The Organ of St Mary's, Titchmarsh
Ugly Duckling Set to Turn into a Swan
To the un-trained eye, the organ of St Mary the Virgin, Titchmarsh appears to be a ‘run of the mill’ Victorian organ. Not true. It is, we have discovered, an organ of national importance and much admired by some of the foremost organ experts in the Country, who are not so influenced by its visual impact, but by the quality of the sound produced.
Why is it important?
Foremost it is its maker. It is an early example of the renowned Victorian organ builder, Thomas Christopher Lewis. It was installed in the Church in 1870 and apart from regular tuning and conversion to electric bellows in the 1930s, it remains almost 150 years later much as Mr Lewis left it.
Unsurprisingly, after all this time the instrument is now in need of major restoration. It is a big undertaking and will require the organ’s removal to a carefully selected, top class and sympathetic builder. Over recent years the organ has become more and more fragile and temperamental and soon it is feared it will not be playable at all.
What’s happening and how?
The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of Titchmarsh, whose responsibility it is to care for the Church and its contents, has during the last year been busy seeking grant funding for the restoration project, the total cost of which is £168,000.
Foremost of these was a successful application to Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), who granted £86,900. Titchmarsh PCC has also pledged £45,000 from its own funds (thanks to a generous bequest), and other grants have been forthcoming from Church Care, Nene Valley Organ Project and the Benham Charitable Settlement.
The remaining funding gap will be met by further grant applications and local fundraising initiatives. Click here to find out how you can help.
Following a tender process, the contract for the restoration work was awarded to Harrison & Harrison of Durham, chosen not only because of their excellent reputation, but also their experience in restoring other Lewis organs. The organ will be removed in the summer of 2016 and should be reinstalled by the end of the year.
Help and Advice
Because of the importance of the organ, the PCC has retained an organ expert, Dr William McVicker to advise the PCC on the project. Locally, The Nene Valley Churches Organ Project has also offered its support.