St. Bartholomew's, Armley

The Schulze Organ Story





Kenneth I. Johnstone

Foreword by
Ralph Downes C.B.E.

First Edition 1978

Second Edition 1985
This book is written to preserve the fascinating story of the world-famous
Schulze organ – a story of genious, romance and tragedy – in the hopefully
that it may touch the heart of some generous benefactor and so save this
priceless treasure for the inspiration and enjoyment of future generations.

In 1990 news of a generous bequest for the restoration of the Organ was received;
the story continues in the -

Third Edition 2021

Contributions from:
Graham Barber BA M.Mus., FRCO, Mike Collins,
Thelma Collins, Chris Newton, Mark Venning - Harrison & Harrison

Photo Plates: Keith Johnstone
Photos: Archives, Mike Collins, Rob Shorland-Ball

Editorial Team: Thelma Collins, Arnold Mahon, Rob Shorland-Ball


Introduction & Prelude, Fugue and Coda
Preface, Acknowledgements & Preface 2
nd edition
Preface to the present edition on-line

Arnold Mahon, Rob Shorland-Ball
Ralph Downes
Kenneth Johnstone
Thelma Collins


IV & V









Fugue — Kenneth Johnstone
J. F. Schulze & Sons and the visit of Allbutt and Kennedy to Paulinzelle
The growth of the Organ specification
Edmund Schulze and the Organ at Meanwood Towers

Removal of the Organ to St. Peter's Church, Harrogate

Presentation of the Organ to St. Bartholomew's Church, Armley, Leeds

The Organ at Armley from 1879 to the rebuild by J J Binns in 1905, with a detailed specification
The maintenance of the Organ from 1905 to 1974 and its influence on the music at Armley

The Organ Appeal of 1974: the first stage of the restoration and the Centenary of the Organ at Armley in 1979
An appreciation of the Organ as it was in 1985

Fugue — various contributors
Restoration Fund-raising Gathers Pace: The Gala Concert Souvenir Brochure of 1990.
Contributions by: Chris Newton, Graham Barber, Mike Collins, and Kenneth Johnstone's Obituary.

Fund-raising gathers Pace
The Appeal: 1996-2000 -- Thelma Collins

Coda - various contributors
The Organ Restoration, 2000-2004 — Mark Venning (MD Harrison & Harrison), Mike Collins,
Graham Barber; Father Timothy Lipscomb (Vicar of St Bartholomew's)
And Now ..... .. Thelma Collins (Assistant Organist since 1975)
and Organists of St. Bartholomew's Church 1878 to the present


The following edited extracts from two former Organists' descriptions of the Organ are a useful starting point for what follows in our Prelude:

The conception for this world-famous instrument came from a Meanwood (Leeds) man, Thomas Stuart Kennedy, who was a partner in the engineering firm of Fairbairn, Kennedy and Naylor. Both Mr. Kennedy and his wife were enthusiastic amateur musicians and Mrs. Kennedy was a performer on both piano and organ. In 1866 Kennedy was on a walking holiday in Switzerland with his old friend and frequent travelling companion Thomas Albutt.  Albutt  recalls:

"I knew Stuart was having a house built at Meanwood, and had a great love for Bach and the organ, and had often heard me talking about Schulze. At breakfast one morning, Kennedy suddenly exclaimed, "Let us go and see Schulze!" The proposal was promptly adopted. We paid our bills and set out by rail for Coburg whence we took a carriage for Paulinzelle. We drove through the uplands and woodlands of Thuringia until we arrived on a certain hilltop, where we saw the Organ Works of the brothers Schulze. In a rustic building we were fortunate in finding [Edmund Schulze] at home.
We passed an idyllic two days with this simple-hearted and gifted family in their beautiful home. In these happy hours decisions were made that Schulze was to build a two-manual organ for Meanwood."

The history of the Organ is probably familiar to all: how that it was built by Edmund Schulze, and afterwards sold to St. Peter's Church, Harrogate; and finally bought in 1879 by Mr H W Eyres for St. Bartholomew's Church, Armley.

