The magnificent organ in the
Grand Temple at Freemasons’
Hall in London
The origins of the Leeds Music Festival
can be seen in two events: the building of
the town hall and the revival of Anglican
church congregations in the 1830s when
W F Hook, as Vicar of Leeds, redesigned the
Parish Church, St Peters (with the assistance
of Wakefield architect and Freemason, R D
Chantrelli) and brought to the city a leading
cathedral organist, Samuel Sebastian Wesley,
in 1842 ii.
In turn, Wesley brought with him from
Exeter, a trainee organist, William Spark.
Dr Spark, as he was to become, was one of
the major figures in Leeds musical life until
his death in 1897. He was organist at two
churches and was appointed Borough
Organist in 1859.
In this role he helped (with Henry Smart)
to design the organ for the new town hall.
This cost £5,000 and was deemed to be the
reason why the city did not need a local
orchestra: “The organ would do all that an
orchestra could … and less expensively”.
Spark played at the first Leeds Music
Festival in 1858 and at every festival from
1874 to 1886. He was also a very prolific
composer of both sacred and secular music.
Amongst the 90 or so entries against his
name in the British Library catalogue are
pieces such as The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir:
a descriptive fantasia for the piano, The
blazing hearths of England, Cheer, cheer
for all the sons of toil, a funeral march,
adaptations of music by Haydn and Bach
and, of course, his Masonic music, collected
in the much reprinted The Freemason’s
Liber Musicus. Spark was initiated in the
Lodge of Fidelity (now No. 289) in Leeds
in October 1853 at the age of 30 and, apart
from a two-year hiatus in the 1860s,
remained a member for most of his life.
In 1819 the Lodge of Fidelity first
occupied its own Masonic hall in rented
premises in Sterne’s Buildings, Green
Dragon Yard, Briggate. These premises
included an organ and, although the Lodge
had moved from these premises by the time
that Spark joined, the occupation of these
premises prompted the Lodge to begin a
tradition of attracting to its membership
These included John White, organist at
Harewood Church and at Wakefield, and
John Hopkinson, whose sons later
established a piano manufacturing and
music publishing business iii.
The move by this Lodge towards greater
use of organ music is just one example of
the growing use of pipe organs to provide
music in Masonic Lodges that continued
throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
By the time that Spark joined the Lodge,
it had a broadly based membership of local
businessmen and professionals which
included the Rev Augustus Perring, curate
of St Paul’s Church, where Spark was
organist. Spark was Master of Fidelity in
1875 and was appointed Provincial Grand
Organist in 1858 and 1861.
Following the Lodge “tradition” he
recruited a number of musicians including
John Pugh Bowling, later Principal of the
Yorkshire Training College of Music,
George Haddock, a skilled amateur
musician and collector of old instruments,
the singers, Thomas Dodds, who later
became the Lodge tyler, and Charles
Blagborough, the latter a member of the
Lodge for almost 50 years.
It was the Mayor, Peter Fairbairn, who,
prompted by rivalry with Bradford, in 1858
initiated the first Festival, the profits of which
were to go to Leeds General Infirmary, and
established an organising committee
comprising local aldermen and businessmen.
A detailed comparison between
membership of Leeds Lodges and the
membership of the various organising
committees remains to be undertaken, but
there was certainly some involvement from
an early stage.
Martin Cawood, owner of a flaxspinning
factory and member of both Lodge
of Fidelity and Alfred Lodge was on the first
committee as was J N Dickinson, brush
manufacturer, Thomas Eaglund, surgical
instrument maker, James Ostler, leather
factor and Samuel Walley, wool merchant.
They were all members of Lodge of Fidelity.
Frederick Spark, William’s brother, was