The Hill Organ

Selby Abbey’s organ is widely regarded as among the finest large ‘romantic’ organs in Great Britain. It was built in 1909 by the firm William Hill & Sons, and was magnificently restored in 2014-2016 by Geoffrey Coffin and Principal Pipe Organs of York. With 67 speaking stops and 4 manuals, the organ’s sound is characterised by its bright, clear principal choruses, a wealth of tonal colours, and its powerful and thrilling reeds. The organ gained international recognition in the 1960s when the Italian virtuoso organist, Fernando Germani made several recordings here. Since then the Abbey organ has been played and celebrated by many distinguished organists from all over the world.

The previous organ at Selby Abbey was installed in 1825 by Renn and Boston, in a gallery on the east side of the choir screen wall. It was rebuilt several times by Booth of Wakefield, Forster and Andrews of Hull and Conacher of Huddersfield. In 1868 the organ was rebuilt and moved to a bay in the Quire. The opening recital was given by the most famous organist of his day, William Thomas (W.T.) Best. This organ was rebuilt in 1891 by James Jepson Binns of Bramley and moved again, this time to the north side of the Quire. A rebuild took place by John Compton in 1906, but this organ was destroyed by the great fire of that year, which very nearly destroyed the Abbey too.

Following this devastating fire, and as part of the great restoration of the Abbey over the next three years, the firm of William Hill & Son was commissioned to build a new instrument (the current organ), completing it in 1909. Most of the pipes of this instrument occupy two magnificent oak organ cases designed by John Oldrid Scott, the son of George Gilbert Scott. These cases are placed either side of the choir stalls in the Chancel. The huge pipes of the “Pedal: 32′ Double Open Diapason” sit high up in the Triforium overlooking the Nave.

The first major restoration of this organ was carried out in 1950 by Hill, Norman & Beard. The famous recordings by Fernando Germani were then made on the organ in the 1960s. In 1975, further alterations and additions were made to the organ by John T. Jackson. By the 2010s, the organ was showing its age and becoming increasingly unreliable. So in 2014, with Paul Hale appointed as organ adviser, Geoffrey Coffin and Principal Pipe Organs of York were commissioned to carry out a major restoration of the organ over a period of two years. 

Further information and links: 

A specification of the organ: https://npor.org.uk/survey/K01532 

Further details of the organ’s 2014-2016 restoration: https://paulhale.org/consultant/projects-of-significance/selby-abbey/

One of the ‘Germani’ recordings is available here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nrVuVGYGCArsqE6ugEao49iZIrgdxg1Zk&si=oqsWPJU1wUoZm069

The Hill Organ
The Hill Organ