The first record we have of an organ in Cromer Parish Church is found in a legacy left by John Spynk in 1500 - 'To look after the small organ.' After an interval of some 250 years we find that a West Gallery was put up in the church in 1792 and, in August of that year, an organ was opened by Mr J. Beckwith of Norwich.
In 1867, money was raised for a new organ; one with two manuals and an octave and a half of pedals with a weak Bourdon stop. It stood on the north side of the church near to the choir vestry. It is interesting to note that, despite these limitations, the weekly organ recitals given in the Parish Church during the summer season were instituted as a regular feature by Canon L. Meadows in 1885.
In 1897, this organ was sold when the present organ was purchased from Bath Abbey and placed where it now stands in the chancel - which had been restored in 1886, following a long period of dereliction beginning in the 1680s.
The 1897 organ - built by Messrs. Norman and Beard Ltd. of Norwich - had, at that time, three manuals and an inadequate pedal organ of only three stops. In 1903, a fourth manual - the Solo Organ - was added but not enclosed in a swell box. Further improvements were made in 1912 when the action changed to tubular pneumatic and a new stop key console provided, although the inadequacy of the pedal organ still remained.
In 1948, a major transformation took place. The organ was completely rebuilt, modernised and enlarged to a specification drawn up by Norman Cutting (Organist) in consultation with the builders Messrs. William Hill and Son and Norman and Beard Ltd. of London. This rebuild was made possible by the generosity and energy of Dr. and Mrs A. Burton and many friends. The old stop key console was discarded and a new, electro-pneumatic one, with stops on both sides of the manuals at an angle of 45 degrees, was installed and placed in a more advantageous position. The Solo Organ was enclosed in a new swell box, ten new speaking stops and nine extra couplers were added, together with an increased number of thumb pistons. At the same time the old wooden fan and the motor were replaced with a Kinetic Electric Rotary Blower.
In 1968, after 20 years of continual and excellent service, the organ was again dismantled, cleaned, all worn parts renewed and five more speaking stops added: Choir Nazat and Tierce, Great Contra Viole and Pedal Viole and Contra Bourdon. Cromer Church could now claim to have one of the finest organs in the county.
1976 saw the addition of a Great two-rank Mixture. Since then, the organ has been in the hands of R.A.J. Bower and Company, Organ Builders of Weston Longville who, in 1986, completely overhauled the instrument, updating the capture system and making the action electric in all departments. Since then, new Trumpet and Clarion stops have been added to the Great and, in 1998, a new 32ft Contra Trombone was added to the Pedal Organ and the Fourniture was extended to 5 ranks.
The main case, facing the chancel from the north side, is the 1838 Smith case from Bath Abbey with some small adjustments made to enable it to fit. The west end case, facing into the north aisle, was originally one of the 'quarter cases' of the old Bishop Organ from Southwell Minster. It dates from c1891 when that organ was rebuilt by Messrs. William Hill and Son and Norman and Beard Ltd. These cases were discarded in 1933, and one was stored in some Rectory stables at Hedenham, near Bungay, until 1948 when it was decided to use it at Cromer. It had already served time in two Cathedrals - Norwich being one (clothing the temporary organ after the fire to the main organ in 1938) - and one Abbey.
Editor's note: A small leaflet containing the original version of this article, together with details of the organ specification, can be purchased from the bookstall in the Parish Church. Weekly organ recitals continue to be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday evenings throughout the Summer season, and details of the programme are published on this site and in the calendar.
The information for this item, which was edited and prepared for the website by David Orsborne, is largely drawn from articles written by Norman Cutting and Ralph Bootman.