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The West Organ, installed in 1959, has reached the end of its useful life. The copper façade you see from the Nave is only the tip of the iceberg – behind it there are over 1,100 pipes and over 27 speaking stops. Much of the organ came from other instruments that date back further to Victorian times.
The transmission (that takes electric ‘messages’ from the player at the East Organ and causes the right pipes to sound at the West) is no longer functioning and cannot be repaired as is. A new, digital system will be installed as part of the project, bringing that part of the instrument up to modern standards (no more cotton-insulated wiring!).
Beyond the transmission are the soundboards. These extremely complicated timber machines are what the pipes actually sit on. Below each pipe is a complex system of holes that line up and channels through which wind is forced into the pipes – hopefully the right notes in the right order! These soundboards are now over 120 years old, and they were not designed for modern central heating. Warping and other issues have left them beyond repair.
The proposal is to install new soundboards, properly treated per current norms to withstand the dryness and warmth that come with central heating. These will have a lifespan of at least 120 years from now.
Lastly, the pipework. Whilst St Mildred’s West Organ has been a good instrument for the church (it’s the first organ I ever played!), we are considering acquiring some pipework from a redundant local organ built by Lewis & Co in 1906. This pipework is of very superior quality and can be incorporated into the project without a material increase in cost. The Lewis pipework would represent a significant upgrade. Lewis was the builder of many very fine instruments, including Southwark Cathedral and St John’s, Upper Norwood, and in a nice bit of symmetry the first organ at St Mildred’s was also a relocated Lewis, before the Mander organ went in. Lewis was considered absolutely one of the foremost organ builders of the day.
I invite anyone interested to contact me and I will be more than happy to discuss the plans in more detail and answer any questions.
Richard Mander, Director of Music