A brief history of the organ
- 1871 A plan in the Bristol records office shows a small organ in the north east corner of the newly-built chancel. Subsequently an instrument was placed in a bay on the north side of the chancel. These organs were supplied by the Bristol organ builder WG Vowles whose premises in St James Street were destroyed in the Blitz.
- 1937 The organ was moved by Vowles to a purpose-built gallery at the West end with the console remaining in the chancel.
- 1948 Hele of Plymouth cleaned the organ and carried out re-voicing work
- 1984 John Coulson was given a contract to clean the organ and carry out remedial work
- 2009 Clevedon Organs (UK) Ltd took over care of the instrument
The present state of the organ
There is 35 year accumulation of dust and grime. It is accepted that organs should be cleaned every 20-30 years so this is well overdue.
There is a good deal of leatherwork in the various parts of the organ, which is deteriorating due to aging. This process is sped up by excessive heat and lack of humidity. Splitting and cracking of leather causes the failure of components which, in turn, results in ‘missing’ notes.
There are audible wind leaks.
The low-voltage control system at the console is untouched since its installation in 1937 and is therefore unreliable and obsolete.
The swell pedal does not function fully and the tremulant cannot be operated.
Our organ builder is now not willing to undertake routine repairs as the state of the organ is such, that to do so, would invariably result in further damage.
Music at St Mary’s
The organ plays a major part in the weekly round of services as well as on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. A well-established musical tradition at St Mary’s is reflective in the extensive and representative library of choral music. Choral Eucharist is celebrated each Sunday morning and sung Prayer Book evensong each Sunday evening. Full choral evensong is sung on major festivals and an anthem on ‘ordinary’ Sundays. Special music is prepared for the Advent Procession, for Passiontide and for carol services at Christmas and Epiphany.
The Organ Appeal
It could be argued that we have had extremely good value from our organ with comparatively little expenditure over more than 70 years. The PCC has agreed to a full restoration rather than merely carrying out essential repairs. This latter approach would fairly rapidly prove to be a false economy.
The PCC and successive incumbents have wisely maintained an organ fund. Since expenditure for the work carried out in the 1980s, this has built up to £30,000.
£68,000 is needed for a complete restoration with an optional extra of £2,750 to respray the front pipes with gold paint. This means another £38,000 must be raised.
We have launched a Sponsor a Pipe Scheme: there are 1000 pipes in the organ so the sum of £38 will fund all the complex mechanisms required to make one pipe ‘speak’ We hope that pipes will be sponsored but any gift, large or small, will be recorded on the progress chart in terms of pipes.
When the work is completed, we will have fulfilled our responsibility in terms of our stewardship of the organ and it will be ‘fit for purpose’ for the next two to three generations.
A series of events to support the appeal will be organised at regular intervals. Details will appear in the usual places – we hope that you will give these your full support.
There are two ways to make a donation to the Organ Fund:
- Transfer directly into the Church bank account 30-98-06 02034848
- Put your donation into one of the envelopes marked Organ Fund
If you are a UK taxpayer, please complete and sign a Gift Aid declaration and include it with your donation.
We intend to keep a list of all who donate to our appeal. The amount donated will not be recorded as we value small and large amounts equally. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please mark your envelope or let one of us know.