It has been quite a momentous week at St Mary & St Giles as the Heritage Lottery supported restoration work on the Willis Pipe organ began. On Sunday morning the organ was played in the Mass for the last time before restoration by John Neal, then after the service was over, three of our young people, including Jacob, played the organ for a little while before carefully locking the console and returning the key. It was quite a poignant moment, which I tweeted about at the time.
— Anna Page (@AnnaCPage) July 20, 2014
On Monday morning FH Browne & Sons Ltd arrived to start the long task of dismantling the organ. The first thing they had to do was take out the white painted front pipes to reveal the organ which most people never get to see. In the south gallery is the Swell organ and most of the Pedal organ, in the north gallery is the Great organ, Choir organ and the remainder of the Pedal organ sections.
On Monday I was able to visit the church to photograph more progress (all other photography during the week was by John Page) and tweeted about it:
— Anna Page (@AnnaCPage) July 21, 2014
On Monday and Tuesday the organ builders concentrated on some of the Pedal and the Swell section. On Wednesday and Thursday morning they worked on the Great and Choir sections. Each pipe was carefully removed from its rack board (holding it upright in the wind hole of the 'soundboard' action below) and placed in their ranks in the gallery. The smallest pipes were carefully wrapped in bundles in newspaper, some pipes were placed side by side in shallow wooden boxes and the bigger pipes were stored upright in groups along the gallery (except for the front pipes which were laid carefully mouth side down lengthways along the gallery. The pipes will be out for a while, and most of the large ones cannot be stored flat as this would damage them. Some of the longer oboe (Hautboy) resonators in the Swell were banana shaped as they were not supported (the organ building term is 'stayed up') very well, these will be repaired and a proper additional support made for them, to prevent the same thing happening again.
In 1962 before the organ left Edinburgh, some of the Swell metal pipes were stolen when St George's church was no longer being used as a church. These were replaced when the organ was installed in Stony Stratford and the Lieblich Gedackt rank shows that the theft wasn't wholesale - one 'side' of the rank was stolen, the other wasn't and the stopper handles show the different design of the replacement pipes (made by Palmers Pipes). The darker handles are the Willis pipes, the lighter, thicker handles are the replacements.
Some filming of the dismantling work was done for the DVD we are making as part of the Heritage Lottery supported project and photography will continue as well. The gallery is out of bounds (and locked) - all the pew benches are now in the side aisles below the gallery. However the organ builders have very kindly agreed to come on Saturday 13th September for our Heritage Open Day when they will show people the dismantled organ and chat about progress. We will also have an exhibition about the restoration and research work, with refreshments served as well of course!