It is hardly possible to open any book on Organs without finding some mention of the "Armley" Organ (as it is universally termed). Organ lovers make their pilgrimage to it from all over the World.

What is it that makes it so famous? The answer can be given in one word "quality." Many things contribute towards the quality of an organ pipe when it is constructed. Schulze was an artist in this branch of work, and he seemed to possess all the secrets for the making of beautiful tone — he was a genius. When he died his secret died with him. That is why the Armley Organ is so famous.

Schulze was not only a genius in creating beautiful tone — he was a master in the art of blending. Just as an artist can mix red and blue and make purple, Schulze could mix two kinds of tone colours and by using them together make a new one and it is in this building up of tone colours that he has amazed the organ builders worldwide.

To give just one instance. There is one stop (V-Rank mixture) which makes every key sound five notes. This stop is not used alone but when it is added to the full organ it almost doubles the volume, yet that stop alone does not sound loud enough to add so much tone. How Schulze knew that it would, remains a mystery. Several organ experts who have heard many of the greatest organs on the Continent and in this Country declare it to be the most daring piece of "Voicing" (blending) in the history of organ building.

The Church building gives every assistance to the quality of the pipes. In a church of less dimensions their beauty might not be fully revealed. One interesting fact: when one short chord on the full organ is played the sound takes several seconds to die away, as if the building was reluctant to give up such beautiful tone and wanted to make it linger as long as possible.

How is an Organ managed? If various stops have to be pulled out at once how can this be accomplished? Modern methods have made this easy. Messrs J J Binns, organ builders, of Bramley, have fitted their patent tubular-pneumatic action and now any stop or combination of stops required can be made to come out by pressing various buttons or pistons under the keyboards.

In paying a visit to the interior of the Organ, one cannot help but notice the generous amount of metal and wood which is used in the construction of the pipes. This fact alone would not make beautiful tone, but it seems to be one of the essentials.

Schulze's name will always be remembered, as long as our famous Organ stands, as a living testimonial of his powers. It must always be guarded and preserved faithfully as a precious gift, not only to Armley, but to the world, and must be handed down from generation to generation in well preserved condition, because we could never get another like it, and it is not only of local interest, but its fame is universal, and so it is Armley that must see to it that this sacred trust is never misplaced.

May our instrument long continue to help us in our praises and may it serve its mission to succeeding generations.
Written by Rob Shorland-Ball

Ralph William Downes CBE KSG (16 August 1904 – 24 December 1993) was an English organist, organ designer, teacher, music director and Professor of Organ at the Royal College of Music. In 1948, he was commissioned to design the organ for the Royal Festival Hall. It proved to be the beginning of what is now perceived as the classical reform movement in organ design. Downes was consultant for the initial restoration of St. Bartholomew’s Organ.

The publication of Dr. Johnstone's scholarly monograph is particularly welcome now that the majority of those in whose recollections the mystique of the Armley organ was preserved and verbally accessible, are no longer with us. The present work provides, for the first time under one cover, a more or less complete synthesis of records formerly widely dispersed and at times almost legendary, about this famous instrument - for its fame has spread far beyond these islands; not least to the United States, where, as here, it seemed to represent an ideal, wholly at variance with current trends of organ building and tonality in the early decades of this century, but which might pave the way back to greater sanity and musicality. We now know how, a little previously, this battle was for a time fought here - if sadly lost for the time being - by our own T. C. Lewis, one of Schulze's most devoted disciples.

But alas, Schulze eventually did not "lead us home:" the Organ Reform and the Baroque Revival turned the tables on him, as it were: for what he represented had been set for the undoing and destruction of the baroque ideal in the early years of the 19th Century.

There is thus a monolithic character about his work here; and since almost nothing else he built has escaped the "restorer's" hand so completely, Armley stands in a kind of glorious isolation. Incidentally, I do not know which gave me the more curious sensation: to stand outside St. Bartholomew's Church, gaunt if impressive, now surrounded by tracts of waste land which was formerly packed with human dwellings; or standing in front of "Meanwood Towers," a block of flats which is all that is left of the bizarre neo-gothic house built by Pugin the younger for Mr. T. S. Kennedy (who commissioned the organ), surrounded now by small suburban villas - gazing towards the completely obliterated site of the chalet-like music pavilion in which the organ was first housed. But even though for the moment (let us hope), the Armley organ stands in a kind of vacuum, it is still a glorious and unique instrument in its own right and at the end of its strange wanderings.

