CHAPTER THREE - Organists, Composers and organ builders

We know nothing of Samuel's early life. Up to the time his grandfather died in 1583, if all were together at Kerscott it must have been rather crowded : his grandfather John, now married to his second wife Emote with their two boys, Gregorie and Peter ; his parents Henry and Ursula with a young sister Emote and a baby brother William. Soon after his grandfather died, Emote remarried and presumably she with her two sons went to live with her new husband Thomas Burgess at Twitchen. Henry's family increased with the births of four more sons. In 1595, Henry purchased an interest in a tenement at Abbotts Park - Samuel would then have been 18 and perhaps, seeing that his interests were not in farming ,went there to live. This is a presumption from the wording of Henry's will whereby:
John should ..have an estate in the ...tenement of Abbots Park for terme of his lief or for years determinable upon his in revercion of the aforesaid Ursula and Samuel Loosemoore.

Perhaps, by this time, he was employed by Chappingtons a firm of organ makers and repairers at South Molton. At the age of 27 he married Gillian Mayne on 6th August 1604 in Bishop's Nympton . The birth of his first son, Henry, is not to be found in the registers, but the relationship is confirmed by reference in a letter, sent much later by Lord North, that Henry and George Loosemore were brothers. The first child of Samuel that was in the registers of Bishop Nympton is Ann who was baptised 14th October 1610, after which the family must have moved to Barnstaple.
There is no record of Samuel being an apprentice to the Chappington firm, but it seems to have been very likely. The Chappingtons had built and repaired organs for over 80 years. It is known that they built organs in Salisbury and Westminster Abbey, as well as many churches in the South West. His move to Barnstaple may have been influenced by his wife's family having moved there from Bishops Nympton. Samuel started his own business of organ making and repairing, in Barnstaple, and there is mention in the Hartland Parish church accounts of 1633/4 that 4s was paid to William Hodge for his owne labour and 2 horses to fetch Samuel Loosemoore and his tooles and provisions from Barnstaple to repaire the organs. Later the expenditure for the year read Pd Samuel Loosemore for repairing ye organs £15.00.00..

The family increased, three sons John 1616, George 1619 and Samuel 1625., and three daughters Ann, Priscilla and Amey were born , the last two died in childhood and Ann when she was 22.
Of his sons, Henry and George became eminent organists and composers of church music John achieved distinction as a famous organ builder, but apart from his marriage and his children we know little of the youngest Samuel. In 1642 the protestation return for Barnstaple shows just one adult Loosemore in Barnstaple, that of Samuel; Henry, John and George must had left Barnstaple in furtherance of their careers and Samuel (junior) was too young to sign the return.


Nothing definite is known of the birth or childhood of Henry. We know he must have been born between 1605 and 1609. We do know that in 1627 he was appointed as organist of King's College, Cambridge, at a stipend of £2. 10s a quarter which later was increased to £5.

It may seem strange that Henry, the eldest son of an Organ maker and repairer in North Devon, should gain this appointment in King's College, Cambridge. It may have been through Edward Gibbons, the elder brother of Orlando Gibbons. Edward was baptised in Cambridge and graduated Mus.B in the University. He became succentor and Master of the choristers at Exeter in 1615, a post he held until 1645 and even later. Through him the musical standards of Exeter Cathedral were extremely high. Or it may have been through the organist at Exeter Cathedral John Lugge who also had connections with Cambridge. Another possible connection may be in that in 1570 the Provost and Fellows of King's College, Cambridge became Lords of the Manor of the neighbouring manor of Samford Courtenay.

On the 17th February 1633/4 he was married to Elizabeth and took up residence in St. Benedict parish, Cambridge. Two daughters were born Anne on 27 March 1636 and Elizabeth on 5th March 1639/40. Elizabeth died in infancy, but Anne fared better and married Benjamin Donne.

Benjamin Donne of St. Mary Strand alias Savoy, Widr. 38 and Anne Loosemore, Spr 22, Daughter of Henry Loosemore of Cambridge University, Mus.B, at Lincoln's Chapel or Hornsey, Middlesex.

