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One of the most famous instruments in Britain (and certainly one of those most broadcast and recorded), the organ at the then St Peter-at-Leeds was first installed in the medieval church in 1713. Extensive work on the instrument during the remainder of the 18th century culminated in substantial enlargement by Greenwood Brothers of Leeds in 1815. This instrument was transferred to the newly built Victorian Church in time for the consecration of the present St Peter’s on 2nd September 1841. The organ at that service was played by Dr Samuel Sebastian Wesley, the greatest church musician of the Victorian period, and Wesley was offered and accepted the post of organist at Leeds early in the year following. Further work on the instrument was undertaken in 1859, when Hill installed a new Swell Organ and the great German builder Edmund Schulze added a considerable number of stops – many of these ranks survive (perhaps surprisingly) comparatively little altered today.

Abbott & Smith rebuilt the organ twice – in 1883 and 1899, but, by 1912, substantial further work was essential, and major plans were laid during the closing months of the tenure of Edward Cuthbert Bairstow (Organist of Leeds from 1906 to 1913).

The instrument as we have it today is, in essence, a Harrison organ speaking with a Harrison voice – though with a pronounced and unique character of its own. The complete reconstruction under the direction of Arthur Harrison in 1914 was a triumph of the voicer’s art within a building relatively dry in acoustic terms. The firm did further work in 1927, undertaking a major restoration in 1949. The pitch was standardised to ‘concert’ pitch A=440 Hz a decade later. The Leeds firm of Wood Wordsworth and Co rebuilt the organ in 1965. The most substantial change concerned the famous “Echo” (properly the “Altar”) organ in its own case on the North Altar Flat. This was removed and the pipework incorporated within the main organ. This was, in part, a response to a need for more upperwork on the pedal and choir divisions, and in part a reaction against severe logistical difficulties with the Altar Organ (wind trunking running within heating ducts and a very unsightly back to the case among them). Dr Donald Hunt (organist of the Parish Church from 1957 to 1975) and Peter Wood drew up the revised specification. Much of the voicing was in the skilled hands of long-serving Parish Church Lay Clerk and Principal Tenor Brian Wilson (1928-2010), whose skill in integrating the new pipework with the old has been universally admired.

Andrew Carter of Wakefield undertook a complete root and branch restoration over two years from 1995. The actions were renewed, with solid state transmission provided throughout and a vast amount of leatherwork replaced. The Great Reeds were re-cast and a new Vox Humana stop installed as a gift. Not least among the challenges was the complete reconstruction of the ailing blowing plant, entrusted to Allfab Engineering of Methley.  The consultants to the Rector and Churchwardens for the current Restoration were Dr Noel Rawsthorne, Ian Bell, Anthony J Cooke (Organs Adviser to the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds) and Simon Lindley (Organist of the Church between 1975 and 2016).

In 2002, a Jubilee Trumpet stop was added to the Solo Organ in place of the original Tuba 8’, the pipes of which have been retained. This work was undertaken with funds provided by the Friends of the Music of Leeds Minster from a generous legacy received from the estate of a distinguished and much loved former organist Dr Melville Cook (here from 1937 to 1956).

There is no case, and the instrument fills the whole of the South Transept from floor to ceiling, being placed behind an elaborate wooden screen, once memorably (and not unreasonably) described by a great organ expert as “a weird mass of carving”. Wind reservoirs and regulators are in the Crypt, and the Blowing Plant feeds the instrument from a small self-contained Blowing House in the Southern Precinct, between the West Wall of the South Transept and the South-West Wall of the Nave.

From the South Transept location, the organist is placed between the Choir and the Congregation – a position which presents formidable challenges of vocal and instrumental balance but which is utterly invaluable in terms of congregational choral and accompaniment with the object of enhancing the liturgy – which is, after all, the main purpose of the instrument.

The maintenance of this fine instrument is sustained by the Friends of the Music of Leeds Minster: new members are always most welcome! Details from the Director of Music, Alexander Woodrow (alex.woodrow@leedsminster.org)

Schulze Stops are marked ~ on the specification below
(and designated with S on the stop heads at the console)


1. Double Open Wood 32
2. Major Bass (Open Wood No 1, re-instated 1997) 16
3. Open Wood (Ex Double Open Wood) 16
4. Open Diapason 16
5. Geigen* (Ex Great) 16
6. Violone 16
7. Sub Bass 16
8. Dulciana * (Ex Choir) 16
9. Principal (Ex Geigen) 8
10. Octave Wood (Ex Major Bass) 8
11. Violoncello (Ex Violone) 8
12. Bass Flute (Ex Sub Bass) 8
13. Fifteenth (Ex Violoncello) 4
14. Flute~ 4
15. Octave Flute~ 2
16. Mixture 9, 22, 26 III
17. Double Ophicleide 32
18. Ophicleide (Ex Double Ophicleide) 16
19. Tuba (*) (+) (Ex SoloContra Tuba) 16
20. Clarinet (*) (+) 16
21. Posaune 8
22. Schalmei 4

* = Pedal stops derived from manual ranks of the same name

+ = Enclosed (Solo)


23. Contra Dulciana (Ex Dulciana) 16
24. Diapason~ 8
25. Quintadena 8
26. Gedackt~ 8
27. Dulciana 8
28. Principal~ 4
29. Lieblich Flute~ 4
30. Dulcet (Ex Dulciana) 4
31. Nazard~ 2 2/3
32. Gemshorn 2
33. Tierce 1 3/5
34. Larigot 1 1/3
35. Sifflote 1
36. Dulciana Mixture 12, 15, 17, 19, 22 V
37. Scharf 22. 26, 29 III
38. Cromorne 8


39. Bourdon 16
40. Gross Geigen 16
41. Open Diapason I 8
42. Open Diapason II~ 8
43. Open Diapason III~ 8
44. Geigen 8
45. Flauto Traverso 8
46. Gedeckt 8
47. Dulciana (Ex Choir) 8
48. Octave 4
49. Geigen Principal 4
50. Harmonic Flute~ 4
51. Octave Quint 2 2/3
52. Super Octave~ 2
53. Cornet 17, 19, 22 III
54. Furniture 19, 22, 26, 29 IV
55. Contra Tromba (re-voiced, 1997) 16
56. Posaune (Tromba, re-voiced & re-made, 1997) 8
57. Clarion (Octave Tromba, re-voiced & re-made, 1997) 4



58. Bourdon 16
59. Open Diapason 8
60. Doppel Flöte 8
61. Echo Gamba 8
62. Voix Celestes 8
63. Principal 4
64. Wald Flute 4
65. Twelfth 2 2/3
66. Fifteenth 2
67. Mixture 19, 22, 26,29 IV
68. Vox Humana (new, 1997) 8
69. Oboe 8
70. Double Trumpet 16
71. Trumpet 8
72. Horn 8
73. Clarion 4


74. Viole d’Orchestre 8
75. Harmonic Flute 8
76. Concert Flute 4
77. Piccolo 2
78. Sesquialtera 12, 17 II
79. Mixture 19, 22, 26 III
80.Double Clarinet 16
81. Contra Tuba 16
82. Jubilee Trumpet (new, 2002) 8

COMPASS CC-C (61 notes) manuals

CCC-G (32 notes) pedals 

Choir to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Solo to Pedal
Swell to Choir
Solo to Choir
Reeds on Choir
Choir Octave
Choir Sub Octave
Choir Unison Off
Choir to Great
Swell to Great
Solo to Great
Solo to Swell
Swell Sub Octave
Solo Unison Off
Choir to Pedal Pistons
Great & Pedal Combinations Coupled
Tremulant to Swell
Tremulant to Solo