The earliest known organ at Salford Cathedral is a four-manual instrument W. E. Richardson & Sons dating back to 1887. This organ was intended to be exhibited at the 1887 Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition as the work of a local craftsman. When it became clear that the instrument was not going to be ready in time for the Opening Ceremony, an organ from the London firm of Bishop & Son was brought in at short notice and the Richardson organ was therefore installed directly into the Cathedral later in the year. The pipe case was positioned in the North Transept.
In 1938, John Compton Organ Company undertook some major work on the organ, maintaining some of the mechanical components and pipework from the original instrument but making some drastic changes. Lawrence Elvin’ book Pipe & Actions notes that this was a rather unusual instrument: “The pipes were located in a chamber off the North side-aisle. To quote the Musical Opinion for August 1938 ‘No direct sound reaches the building, the tone being transferred to the east and west ends of the cathedral by a special microphone, amplifier and sound distributing system. There are two consoles, placed in the east behind the high altar and in the west gallery respectively, near to the tone distributors, and either source of sound may be operated from each console separately or simultaneously.’”
By 1951, Messrs Jardine of Old Trafford were tasked with rebuilding this experimental design with the console located in the south aisle near the crossing and pipes positioned in the West Gallery.
By 1995, the organ was in urgent need of attention. A report was commissioned from Ian Bell in 1998, highlighted the general disrepair of the instrument (termed tonally and mechanically ‘of mediocre quality’) and recommended a replacement organ in a new simple gallery in the North transept. By 2000 after a series of consultations the decision was taken in favour of a digital instrument. In February 2001, a temporary 2-manual digital instrument was loaned free of charge by Makin to the Cathedral as the Jardine instrument was considered beyond use without extensive repairs. Approval to remove the pipe organ and gallery was given by the Historic Churches Committee in January 2002 with a new four-manual digital organ by Makin was installed later that year. Speakers in the clerestory windows above the nave were positioned to aid congregational singing and help support the choir, also located in the side aisles of the Nave. The moveable console was primarily located near the choir in the North side aisle.