On 6th June 1640, Henry was granted the degree of B.Mus by the University, on the supplication of King's College avowing that 'he had studied the art of musical composition for seven years, together with its practice, and has achieved approval of those skilled in the art.' His mandatory exercise, referred to as a canticum in the supplicat was almost certainly the signed 8-part full anthem, 'Behold now praise the Lord', later bound in with the Peterhouse Caroline part-books. His subscription to the three Articles of Religion, as was required of all students obtaining degrees at Cambridge was made by Henry who wrote a brief declaration which provides a specimen of his writing and his signature.

During the Puritan regime, no organ music was played during services but his stipend continued to be paid during this period. For several years he was a resident organist at Kirtling Towers of Cambridgeshire, the seat of Dudley, 3rd Lord North, near Newmarket. The old Lord was a domineering character but who had an abiding love of music. Roger North, his grandson records that 'he kept an organist in the house, which was seldom without a musick master' and later one Mr. Loosemore. During the Puritan regime a letter to John Lilly, a Music-Master in Cambridge states: We have good Musick and Musicians here, If not the best, as good as anywhere; ........the Lusemores too, I think For organists.

The Chapel organ may have been destroyed for a church account mentions that a year after the restoration a Leonard Pease was paid 35s for the removal of a chamber organ from Mr. Loosemore's rooms. It probably was found to be inadequate because it was removed within a few months and the same Lancelot was paid £200 for a new chaire organ, which was installed in 1661.

In 1660 the better known John Jenkins took up the position as musician in residence at Kirtling . The old Lord North wrote a remarkably friendly letter to Henry Loosemore in 1658 appreciating his recent company at Kirtling where they had played compositions 'by your brother George.' This is an important fact because it determines the relationship between Henry and George who were some 14 years apart in age. A list of the compositions of Henry is appended.

Elizabeth, his wife, was buried in St. Bodolph parish on 23rd August 1660, and Henry lived a further 10 years and was buried on 7th July 1670. There is a possibility that Henry married after 1660 to a widow Elizabeth. Her death on 28th April 1682 as Mrs Elizabeth Loosmore, widow of Cooton, Cambrideshire may be significant to this possibility as, to our knowledge, there were no other Loosemores living in Cambridge at that time.


George, the third son of Samuel, was baptised on the 12th September 1619 at Barnstaple. Some authorities have given that he became a chorister at King's College, under the tutelage of his brother who was the organist there in 1627. George would then have been just 8 years of age. On 13th June 1635, at the age of 15, he was appointed organist of Jesus College, where Robert Dallam was building a new organ for £200. His name appears in lists of undergraduates in 1640, but no mention is made organist's salary so his admission may have been in return for his duties as organist. In 1643 the organ was taken down and concealed from Puritan eyes until its re-installation after the Restoration.

There is no record of a marriage but, it is presumed sometime during the Commonwealth period he was married to Honorah ...... There is mention in the parish records of St. Benedict, Cambridge:
1649 Samuel Loosemore bap. Dec 3 (no details of parents)
1651 Samuel Loosemore bu. Aug. 19 (no details of parents)
1652 Samuel Loosemore bap Dec 14, son of Geo

We may presume that the first child died in infancy and a second was named again after his Grandfather, Samuel.. The family increased with a daughter, Honor baptised on 21st January 1656/7 and George b c 1655. Two other daughters are mentioned in Honorah's will at her death, Ann Loosemore and Wingfield Loosemore.

George spend much time at the residence of Lord North, as did his elder brother Henry. There is evidence that Henry and George together with John Jenkins, who was employed to teach the sons of Lord North, were part of a musical circle that provided musical performances for the company. George composed a number of instrumental fancies (forerunner of the string quartet) for a letter to Henry contains the request 'To complement with your brother George, and take in the pleasure of his Fancies, gave the occasion'

There is mention too in the North's records, of a gift of a salmon being given to Lord North by George in May 1665, doubtless in appreciation of hospitality given.

