A History of St. Mary's Pipe Organ from 1877 to 2017
In 1877 Robert Postill of York, who died in 1882, built St. Mary’s an organ with two manuals and a pedal section and, it is believed, incorporated some of the 1813 pipework of an earlier organ. The organ was paid for by subscription according to the list below.
William Denman, a former employee of Robert Postill, added a third manual and the choir organ in 1884. N.P.Mander of London carried out major work in 1964. He restored the sound boards, cleaned the pipework, renewed and moved out the console from the case, revised the actions, made tonal changes and installed an unusual tracker system.
Geoffrey Coffin of Principal Pipe Organs of York, who tuned and maintained the organ from 1986, cleaned the unenclosed choir pipework in 1988 and later carried out repairs to the console and pedal coupler actions. He supplied an estimate for major work in June 1994 but the Chancel roof, also found to be in urgent need of repair, had to take priority so work on the organ was put on hold.
The 2004 inspection report revealed extensive deterioration. Perished sheepskin coverings had caused failures in various offnote and drawstop actions. Friction in the various pivot joints had increased to such an extent that it was almost impossible for any organist to play for long periods. Cotton covered wiring was actually a fire hazard and the original 1877 bellows leather strapping and gusset coverings had rotted. In truth there was a serious risk of the organ going up in smoke or silence of the bellows!
To replace the organ with one of equal size and value was estimated at £400,000 net of VAT! Therefore repair, restoration and improvement of the organ became a priority. Estimates for the work were about £94,000 - net of VAT which was payable then. This was - and is - a daunting sum to raise so the work was divided into three stages with the first stage estimated at £42,000 net of VAT. Unfortunately the changes carried out on the organ in previous years meant it failed to meet the criteria for most grant giving bodies including the Council for the Care of Churches and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Despite our best fund-raising efforts over the next two years and securing grants of £5,000 from Thirsk Infants School Trust and £5,000 from The Foundation for Sport and the Arts it became clear that the sum required for the second and third stages was beyond us so in December 2006 it was decided to use the £42,000 or so which we had raised to pay for as much priority work as this sum would cover.
Geoffrey Coffin began on site in August 2007 and completed essential repairs and refurbishment by 26th November at a cost of around £45,000. Cotton covered wires were replaced by new cables thus removing the fire hazard. Three new rows of manual keys were installed and an electro pneumatic system which has dramatically reduced the effort of playing the formerly very ‘heavy’ keys. The main bellows was converted to a continental style so there is no fear of the organ going silent!
The State of the Organ in 2017
(At present we have no full time Organist following the retirement of Alan Morton. He served St. Mary's for many, many years for which we are truly thankful. It is to be hoped that a new appointment will be made in the not too distant future.)
As for the Organ - The console is in a good state and should be playable for many years but the 2091 organ pipes, some of which may date back to 1813, have not been dealt with as there was insufficient money. Unenclosed choir organ pipework was cleaned in 1988 but the rest hasn’t been cleaned since 1964 and is exceedingly dirty. Accumulated dust and grit is choking the pipe mouths and this affects the tone and tuning stability. Metal tuning slides have rusted and must be replaced and the wooden pipework needs the stoppers releathering. So although the organ pipes are believed to be less of a priority they will have to be cleaned and repaired.
Cleaning and Restoration of the Organ Pipes
Cleaning and restoration of the pipes was estimated to cost about £16,000 in 2007. Considering the age of the pipes it may be possible to secure repair and restoration grants.. The dedicated Organ Restoration Fund was £4,835 in April 2010 and we added to this sum during the 2010 summer season of ' First Monday in the Month Lunchtime Organ Recitals' - lunch time being 12.15pm-12.45pm.. Thanks to a bequest of £3,000, recital donations and reclaimed Tax, the Organ Restoration Fund reached £9,008 early in 2011. We hoped this would cover about half the cost and be sufficient for us to start applying for grants to clean and restore the pipes. However the 2011 estimate from Geoffrey Coffin, the organ builder,was £27,000 so we were nowhere near halfway and therefore had to continue fund-raising praying that the pipes function for the foreseeable future.
Organ Restoration Fund
The Organ Restoration Fund has now reached almost £12000(end of February 2017.)
A History of the Monday Lunchtime Recitals
In 2011 Alan Morton, St. Mary's church organist, organised Monday lunchtime recitals by Guest Organists from the early May Bank Holiday until the season ended in October and the Venerable Paul Ferguson, Archdeacon of Cleveland, performed the special pre -Christmas recital on Monday 5th December. Sadly some 2011 recitals were not well supported so it was decided in 2012 that Guest Organists would only perform on Bank Holiday Mondays. Saint Mary's was most grateful to all the Organists - Dr.Nigel Gaze, Helen Proudley, David Jackson, Philip Sangwine, Matthew Atherton and Audrey Powell - for generously giving their time and talents in aid of the Organ Restoration Fund . We were especially grateful that when the Venerable Paul Ferguson, Archdeacon of Cleveland, scheduled to perform the special 2012 pre-Christmas recital on Monday 3rd December, needed to be released from his commitment, David Jackson stepped in at the last minute and gave a most enjoyable performance. In return David received a very warm welcome, hot soup and sweet treats in the Crypt afterwards.
In 2013 Philip Sangwine opened the Bank Holiday Recital Season. Helen Proudleywas the guest organist on Bank Holiday Monday 6th May, followed by Dr. Nigel Gaze on the late May Bank Holiday Monday 27th May. David Jackson performed on Monday 19th August.
Venerable Paul Ferguson, Archdeacon of Cleveland played for the Christmas Exhibitions in 2013 and 2014.We are grateful that the website www.organrecitals.com advertises all our recitals - if you are an organ fan it's a useful site.
Organ Pipe Sponsorship
Organ pipe sponsorship has helped us to raise £5,460 funding. There are still 1,727 organ pipes to be sponsored and we hope these will eventually all be sponsored to help with cleaning and refurbishing the pipes.
PLEASE CLICK HERE for a sponsorship form if you would like to sponsor an organ pipe - or several – at £15 per pipe.We pray that eventually every pipe will have been sponsored.
Following the repair and restoration by Geoffrey Coffin of ‘Principal Pipe Organs’ The revised stop list is as follows: --
Great and Pedal Combinations Coupled
Compass of manuals CC-G (56 notes)