Stalisfield & Otterden

Most reports of meetings at some point refer to the weather, but this one must open by saying that our meeting on 21st April took place on a perfect spring day under a cloudless blue sky in a part of Kent not familiar to all of us.

The church of St Peter and St Paul, Ospringe, is set back from the A2 amid fields, where we were welcomed by their organist and choirmistress, Vicky Shepherd, who had arranged this splendid afternoon for us. The church contains some Norman work, but now presents a largely Victorian interior, with stained glass by Thomas Willement and Clayton and Bell. Vicky pointed out several items of interest, including a copy of a Pietà by Morales, the original now on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and some members enjoyed exploring the tower.

The organ was built by Bevington in 1870 and enlarged by Walker in 1900, the colourful pipe decoration typical of its period. The specification is: Great, 8 8 8 4 4 2; Swell, 8 8 8 8 4 8 Tremulant & Octave coupler; Pedal, 16 16 8 with usual couplers, plus three toy sheep on the console, called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Vicky demonstrated the unforced English sound of the organ by playing:

Mozart Adagio for Glass Harmonica,

Thalben-Ball Elegy,

Rawsthorne Fanfare for a Bride

There were some fifty members and friends present, so a considerable convoy of cars set off for Stalisfield, following carefully prepared directions leading through the maze of lanes and mysterious remote valleys which cross the North Downs. The countryside was absolutely stunning, and hardly any traffic was met — just as well as we snaked along narrow lanes.

St Mary’s Church seems miles away from any parish, and dates from the 13th century. It is notable for the timbers of the magnificent lofty kingpost roof of the nave, and the fine rood screen. Our member Jane Baker, who is churchwarden at Stalisfield, welcomed us, and Malcolm Hall spoke about the organ. This was installed by F H Browne and Sons of Deal in 1902, and cost £150.00 plus £3.00 for the platform. It was moved to its present position on the south side of the chancel in 1904, at a cost of £6.00 plus £1.00 for tuning. The manual action is tracker, and the pedal pneumatic. The Open Diapason 8 is unenclosed, the other manual stops consisting of Dulciana 8, Lieblich Gedackt 8, Octave 4, Lieblich Flute 4, being enclosed, plus Pedal Lieblich Bourdon 16. Michael Cooke played this charming instrument, and chose some early Italian pieces by Zipoli and Cavazzoni. He finished with the Bach chorale prelude Erbarm’ Dich Mein, O Herre Gott, when the organ suddenly appeared to have a Nazard stop — his trademark trick of playing the melody an octave higher in fifths!

Our final church visit of the afternoon was to the private chapel of St Lawrence, which stands in the beautiful parkland of Otterden Place, where the grazing sheep were very curious about our parked cars. David Merrifield, of Otterden Place, gave a brief introduction to the chapel, and explained that it replaced two smaller chapels standing side by side, which contained Elizabethan and Jacobean monuments. These now stand in an alcove on the north side of the present chapel, which was built 1753-59 in the then prevailing Georgian style.

Malcolm Hall spoke about the organ, built about 1900 by Albert Pease. It stands in the south-west corner of the chapel. He described how difficult it is to maintain, due to crowded pipework, and felt that it had a distinctly "rustic" character. Nevertheless, it spoke brightly in the resonant acoustic of the chapel, when Michael Cooke played the C major and the D minor from the Eight Short Preludes and Fugues by Bach. The specification is: Great, 8(ten C) 8 8 8(Bass) 4; Swell, 8 8 4 2 8 16(ten C); Pedal 16.

A lovely tea in the delightful garden at Hurst Farm, home of Jane Baker and her husband Eric crowned the day. There was then what must be a "first" for the KCOA — a tour of the farmyard and the cattle. Fortunately, "wellies" were not needed!

This was a superb afternoon, which will long be remembered, and a very well attended meeting. Our grateful thanks go to Vicky Shepherd and Jane Baker and all those who helped make everything so enjoyable for us.

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