St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Church Fabric

Proposed Organ Restoration

A pipe organ is the largest most valuable single asset that a church can possess and should be maintained and tuned regularly. As an organ is built using mainly timber, metal and leather, it needs to be housed in a dry building with a controlled temperature of between 10 and 20 degrees. Over the past 135 years St John’s organ has helped and inspired both the church family and the wider community.

Built by Henry Speechly around 1880, the organ was enlarged in 1930 by his son, also named Henry, who changed the action from tracker to pneumatic. In the 1960’s there was an alteration to the organ stops and in 1992 some re-leathering work was executed. At this stage it was considered that the bellows, if patched, could last a lot longer. Unfortunately the bellows now require re-building with new leatherwork and to do this the organ requires to be substantially dismantled, bellows removed, re-built and subsequently re-installed.

Since 1930 there have been continual permanent and temporary repairs to motors and piston leatherwork, which has now resulted in notes sticking and/or not sounding. This has also meant that last December’s re-tuning was unable to be completed. Since then it has become noticeably more difficult to play the organ efficiently during services. As the church building has been re-roofed and new efficient heating installed (essential before any organ repairs) the Diocesan Organ Advisor was called in.

It has been firmly advised by the Advisor and 2 organ builders that because the organ will be dismantled during the work to the bellows and the re-leathering work, the time was right to change the organ action to a more efficient electro-pneumatic action. At the same time the lead piping can, if necessary, be replaced. It should be possible to design and install the electro part of the new action in such a way as to prevent future dismantling of the organ should any part become faulty. In addition completely new leatherwork should prevent any more intervention to the leathers for many years.

Finally it was advised that the existing pipe work is generally in a good condition except that the metal pipes were sounding slightly flat musically. The cost to adjust them is minimal but the new tonal quality would be much brighter than at present.

We have been advised that all these works would cost around £60,000 plus VAT. We are in a listed building and the organ is permanently fixed within that building so VAT should become re-payable as it was for the roofing works. These works should ensure that no further organ re-building work will be needed in the foreseeable future.

Although not in place at present, we will be looking for a formal annual re-tuning and maintenance arrangement with the selected organ builder.





TUESDAY 14th July 2015 at 8.00pm


The organ committee has had several meetings with the Oxford Diocesan Organ Advisor, Mr Barry Williams, to discuss the repair work which is required to the Organ. These repairs, with outline costs, will be presented to the PCC at an Open PCC meeting which the congregation is invited to attend. Mr Barry Williams will be at the meeting and there will be an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed work (see the next article).