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The Organs of Exeter College

Gilbert Scott’s Chapel has resonated to the sounds of three organs. The first, built for the new Chapel by William Hill, was a two manual instrument. The same company, then Hill & Son, enlarged it to three manuals in 1891/2. The organ continued to serve the Chapel for another hundred years, undergoing a second enlargement in 1965. It was finally removed from service in 1991.

The present organ, by J. W. Walker & Son Ltd., was completed in 1994, with David Sanger (later President of the Royal College of Organists) as the consultant. It retains the façade pipes from the Hill instrument, but the tonal design is French Romantic, in harmony with the Chapel’s aesthetic. It is the only instrument in either Oxford or Cambridge to be designed in the style of the great French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. It uses mechanical key action, and electric stop and combination action. The organ possesses a terraced console and the French playing aids ventils and tirasses, which can be used in place of conventional pistons and couplers. The inaugural recital was given on 30th April 1994 by Olivier Latry, titulaire des grandes-orgues de Nôtre-Dame de Paris, who is said to have described it as “A French organ speaking with an English accent”. Indeed, the instrument acquits itself equally well in the great Austro-German organ repertoire, or accompanying works in the British choral tradition, as when playing the music of Vierne, Duruflé, Langlais and Franck to which it is naturally suited. The organ was fully re-conditioned in 2007, and in 2013 benefited from the installation of an expanded memory system, together with a sequencer. The Récit Basson-Hautbois underwent minor revoicing in 2014. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the organ a recital was given by Richard Hills and William Whitehead, and a Festschrift was produced.

Specification of 1994 Organ by J. W. Walker & Sons


GRAND ORGUE (85mm wg)Bourdon (wood & metal) 16’
Montre 8’
Flûte harmonique 8’
Bourdon (wood & metal) 8’
Salicional 8’
Prestant 4’
Flûte 4’
Doublette 2’
Plein jeu IV-VI
Bombarde 16’
Trompette 8’
PÉDALE (85mm wg)Soubasse (wood) 16′
Bourdon 16′ *
Flûte 8’ *
Violoncelle 8’ *
Bourdon 8’ *
Octave 4’ *
Bombarde 16’
Trompette 8’ *
Effets d’Orage(* from the Grand Orgue)

Flûte traversière 8’
Viole de gambe 8’
Voix céleste (from c) 8’
Flûte octaviante 4’
Prestant 4’
Octavin 2’
Cornet II
Trompette harmonique 8’
Basson hautbois 8 ‘
Voix humaine 8’

ACCOUPLEMENTSRécit au Grand Orgue
Récit Octaves graves
Tirasse Récit
Tirasse Grand OrgueSix thumb pistons each to Recit & G.O.
Six foot pistons to Récit
Six General pistons (thumb and toe)
Ninety-six general piston memories
Sixteen divisional piston memories
Three “Advance” pistons (two thumb, one toe)
One “Retard” thumb piston29 stops, 1638 pipes


A list of past organists and organ scholars can be found here.