I recently had an arranged visit to St. Helen’s by a gentleman called Alwyn Johnson from Driffield. Alwyn has taken on the task of photographing every pipe organ in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire; the organ at St. Helens was to be the 870th to be photographed by him. I told him that according to our year 2000 quinquennial report the builder was R. W. Walker & Sons. The letters WA cast into lead weights added onto the air reservoir bellows to increase pressure gave some support to this. His first comment on seeing the organ was “it doesn’t look like a Walker organ to me, and the makers name is missing from the keyboard, Walkers always removed them you know when they did a rebuild”. He also thought that the carved work on the organ front was probably made by a local craftsman.
A few days later he telephoned me to say that after some research he found that the instrument was originally built in 1874 by Wadsworth & Co. of Manchester and must have been rebuilt by Walkers when it was moved to its present position in the 1930’s.
The organ, originally “pumped” by hand was first installed in what is now the Vestry built in the mid 1800’s as an organ chamber; an archway built into the north wall of the Chancel to give access can still be seen today
I did more research myself and found that Walkers would have been at Ruislip, Middlesex when the rebuild was done and are still trading at Brandon, Suffolk. Our present organ tuner Mr. Andrew Carter trained with Walkers before moving to Stanley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, several years ago.
Edward Wadsworth trading as Wadsworth & Co. began building organs in 1860 later becoming Wadsworth Bros. in 1875. The company built organs of moderate size but sound workmanship. Another organ built by Wadsworth’s in our Diocese can be found at St. Mark’s Church, Broomhill, Sheffield. Others in South Yorkshire are at the Primitive Methodist Church, Wellgate, Rotherham, and Unitarian Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield.