoped that the present volume may serve
as a convenient guide to anyone visiting a City
Church, by giving him a brief digest of its history,
monuments and architectural features ; mentioning its
dimensions, and cost of re-building (if unhappily
destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666) ; and following up
this general information by chronicling as many facts
as could be gleaned about the organs which have
been erected within its walls ; the alterations, enlarge-
ments, modernizations, &c., which have, from time to
time, been effected in these organs ; and, finally,
describing the instrument as it exists at the present

In this way, the history of the organs in the City
Churches will be found to contain a perfect epitome
of the History of the Art of Organ Building in
England since the restoration of the Monarchy. And
in some cases here and there light has been shed
upon Mediaeval Organ Making, by reference to and
quotations from ancient parish records which were
saved from the general destruction at the time of the
Great Fire.

The Organists of the City Parochial Churches
have ever been a distinguished race of musicians ;



their names constitute quite a roll of honour. Hert
are just a few of them :

Thomas Adams, Dr. Theodore Aylward, Sir Joseph Barnby.
Jonathan Battishill, John Bennett, Dr. Bexfield, Jonas Blewitt,
'Dr. Boyce, Dr, Burney, J. F. Burrows, Dr. E. T. Chipp, J. T.
Cooper, George Cooper, James Coward, Alfred J.Eyre, Dr H.
J. Gauntlett, W. Goodwin, Sir John Goss, Dr. Maurice Greene,
Henry Heron, Dr. James Higgs, Dr. Henry Hiles, Dr. E. J.
Hopkins, Dr. S. Howard, Charles King, Mus. B. Oxon.,
J. F. Lampe, K. Limpus, C. Lockhart, Mrs. Mounsey-Bartho-
lomew, Dr. Stephen Austen Pearce, Dr. W. Rea, W. Russell,
Mus B. Oxon., Sir John Stainer, J. Stanley, Mus. B. Oxon.,
C. E. Stephens, Dr. J. C. Tiley, Dr. E. H.Turpin. H. Westrop,
A. Whichello, Dr. Jobn Worgan and Dr. Henry Wylde
(Gresham Professor).

The author regrets that he has found it impossible to
complete the lists of organists in every parish, for the
reason that in some cases the records of organ appoint-
ments no longer exist. But he desires here to express
his gratitude to those incumbents, organists, vestry-
clerks and other parish officers who have so generously
aided him in his efforts to obtain the names of past
organists with particulars of their appointments.

Another matter for regret is that Nineteenth Century
" restoration " processes should have led to the dis-
appearance of quite a number of ancient sepulchral
inscriptions of musical interest. It is extremely
disappointing after reading in some Eighteenth Cen-
tury account that in such a church such a person
was buried, with an inscription recording his or her
attainments as a musician, to visit the church so
referred to, only to find that the ancient gravestones
are no longer visible, their place being usurped by
some more or less " ornamental tiles " of the encaustic
order suitable, perhaps, for a summer-house or dairy,
or even for a cheap suburban " mission " church, but
scarcely dignified to serve as the pavement of an
ancient parish church in the greatest metropolis of
the world.

It has been the author's privilege to have taken an
active part in the zealous and successful efforts of the
London Section of the Incorporated Society of Musi-
cians to place in two of these City Churches beautiful
memorials of distinguished musicians buried therein,
and whose graves for some reason or another were no

longer marked by any inscription whatever. Visitors
to the Church of S. Stephen, Walbrook, can now see
a monument to John Dunstable (died 1453) with the
original Fifteenth Century Latin epitaph restored ;
and the Church of S. Andrew, Undershaft, now
possesses a mural brass to the memory of Dr. John
Worgan (1724-1790) a former organist. But a very
great deal more remains to be done in this direction.

