Church organist retires after 73 years of service

Wethersfield resident Richard Webb at his last church service as organist in Finchingfield, Essex

Richard Webb at his last church service in Finchingfield as organist, before he retired from the role - Credit: Shaun Sheldrake

A church organist has retired after 73 years of playing music for churches in Great Bardfield, Finchingfield and Wethersfield.

Richard Webb has been keeping the music playing in church since he was 14, having first learned to play the piano at the age of six.

Richard was in the choir when church organist Lou Sucking asked if he would like to learn to play the church organ. At first, only being 10 years old, he had difficulty in reaching the bass pedals.

Music has always been a huge part of Richard’s life. As a young boy looking for employment he started his working career at Palmer and Sons, the organ pipe makers in Finchingfield, and later worked for Hill, Norman and Beard, organ builders in Thaxted.

Richard’s first job as organist was at Great Bardfield church when he was 14 years old and he played for all three services on Sundays. He stayed there until he went into the RAF at 18.

After his two year stint in the RAF he returned home to play the church organ at Wethersfield from 1955 to 1959. Great Bardfield wanted him back and he played there for another 11 years.

Richard returned to Finchingfield church when his mentor Lou Suckling became ill and it was Lou’s last request that Richard step into his shoes. Richard has been playing at Finchingfield for the past 50 years.

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As well as all the church services, Richard has played at numerous weddings and funerals for generations of local residents.

He also used to perform in bands and would be out most weekends at dance gigs.

Richard, who now lives in Wethersfield, was born and brought up in Finchingfield.

Revd Alexander Shannon said: "Since moving to Finchingfield recently, I have heard so many people pay tribute to Richard's service as organist here.

"He has ensured not only that our organ has sounded out in our worship here these past 50 years, but also that it has been cared for and kept in excellent condition.

"Although Covid restrictions have limited how we can use music in services recently, Richard's characteristically fine playing began and ended our streamed carol service last Christmas, and we look forward to being able to pay a full and music-filled tribute to his service here when circumstances allow."