Sweetland Organ

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St Michael’s Organ History  

The first organ of which anything is known was built by Samuel Green around 1788 and seems to have been in need of replacement by the 1840s since an advertising leaflet from George Sherborne (c.1800-1862) is preserved in the parish records. Sherborne was a Bath organ builder who worked from an address in Somerset Buildings until the mid1850's when he moved to Sunderland.  He was Sweetland’s apprentice master, but it was Sweetland who was chosen to build the organ at St. Michael’s.  It may have been that, as he had never built a church organ before, his price was less than that quoted by his master.
 
Sweetland’s Organ at St Michael's first played on the 29th November 1849 
Bath and Cheltenham Gazette, 39, (1953) 3d. December 8th 1849.

 'An excellent selection of chants s
ervices and anthems were sung, with the aid of a small but efficient choir….Mr Gibbs, the recently appointed organist, presided at the new organ which is an instrument of great sweetness and considerable power for its size, and does much credit to the mechanical abilities of its builder, Mr Sweetland.’

On 23 March 1877, this testimonial was sent to William Sweetland, signed by John C Burnett St Michael's Rector and Churchwardens Henry J. Walker and J. W. Marsh.
 
Dear Sir, We have much pleasure in saying that the organ you erected in St Michael’s Parish Church in 1849 has proved in every  respect a most excellent and satisfactory instrument, having required no outlay for it in repairs during the period of twenty-eight years it has been in use, beyond small matters included in your tuning, viz., £4 4s per annum.  The organ is considered to be as good now as when first built, and very favourable opinions have been expressed by good judges of music as to the quality of tone and power’.

It seems likely that Sweetland continued to care for the organ throughout his working life and enlarged it in 1900 so that by the time Haycraft viewed it it had ten stops on the Great, nine on the Swell and two on the Pedal and this is as it stands today. Almost all of the 1849 pipework has been retained and although now provided with electric action and a detached console (by Stephen Cook of Westbury, Wilts in 2007), the sound has probably not altered much from the original with a fine diapason chorus and good and varied reed tone.  
 
Around 300 organs were built or rebuilt by Sweetland in churches and private residences throughout the UK and as far away as Genoa. The Genoa instrument was the desire of the Crown Princess of Germany, Princess Royal of England, to provide the English church with an organ. The Princess and the Emperor of Germany paid most of the costs.  Instruments which survive in the Bath area in 2010, include, St Michael's Without, Broad Street, Central United Reform, Argyle Street, Manvers Street Baptist, All Saints Weston, St Saviour's Larkhall,  Partis College Weston, Christ Church Bradford-on-Avon, St Leonard Farleigh Hungerford, St Peter Freshford, St Bartholomew Corsham, Holy Cross Seend, Dauntsey Church, St Andrew Holcombe, Downside and Grittleton School, St Mary, St Peter and St Andrew Devizes.

William Sweetland began on his own account in 1846 and continued building quality organs until the beginning of the 20th Century.

Sweetland Music Festival 18th - 25th September 2010.  Sweetland Music Festival at St Michael's Without, commemorated the centenary of the death of St Michael's organ builder, William Sweetland, with a week of music and exhibition.  The Exhibition based on Sweetland, included a special Festival painting by Bath artist Peter Brown, together with displays of  Bath's great citizens. The opening concert was given by internationally acclaimed organist Thomas Trotter, City of Birmingham Organist, and Organist of St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey.  Other events included the RUH Choir, City of Bath Bach Choir, Paragon Singers, Autumn Equinox produced and composed by Steven Faux (curate of St Miachel's) and Vocal Works Gospel Choir.  Historic Bath walks were provided by well known city guide Andrew Swift, and lunchtime organ recitals were given by Bath Organist James Scott and Tim Campain, Organist of Coventry Cathedral.  Proceeds of the Festival were divided between RUH Forever Friends Appeal and Dorothy House Hospice.


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