Organ History

According to the National Pipe Organ Register, the previous organ, built mostly by Hele & Son (based Plymouth & Bristol) during the First World War was a substantial 3 manual and pedal organ, with 40 speaking stops typical of the “English” style.

Smoke damage from a fire in the church in 2006 rendered plans to reconstruct this organ impossible and it was replaced by a second hand electronic instrument with unsightly scaffolding speaker towers at the West End of the church.

This was intended to be a stopgap measure pending replacement by another pipe organ. Over 15 years later this electronic Makin instrument is now starting to show signs of ageing that will incur ongoing repair costs without guaranteeing its long term future and its computer software is unlikely to be supported for much longer.

A suitable replacement

After a country-wide search a suitable redundant organ was identified at the Trinity United Reform Church in Plymouth, which closed at the end of 2023, and generously gifted their instrument to St John’s. This organ is of a near identical specification to our old organ and coincidentally was built by the same organ maker. It has been carefully assessed by our own experts as well as by leading West Country organ builder Lance Foy, who is ready to undertake reconstruction of the instrument for St John’s.

The Plan

The Trinity organ will be completely refurbished and rebuilt in the same position as the previous organ – the north transept. Adequate space will be available behind the organ to allow viewing of the  wall mounted monument which had previously been hidden by the old organ. Importantly, the arrival of this new pipe organ will allow for the removal of the scaffolding towers at the West end of the church thus freeing this area up for later reordering incorporating kitchen and toilet facilities. As an entire package, this will enable the church to be available to the community for more multi-functional use.

The Cost

The challenge is to raise sufficient funds to piece the Trinity organ back together in its new home at St John’s – at around £105,000 this is just a quarter of the cost of an equivalent new organ.

Progress

Fund-raising has already realised enough to cover the removal costs from Plymouth to Devizes.

This has been achieved.

From last September, when the organ arrived in Devizes, until June of this year, the somewhat tortuous process of gaining permission from the Diocese to undertake the project continued.

This has been achieved.

Sufficient further funds have been raised to enable us to commission Stage One of the rebuild.

June 11th 2025

The rebuild has started and will continue, initially mainly offsite at the organ builders workshop.

So far, we have raised around one third of the total projected cost of the project but we will need to raise about another £70k.

Our hope

That by the second half of 2025 at the latest, our ‘new’ organ will be commissioned and able to fill  our beautiful church with a wonderful sound of music. Once the project is well underway we will begin to plan for a series of celebratory musical occasions during 2025/6 featuring the organ and with guest organists. It is also our intention, in conjunction with some of our sponsors, to establish organ scholarships to enable gifted local young musicians to learn to play on this fine new instrument which will be one of the best in the south-west.