News from Fotheringhay


St Mary and All Saints Church, Fotheringhay, from an original watercolour by Simon Dolby

'Fotheringhay is a tiny village in Northamptonshire over which presides the iconic lantern tower of St Mary and All Saints Parish Church - "float(ing) on its hill above the River Nene, a galleon of Perpendicular on a sea of corn"  (Simon Jenkins)

The present Church is all that remains of a mediaeval College of Priests founded by King Edward III.  This is a romantic location rich in historical association:

  • King Edward III instigated the building of the Church and College, with work completed by c.1434
  • King Richard III was born in the adjoining Castle, the home of the Yorkist line
  • Edward of Norwich and Richard Plantagenet (Dukes of York), together with the latter's wife and son, are buried there
  • King Edward IV donated the painted pulpit in the Church
  • Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587 in the Castle
  • Mary's son, King James I, razed the Castle in 1627

Recent researches reveal that, before its Dissolution in 1548, the College had a sophisticated musical culture, with:

  • over 20 singing boys and men, performing
  • a fine body of choral polyphony, as evidenced in John Sadler's part books;
  • two organs

Thousands visit Fotheringhay every year, a trend now boosted by the recently-raised interest in Richard III and the activities of the Richard III Society.  The Church is also a focus for other special-interest groups such as the Mary Queen of Scots Society, U3A, Concert- and Recording artists.

St Mary's, Fotheringhay, is a numinous place blessed with a moist yet clear acoustic.

Fotheringhay - The Organ

For most years of the 20th century, Fotheringhay Church had an electronic organ (a Compton - with valves!).  During the 1990s, James Parsons headed an initiative to provide a pipe organ worthy of the Church's heritage and aesthetic qualities.  The builder finally selected was Vincent Woodstock of Redbourn, Hertfordshire, who installed the organ in 2000.  The ON Organ Fund was one of the major contributors to the funding campaign spearheaded by Michael and Juliet Wilson.

Photo of the organ at Fotheringhay by permission of John Miley

The organ which Woodstock created, noted for it superb mechanical action and resonant voicing, has been widely featured in recitals and broadcasts and at organists' summer schools, whilst enriching the regular services.

Great   Swell  
Open Diapason 8 Chimney Flute 8
Stopped Diapason 8 Flute 4
Dulciana 8 Nazard 2 2/3
Principal 4 Gemshorn 2
Fifteenth 2 Tierce 1 3/5
Mixture IV 1 1/3    
Trumpet 8    
Pedal   Compass of Keys CC-g3 56 notes
Bourdon 16 Compass of Pedals C-f1 30 notes
Bass Flute 8 Pedalboard Straight/Concave
Bassoon 16 Mechanical Action to keys and stops


During major structural renovation of the Church, stretching over an eighteen-month period, the Organ has been wrapped and sealed to deter the ingress of dust and debris.  Now, in autumn, 2018, it is to be cleaned and recommissioned by Bower & Company

2019 will see

  • the release of new recordings by James Parsons playing the Fotheringhay organ
  • a prestigious series of public organ recitals
  • celebratory services recreating Fotheringhay's medieval liturgies
  • a proposed residence of 'Early English Organs'

The Organ - Schedule for cleaning/recommissioning/minor Tonal Re-regulation

  • remove covering and check the instrument
  • take out Trumpet pipes and canistered pipes from Swell . . . 
  • make necessary stays for Trumpet and larger Swell pipes, then replace them
  • tighten canisters of Swell stopped pipes
  • remove, clean and reset all pipework - processes to include -
  • improve trebles of Stopped Diapason/regulate Trumpet, Bassoon and Mixture 
  • retune organ to agreed temperament
  • fit subtle new console lighting, and case-illumination from pulpit area

Cost to be met through Appeal £14,000

James Parsons  More about James here


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Page last updated: 6th Aug 2018 7:27 AM