The Octagon Chapel, Norwich


For the history of the chapel itself, please see here, here and more here.

In 1801 it was decided by the Octagon authorities that an organ was needed, and money was collected to the total of £221.0.6.

The organ was purchased from a Mr M. H. Dickens (or Dickons) Esq., a Freeman of Norwich for £40, and Mr. Michael Crotch Jnr (brother of the famous composer William Crotch) was contracted to 'complete' it.

The organ was, according to the Octagon records, built by Harris, and contained the following stops:

Great Organ: Stop Diapason, Two Open Diapasons, Principal, Twelfth, Fifteenth, Cornet, Sesquialter (sic)

Choir Organ: Stop Diapason, Principal, Stop Flute, Dulciana

The total cost was £90.9.3 for the complete installation in the chapel.

If, as recorded, the organ was built by Harris (and I have no reason to disbelieve this) then it was probably made between 1660 and 1743 by Renatus Harris or his son John.

The next documented work on the organ that has been found is by Norman & Beard in 1889. Several small repairs and some additions were carried out, some paid for by a Mr. Steven. Other work was carried out between 1802 and 1889 as can be shown by changes that appear in the records of the organ between those dates.

The last major work on the organ took place in 1899, at which time the organ was extensively rebuilt. Several of the old Harris pipes were discarded, and new ones made, and the organ was greatly enlarged. The organ was brought forward to the front of the gallery, and the casework was enlarged to each side to accommodate the new large pedal pipes. The console was completely renewed, as were the bellows, and a new pneumatic action was added to the pedals.

Norwich Gazette - Saturday 11th Sept. 1802

"Sunday last a beautiful Organ, built by Mr. Crotch, was opened in the Octagon Chapel, by Mr. Beckwith.- The melody of tones are such, as reflect the highest credit on the builder, and the anthem by Kent, as also that by Mr. Handel, were performed in a very masterly style - the vocal performers were both select and numerous; an appropriate Sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Houghton, from the 19th chap. of Revelations and the 1st verse; it was an elegant composition, and proved from the earliest ages the use of, and veneration for, music, in all places of public worship - The chapel was very full, and the congregation appeared to be much gratified."

After exactly one hundred years of good service, it was decided to restore the organ. In 2002 I began work dismantling, cleaning and restoring. We decided to not change anything so that if in the future it was decided to do a major re-construction of the remaining Harris and Crotch parts, the present work would not have made this more difficult.

The only addition to the organ was a Trumpet stop which had been prepared for in 1899, but never fitted. This adds a much-needed reed sound to the Great.

The present stop list is:

Great Organ

CC to A, 58 notes

Open Diapason large 8, Open Diapason small 8, Wald Flute 8, Dulciana 8, Principal 4, Twelfth 2 2/3, Fifteenth 2, Clarinet 8, Trumpet 8

Swell Organ

CC to A, 58 notes

Bourdon 16, Open Diapason 8, Rohr Flute 8, Salicional 8, Voix Celestes 8, Principal 4, Piccolo 2, Horn 8, Oboe 8, Tremulant


CCC to F, 30 notes

Open Diapason 16, Bourdon 16, Principal 8 (from Open Diapason), Flute 8 (from Bourdon)


Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, Swell to Great, Swell Octave

I would like to thank all those people who helped with the work on the organ -

Edmund Holmes of Holmes & Swift

Francis Holmes

Robert Holmes

Warren Marsh

Franz Potter

Duccio Maggiora

and of course Mary Rae and all at the Octagon for their help, support and encouragement.

If you wish to get in touch with Mary Rae, the Concert Series organiser at the Octagon, please email - or visit the Octagon Music web site