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Organ Restoration Project

The organ in St Mary the Virgin, Finedon was built around 1704/5 by the organ builder Father Smith for the chapel in Windsor Castle. It was moved to Finedon in 1717 by Christopher Shrider thanks to the Vicar of Finedon, Sir John Dolben; the opening concert on 17th May 1717 was performed by Dr William Croft and the choir of the Chapel Royal. The organ was rebuilt in the nineteenth century with pedal pipes being added and the console (keyboards) moved to the side of the organ. The last restoration work was undertaken in 1960, hence the need for work to the organ now.

The organ is of national historical importance so only careful restoration work will be undertaken; this mostly consists of cleaning the pipework (over 50 years of dust!) including restoring the artwork on the front pipes and maintenance work to the inner workings of the organ. The total cost for the organ work was estimated to be around £52000 which we hoped to raise through fundraising and grant applications, plus additional costs for restoring the artwork on the front pipes and transcribing and performing the Croft anthems.

Progress on the Organ Restoration Project was noted here:

  • A report of the condition of the organ from John Norman (Accredited Member of the Association of Independent Organ Advisors)
  • Three quotes for the work to the organ based on this report, plus an additional quote for restoring the artwork on the front pipes.
  • Fundraising by the church and locally has raised around £8000 towards the project.
  • A Faculty for the work has been approved by Peterborough DAC
  • Church Care have offered us a grant of up to £8000 for the project, plus an additional £1200 to create an inventory of the pipework
  • Consultation taken place with Professor Donald Burrows regarding creating a modern transcription of the two works written by Dr William Croft for Finedon in 1717 & 1720 'Praise God in His Sanctuary' and 'Come ye tuneful Sisters'. It is hoped we can arrange a performance of these in 2017 (300th anniversary of the installation of the organ)
  • 24th July - we are please to announce we have been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery grant for the project
  • 4th August - contract signed with Holmes & Swift organ builders for the work to the organ. Artwork to be restored by Jenny Duffy.
  • Early October - work has begun to transcribe the Croft anthem 'Come ye Tuneful Sisters'
  • A digital organ by Viscount has been ordered for use during the restoration. This arrived towards the end of October.
  • The start date for the work by Holmes & Swift is Wednesday 27th November.
  • The restoration of the artwork on the front pipes will begin in early January, by Jenny Duffy.
  • The keyboards, pedalboard, bellows and action have been removed to the Holmes & Swift workshop to be restored.
  • The casework (woodwork) has been cleaned - this included removing the skeleton of a dead bat!
  • Photographs of the artwork on the front pipes and work in progress have been taken, some of which can be seen on the church website http://www.stmarysfinedon.co.uk
  • Photographs of the organ being restored in the Holmes & Swift workshop will be available soon.
  • Tours of the organ gallery and onto the scaffolding to view the front pipes and work in progress have taken place regularly after church services.
  • Local school children and our organ students have seen the work in progress, some through a visit to church from the school, and a few with a supervised tour of the organ gallery
  • Additional required work has been found following the erection of the scaffolding: the base 2 inches of the front central 5 pipes were clearly replaced in a previous restoration (probably 1960) and the metal was too weak so the pipes have sagged. These 2 inches or so will be replaced on these 5 pipes (a specialist pipe maker has been contacted to give us a quote for this work). This is out of sight so only became apparent when the scaffolding was erected.
  • 6th January - the bellows were completed and will hopefully be reinstalled next week.
  • 7th January - restoration of the art work on the front pipes began
  • 8th January update - renovation of the action parts, keyboard and pedals are well underway.
  • Week of 13th January - the remaining parts for restoration will be removed, and the stop action cleaning will be completed.
  • Early-February 2014 - completion of the restoration of the art work on the front pipes: the work involved gilding the pipe mouths and toning the gold down slightly so it fits in with the rest of the subdued decoration. Photographs on the church website show before and after pictures of the pipes. There was a lot of dirt/ bat visitations and an oily residue on them. Once this was cleaned off the colours and design showed up better. Work also included touching in any paint work that had come off.
  • Early-February 2014 - the transcription of the William Croft anthem 'Come Ye Tuneful Sisters' has been completed (transcription work by Robert Page).
  • Mid-February - work to restore the 3 keyboards (manuals) has begun. All the rest of the action (rollerboards etc.) has now been completed and is ready to be put back.
  • May 2014 - all the pipe work has been cleaned. Some of the action has started to be put back into place.
  • June 2014 - an inventory of the pipework is being made by John Norman with the help of Edmund Holmes, particularly noting the historical features & characteristics. This inventory will be made publicly available. Inspection of the original c.1705 pipework has shown it was made by Father Smith; it contains the same features (markings etc.) as the Father Smith pipes in the Great St Mary's, Cambridge organ. (Previously the organ has been attributed to Smith's son-in-law Christopher Schrider)
  • Late-June 2014 - replacement of the bottom few inches of the front pipes will take place and then be painted by Jenny Newton to blend in with the original artwork. This section of the pipes was replaced in an earlier restoration but with metal that was too weak, so the pipes have sagged.
  • July 15th - the organ bellows were put back into place. The scaffolding will be removed on 17th July.
  • End of July - the remainder of the action was put back in place.
  • End of August - the completion of the restoration of the keyboards and putting the pipes back.
  • Late-August - installation of lighting to enhance the organ case and pipe work. Installation of a video link/screen so audiences can see the organist during recitals.
  • Early September - regulation of the organ and tuning.
  • The majority of the restoration work was in early September ready for the opening recital on Saturday 13th September.
  • Transcription work on Croft's anthem 'Praise God in His Sanctuary' was completed in mid-October.
  • In early-October, the organ was retuned to Neidhardt for a small city (1732) temperament. In mid-October the finishing touches to the restoration were complete and the project signed off.
  • Educational visits are being planned to view and hear the restored organ. The local school will be visiting and in 2015 the Northampton & District Organists' Association are planning a visit.
  • Organ recitals and concerts are being planned - see the concerts page for details. After the opening recital on 13th September, monthly Coffee Cake Organ Recitals will take place at 11.00am on the first Saturday of each month. One or two Saturday evening recitals are being planned for 2015.
  • Our consultant, John Norman, is writing the final report on the project.
  • An article on the organ restoration appeared in the Choir & Organ magazine's January edition. Other details of the restoration work have been mentioned in articles by John Norman in Organists' Review.
  • The project signed off by Heritage Lottery towards the end of January 2015.

Our first 3 Video Blogs, following the restoration project, have been created. Please visit to watch the Organ Restoration - Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiGy99lkws4 .

Our fourth Video Blog, an interview with art restorer Jenny Newton working on the front pipes, is now on You Tube http://http://youtu.be/kiGy99lkws4 .

Our fifth Video Blog is an interview with our organ consultant John Norman who describes the characteristics of the pipework, and the organ builder Edmund Holmes describing the work being done to the action. This is on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v_axy3310c .

Our sixth Video Blog, recorded one week before the opening recital, is on You Tube at http://youtu.be/rWl4q4krg1U


Thanks to Church Care and Heritage Lottery for their support with this project.

Thank you to all in the congregation and local area for your positive support for the project. Even the smallest fundraising efforts were greatly appreciated and created the cause for our organ to be restored into good condition and enjoyed for many future generations. It is heartening to know so many people appreciate the instrument, with its history and important place and role within the life of Finedon Parish Church and beyond.

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