There has been an organ in Rochdale Parish Church for an unusually long time, records from 1532 listing “a pair of organs” i.e. an instrument of two manuals, in an inventory. During the 18th century an instrument by Smith/Dallam, from the Collegiate Church in Manchester was transferred to St.Chad´s. Records around this time indicate that the organ was sited in the West Gallery, until when, in 1854 a new organ by Samuel Groves was acquired and placed in the North Aisle. This instrument lasted barely 30 years and by1884 a quote was again sought (and this time accepted) from the leading organ builders William Hill & Son. The new instrument of three manuals & pedals was installed the following year, placed in a newly built organ chamber in the North Aisle, cost £1,000 and had a hydraulic blowing apparatus.
In order to bring the organ “up-to-date” significant changes were made to the mechanism (provision of a tubular pneumatic action) and adjustments made to the manual reeds during the 1926 rebuild by Forster & Andrews (sub-contracted by Hill, Norman and Beard). Then, Harrison and Harrison of Durham, a firm originally founded in Rochdale, carried out the major reconstruction in 1959, costing £7,000 and providing a new electro-pneumatic action and a detached console.
Crucially, the voicing of the Hill pipe-work was not interfered with and, as a result we may assert with some confidence that the organ sounds broadly the same today, as when installed. Plans to enlarge the unusually small pedal division of three stops were prepared for, but not completed.
The current restoration 2011-12 has sought to address mechanical deficiencies and apart from thorough cleaning and repairs involved a complete overhaul of all the soundboards. In addition a new modern solid state electronic system has replaced worn-out switching and wiring, and a more convenient and versatile registration (capture-action) system provided. The Pedal Organ has now been augmented (as previously planned) by addition of three stops to provide a firmer bass line including the a new full-length wooden Trombone made to Hill scales. The work has been carried out by Principal Pipe Organs of York and Christopher M.Holford of Ossett both of whom have a reputation for outstanding work.