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The Father Willis Organ
The organ in St. Bees Priory is justifiably famous as one of the masterpieces of Victorian organ building. Completed in 1899, it was the last major organ to be built under the personal supervision of "Father" Henry Willis; the master organ builder of the Victorian era. Willis had been in the forefront of British organ building for over fifty years, and the excellence of his pipework, and the precision and reliability of his mechanisms, had won him the work of rebuilding over half the cathedral organs in England. The priory organ is itself an instrument of cathedral proportions, with nearly 2,000 pipes and a total of 40 speaking stops, including two 32ft ranks. But its greatest glory is its reed pipes; an area in which Willis excelled, and throughout the instrument the consistent high quality of Willis' work is evident.
In recent years it has attracted organists from round the world who have come to St Bees to play, and in many cases given recitals, on this magnificent instrument.
Recordings of this organ have been made in the last hew years. One, professionally produced, by David Sanger is no longer available. However, a second CD, produced locally in 2005 for the Priory Roof Appeal and featuring four of our local organists, is still available. Please contact the site manager for details.