Sir Samuel Hellier

For the remainder of 1763 and the beginning of 1764 there is no further notice of Abraham’s movements. There is some debate as to when Adcock repaired the organ at Lichfield Cathedral, some sources say 1760, others have 1764 from a date scratched into the wood; despite the discrepancy, it seems apparent his organ work and commissions had increased and perhaps his performance work had slowed.

   He continued to return to the Three Choirs Meetings though, and without any contradictory evidence, he was still employed by the Covent Garden Theatre. In the summer of 1764 the Three Choirs Meeting was at Worcester, Athalia was performed on the first evening; Acis and Galatea, the second; then on the Friday morning, the annual performance of The Messiah was given at the College. Frasi continued as principal soloist along with the Hon. Mrs Scott, Mr Price, Mr Corfe and Mr Matthews the principal bass singer at Oxford. Mr Pinto returned as the leader and was joined by Adcock, Vincent, Perkins, and Maximilian.

   Later in the year, as winter set in, Adcock wrote his Will; it may have been ill health or just general old age that had prompted him to write it. Curiously, he mentions his brother John who was residing with him and his brother’s son Abraham. In respect of his nephew’s future, he requests that his wife Rebecca from his ‘confidence in her compliance and the uprightness of her mind that she will do all in power for my nephew Abraham Adcock towards bringing up and placing him in the world.’ He does not mention any offspring of his own, nor is there any evidence he ever had surviving children.

   In the year of 1765, he journeyed to Hereford and continued his annual summer visits to the Three Choirs Meeting. The performances, on the two evenings were, L’Allegro, il Penseroso and Acis and Galatea and on Friday morning, The Messiah. The singer Charlotte Brent, who would soon become the wife of Mr Pinto, the violin player, made her first appearance that year; she died destitute in Vauxhall Walk in 1802.

   Adcock’s loan of the ‘little organ’ to the church at Wolverhampton had led to his acquaintance with Sir Samuel Hellier, an ardent collector of musical instruments and music. In 1766, Hellier commissioned Adcock to build two organs, first a chamber organ for the music room of his house and then one for the Womborne Church. On Boxing Day 1766, Hellier wrote to his agent John Rogers that he attended Temple Church and that he had seen Mr Adcock and the organ under construction:

‘He has drawn a… Grand Gothic Arch which will inclose the organ… and be truly magnificent’. Then several days later he wrote: ‘The organ for Womborne Cathedral [sic] will be very clever and make an elegant appearance. Fine ivory keys. The stops which it will contain are on the Loud or Full organ as follows (Viz.) Stop’t Diapason, Open Diapason, Principle [sic], Cornet, Sesquialtera Bass, Trumpet throughout; Soft Organ, Stop’t Diapason and Principle. The Cornet will be a lively one as it is the stop constantly used when a psalm is given out, and then when they begin to sing, the Full organ all the stops. As you are to be the organist I recommend that you practice a good deal and you have a good instrument at you command so you cannot well complain for want of an instrument’.

However, work on the organ was interrupted by Adcock’s ill health as he was suffering from a ‘severe fit of gout… but as Easter Sunday [1767, when they intended to use the organ] is no more than any other Sunday hope you will bear this disappointment and rest assured I myself will attend Mr Adcock, who has promised when the gout has left him to drive me down in his chaise and put up the organ. Change of air and exercise will be of service to us both’.

   Despite Adcock’s illness, Hellier reported that the organ ‘will be as loud as Wolverhampton new organ is or thereabout. You have a full Trumpet stop through and a stop called a Chorus stop wich makes it speak as loud again. This is done besides the full organ so judge what it must be. It is a charming pretty instrument and to shew you its consiquence [sic] there is two pair of bellows to it – mine has only one pair. I only hint this to shew you what it is. The case and the gilding makes a beautiful figure. The Womborne church will shine. In short it will be a solemnity and a grandeur and dignity becoming the House of God’.

   About a week before the Easter Sunday event on the 14 April 1767, Hellier visited Adcock in London and wrote:

‘I am just returned from Mr Adcock’s where to my great joy I found him with crutches, seated at the organ, wrapped up in flannels. He is much recovered and before the month is out you will hear the organ at Womborne.  I can scarce express the pleasure I feel on Acc’t of ye Organ. He has bestow’d uncommon Pains upon it, and it rivals mine so much I begin to doubt yours is the best. So much the better. The case is as full as it can hold and the trumpet speaks fine to an immense degree.  I have yet the Sound in my Ears, & the full Chorus will please everybody… It is a Prodigious sweet Pretty Instrument. I am almost in Love with it. You must make Mr. Bond give you a Solemn Promise to play it the first Time…’

Then on the 21 April 1767 Hellier writes that the organ was ‘now quite finished’… and believe me ’tis a noble Chorus and the Diapasons speak free and firm. If the Womborne people are not set up now I don’t know what they would have. ‘Twill make you all alive’.

   At the conclusion of the build, Fryer’s waggon from Wolverhampton went to London to collect the instrument. Adcock and Hellier travelled from London to Wolverhampton by coach and once installed at Wodehouse, special travel arrangements were made to escort Adcock to the church: ‘I desire you would borrow Mr Jordan’s one horse chaise and have a horse and it ready at the Swan in Wolverhampton ready to bring Mr Adcock and me home, for his gout is too bad for him to ride on horseback… he must have the chaise all the time he is putting up the organ for the journeys between the Wodehouse and the church’.

   The previous summer Adcock had travelled to Gloucester to perform at another Meeting; Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate (as arranged by Dr Boyce), Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum and Jubilate, a Jubilate by Pergolesi, the Coronation anthem, and an Anthem by Dr Stephens, who was that year the conductor of music, were the morning performances.

John Rich

John Rich

On 26 November 1761, John Rich the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre had died, leaving his widow Priscilla and son-in-law actor and singer John Beard, joint managers. In December 1765 Priscilla Rich obtained an extension of the lease of the theatre from the fourth Duke of Bedford, and in 1767 she and her four daughters sold the two letters patent and the theatre to Thomas Harris, John Rutherford, William Powell and George Colman for £60,000. The purchase was completed on the 1 July 1767 and after much wrangling and ‘some high Disputes’, Colman effectively took control of managing the theatre. He proceeded by firing Adcock and a number of other employees, bringing to an end twenty-eight years of employment from the trumpet player and a reduction in his yearly income.

   Unsurprisingly, Adcock failed to appear at the 1767 Three Choirs Meeting at Worcester, as a consequence he missed an appearance by Charles R. Burney, nephew of the musicologist, and the usual performance of The Messiah at the college on the Friday morning.

   The reasons for Adcock’s sacking at Covent Garden and his failure to appear at the Three Choirs are unknown, but a letter from Hellier dated 26 June 1767 hints at some possible friction, that Adcock was ‘left out thru ill nature of the Musick Meeting this year’.

   If there was discord, it did not last as Adcock returned to the Three Choirs the following year and appeared to maintain his friendship with Hellier until his death.




Be first to comment