A Provincial Organ Builder in Victorian England: William Sweetland of Bath, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Provincial Organ Builder in Victorian England

William Sweetland of Bath, 1st Edition

By Gordon D.W. Curtis


328 pages

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William Sweetland was a Bath organ builder who flourished from c.1847 to 1902 during which time he built about 300 organs, mostly for churches and chapels in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, but also for locations scattered south of a line from the Wirral to the Wash. Gordon Curtis places this work of a provincial organ builder in the wider context of English musical life in the latter half of the nineteenth century. An introductory chapter reviews the provincial musical scene and sets the organ in the context of religious worship, public concerts and domestic music-making. The book relates the biographical details of Sweetland's family and business history using material obtained from public and family records. Curtis surveys Sweetland's organ- building work in general and some of his most important organs in detail, with patents and other inventions explored. The musical repertoire of the provinces, particularly with regard to organ recitals, is discussed, as well as noting Sweetland's acquaintances, other organ builders, architects and artists. Part II of the book consists of a Gazetteer of all known organs by Sweetland organized by counties. Each entry contains a short history of the instrument and its present condition. Since there is no definitive published list of his work, and as all the office records were lost in a fire many years ago, this will be the nearest approach to a comprehensive list for this builder.


'The gazetteer and technical information would make this useful or even essential for builders, advisers, organists or anyone else interested in Sweetland. But the chapters that place him in the context of Victorian society and its musical world open the book to a wider audience.' IBO Newsletter (the Institute of British Organ Building) 'Curtis has produced a fine book with a good account of the life and work of William Sweetland…' BIOS Journal '[A] fine book… Curtis is to be congratulated on his achievements in this book which delivers far more that its title may suggest.' Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies 'This is one of those books that every organ builder and library should have… I would recommend its purchase.' Organ Club Journal '… a useful reference book… The Musical Times

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface Part I Sweetland's Life and Work: Introduction; Biography; Bath organ builders and Sweetland's other acquaintances; Business history; Inventions; The organs; Some notable instruments; Repertoire; Sweetland's place in English organ building. Part II Gazetteer: Geographical list of Sweetland's organs; Appendix: conjectural worklist of William Sweetland; Select bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Gordon Curtis is a chorister and organist with a lifelong interest in church music. He studied for the MA in Organ Historiography at Reading University and is currently involved in editing music for the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi of Oxford.

About the Series

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain

So much of our ‘common’ knowledge of music in nineteenth-century Britain is bound up with received ideas. This series disputes their validity through research critically reassessing our perceptions of the period. Volumes in the series cover wide-ranging areas such as composers and composition; conductors, management and entrepreneurship; performers and performing; music criticism and the press; concert venues and promoters; church music and music theology; repertoire, genre, analysis and theory; instruments and technology; music education and pedagogy; publishing, printing and book selling; reception, historiography and biography; women and music; masculinity and music; gender and sexuality; domestic music-making; empire, orientalism and exoticism; and music in literature, poetry, theatre and dance.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Musical Instruments / Piano & Keyboard