Injudicious "restoration" may be bad enough in its
way, but the senseless and wanton destruction of City
Churches which has been going on for many years
past, is infinitely worse. It may be consoling to find
that public opinion - when aroused is opposed to this
sacrilegious vandalism ; but how often it happens that
an old historic church is pulled down, and its site
covered by the ugliest of modern commercial premises
before the general public get to know anything of what
has so lamentably taken place ! It may be urged that
the church so destroyed had no regular congregation,
and that consequently some extremely wise person in
" authority " thought it better to pull the building down,
sell its desecrated site, and erect one or more cheap
and repulsive-looking churches in the suburbs with
the proceeds. The old City church, however, occupied
its consecrated site by the right of centuries of lawful
possession ; and it requires more than ordinary logic
to convince the thoughtful layman that several more
or less badly built and thinly attended churches in the
suburbs, can be better than one interesting and well-
built church in the City, which, although comparatively
empty on only one day of the week, could nevertheless
open its doors on the six remaining days to the multi-
tudinous crowds of men and women who throng the
streets of its parish from dawn to sunset.

Nor is the preservation of our old City Churches
a duty to the living only. There is something due to
the dead, and also to our posterity in the future ! John
Ruskin writes in his Seven Lamps of Architecture :

"It is no question of expediency or feeling whether we shall
preserve the buildings of past times or not. We have no right,
whatever, to touch them. They are not ours. They belong partly
to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of
mankind who are to follow us. The dead have still their right
in them. That which they laboured for, the praise of achieve

ment, or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever else
it might be which, in those buildings, they intended to be per-
manent, we have no right to obliterate. What we have ourselves
built, we are at liberty to throw down ; but what other men
gave their strength and wealth and life to accomplish, their
right over does not pass away with their death ; still less is the
right to the use of what they have left, vested in us only ; it
belongs to all their successors. It may, hereafter, be a subject
of sorrow, or a cause of injury to millions, that we have consulted
our present convenience by casting down such buildings as we
choose to dispense with. That sorrow, that loss, we have no
right to inflict."

There can be no doubt that the citizens of London
who built these old churches intended them to last for
ever on the sacred spots where they erected and
endowed them, and upon no other spots elsewhere.
Even the Great Fire itself could not wipe out the
love and enthusiasm of Londoners for their old City
Churches which have always been, and still are,
unique specimens of Ecclesiastical Architecture.
The chancels of the mediaeval City Churches those
built before the Fire differed from other English
Parish Churches of the same date and period in three
very important respects : (i) They were not separate
buildings from the nave, (2) the roof was of the same
height as that of the nave, and (3) there was no " chancel
arch." But it should be remembered that the only
essential condition of a chancel is that there should be
some sort of dividing screen (cancellus) between it
and the nave. In the old churches spared by the
Great Fire this screen has either been restored, or its
ancient position can easily be ascertained by the
existence of the turret or the remaining traces
thereof which contained the stairs leading to the
rood loft. Wren himself erected in two of" his churches
(All Hallows, Thames Street, and S. Peter's, Cornhill)
tall handsome screens of the mediaeval type; in his
other churches he invariably marked the division
between nave and chancel by strips of carved open
work which he placed above the level of the pews. In
pre-reformation times the chancel of every London
City Church was called quyre or " choir," as though
speaking of a cathedral ; and the frequent mention
of a quire door proves the existence of some kind of
choir screen. It may be further argued that the

invariable use of the word "choir" proves that it
was intended to indicate a place set apart for Singers.
The Rev. Canon John Jebb in his Choral Service of
the United Church of England and Ireland (1843)
remarks that :

" In ancient times, before the Reformation, as far as can be
collected from the very vague documents of local history, that
mode of service called choral was adopted very generally in
Parish Churches. Many of the greater Parishes had choirs ; as
an instance, we find in the Life of Sir Thomas More, that he
used to put on a surplice and sit with the choir in the chancel
of the church at Chelsea. The difference, indeed, between the
performance of the ordinary Parochial and Cathedral Service
seems to have consisted rather in he degree, than in the

Bishop Burnet, in his History of the Reformation
informs us that :

" Till 1549, Parish Churches had used the plain chant as well
as Cathedrals ; for at a Visitation this year, complaint was
made that the Priests read the (English) Prayers with the same
tone of voice that they had formerly used in the Latin Service."

