Organ Restoration Project

The church organ in Calverley Parish Church was built and paid for in memory of Mr. Thomas Hollings Gray, who died in 1893, by his widow Mrs Agnes Gray. Mr & Mrs Gray were regular worshippers at St. Wilfrid’s, living in Brookleigh, and were generous benefactors of the church, already providing a stained-glass panel in the West Window, paying for the reredos and the commandment tablets in the Sanctuary, and many other things.

Two new vestries had to be built to make space for the new organ, one for the Vicar and one for, what would be, the first robed choir at St. Wilfrid’s. The roof of the organ chamber had to be raised too.

Work began on 5th May 1894 by local organ builder J Binns, who had already built many local church organs, including St. Michael’s Haworth, St. Pauls’ Shipley, St. Mary’s Harrogate, and St. Augustine’s in Bradford.
James Binns had a fine reputation and started the project in his organ works in Bramley, building the organ and erecting it for a cost of £1,100 (about £150,000 in today’s money!).

The organ was replacing a small, worn out organ that had been previously moved from the gallery in the tower (click here to see a drawing of what it used to look like!). The difference could not have been greater. The new organ had 3 manuals, a full pedal board, and boasted 43 stops supplied by 1,768 pipes, the latest tubular pneumatic action and water powered blowing equipment.
You can view the original specification document online here.

The new organ was first played at a recital on Saturday 8th December 1894, then many recitals followed over the next few days, weeks, and months. Organists of both national and international fame came to play this new instrument.
The project had been a great success and the organ was, and still is, regarded as one of the largest and finest in the Aire Valley.
James Binns was clearly happy with his creation as he chose this organ to practise on, every Wednesday evening afterwards!

Not much extra work was needed to keep the organ going for the next 80 years. Major restoration was done 40 years ago, in 1980.
You can view the new/current specification document online here.

It is only now, in 2021 – 127 years after the organ was built, that the bellows need repairing and re-leathering.
No one can complain that they haven’t lasted!
The organ has 3 bellows, of differing sizes, that supply air to the pipes. They’re like gigantic leather balloons and act in a concertina like way as they expand and contract. When the organ is switched on you can hear them fill with air. The problem is that the leather is perishing and has many holes, so air is escaping, resulting in a lot of excess noise, but more worryingly, when they finally split, we will have no organ. This could happen at any time, during a Sunday service, or worse still, during a funeral or a wedding!
You can see the state of the bellows, the dirt around the pipes, and the condition of the drawstops behind the organ console in the pictures below.

The organ also needs attention in other areas, which we are hoping to do, but the bellows are by the far the most urgent.
As the organ is used regularly for Sunday services and many weddings and funerals, it’s hoped that much of the money can be raised within the church and wider community. Many fund-raising events had been planned before the pandemic, but sadly had to be cancelled. As life starts to open up again, we must focus on trying to save this lovely instrument.

Our organ is so special, so powerful, and such an historic instrument that it must belong not just to parish church members, but to everyone who lives in the Calverley village.
It is played for everyone, enjoyed at weddings, funerals, and christenings.
It’s played at many special occasions including Christmas, Easter, Harvest, and Remembrance. It’s played every Sunday morning as a backdrop for our silent prayer, and for great, thunderous hymns.
At a time when grand old organs are disappearing, it’s important that we retain, maintain, and continue to enjoy ours in Calverley Parish Church.
We’re facing a situation where, in the very near future, we may have a very special organist, but with no special organ to play.

Revd. Canon Robin Gamble

After consultation with Peter Woods, Organ Builders and Restorers, we now know that in order to restore our organ to perfect working condition for future generations, we need to raise the total sum of £30,000. The restoration project would involve re-leathering the bellows, and cleaning away almost 130 years of accumulated dust and dirt.

It’s hoped to start the repair and maintenance project at the beginning of August 2021, and complete the work at the end of October 2021, in time for our Remembrance Sunday services in November. Once this project is complete, organ music at Calverley Parish Church will continue to be enjoyed for another 100 years! We welcome any donation, large or small at the link below:

If you’d like to learn more about our organ, this restoration project, or just hear it being played in Church, please contact:
[email protected].