Radley College is an independent boys’ boarding school founded in 1847. The entire school gathers daily in the school chapel to meet, worship and sing together. Recent and planned increases in the school roll have led to a major project, now underway, to extend the Grade II*-listed chapel, designed by Sir T.G. Jackson in 1893.
The chapel’s first organ was built by Telford of Dublin in 1848 and was previously housed in the former chapel building. When installed into the present building in 1895, it was located in the centre of the west gallery in a splendid new case by Jackson.
Pressure from growing school rolls led to this organ being replaced in 1938 with a new organ by Rushworth & Dreaper, that had to struggle to be heard from two specially built chambers on side walls at either end of the chapel.
This organ was in turn replaced with a new instrument by Hill, Norman & Beard in 1979, in a chamber off the west gallery. It sadly proved tonally inadequate from the outset and was quickly supplemented by some of the remaining R&D material in the east chamber being resuscitated as an add-on.
The extension of the chapel, so that congregations of around 800 can gather every day, has made the need for a new instrument imperative. We are delighted to have been commissioned to build a new organ for the chapel. This will, once again, be sited in the centre of the west gallery, within a new oak case. The organ will have three manuals and 53 stops, with mechanical action to the manuals and electro-pneumatic action to the Pedal Organ.
The largest pedal pipework will be located in the chamber where the present organ is situated, behind a new tracery screen to match the adjacent windows.
The instrument will be entirely new, save for the pipework of two stops that are being retained, and will be our third new school organ in recent years, alongside those of Uppingham School and Dean Close School, Cheltenham.
Construction commenced in 2020, with installation planned for autumn 2021. We look forward to providing the school with a new instrument worthy of its setting, beautiful to the ear and to the eye, and that will inspire future generations of young people in worship and music-making.
The consultant for the project is Paul Hale.