The first organ we know of in Halifax Parish Church was built by the famous German organ builder John Snetzler in 1766. The organ had three manuals and 24 stops, and cost £525 “for the organ as per contract” plus £25 5s 0d. “for the additional stop Vox Humana”. This organ stood on a gallery at the west end of the church.
The first organist to be appointed was William Herschel, later to become Sir William, the famous astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus.
In 1835-36 numerous organ builders were approached, including William Hill, for whom H.J. Gauntlett prepared a specification. The work was, however, given to John Gray in 1837, who added an octave and a half of double open diapason pedal pipes from GGG to CC, together with a complete set of German pedals. Couplers for Choir and Swell to Great were also added. This must have been one of the first instruments in Britain to be equipped with a full set of pedals.
In 1878 the church as a whole was re-ordered, and the gallery taken down. The organ was moved to its present location in the chancel, when Isaac Abbott of Leeds rebuilt it as a four-manual instrument of 52 stops. The fine chancel case, by J. Oldroyd Scott dates from this time.
Further work was carried out by Messrs. Abbott and Smith in 1896, the organ being completely dismantled and rebuilt with tubular pneumatic action. A thorough cleaning of the pipework was necessary by 1910, when the Tuba was revoiced and the mixture stops remodelled.
By 1925 the instrument was found to be in a serious state of dilapidation. An assessment by Dr. E. C. Bairstow, organist of York Minster, and Mr. Arthur Harrison, of the organ builders Harrison and Harrison recommended that the instrument be rebuilt at an estimated cost of £6,000.