John Speller's Web Pages Trinity Episcopal Church, Newport RI

John Speller's Web Pages - US Pipe Organs

Trinity Episcopal Church, Newport RI Untitled Untitled
In 1733 the Right Rev. George Berkeley, D.D. (1685-1753), Bishop of Cloyne in the Church of Ireland and a well-known eighteenth-century philosopher (most people have heard of the "tree in the quad" paradox), donated a pipe organ to Trinity Episcopal Church in Newport, Rhode Island, where he had spent three years as Rector while attempting unsuccessfully to found a University in Bermuda. The Good Bishop had originally intended to donate the instrument to the people of Berkeley, Massachusetts, who had thoughtfully named their town after him. When, however, the Church in Berkeley (which was Congregational) refused to have it, declaring that "the organ is an instrument of the Devil for the entrapping of men's souls," Bishop Berkeley resolved instead to give it to Trinity Church in Newport, where his infant daughter is buried in the churchyard. The instrument was built by Richard Bridge (1707-1758) of Woods Close, Clerkenwell, London, and most of what is known about this organ is contained in a letter to Bridge written in October 1755, of which an unfinished draft survives in the church archives:

Newport, Rhode Island, October, 1755. Mr. Richard Bridge.
In the year 1733 you made an organ for the Rev. Doctor Berkeley, late Bishop of Cloyne, in which were the following whole stops (which he presented to Trinity Church.):
Stop Diapason, Principal Flute, 15th & Human Voice.
1/2 stops : Cornet. Trumpet. Open Diapason.
Echo: Trumpet. Stop Diapason. Open Diapason—all half stops.
We have sent a box to the care of Mr. Richard Mollineau, Iron Monger, in London, all the box H. pipes, which were never of any use here, as no organist could ever make some of them speak, and others when tuned would not stand half an hour. Now, Sir, what we desire is, that if you can so alter them as to make them answer their design, pray do: if not, we are of opinion that if we had a trumpet bass and the treble vox humane, it would be a good addition to the loudness of our organ. We waited so long in hopes an organ maker might accidentally come here, but as there is no one expected now, we hope for the credit of your organ, you'll repair this to your satisfaction, as well as to that of, Sir,[letter unfinished]
P. S.—If neither of those ways above mentioned can be made use of, if you think proper, make a 12th in lieu thereof, and Mr. R. M. will pay you.


From this letter it would appear that the original stop list was:

Great Organ C, D-d3, 50 notes, [?divided c1/c#1]
Open Diapason Treble
Stop Diapason
Principal
Flute
Fifteenth
Cornet Treble [?12-15-17]
Vox Humane
Trumpet Treble

Echo c1-d3, 27 notes [no swellbox]
Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Trumpet

The "Box H" pipes which would not stay in tune were probably the Vox Humane. The letter seems to be advocating replacing the Vox Humane bass with a Trumpet Bass, and revoicing or replacing the Vox Humane treble - or, if this was not thought practicable, just replacing the whole of the Vox Humane with a Twelfth.

The paper labels on the surviving console suggest that at some point the stop list may have been:

Great Organ C, D-d3, 50 notes, [?divided c1/c#1]
Open Diapason Treble
Stop Diapason
Principal
Flute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Tierce Treble
Trumpet Treble

Echo c1-d3, 27 notes [no swellbox]
Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Trumpet

See Barbara Owen, "Colonial Organs: Being an Account of Some Early English Instruments exported to the Eastern United States", BIOS Journal, 3(1979), pp. 94-96. This stoplist, which I do not think was the original one, suggests that a Twelfth was indeed substituted for the Vox Humane. The presence of a Tierce Treble suggests that the 22/3 ft. and 2 ft. ranks of the Treble Cornet had been discarded. Perhaps the 22/3 ft. rank was used as the treble of the new Twelfth. The new Twelfth may or may not have been inserted using pipework supplied by Richard Bridge.

A new organ was built by Henry Erben in 1844, retaining two stops from the Bridge organ, and this in turn was replaced by E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings in 1880. At this time the Erben with the remaining two Bridge stops went to Kay Chapel in Newport RI, originally a chapel-of-ease of Trinity Church and now a wedding chapel owned by Viking Hotels. Its ultimate fate is uncertain. Another new organ was built at Trinity Church by Hook, Hastings & Co. in 1901, and this in turn was replaced by the Skinner Organ Co. in 1929, by the Wicks Organ Co. in 1973 and by a Rogers pipe/digital combination in 2007. The English oak case front, surmounted by a crown and two miters, and the original facade pipes happily survive in the church.

Enough is known about Richard Bridge's instruments that it would be quite feasible to reconstruct the original instrument in the surviving casework. Now that the church is using an electronic substitute and there is no longer a serviceable pipe organ in the case there would seem little impediment to doing this and it would add to the tourist attractions of historic Newport.

Note on Richard Molineux: Richard Molineux, Jr. (1685-1762) was the son of Richard Molineux, Sr., who was an iron master in Willenhall, Staffordshire. Richard Molineux, Jr., moved to London and opened an iron monger's business at Cateaton Street (now Gresham Street). Among other things he was probably exporting iron products to the American Colonies. He was a City of London Alderman for the Cripplegate Ward.
The 1733 organ case. Side towers were added to accommodate pedal pipes, but ought to be removed now that the case no longer contains a functional pipe organ
The Right Rev. George Berkeley, D.D. (1685-1753), Bishop of Cloyne. Bishop Berkeley coined the phrase "Westward the star of empire takes its way" which later became the title of Andrew Melrose's famous painting
The remains of the original console in the Museum of Newport History. Note the "skunktail" (US) or "sandwich" (UK) sharps
Trinity Episcopal Church, Newport RI, built 1725-26. The architect, Richard Munday (1684-1739), based his plans on Sir Christopher Wren's design for St. James, Piccadilly, London
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