Pipe Organ Project

For some, with long memories, this will seem like an ongoing saga dating back to the beginning of the century or thereabouts. Way back then, the original pipe organ in St John’s was deemed to be beyond repair and a replacement (redundant) instrument was sourced from a church up north. This was brought to Devizes and stored in the church and elsewhere. Sadly, much of this replacement organ was damaged by the fire in the church in 2006 and it was no longer useable. A second hand electronic (Makin) organ was bought as a stop-gap measure until a new pipe organ could be located and/or built. We still have this electronic organ in use today, together with the very unsightly speakers at the back of the church. Electronic organs, like everything else, have a limited life and ours is now well and truly working on borrowed time. Its computer software is getting to the point where we will no longer be able to have it maintained. One way or another, we need to replace our organ as soon as possible. A new electronic organ would cost perhaps £60-80,000 and have a life expectancy of maybe 40 – 50 years (maximum). A pipe organ is much more expensive – two to three times the price of an electronic organ, but equally their lifespan is probably three times that of an electronic instrument.

Ever since the old pipe organ was taken out, the expectation has been that we should replace it with a new pipe organ. This is what the Diocese have always expected us to achieve and this is what the PCC have now once again resolved to take forward as a project. Our choral tradition of worship will be greatly enhanced by having a first-class pipe organ to accompany the choir – and the congregation!

This project has suffered significant delays along the way, not least on account of a lengthy interregnum as well as a long pandemic, but now, a small project group has been created to take this work forwards. We are in the process of identifying a suitable organ builder to undertake the work and, as before, the idea is that we will source a suitable redundant organ from elsewhere. It would then be transported to Devizes and stored pending a rebuild to fit it into St John’s, effectively as a new organ following a fundamental overhaul. Sadly, redundant organs are fairly plentiful at this time as churches and chapels around the country close – but this hopefully works to our advantage. The present intention would be to store a newly acquired (redundant) organ at St Mary’s pending re-build. We may have to revisit this plan if it clashes with the quinquennial repair works at St Mary’s – due to start in the summer. It’s all a question of timing, but if anyone knows of other suitable dry and secure storage space that could be available to us, please let the Rector or churchwardens know. Obviously, a pipe organ, even in bits, is a fairly bulky item!

Our proposed timeline is to source a redundant organ this year and have the rebuild work undertaken in 2024 with a view to getting the new instrument in place and working by 2025. There is then the ‘small’ issue of paying for this project. A figure of £200,000 is probably a good ballpark estimate. We are optimistic that much of this money could be raised through grants and the like but a fundraising campaign will be needed to cover the entire cost. Until we locate a redundant organ and appoint a firm to undertake the work, it’s impossible to be precise about the eventual cost and as yet, for the same reason, it’s a bit too early to start fundraising.

We will need to work hard and pray hard in order to bring this project to fruition, but I have no doubt that it will be worth it. We will have not only a fine church but also a fine organ to match.

Any ideas or offers of assistance will be gratefully received.

Mike McClelland