In 1660 until his death in 1682 he retained the post off an organist at Trinity College, Cambridge. The first payment to Mr. Leusmore as organist and Master of the Quire when he received £6 6s 8d a quarter for Commons and Wages. The Chapel organ had been dismantled in 1643 and the choir's music books hidden away. At first George's own small organ was used but in 1662 the master and seniors agreed that six score pounds be layd out upon a Chair-Organ. This was completed in 1663.
To Mr. Thomas towards the makeing of the Organ 15s
To Mr. Leusmore for removeing his owne Organ £1
To Mr. Thomat more.....for the Organ £85

The complete cost of the organ was £114 18s 0d

In the same year as the appointment of George to be organist as Trinity, his elder son, Samuel, became a chorister there, though at the age of 17 he would have been too old for a singing boy. Samuel matriculated in the same year and proceeded to a B.A. degree in 1673/4 with the intention of entering the church. He was ordained deacon at Peterborough on 23 September 1677 and advanced to the priesthood in London on 24th February1677/8.

We have little details of his second son, George, except that in a company of militia raised in the town of Cambridge there is mention of George Loosemore ensign. This probably gives a birth date of C1655 and indicated that he was destined to serve as an Officer ... Nothing further is known of him.

George Loosemore contributed much to church music, providing music books and Anthems for the College during his tenure as organist, but he also made a contribution to the College's domestic musical life. For in 1672;- To Mr. Loosemore, for strings & stringing of viols in the Common Chamber £1 10s

.George Loosemore died in 1682 and his widow, Honorah, outlived her husband by 9 years. Her will, dated 22nd December 1691, left all her estate to be divided between her two daughters Wingfield and Ann.
An inventory of the goods left by Honorah was made and dated February 19 1691

Imprimis her wearing apparrell
Money in her pocket and chamber
Wearing linen
House linen
A carpet and other small things

12 - 00 - 00
6 - 00 - 00
5 - 00 - 00
21- 19 - 00
25 - 00 - 00
2 - 10 -10
72 - 09 - 00

Ann Loosemore of St. Michael's parish married John Rant of St. Edward's Parish on 18 February 1706/7, but nothing has been found of the other daughter Wingfield.


We now turn to John Loosemore, perhaps the best known of the three talented sons of Samuel. Samuel and his wife Gillian Mayne had moved to Barnstpale from Bishops Nympton when John was born on 25th August 1616. Unlike his brothers Henry and George, John's skills were in organ repairing and construction rather than performing and composing organ music. In this he followed in his father's footsteps and eventually surpassed him in skill.

The Hartland Parish Church accounts record the work done by John from the year 1634-5 when he was just 18 years of age.

1634-5 Pd John Loosemore for work about ye pulpit and Mr. Churton's seat 02-05-00
Pd John Loosemore for setting up 6 sentences in the church & on ye porches & for playing ye organ 01-00-00
Pd Loosemore for keeping ye organ this yeare 05-00 1635-6
Pd John Loosemore for a dial for ye church 12-00
Pd John Loosemore for his fee to keepe the organs 05-00 1636-7
Pd Johan Loosemore for keeping the organs this yeare 05-00
1637-Pd Johan Loosemore for his paines to come at Hartland busines for the parish 05-00
Pd John Sherme to goe to Barnstaple with 2 horses to fetch John Loosemore and his tooles 05-00
Pd John Loosemore for setting of ye organs upon ye roudeloft 04-00-00
Pd William Rowe to goe to Barnstaple with John Loosemore and his tools 03-00

His prowess was recognised more widely by this time for in 1638 and entry in the Special Accounts of Exeter Cathedral.
Pd to Mr. Lugg for John Loosemore horse hire charges and paynes for Ten daies in mending and tuning the organs 03-08-02

John Lugge was the gifted Exeter Cathedral organist and composer. at that time.

