The organ was made by John Snetzler in 1755-6 (according to his usual paper label in the back of the pallet box). The ‘1756’ started as ‘1755’, but the gap in the 5 was closed to make a 6. There is no indication of the original owner. In the 1880s the organ was restored and sent by T.R.Willis, organ builder in the Minories, London to Robert Shearing, a chemist in Chester (according to a parcel label now framed inside the organ). In 1909 it was “reconditioned” by the organ builder Henry Poyser for himself according to an inscription under the keys, having been bought by his father. In 1958 Noel Mander bought it from Henry Poyser, restored it and sold it to the Barber Institute, on the initiative of Professor Ivor Keys.
The case, layout, windchest, keys and key action are all in the style of Snetzler’s earlier chamber organs, from before ca1760 (see Barnes and Renshaw’s book on Snetzler). The pipe front has the characteristic V-shaped toeboards and pipe shades, with the larger pipes at the sides and the smallest in the middle. The front pipes are gilded metal dummies, and there are glass doors. The wind chest projects from the front of the case, with the keys lying on it, enclosed in a mahogany box.
There are six stops: St Diapason, Dulciama (TC), Principal, Flute, Fifteenth and Sesquialtra/Cornett. The Sesquialtra/Cornett is II rank, divided c¹/c#¹, GG 12.17, aº 17.19, c#¹ 19.22. Apart from seven cº – f#º pipes the Dulciama was replaced by larger scale pipes in the 1880s.
The key compass is GG – f³ 58 notes. There is a shifting movement pedal, reducing to Stop Diapason, Dulciana and Flute. There is a blowing pedal in the centre, there was another pedal at the treble side, and an electric blower introduced in 1958.
Apart from the 1880s pipes, there was also a new keyboard made from late 19th century keys by Henry Poyser, with new woodwork around it and the projecting wind chest. The keys were on a new frame, so that the stickers resting on the pallets had to be lengthened. The keys must always have had a tendency to stick. Modifications were introduced in 1958, but without improvements, so a new keyboard was made in Snetzler’s original style, copied from the keys in the Bristol New Room, a Snetzler organ of 1761 in the same early style. The keys are hinged with parchment just behind the overlays, ebony naturals and ebonised fruitwood sharps with ivory tops, laid on brass stickers resting on the pallets. The windchest must have suffered from the dry summers of the 1970s, or from the central heating, and was restored by Harold Newman of Manders in 1978, well done.
The 2021-2 restoration was carried out by Chris Davies and Dominic Gwynn, with voicing and tuning by Rob Balfour Rowley. Apart from the new keys, the wind system was made wind tight. The organ could not be blown by foot without destroying the floorboards, so a new frame was made, which also provided the support for new rollers and an extension to the (1880s?) pine plinth. The alterations to the casework were left undisturbed, though the finish and the red silk backing to the pipe shades are 1958.