Rich carving and tin prospect pipes at Douai Abbey


Kenneth Tickell & Company are a small firm of craftsman Pipe Organ Builders. We build new organs to individual contract, ranging in size from portable continuo organs to large church and recital instruments. From time to time we also undertake historic restoration work.

Kenneth Tickell established his first workshop in 1982, moving to larger premises in 1986. Ten years later the business moved again, to large modern premises at Rothersthorpe Crescent which have excellent facilities for building and restoring organs of all sizes. We currently have a full time staff of nine craftsmen organbuilders, and a number of part time associates.

Our workshop is fully equipped with a comprehensive range of specialist machinery and equipment. We were one of the first organbuilding firms in the UK to make use of computer aided design and drafting (CAD) as a design process facility. Each instrument is carefully planned prior to construction, with many full size drawings and templates being produced. The organ is usually then built in the workshop into a playing state, prior to dismantling for delivery to the church. Final voicing and action adjustments are always finished in the church itself.

We have built a wide variety of new instruments and can include cathedrals, professional orchestras and educational establishments amongst our clients, as well as churches and private individuals. Since 1993 we have been undertaking significantly larger projects, including three-manual organs at Douai Abbey, St Barnabas, Dulwich (1997), Nesbyen, Norway (1999), Eton College (2001) and the Cheltenham Ladies' College (2006). 2007 sees the construction of our new four-manual 53-stop Quire organ for Worcester Cathedral. However, smaller organs continue to be of importance, and in recent years we have built continuo organs for St Paul's Cathedral, London, Hereford and Portsmouth cathedrals, the BBC Singers and the English College, Rome, amongst others. Our hire organ remains in constant demand for concert and recording work, both at home and in Europe.

Each new organ is unique, specially designed to suit its location, both visually and musically. The organ case should harmonise with the church architecture, the materials being matched or contrasted with other furnishings. Cases are usually made of Oak, and panelled using solid timber, as this is important in blending individual ranks into a cohesive sound. Organs can be designed in many ways to suit the available space, but in general should be free-standing and positioned to speak directly into the main body of the building. We work closely with Norfolk woodcarver Keith German to achieve invidual designs for pipeshades, often incorporating symbolism or motifs which are particular to the church. Many examples of fretwork, gothic tracery, as well as free hand carving can be seen on the images of this website.

Tracker action is always used for the key actions of our new organs. This is the only form of action which gives the player a tactile relationship with the speech of the pipes. With careful design the touch can be light and responsive, whilst remaining mechanically simple. Smaller organs also have mechanical stop action, while for larger instruments electric stop action with a piston combination system is a natural choice.

Metal pipes are made of various alloys according to the tonal quality required, but front pipes usually have a high tin content in order to maintain their bright appearance over time. Metal pipes for our organs are made to our precise specifications by independent pipemakers Shires Organ Pipes Ltd, of Leeds, England. The care and consistent attention to detail offered by this firm is second to none. Wooden pipes are made in our own workshop to our own exacting standards, ranging from full length pedal reeds to small manual flutes.

Our tonal style has its roots in the English tradition, but is also informed by the sounds and repertoire of continental Europe. We produce bold, clear (but not shrill) principal choruses, and characterful flutes of various constructions. Strings are warm, yet harmonically rich, and reeds vibrant. We place a strong emphasis on good blend between all of the ranks of the organ, allowing unusual combinations of registers to perform well with each other,and always expecting the instrument to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Kenneth Tickell photo  Kenneth Tickell, August 1956 - July 2014


Kenneth Tickell studied at the Coventry School of Music prior to taking up an organ scholarship at the University of Hull in 1976. His organ teachers have included Robert Weddle (Coventry Cathedral), Francis Jackson (York Minster), Simon Lindley (Leeds Parish Church) and Gillian Weir. He gained the Fellowship diploma of the Royal College of Organists in 1977 and graduated in Music from Hull University in 1978. For many years he was Director of Music at St Mary's, Northampton.

Kenneth Tickell trained in organbuilding with Grant, Degens and Bradbeer Ltd, before establishing an independent workshop in 1982. He was one of the founder members and first President from 1996-2001 of the Institute of British Organ building, the professional trade body for the craft of organ building.