On the morning of 14 April 1759 Handel died at his home in Brook Street after suffering from illness for several years; the Rev. William Hanbury commissioned Adcock and paid him £500 to build a two-manual organ, to partake in three Handel festivals in the village of Church Langton, Leicestershire. Hanbury, a dedicated philanthropist was intent on using fund-raising to fulfil his plans for building a public library and establishing a collegiate foundation, on which a minster and school would be founded.
The inhabitants of Church Langton were worried by the arrival of the new organ, and thought that the pipes were actually guns that would be fired on the homes of the populace. According to Hanbury, the music was also a terrifying prospect for the locals as ‘few had ever heard anything of the kind by such a band, most of them were struck into seeming statues. Some of the common people were frighted, and hurried out of the church with all speed: for hearing the kettle drums which they took to be thunder, and the trumpets sounding in the midst of such heavenly noise, they thought of what had been reported, that the Day of Judgement was really come indeed.’
Later, after the tumult had receded and the reception ensued, Adcock is reported to have ‘sounded droll tunes on his trumpet.’
The performance of ‘The Messiah’ given at Church Langton on 26 September 1759, was the first performance in any English church. A large gallery was built specially for the accommodation of the orchestra, which included first-class players: the soloists were also well known; and the conductor was Dr. William Hayes. The countryside flocked to the performance to the reputed number of over twenty thousand; accommodation of all kinds was at a premium; and the price of food was nearly tripled. There were more than two hundred chariots, landaus, and post-chaises. The festival lasted two days, the Overture to the ‘Occasional’ Oratorio and the Dettingen Te Deum being given on the first and ‘The Messiah’ on the second. Despite the ‘success’ of the festival, Hanbury’s letters show that he had problems with subsequent receipts:
‘A tolerable quantity of trees and shrubs went off this winter; but it was chiefly to those at a distance, or to such as could not procure them elsewhere. Trudging on in the scheme, however, I went forward, and was still in hopes, though I saw I could never engage the public in my behalf as I expected, yet to woo her at last into such a share of affection, as might enable me, at least, to found the charity-school and organ I proposed. While I was thus hoping, some of my trustees were mortally afraid I should succeed ; and the malice of one in particular was again desirous of striking at me and my scheme afresh. This was Thomas Cave, who desired Adcock, the organ-builder, to arrest me for the money for the organ. This Adcock himself, who is a person of veracity, assured me of, and mentioned it to me as a strange request, particularly as Sir Thomas had desired it some time ago, which was before we had time to make anything considerable.
‘I told Adcock of the disappointment it had been to me of my trustees not putting off the eighty tickets each, to raise money to pay for it, according to agreement ; and desired he would wait to see the event of this winter’s sale ; which he did. I then gave him a share of his money, and a bond for the rest ; with which he was very well satisfied, and which has been long since discharged’.
In early 1936 Adcock’s organ at Church Langton was rebuilt and rededicated with a performance of The Messiah by Leicester Cathedral Bach Choir.
Adcock continued to engage in his staple summer employment and performed at the Three Choirs Meeting in 1759. The event reverted to Hereford for a two day series of concerts over the 12-14 September; on the Friday morning, The Messiah was performed at the cathedral at a ticket only performance. Again, the soloists were familiar: Frasi, Adcock, Miller, Wass with the addition of Mence, a fine singer of cathedral music and Malchair, Storace, and Richards. Storace was the first performer of his time on the double bass, and played at the Opera House, he was also the father of composer Stephen Storace and a well known singer and actress of the same name.
By 1760 Adcock had moved to Leicester Fields. He loaned a little organ to the church of St John, Wolverhampton for the period 1760-62, however all was not well; on two occasions the Wardens had to pay for repairs before finally returning it to London at a substantial cost of £12.
He does not appear to have attended the Three Choirs Meeting that year; instead, on the 4 August he resigned his post at the Lord Chamberlain’s Office to Thomas Gwatkin, who in his place became sworn trumpeter in His Majesty’s first Troop of Life Guards.
In the New Year of 1761, Adcock took a bride by the name of Rebecca Sarah Croker. They were married on the 1 January at St Dunstan in the West by the Rev. Temple Henry Croker, son of Henry Croker and probably Rebecca’s brother.
Temple Henry Croker was born at Sarsfield Court, Co. Cork in 1729 (DNB) and was admitted to Westminster School in 1741. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford gaining a BA in 1750 and an MA in 1760. His most famous work was a translation of the second and seventh satires in The Satires of Lodovico Ariosto, but he was also the principal editor of The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences published in 1766.
Croker collaborated with William Huggins in a translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and according to Boswell, Samuel Johnson’s biographer, was caught in the middle of a slanging contest between Huggins and Joseph Baretti. Huggins accused Baretti of trying to cause Croker serious harm.
Dr Warton, friend of Johnson, wrote in April 1755:
‘What a strange story, and how difficult to be believed, especially considering who it come from! Huggins wanted to get an approbation of his translation from Johnson; but Johnson would not, though Huggins says ‘t was only to get money from him. To crown all, he says that Baretti wanted to poison Croker’.
Croker survived any ill intent, if indeed there was a desire to cause harm, and became rector of Ightam in Kent. He was declared bankrupt in 1773 and settled in Capisterre, St Kitts until his death.
After his marriage to Rebecca, Adcock returned to Worcester in the summer of 1761 for The Three Choirs meeting. The Messiah (performed on the last morning and said to have produced surplus money of £100) and L’Allegro, il Pensiero were reprised along with the oratorio Esther; Frasi and Beard took their usual places but were joined by the bass Reinhold who for many years appeared at Covent Garden. The other instrumentalists joining Adcock were Pinto, Miller, Malchair, Vincent and Zuckert.
The remainder of 1761 appeared quiet for Abraham. He may have started to suffer from ill health, for again in 1762 there is little notice of him apart from an appearance at the Three Choirs at Hereford where Handel’s Jeptha was performed on the first evening.
Then, in 1763 he is listed in Mortimer’s London Directory as a ‘performer, amusement/entertainment, on the trumpet and violin’ living in Orange Street (by Castle Street) near the Mews, an address which was probably destroyed when Charing Cross Road (aka Castle Street) was extended. The same address was recorded as premises for his partnership with fellow organ-maker John Pether, together they built the organ now housed at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia.
It is possible that the working partnership with Pether may have led to a reduction in concert appearances, though he still continued his yearly journey to the Three Choirs Meeting. At the Gloucester Meeting in 1763, Samson was performed on the first evening, then on the Thursday Athalia and The Messiah on the final day, all at the Boothall. Frasi still led the vocal performers, but was joined by the Hon. Mrs Scott, formerly Isabella Young, daughter of the organist of Katherine Creechurch; the third and fourth vocalists were Champnes the bass and Price the counter-tenor.
The band was particularly full, consisting of sixteen treble violins, four tenors, four violoncellos, two double-basses, four hautboys, four bassoons, two clarinets, two French horns, three trumpets and a pair of kettle-drums. Adcock was first trumpet, Miller and Baumbarten the bassoons, the conductor was Dr Hayes.