1964-Pipe from burned organ (photo John Page)

1964-Pipe from burned organ (photo John Page)

1960 old Kirkland organ in North East gallery (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

1960 old Kirkland organ in North East gallery (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

On Boxing Day (26th December) 1964 there was a terrible fire in St Giles Church in Stony Stratford and the old 2 manual organ was destroyed completely (only one pipe survives).  See Organs in St Giles Church for more information about the Kirkland instrument.

Starmer Shaw was about to restore that instrument, so when the fire happened Dr Ingram suggested to Fr Hutchings and Derek Savage that he knew of a suitable instrument to replace the old organ when the church was restored.  A few months previously he had inspected the Willis organ in the closed St George's church with a view to purchasing it.  Dr Ingram had previously brought another instrument from Edinburgh in 1962 to St Mary's church Haversham, in Northamptonshire.

1960 St Giles interior organ on left (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

1960 St Giles interior organ on left (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

Although both Vicar and organist agreed, after they had inspected the Willis organ in storage, that it was a good instrument for St Giles church, they could not commit the church to buying the organ until the future of St Giles and the neighbouring St Mary’s church was resolved, as the two parishes were about to be merged.

At one point there was a real chance that St Giles church would be closed permanently because of the fire, but eventually it was decided that the larger St Giles would be restored and St Mary’s church closed.  Relevant extracts from the minute books of this period have been transcribed as part of the organ history research (they are held at the County Archives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire).

St Marys minute books 1965-1967

St Giles minute books 1956-1967

The Willis organ was purchased in 1967 (according to Cyril Brown who was churchwarden at the time Fr Hutchings paid the deposit for the organ himself) and installed during 1967-1969 in the church by Starmer Shaw organ builders.  The pipes missing from the Swell organ which had been stolen from St George's Edinburgh were mostly replaced with new pipes made by Palmer's Pipes of Finchingfield, Essex.  Only the Waldhorn pipes were not replaced (probably because the space for the organ was tight).

2012 letter about Palmer's Pipes

St Giles church became St Mary and St Giles Church in April 1968 when Fr Cavell Northam was made vicar of the now combined Parish (Fr Hutchings and the retiring Fr Payne of St Mary’s helped the transition throughout and Fr Hutchings moved to another Parish).

1969-06-16 letter from Fr Hutchings (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

1969-06-16 letter from Fr Hutchings (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

During his final years at St Giles church, Fr Hutchings wrote a column in the regular St Giles newsletters for his parish, these have been transcribed from the originals (held in the Parish Records box).

St Giles newsletters 1960s

Fr Hutchings cared deeply about music making at St Giles Church (he directed the choir, with Derek Savage as organist).  In 1967 he wrote a letter to his parish about the importance of the choir in worship and the community.  His letter of 1969 from his new parish to Fr Cavell-Northam thanking him for the booklet about the new Parish of Stony Stratford indicates that the organ wasn't completed until 1969.

Letter from Fr Hutchings, 1967, about the choir

James Odell recalled the Willis organ coming to Stony Stratford (he wrote his recollections in 2006 when fundraising started for the complete restoration).

James Odell note about the Willis organ coming to Stony Stratford

Cyril Brown wrote down his recollections of the 1964 fire and its aftermath (in 2015).

The Story of a fire in 1964

In May 1969 a week long Flower and Organ Festival was held in St Mary and St Giles to celebrate the organ installation and raise much needed funds for the restoration of the church because insurance after the fire had not covered all the costs and further restoration work was needed.

1969-05-24 Festival of Flowers Programme including Organ recitals

Also in May 1969 one of the people who had known, loved and played the Willis organ in St George's church, Mr J L Hope, came to visit it in its new home and wrote a letter to Fr Cavell afterwards, thanking him.  The parallels between the Edinburgh and Stony Stratford parishes, which had both combined with sister parishes, was also mentioned in his letter.

1969-5-22 JL Hope letter to Fr Cavell

Margaret Clarke, Catherine Stock and Susan Fitch at the Willis organ console for the Flower Festival 1969

Margaret Clarke, Catherine Stock and Susan Fitch at the Willis organ console for the Flower Festival 1969

Revd. Cecil Hutchings, Vicar of St Giles until 1968 (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

Revd. Cecil Hutchings, Vicar of St Giles until 1968 (Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton records box)

 

For a 1969 newspaper cutting about the new organ for St Mary and St Giles Church see
Fine-New-Organ

Photos of the Boxing Day 1964 fire and aftermath of the fire