In 1089, the building of an abbey church (St Peter’s Abbey) commenced, although a religious house had previously existed on the site since 678-9. Further major building works were carried out in the 13th and 15th centuries to produce the building we know today.
Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the abbey buildings became Gloucester Cathedral in 1541, the seat of the Bishop of Gloucester.
In 1999 Nicholson & Company were privileged to have been entrusted with the renovation of the historic organ in Gloucester Cathedral.
The work entailed the renewal of the electrical and solid state components, which were replaced like-for-like in order to preserve the unique and responsive key-action designed by John Norman. An enlarged piston combination system has been installed, incorporating a ‘stepper’ to give greater control over the tonal resources of the organ. Further flexibility has been achieved by including a ‘Pedal Divide’ facility, allowing the choice of contrasting registrations between the upper and lower halves of the Pedal clavier.
The tonal scheme of Ralph Downes for the 1971 Hill, Norman & Beard instrument has been preserved and augmented by four new registers. A new 32ft Pedal reed was felt to be in keeping with Ralph Downes’ emphasis on the Werkprinzip, maintaining the octave pitch differential between the Great and Pedal divisions, the Great having a 16ft Posaune.
As the 1971 rebuild left the organ without a 32ft stop, three new mutation stops at 102/3, 62/5 and 44/7 ft pitches have been added to complete the harmonic series from the second to the eighth harmonic. Similar mutation stops were considered by Downes for the Royal Festival organ but never implemented. The new stops have added a grandeur and definition to the pedal line that befits a cathedral organ. Vierne once described the effect of a Pedal Septième as adding “the richness of a muster of double basses”.
The Director of Music was David Briggs, whose concept the tonal changes were; the consultant was Ian Bell.
In 2010, a solo Trompette Harmonique was added, operating on 200mm pressure from a booster blower.