April 3rd 2019, Weston Museum
Costanzi Consort Musical Director Peter Leech and local historian John Crockford-Hawley gave a talk on 'Churches and Church Music in Victorian Weston-super-Mare' with musical accompaniment by members of Costanzi Consort
Churches and Church Music in Weston-super-Mare
by Cllr John Crockford-Hawley
Talk of church music. You should have heard the singing in those days - such halloaing, scraping of fiddles, and blowing. No one could sleep during the din"! So claimed old Billy Board who pumped the original organ in St John's. Thankfully as the 19th century moved on so the quality of music improved and several Weston churches acquired decent pipe organs to fill their cavernous naves.
St John's 'new' church of 1824 claimed it's first organ belonged to George lll (it's now at Badgeworth) and the present instrument came from the Smyth-Pigotts at Brockley Hall. Following four major rebuilds and repositioning of pipes and console it still leads weekly worship in the somewhat challenging acoustic of that wide building.
Emmanuel is Weston's second Anglican church of 1846 vintage. It 'borrowed' King George's organ for 30 years before getting its own along with a 'proper' choir led for 39 years by W.H. Palmer.
Meanwhile up on the hill Holy Trinity - the 'hat box church', known for its posh millinery, attracted huge congregations and with several nearby boarding schools was never short of choristers.
As Weston spread southwards so the huge Edwardian neo-Perpendicular St Paul's also offered fully choral services with triple choir stalls for 40 singers and a superb 'Father' Willis organ (originally in Clevedon Hall). That was lost when the church suffered a direct hit during WW2 but come 1957 St Paul's reopened with a replacement Rushworth & Draper instrument.
St Saviour's also had a strong choral tradition but nothing quite surpasses the acoustic qualities of George Bodley's All Saints' with its idiosyncratic Compton organ (modelled on the instrument in Downside Abbey). Its still working sister Compton continues to rise from the pit in the Odeon Cinema!