Father Willis Organ

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 pipe work, 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 on YouTube 

Recordings of this organ can be found on YouTube, see links below

Mons Leidvin Takle – “Power of life” played by Frank Bowler

Ian Hare – BBC archive programme

Selection of wedding music


The History of this magnificent history can be found here.




16 Double Open Diapason
8 Open Diapason
(empty slide: prepared for Geigen 8)
8 Stopped Diapason (wood)
8 Hohl Flöte (wood, open throughout)
4 Principal
4 Wald Flöte (wood, open throughout)
2 2/3 Twelfth
2 Fifteenth III
Cornet 17.19.22
8 Tromba
4 Clarion

SWELL – (empty slide: prepared for Lieblich Gedeckt 8)

8 Open Diapason
4 Gemshorn
2 Flageolet III
Mixture 12.19.22 –
(empty slide: prepared for Sharp Mixture 26.29)
(empty slide: prepared for Double Bassoon 16)
8 Oboe
16 Contra Posaune
8 Cornopean
4 Clarion

SOLO (enclosed)

16 Double Salicional (1-12 stopped wood)
8 Viole d’Amour
8 Voix Célestes (tc)
8 Claribel Flute (wood, 1-12 stopped)
4 Concert Flute (harmonic)
2 Harmonic Piccolo
8 Orchestral Clarinet
8 Vox Humana Tremulant
8 Tuba Mirabilis (harmonic, unenclosed)


32 Double Open Bass (to GGGG, extension Open Bass 16)
16 Open Bass (wood)
16 Open Diapason (Great 16)
16 Bourdon (wood)
8 Octave (wood, extension)
8 Flute (extension)
32 Double Ophicleide (extension)
16 Ophicleide


6 unison couplers plus Solo 8ve,
Solo sub8ve to Great
Combination couplers: Pedal and accompaniment to Solo
Pedal to Great pistons
Pedal to Swell pistons
Great pistons to combination pedals
Swell pistons to combination pedals
Combination pistons: 5 each to Great, Swell, Solo
Combination pedals: 6 to Pedal 3 pistons to Pedal couplers
Reversible pedals for Solo to Great, Swell to Great
Lever swell pedals to Swell and Solo, which can be checked pneumatically in any position they are left.
Compass: 58/30.

Willis organ
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