St John’s Church is an Anglican Parish Church in the centre of Torquay overlooking the harbour and is known as ‘St John the Apostle’. It is a large and very beautiful Victorian building with many interesting features, for example:- Burne-Jones & William Morris windows, Salviati mosaics, a rare total immersion font and copies of two attractive Burne-Jones nativity paintings. The originals of which were sold to raise money for the total restoration of the Church.
A former organ, built by Dicker of Exeter, was removed to St Peter’s Church in Brixham. The instrument was situated at the west end of the gallery which ran around three sides of the original Chapel of St John’s erected in 1823.
When the present church was built, the organ was transfered to the north chancel, but in 1871 is was decided to replace this instrument with a new one by T. C. Lewis & Co. for £1,695. However, there appears to have been so many other undertakings on at the time that the money did not materialise – the Services being accompanied on a harmonium for two years or so as the Dicker organ had broken down.
In 1873, a new instrument designed by W. S. Rockstro was built by William Hill & Son of London at a cost of £1,414. This organ (blown by a water engine) had 4-manuals, 35-stops, 5 composition pedals and 3 swell pedals. Notably, it had reversal keys (white sharps and black naturals) and the stops names were in Latin! It was rebuilt with pneumatic action in 1900 and electric blower was added in 1928. In 1957, a complete rebuild was carried out by J. W. Walker & Sons. It was given a new 3 manual attached draw stop console using conventional stop names and with electro-pneumatic action throughout, apart from the two swell pedals which remain mechanical. The majority of the original solo work was removed to the choir division. The old console being subsequently given to the Torquay Museum.
In 1993, a 64-channel piston selector, a solid state key system, new draw stops solenoids, two adjustable tremulants as well as a magnificant Tuba were installed.
Recent work included a new starter system and the rewiring of the main blower motor. Within the instrument itself, re-leathering of pallets, renewing electrical cabling, installing electric stop action solenoids, fitting Forex plastic sliders to all soundboards and installing new fluorescent lighting.