St Mary's Cathedral


The Tickell Organ

The new organ was built in 2012–13 by Kenneth Tickell of Northampton. Below are an extract of the address given at the blessing of the organ and a summary of the organ’s technical features.

An extract from the address given at the service of blessing of the Tickell organ:

The life of this building – first a parish church and then, from 1850, a cathedral – has encompassed nearly 170 years, during which organ-design has changed more rapidly than at any other time in history. The same might also be said about the Catholic Church’s liturgical ethos and practices. The organ here, for instance, has moved from the west end to the sanctuary at the east end, then to a place in the nave, and finally back to a gallery at the west end. And with it has moved the cathedral choir, for one of the organ’s primary purposes is of course to accompany and support them. The years that the organ here was entombed in a chamber at the east end were the nadir of its existence, as they were for British organ-design generally. 

The Tickell organ

In recent decades, however, an historically-informed renaissance in organ design and organ building, led by such craftsmen as Kenneth Tickell, has transformed the British organ scene and has allowed St Mary’s Cathedral to commission such a glorious instrument as it now has. The new instrument ranks alongside those in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, and Westminster Cathedral as the finest in any Catholic cathedral in the country: be in no doubt. We should thank all involved in its creation: organ craftsman Kenneth Tickell and his team; architect Kevin Doonan; the Cathedral musicians, Howard Baker and David Allison, as well as Cathedral volunteer Judith Clancy; previous Cathedral Deans Fr Michael Campion and Fr Peter Leighton; Brian Varley for energising the project; the Diocesan Trustees; and of course the donor Martin Ballinger, who made it all possible.

The trumpets (chamade) of the Tickell organ

Some technical information:

The main organ case contains the Great and Pedal divisions, with the Swell behind and the full-length wooden pipes of the Contra Bass 16 standing behind the swell box. The Choir organ is placed in its own case at the front of the gallery. The centre of both cases has been kept low to afford the maximum view of the tracery of the west window. The cases are framed of oak, with painted and gilded panels. The design aims to be sympathetic to Pugin’s architecture, and the colours have been chosen to complement the existing decoration in the Cathedral. The front pipes of the organ are of polished tin metal, with gilded mouths. The pipe shades above the tops of the pipes are carved in lime wood, depicting various flower associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The organ has mechanical (tracker) key actions with an electric stop action and piston system.

Paul Hale, Southwell Minster
(organ consultant for this project)