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August 14, 2012 / garyalex

Diss Church’s First Organ Found

Original Diss Organ Click for pic

Canon Charles Robertson Manning was rector during the time of Victorian restoration of the church; and was zealous in his activities – the east window being one of his innovations.
The clergy of his day were well-meaning; but there are many who regard their work as disastrous.
As Betjeman said in a radio broadcast: “We talk of our churches as ‘old’ but they are mainly Victorian – at any rate in their furniture. The west galleries were cut down. The old choir was dismissed and went disgruntled off to chapel or to form a village band or to appear self-consciously and surpliced in the chancel. That chancel was blocked by an organ or harmonium, its width was cluttered up with choir stalls…”
This is just what happened in Diss church. In 1877 the west gallery was taken down, an organ was placed in the Corpus Christi Chapel and the musicians replaced by a choir in cassocks and surplices.
Kathy Tebble showed me some family items recently, including a pocket book first written in by Robert Parr in the 18th century. The Parrs, through marriage, morphed into the Harrisons, Kathy’s family and great servants of the church.
From the book I found that the organ that Canon Manning installed in 1877 was not the first. Moreover, the original organ was taken to another Norfolk church, where it can still be seen.
It may have been second-hand in 1858 the year after C.R. Manning succeeded his father as rector. It was said to have been ‘improved’ by Joseph Bullen & Son that year; and is thought to be of an early 19th century date.
After nearly 20 years Manning decided to have a new organ made by Rayson of Ipswich, who took the old one to East Winch near Kings Lynn.
It may once have stood on the gallery over the west door. It is still working and may be up to 200 years old.

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