In July 1638 he was employed at Tawstock House, the seat of the Earl of Bath who had just taken up residence.
Item paid to Goodman Loosemore for colouring the withdrawing room 00-08-00
Item paid to Loosemore for mending the wind instrument 00-15-00

On 24th November 1639, John married John married Joan Blackwell and in the next three years two daughters were born to them in Barnstaple: Amey, who lived only two months and the Joan who was baptised on 18 September 1642, just after the civil war had started. From 1642 until 1464, Barnstaple, a Parliamentary stronghold was captured by the Royalists, then retaken by the Parliamentary army, only to be retaken by the King's forces. Finally, on 13th April 1646 it was taken by the Parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax, four days after Exeter had fallen to his army.

During this period, certainly before 1645, John decided to take his family to Exeter, to set up residence in the parish of St. Paul's. Soon after his move a third daughter was born on 17th July 1645 'Winifred, daughter of John Loosemoore'.

On February 1651/2 Mary Loosemore daughter of John, borne in Bedford House. Bedford House stood on the north side of the Cathedral churchyard. Her christening took place in St. Sidwell's church, one of the few which had not been shut down. Nothing has been found about the fate of the two daughters Winifred or Mary, only Anne appears in later records.

The Puritan had a strong objection to music accompanying church services, as they also regarded statues, pictures and icons decorating the church on the grounds of idolatry. Thus work for organ builders' repairers and tuners was hard to come by. John, like others, turned his attention to making instruments for private use mainly in the large houses. There is an excellent example of his workmanship in the Victoria and Albert Museum - a virginal dated 1655. John continued to work for the Earl of Bath at Tawstock house:

Saturday 20 Aug 1642 Item, paid to Lesamore for tuning the organ 10 - 00
Saturday 17 March 1643 Item, paid Losamore for mending a vial and my Lord's holsters 2 - 06
July 1650 Item to Lusmore of Exetor for tuning the organ etc 3 - 00 -00
Saturday 28 October 1655 Mr. Loosmore by command in part 21 - 05 - 00

The Articles of Surrender of Exeter to the Parliamentary forces declared that the Cathedral nor any other church shall be defaced or anything belonging thereto spoiled or taken away. However when Col Hammond was appointed as Governor, there started an orgy of vandalism: the Cathedral glass and furnishings were wrecked and plundered, graves and tombs desecrated and the church used as a store and alehouse. An account in 1646 describes how:
they brake down the organs, and taking two or three piopes with them, in a most scornful and contemptuous manner, went up and down the streets piping with them. and meeting some of the choristers of the church scoffingly told them 'Boys, we have spoyles your trade, you must go and sing hot Pudding Pies.

The Poll tax of 1660 imposed soon after Charles II was reinstated, shows John Loosemore with his wife and daughter Joan, living in S. Stephen's parish, adjacent to the Cathedral Close and to Bedford House. It suggests that he had lived there for some years as Mary had been born in Bedford House. The tax paid indicates that he possessed goods valued at £5. John clearly was engaged to various work in the Cathedral and in January probably 1661, the Dean and Chapter leased to him: All that their message tenement and house ...lately erected and built upon parte of the cloisters contayning in length from north to South in the bottom 25 foote and at the topp thirtie fower foote and in breadth from east to west twenty foote ..adjoyneing to a house wherein Villaim Holmes upholsterer lately dwelt....for 21 a yearly rent of £10 payable quarterly. In the year 1671, the Hearth tax disclosed that the house was taxed on 5 hearths, showing that it was a fairly substantial building. John was well established.

As soon as the Dean and Chapter regained possession of the Cathedral, there was much work to be done. A brick wall had been built in the Cathedral in front of the Chancel, dividing the Cathedral into two halves, this was removed and John being a skilled craftsman found plenty of employment. At first remaining components of the organ were salvaged and restored and organ pipes that were stolen or hidden away by the public were bought. John seemingly was employed in putting together a makeshift organ to be used in the church.

1660 Mr. Loosmore was paid £5 towards ye perfecting of the organs and a further £5 for making a set of pipes for the organ
In 1661 he received £40 'for perfecting the organ newly erected.

