- Date of Birth : 1865
Special Features: Grade 2* listed ‘particularly important, of more than special interest’ Her generous acoustics with 34 stops and 2000 pipes are cathedral style of the mid 19th century, — a rarity to find in original form.
Home: St John’s Hyde Park, London. East of the choir.
Activity: a proud and impressive historical instrument, Betty’s powerful voice is the musical heart of the community. Singlehandedly she supplies the orchestral sounds under the outstanding musicians’ talented hands. Her renowned celestial sounds carry and cure the spirits of the congregation with its international following.
Creator: William Hill & Sons
Family History: William Hill entered the organ making company of his father-in-law Thomas Elliott in 1825. 1932, the same year they completed the organs of the York Minster and Birmingham Town Hall, he inherited the enterprise. Taking in his first son, he renamed it William Hill & Sons and kept honing skills and clientele.
- ‘Hill […] in the 1850s adapted his style to take account of contemporary taste. Choruses were bolder, basses spoke their notes more promptly, big quint mixtures lent brilliance to the Full Organ; chorus reeds were full-toned and more regular than earlier examples; delicate solo registers proliferated. […] Soundboards were more spacious, winding more generous, and the structure of even quite modest instruments acquired a massiveness which was novel.’ Nicholas Thistlewaite, The Making of the Victorian Organ
The 1860s saw the height of Hill & Son’s fame, making organs for clients as far afield as St Andrews Cathedral, Sydney (1866). Betty, installed a year prior, is one of the finest surviving examples of their work.
Personal history: in 1925 a pneumatic mechanism was inserted; good fortune means the chirurgical intervention was less invasive than could have been, making it possible to propose restoring the organ to its original fine – mechanical – qualities.
Health: approaching her 150 year celebrations, Betty is in desperate need of repair. ‘The wind-chests are beset by runnings, leakage of air, and the functioning of the pneumatic key action is erratic.
- The reservoirs and their leatherwork are in a decayed state, and the actions require re-leathering…’ Reads the tuner’s book, but adds a more upbeat ‘The original mechanical stop-action is in relatively good shape. The pipe-work is in fair condition, but dirty and with rusted tuning slides.’
Doctor’s Advice: A serious operation is needed urgently to restore Betty to her former glory. Under expert hands she can be revitalized, her original mechanics reinstated. This would suffice to let her outstanding qualities shine for another 150 years, right through the 2100s. Situated at Hyde Park / Marble Arch right in the heart of London, she thus can continue to celebrate the finest music with clarity and momentum rare in Great Britain.
St John’s Hyde Park’s long established relations with the Royal Academy, the Royal College of Music amongst others will ensure Betty will be able play a major role in Britain’s cultural, musical agenda for centuries to come.
St John's Hyde Park