A reference to the account of S. Mary Woolnoth,

in the following pages, will show that even after the
Reformation (in 1553) there was in that church a
fully equipped surpliced choir of boys and men who
sang in harmony the ''measured" or barred cathedral
music ot the time, consisting of psalms, anthems and
masses (for the first English Prayer Book of 1549,
termed the Office for Holy Communion the " Mass ") ;
and that on special occasions (weddings, etc.) the
ordinary choir of the church was ' augmented " by the
" children of Powles " (the choristers of S. Paul's
Cathedral) and other paid (adult) singers. The church-
wardens' accounts of other parishes show similar
disbursements for items connected with the various
choral services of the church.

The post reformation maintenance of parochial
music of a Cathedral type only appears to have lasted
for a very short time however,- some ten years or less.
Strype remarks in his Life of Grindal that on :

"The day of September 1559, the new Morning Prayers
began now first at S. Antholin's, in Budge Row, ringing at five
in the morning ; and then a psalm was sung, as was used among
the Protestants of Geneva, all men, women, and young folks

singing together: which custom was about this time brought
also into S. Paul's."

It was this (imported) congregational metrical
psalmody which first killed the Choral Service in out
parish churches, and then re-acted (suicidally) upon
itself by relegating its functions to the children of the
parish schools, who were compelled to sing at the very
top of their voices, without the slightest regard to
" production " or the elementary necessities of time
and tune, and to sing in such numbers as to completely
overwhelm and discourage any unfortunate member of
the congregation who may have been possessed with
some sort of desire to exercise his or her Christian
privileges in the dual direction of praise and suppli-
cation. It is true, that when properly trained, and
heard in large grouped massesat the Annual Parochial
Charity Childrens' Service at S. Paul's Cathedral,
the voices of these little ones could be made both
effective and devotional. Joseph Haydn was affected
to tears when he heard them sing at S. Paul's, where,
writes Joseph Bennett in his Forty years of Music

" It was a wonderful sight to look upon the thousands of boys
and girls, in the queer and varied dresses which parochial
benevolence affected with a view to promote the self-respect of
its young charges, who sat on tiers of seats rising from the
floor to the top of the arches of the dome."

Hector Berlioz was also much impressed by the
unique effect of these thousands of fresh childish
voices singing together in the great metropolitan

But although the choral singing of Cathedral music
came to an untimely end in the City Parochial churches
by the close of the i6th century, it is refreshing to
read in Hatton's New View of London (1708) that at
the beginning of the i8th century Daily Service
was said in no less than twenty-nine churches. The
particulars of these daily services are most interesting :

Daily Matins was said (without Evensong) in

1. S. Andrew, Undershaft, at 6 in the summer and 7 in the


2. S. Antholin's, Budge Row, with a sermon at 6.

3. S. Bartholomew-the-Great, Smithfield. at n.


4. S. Bartholomew-the-Less, Smithfield, at n.

5. S. Stephen, Coleman Street, at n.
Daily Evensong was said (without Matins) in

6. S. Augustine and S. Faith's, Watling Street, at 3

7. S. Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange, at 7,

8. S. Michael, Bassishaw, at 5.

9. S. Michael, Queenhithe, at 6.

Both Daily Matins and Evensong: were said in

10. S. Botolph, Aldersgate, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

11. S. Botolph, Aldgate, at ri a.m. and 7 p.m.

12. S. Botolph, Bishopsgate, 8a.m. in summer, 9 a.m. in

winter; 7 p.m. always.

13. S. Bride's, Fleet Street, n a.m. and 8 p.m.

14. Charterhouse Chapel, 10 a.m. always; 2 p.m. in winter ;

5 p m. in summer.

15. Christ Church, Newgate Street, n a.m. always ; 3 p.m.

in winter, 5 p.m. in summer.

16. S. Christopher-le-Stocks, 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

17. S. Dionis, Backchurch, 8 a.m. in summer, 9 a.m. in

winter ; 5 p.m. always.

