The earliest reference to an organ in St Laurence's Church is in a late 15th century
account when money was paid for "mending ye organs". This reference and a churchwarden's account of 1539
make it clear that there were two organs in the church at this time, the larger being sited in an organ loft.
The two organs were lost as a result of the 1650 Commonwealth decree to destroy all organs. A
new organ was installed in 1671/2 after the Restoration nothing is known of this instrument and by 1761 plans were
being made to replace it.
John Snetzler, a Swiss organ builder, was the leading organ builder in England at that time and built organs for
many important churches and chapels. He was invited to come to Ludlow from London and advise on the building of
a new organ for the church.
The organ was built at a cost of £1,000 in 1764 and had three manuals and no pedals in line with the custom
of the time. It was placed, as was customary at that time, between the chancel and the nave, on a special gallery
under the tower crossing.
The present case is original and is typical of Snetzler organs in having three "towers". Fourteen ranks of
the original pipes remain and, apart from a pedal division being added in 1837, it remained unchanged until 1860.
The Victorian restoration of 1860 saw the organ removed from its gallery to its current location in the North transept,
much to its acoustical disadvantage but in line with the fashion of the time in trying to restore the medieval
appearance of the church. The opportunity for enlargement was seized upon and some of the original pipes suffered in the process.
In 1883 and 1891 further additions were made which reulted in a splendid four manual instrument and pedals.
By the 1970s the organ needed a thorough overhaul and the Restoration Fund raised £55,000 for this work. The Solo Organ had to wait
until a donation in 1985 made its restoration possible. A further donation in 1987 meant that the Pedal Division could also be improved.
Richard Francis has been the church organist and Director of Music at St Laurence's since 1980. He is approximately the fiftieth organist
since the first known organist, Thomas Sherman (between 1492 and 1508). In combining the post of organist with composing, Richard is
following in the footsteps of Joseph Harris, the first person to play the Snetzler Organ, and William Hine. The latter was Ludlow's
shortest lasting organist but some of his compositions are still played in the church to this day.
(This is an abbreviated account based on the colour booklet The Organ of Ludlow Parish Church by Rannald Ogston. The booklet contains
much more detail and is available for purchase at the church.)