Is its tone still exactly as its creator conceived and heard it? That is a difficult question to answer with complete honesty. It is a recognised fact in our days, that even minute variations in the details of organ-soundboard construction can have a pronounced effect on the speech of its pipes: and changes
have taken place in this organ; first, possibly, when it was transferred to the church by Brindley & Foster, but much more so, when in 1905 Binns converted the key-actions to a tubular-pneumatic system, altering also both the size and the position of the pallet-valves of at least the Great division. In addition to this, in 1921 tuning sleeves ("slides") were fitted to all the open metal pipes from 4ft. C - a seemingly harmless operation designed to prevent damage to the pipes at the hands of careless or unscrupulous tuners: but because the pipes, instead of inclining to that slight conicality (inwards) which good cone-tuning would impress on their tops, tend rather towards the effect of an outward "flare," a minute but decisive change in tonality could result, which would be heard as hardness as against sweetness of tone.

The one certain fact is that in 1905 Binns undertook not to change the voicing of Schulze's pipes, and the local indications are that he kept to this condition of his contract. (A negative proof is furnished by the way in which some of the Principal pipes "rebel" against the rather brutal shock of wind delivered to them by the "explosive" action of the tubular-pneumatics.)  We could thus hope with some reason that a complete "perfectionist" restoration of tracker and Barker-lever mechanism, on the superior lines of modern engineering, and a careful overhaul of wind chests and soundboards, will bring back the full authentic sound of which, even in the present
status quo, we have such an impressive prefiguring.

Vivat Schulze! Vivat Armley! Prosit Johnstone!


The organ in St. Bartholomew's Church, Armley, Leeds, has been famous for almost a century for its beautiful tone and especially for the splendour of its diapason chorus. Built by Edmund Schulze of Paulinzelle, Germany, it is the finest example extant of that master organ-builder’s genius in England and, being placed in a church with superb acoustics and enhanced by a magnificent case,the "Armley Schulze" has become a Mecca for organists and organ lovers from many countries.

In this history of the organ, an attempt has been made to trace the development of the instrument as it was first built for a private owner at Meanwood, Leeds; its removal to St. Peter’s Church, Harrogate, for a short time and its presentation to the great church at Armley, which it now adorns. Every endeavour has been made to verify the facts in the remarkable story of this organ, around which much that is legendary has accumulated in the past.

The growth and influence of the firm of J. F. Schulze & Sons, both in their native country and in England, are described as the background to the creation of Schulze's masterpiece, and a brief account is given of the eminent physician Sir Thomas Clifford A1lbutt, whose memoirs include the most authentic account of the personality of Edmund Schulze and of his work at Meanwood. The present proposals for the preservation of the organ are described, followed by an appreciation of the instrument as it now stands.


The opportunity has been taken to correct errors in the text, to incorporate additional details regarding the Kennedy family, the present state of the organ, its maintenance and its possible future. The more important portions of the letters from Edmund Schulze and Aristide Cavaille-Coll relating to the design and building of the organ are reproduced, with translations where appropriate.

In 1979 Mike Collins of Armley completed his excellent scale plans of the layout of the organ at three levels, showing the planting of all the pipes on the soundboards, with keys, elevations and sections of typical pipes, etc.
Kenneth I. Johnstone, Leeds, 1985


Chapters 11 to 14 were completed in January, 2013, with a view to publishing an ebook, which never happened.
Very many thanks to the numbers of contributors (see introduction).
I am very proud to be part of this preservation package, for future generations!
Thelma Collins, 2022


How to find us

Wesley Road, Armley, Leeds, LS12 1SR 

To make a regular contribution to the Schulze Organ Maintenance Fund,
by Standing Order,


£20.00, payable on 15th March each year.
by Standing Order,

For Organ Concerts around the country, visit:















Organ History M. Collins