By Katrina ffiske

The Father Willis organ has been removed piece by piece by Harrison & Harrison for restoration. The removal has meant that Emily Naish, the Archivist at the Cathedral, and the organist John Challenger have been able to dig into corners of the organ loft that have been hidden for over a century.

Valley News went to discover what they had found.

The first question is where actually is the organ loft? “It is behind an unimposing door in the south quire aisle,” said Emily. “Through this door you climb steep stairs that take you to the organ loft, where John will preside during services.”

“The main discoveries were two A4 folders, found under the stairs, and 10 volumes of bound music found on a hidden shelf.” Emily continues.

“The documents and music gave us a real insight into the music that has been played at the Cathedral over the decades, and also gave a little insight into the lives of the organists themselves.”

On one sheet of music, King all Glorious, written by Barnby, in 1869, the organist Sir Walter Galpin Alcock (organist from 1917-1947) has scribbled, “Horrible” and “A disgraceful anthem”.

These annotations portray a sense of humour and forcefulness in Alcock. John has played the piece and confirmed it was a “horrible, dated, pompous piece of Victorian music”. For John it “has been inspiring to see what past organists have played and see into their minds with their scribbles on the margins.”

“A disgraceful Anthem” annotation by organist Sir Walter Alcock.

A service sheet from 1968, the Primary Schools Service, shows how forward thinking Salisbury Cathedral was, inviting the BBC to broadcast the service, and with the modern dramatic design of the service sheet. A dramatic cross hovers above an image with telecommunications signals reaching out from the image of Earth (see below).

1968 Primary Schools Service Sheet

Invisible Man banned
What was nearly overlooked is that on the back of this cutting there was a heading: Film Banned.

Emily read out “After a private view of the HG Wells’ famous novel The Invisible Man, Salisbury members of the Salisbury Watch Committee banned the film being shown in Salisbury.”

H.G. Wells film banned in Salisbury in 1933.

On further reading it seemed the film was banned because some of the scenes are “most weird… the whole atmosphere of the film was gruesome. In one scene the invisible man disrobed. A skeleton appeared first beneath his clothes and then that vanished. It was a gruesome thing. Universal pictures for South Wales and the West of England said he knew of no other municipal authority which had banned the film.”

Who would know that a cutting found in the organ loft would reveal how puritanical the Salisbury Watch Committee was in 1933?

It was an honour to be able to see and touch these precious documents that had been discovered, a wonderful addition to the Cathedral Archives.

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