St Swithun's Worcester

 

The Organs at St Swithun's...

 

THE CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST

There are currently two historic organs at St Swithun's, Worcester: the 1795 Gray organ, which is the church's own instrument, and the Wetheringsett organ – a reconstructed Tudor organ owned by the Royal College of Organists and currently housed at St Swithun's.

To view the full specifications of the organs, please click here.

The fine mahogany-cased organ in the west-end gallery of St Swithun's is the most complete remaining example from the Gray brothers' workshop in London. The organ dates from 1795, the same year that Robert and William Gray were commissioned to build a new organ for the Inigo Jones church of St Paul in London's Covent Garden. Very few church organs from the eighteenth century remain in existence and significantly unaltered, making the St Swithun's example an extremely important find.

Organ practice and teaching

In order that organists may enjoy and learn from these historic instruments, the St Swithun's organs are available (subject to booking) for regular practice, for teaching, or for occasional use by interested organists, on Saturdays during the months when the church is open, or at other times by arrangement. If you are interested in the opportunity to use these early-English organs, please make a booking via this email link.

After many years of relative disuse, the Gray organ was in need of a full overhaul, which was completed in 2010, following a successful fundraising campaign.

Restoration

The Organ Restoration Campaign started in 2007 before the identity of the makers was established by researcher Jim Berrow, working on behalf of The Friends of St Swithun's. Its importance was formally recognised in June 2008 with the award of a Grade I Certificate from the British Institute of Organ Studies. The certificate states: ‘The organ in St Swithun's Church, Worcester has been awarded a certificate in recognition of it being an important instrument by William and Robert Gray 1795, with additions by the newly founded firm of John Nicholson 1844 … The organ is therefore listed in the Institute's Register of Historic Pipe Organs as being an instrument of importance to the national heritage and one deserving careful preservation for the benefit of future generations.' A copy of the certificate is on display in the church.

The restoration work was carried out by Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn of Goetze and Gwynn, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and took place between July 2009 and April 2010. Goetze and Gwynn were selected because of their reputation for exacting restoration of early English instruments. The organ was carefully dismantled and transported to Worksop, following the 2009 St Swithun's Festival, and each component was carefully conserved and restored to its original condition, using traditional materials and craftsmanship.

Fundraising

The total cost of the restoration work was in the order of £100,000, including VAT, inflation and contingency, publicity, and other publications required by the grant-aiding organisations. Grants for the restoration work were received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Churches Conservation Trust, Listed Places of Worship Scheme, Idlewild Trust, Leche Trust, some private trusts and individual Friends and supporters. Our grateful thanks to all these contributors to this important restoration. Funds are still needed for future maintenance and to support the work of the Friends of St Swithun's in promoting the use of the organs and of music generally at St Swithun's.

A new book about the Gray organ by Dr Jim Berrow is available from the stewards in the church for £7.50, or for £9.00 by post from Will Scott, The Walled Garden, 6 Rose Terrace, Worcester, WR5 1BU. Cheques should be made payable to ‘The Friends of St Swithun's'. A DVD documenting the restoration of the St Swithun's organ is similarly available, price £5.00 at the church or £6.00 by post. All proceeds will go to promoting the use of the organs and of music generally at St Swithun's.

 

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