Work on the great new Cathedral Organ was started in 1662/3 and construction continued beyond the end of 1664. John was sent to Cornwall to Lord of Bath, steward of the duchy of Cornwall, to 'make choice of Tyn'. He went to Salisbury to see the organ there 'better to informe himself to make the new organ of this church'

During 1664, work continued on the organ and was completed on 27th May 1665, for an order on that date stated, the old organs to be taken down att the charge of the Chapter and delivered to such as Archdeacon Cotton shall appoint. An inscription to be found on the east front of the case, in the centre just under the two small side turrets reads, John Loosemore made this organ 1665. John'summary of expenditure is interesting as the total cost of £847-07-10 seems to have included items that were not really for materials and the cost of tin had risen alarmingly during the making.

Note of what ye Organ cost December 13th 1664
The total Sume that the Organ cost is £847-07- not bying tinne in Seson there was in every hundred lost 46 shillings for I would have bought a littell before the Erle of Bath came downe in the Cuntry for £4 h hundred 6 score and 2 two the hundred, and wee paide afterward £5.17s for 5 score and 12 to the hundred so that thare is lost 4 schoor pounds or upwards in this.
When wee had messured the wenscot and counted hou many thousand foote was in it wee found it 3 score pounde to deare Mr Wriet had the account
There thare's eused in the Seats of the Church with the Maiors Seate above £30 worth of this timber at the accounte of the organ
Then the building of the Chimley and with inclosin of the worke house is all in this account So there is an £170 at least to be subtracted out of this account which is

The creation of this organ was a tremendous technical achievement. Details of the construction are the subject of a booklet available in Exeter Cathedral. In 1891 the organ was rebuilt and part of the wooden casing enlarged but the carving on the case of flowers and foliage makes the organ casing one of the finest in any English Cathedral.  
To our knowledge John constructed two others organs, another in Exeter Cathedral for the choir school and another at Nettlecombe Court for Sir George Trevelyan. details of which are preserved at Taunton. In addition to work on organs, John was responsible for a great deal of work besides. An example of this was in 1667/8 when the Dean 'ordered Mr. Loosmore to view the pipes that conveye the water into the close and to see that the same be speedily mended att the charge to the Chapter. Then in 1668 moneys was paid to him to distribute to masons, glaziers, plumbers painters and tilers for work done on property belonging to the Cathedral. In fact he acted as a clerk of works which in 1669 was the office that he was officially given. His own prowess knew no bounds for in 1676 he became involved in mending the Copythorne bell and finally paid £6 for his work on the clapper.

To return now to his family. We can find no mention of his wife nor of his two youngest daughters Winifred and Mary. On 9th March 1674/5 a marriage settlement was made and a licence for a marriage was issued for his daughter Joan to John Shearme. It is probable that John Shearme had been an assistant to John. There was a considerable difference in the ages of Joan and John Shearme for at the marriage John was 21 while Winifred was 32 years of age. Furthermore Joan was 6 months pregnant.

In the marriage settlement John made over to his son-in- law his entire house excepting only one room, to undertake no new work and share equally any repairs on organs or other equipment already made by him, and make available all his tools. The settlement seems rather harsh. At this distance of time it is futile to wonder if there was not bargaining threat held over John Loosemore. A son was born of the union and he was named John.

John Loosemore continued in his title Clerk of Works but he was now less active. at the end of 1680, he became infirm so that a marginal note for this period mentions that his daughter Joan acted on his behalf.. In April 1681 John died and two days later was buried in the Cathedral. The gravestone with its memorial inscription was initially set in the floor at the East end of the nave close to his organ. The inscription originally made reference to his son-in-law and grandson but this became badly worn. In the early part of this century the part referring to John Loosemore was recut and reads
His majestic organ is indeed a 'fitting monument' to his Art and Genius'.

John Shearme outlived his father-in-law for just over 5 years, but the house remained in the tenancy of his wife Joan, who lived to see her son reach the age of 18 before he died and was buried on 17th July 1693 in his grandfather's grave as also was his father. We know nothing of the circumstances of his death. Joan continued to occupy the house, indeed the lease was renewed as late as 1703, when she was then 61 years of age, but this is the last we know of her and indeed of male line of Samuel's family with the possible exception of Samuel's grandsons, Samuel and George, sons of George Loosemore. So far we can discover nothing further of them.


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