Loose & Boughton Monchelsea

Loose is situated just south of Maidstone, a quintessential English village of stone built houses and low-walled gardens nestling in a valley close to the Hastings Road Viaduct. One imagines summer sunshine, the wisteria quietly on the climb and people coming and going. But this was November and, although the wisteria had long since crept into winter dormancy, the sun was still shining pleasantly on this charming little place, fortuitously unspoiled by Maidstone’s urban sprawl. There was a timeless air about the twisting hilly streets, even the churchyard wall still boasted some stepping stones from which one could mount one’s horse.

The ancient church of All Saints has undergone many changes over the years, as has the organ, which was originally built in 1876 by Atherton of Leighton Buzzard. It has recently been rebuilt and moved by F H Browne & Sons to the West End of the church, now in two new cases either side of the West window. These new mirror image cases are an artistic delight and display the organ’s original decorated front pipes to good effect.

Tonally this is still an English organ, having beguiling flutes, full toned Diapason choruses and, considering the small new organ cases, a generous specification: Great Organ 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2, Swell Organ 16 8 8 4 2 8, Pedal Organ 16 8, usual couplers. The action is direct electric on the main soundboards which, although prompt, did produce some audible clicking during quieter playing. We were fortunate to have Mr Roger Greensted from F H Browne & Sons to give us an insight into this interesting rebuild.

Mr Lawrence Ockenden, Organist of St. Peter’s Church, Boughton Monchelsea, demonstrated the organ for us with: In green pastures by H. Darke, Fughetta in E flat by J. Rheinberger and a pot-pourri of snippets of different pieces all cleverly sewn together, enabling us to hear clearly the individual voices of the organ as well as the full ensemble. Remembrance Sunday was just past and, thoughtfully, Andrew Cesana played For the Fallen by Sir Edward Elgar.

St. Peter’s Church, Boughton Monchelsea, stands proud on the Quarry Hills overlooking the Weald, an impressive view bestowed with a mystic beauty in winter’s fading light. The church, which has Norman origins, had been gutted by fire in 1832 and the Victorian rebuild of 1874/5 left the church much as it is today.

Lawrence Ockenden demonstrated the church’s Millennium Window, designed and installed in an internal tower window by Graham Clark. The window is lit from behind and a programme of lighting effects subtly unveil the window’s component parts depicting the creation through to the Millennium’s end, illustrated by a charming cameo of St. Peter’s Church lych-gate. The window was indeed a fascination, although the programme’s accompanying music was, perhaps, not to everyone’s taste.

F H Browne & Sons built the organ in 1915 at a cost of £322.00 although it included some pipework from an earlier one manual instrument by J. W. Walker. The original Walker Gothic case front, with painted wooden pipes, was also retained.  Mr Roger Greensted had kindly brought some original documents for us to see and described the organ and the 1990 restoration in much detail, its specification being: Great Organ 8 8 4 4 2, Swell Organ 8 8 8 8 4 8 and Pedal Organ 16 8 51/3 4.

The instrument was demonstrated by our Mr Ockenden who played: Psalm Prelude set 1, No. 2 by Herbert Howells, Choral improvisation Antiphon by Karg Elert, Trio Sonata in B flat op. 189 No. 10 by J. Rheinberger and J. S. Bach’s Choral Prelude, Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzngleich. He also provided us with another of his pot-pourri fully demonstrating the instrument. We were indeed indebted to Mr Ockenden who spoke with a profound knowledge and much Gaieté de coeur greatly enhancing our enjoyment of the afternoon.

The tea provided by the ladies of Boughton Monchelsea was quite the best we have had for a long time. Individual servings consisting of: the finest beef, with horse radish sauce, extra mature cheddar cheese, bread rolls and cakes, then tea or coffee to taste. This had been a memorable afternoon and we must thank Brian Moore who so kindly arranged it for us.

 

 

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