18. S. Dunstan-in-the-West, 7 a,m. and 3 p.m.

19. S. Edmund-the-King, n a.m. and 7 p.m.

20. S. Lawrence, Jewry, n a.m. and 8 p.m.

21. S. Martin, Ludgate, n a.m. and 6 p.m.

22. S. Mary-le-bow. 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

23. S. Mary, Woolnoth, n a.m. and 5 p.m.

24. S. Peter, Cornhill, n a.m. and 4 p.m.

25. S. Swithin, London Stone, n a.m. and 5 p.m.

26. The Temple Church, 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Services were held three times daily in

27. S. Andrew, Holborn, Matins 6 and n a.m., Evensong

3 P-m.

28. S, Clement Danes, Matins n a.m., Evensong 3 p.m.

and 8 p.m.

29. S. Sepulchre, Snow Hill, Matins 6.30 a.m. (and on

Wednesdays and Fridays again at n a.m.), Evensong
3.30 p.m.

Two hjindreti years ago then, the church bells were
continually ringing every day from six in the morning
until eight in the evening, with an interval of about
three hours silence in the middle of the day. At the
present time the same bells are mostly heard at mid-
day. There are few churches in which there is not
some kind of short service at about 1.15 on week-days,
so as to attract the multitudes of City men and women
whose luncheon-hour coincides with that time. And
the organists of those churches which possess un-
usually good organs such as S. Stephen Walbrook,
S. Lawrence Jewry, and S. Michael Cornhill are in

the habit of providing admirably selected programmes
of organ and vocal music, which have the effect of
bringing large numbers of music-lovers into the grand
old churches. And on Sundays, in most of the City
churches, a well-rendered Choral Service of the
modern cathedral type can be heard sung by a sur-
pliced choir of men and boys, with more or less
hearty congregational singing of popular hymns
(ancient and modern).

London has always been a foremost centre of
religious life in this country. William Fitzstephen,
a monk of Canterbury, born of worshipful parents in
the City in the reign of Stephen, and who died in
1191, wrote thus in the reign of Henry II :

"There are in London and in the suburbs thirteen larger
conventual churches, besides one hundred and thirty-six lesser
parochial ones. ... I think there is no city in which more
approved customs are observed in attending churches,
honouring God's ordinances, keeping festivals, giving alms,
receiving strangers, confirming espousals, contracting marriages,
celebrating weddings, preparing entertainments, welcoming
guests, and also in the arrangement of the funeral ceremonies,
and the burial of the dead. . . . Almost all the bishops,
abbots, and great men of England are in a manner, citizens and
freemen of London ; as they have magnificent houses there, to
which they resort, spending large sums of money, whenever
they are summoned thither to councils and assemblies by their
king, or their metropolitan, or are compelled to go there by
their own business."

A great deal of this is as true now as when it was
written in Latin more than seven centuries ago;
indeed many of the present day Sunday attendances
at City churches will contrast favourably with the
attendances at suburban churches the proportion of
resident population being duly taken into account.

That our Seventeenth Century ancestors gave most
liberally of their substance for the re-erection after
the Great Fire of these beautiful old buildings which
we see before us to-day, the large sums of money
mentioned in the following pages will most amply
testify. And we should remember that these sums
represent considerably larger amounts in present
money value. In fact nothing but the expenditure of
a large sum upon the rebuilding of their parish churches
would satisfy our forefathers. For years after the

Fire, until these large sums were forthcoming, they
were content to worship in temporary sheds erected
in some corner of the ruins of the old churches, where
a small portion of the blackened walls pathetically
remained as a witness of the former glory of their
desolate Houses of God. They even worshipped for
a time kneeling on the gravestones of their immediate
predecessors, under the dark pillars and arches of
crypts or " undercrofts," which the Fire had left more
or less intact. These pious London citizens, be it
further remembered, willingly and gladly offered of
their best to the glory of God, and for the maintenance
of the Christian Faith at a time when they were
terribly impoverished by the enormous destruction of
their property in the Great Fire. Let us venerate or
at least respect their piety : let us try to preserve what
they in their noble self-denial so generously provided
for us, and for those who will come after us. Let us
also appreciate the ingenuity of Wren's architectural
genius, as shown in the fertility of his invention and
artistic adaptability of structural design to restricted
and embarassing site-conditions ; let us admire the
excellent acoustical properties of these delightful
old Wren churches buildings in which it is a perfect
luxury to speak, to sing, to play the organ, to listen to
music generally ; buildings, too, which can be as
readily adapted to the necessities of the most ornate
ritual as to the bare requirements of the simplest
Evangelical Service.

It was recently pointed out by Mr. Arthur Keen
in a lecture delivered before the Architectural Asso-
ciation that :

" In churches built by Wren there is endless change in the
use of ordinary architectural forms : simple columns carrying
entablatures, columns carrying arches, columns with nrches
between them, piers carrying galleries and running up to form
a nave arcade, and other combinations. And then, again, the
extreme picturesqueness of Wren's interiors : the freedom of
treatment, the breadth of light and shade, the boldness and
dignity of the essential parts, and the general interest of the
composition, together with the beauty of the carved and moulded
oakwork, the quaintness and charm of the old brass chandeliers
and iron sword-rests, the touches of gold on stone and plaster,
all combine to produce delightful subjects for a painter. "

A certain class of people who obviously ought to
be worshipping in their own suburban churches may
now and then stroll into a City church on a Sunday
morning, and possibly find but a small congregation
therein. They contrast the quiet emptiness with the
non-church-going character of the populous suburban
scenes they have just quitted where, perhaps, the
means of grace may be somewhat scantily supplied by
the Church of England and then, when they return
home (instead of trying to do their best to satisfy
their own suburban needs) they indignantly write to
the newspapers, or otherwise publicly propound the
parrot question "What is the use of City churches?"

This oft-repeated question was exceedingly well
answered by the Rev. W. C. E. Newbolt, M.A.,
Canon and Chancellor of S. Paul's Cathedral, who,
preaching at the Church of S. Martin, Ludgate, on the
occasion of the thanksgiving service held there on
August 29th, 1895, for the completion of the work of
repairing and refitting the building, said :

" What is the use of a City church? What do you hope to
do with it? Is it useful? Does it meet a need? How do you
intend to fill it?

1 ' We answer :

" The church is of great use because it is God's House, and it
is always full, because God and His Court occupy it. I am
quite prepared to maintain that the mere existence of a church,
a church of stone with tower and bell, in a street is of great
advantage in itself. Here is a building which, when everything
around it is speaking of man, of business and pleasure, speaks
of God. Here is a building which, as plainly as words can
speak, says, ' There is a God Who is watching over the affairs
of this great city. If you forget Him you cannot prosper. If
you injure Him by sin, you will suffer 'for it. If you keep to
Him He will never forsake you.' Here it is like the shadow of
a great rock in a weary land.

"The church is useful as a quiet place for prayer. Oh, if
clergy only knew of the rest and peace they give, by letting the
simple and the wearied and the sorrowful find shelter, they
would always seek to make the church a sanctuary, a refuge,
where the soul can be alone with God.

" A City church (like every other) is a house of grace. Surely
the day will come, and speedily, when unlimited sermons will
cease to satisfy. There is no mention of sermons in heaven.
Feeding people with sermons is, after all, like feeding men
with perpetual medical prescriptions. They are means to an
end. Grace is what we need. Here in the church are the


means of grace. Here are clergy not merely to advise, bin to
help. The smallest church is a spiritual dispensary, which it
would be a crime to close."

Many pages could be rilled with anecdotes and
stories of City men who have found the isolation, rest
and quiet of a City church most helpful to them in
dark moments of business trouble, perplexity and
killing anxiety. One such story will suffice. Writing
in the City Press a few years ago, the Rev. Thomas
Moore, M.A., Rector of S. Michael, Paternoster
Royal, stated that :

" A city man of good position one day found himself .suddenly
confronted with a serious crisis in his business affairs. Stunned
and bewildered for the moment, and unable to attend to the
perplexing concerns of his office he went out, and for some time
wandered aimlessly about in the city streets. Passing (by
accident, as it seemed) the open door of the Church of
S. Edmund the King, Lombard Street, he entered the sacred

Online LibraryCharles William PearceNotes on old London city churches : their organs, organists, and musical associations → online text (page 1 of 25)