New bishop re-dedicates refurbished Heckington church organ

Bishop of Grantham blessing newly recommissioned organ at Heckington St Andrew's Church. L-R Rev Chris Harrington, The Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain - Bishop of Grantham, John Lyon - organist. EMN-160119-115847001

Bishop of Grantham blessing newly recommissioned organ at Heckington St Andrew's Church. L-R Rev Chris Harrington, The Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain - Bishop of Grantham, John Lyon - organist. EMN-160119-115847001

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The new Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Nicholas Chamberlain, was invited to rededicate the newly refurbished organ at Heckington’s parish church.

The new Bishop of Grantham, the Rt Rev Nicholas Chamberlain, was invited to rededicate the newly refurbished and restored organ at Heckington’s parish church.

The organ at St Andrew’s Church has undergone a complete overhaul, costing over £40,000 and has been out of action for over a year while repairs were carried out, explained Vicar of Heckington, Rev Chris Harrington.

The organ, with three manuals and pedals, originally built by Charles Brindley of Sheffield in 1869, is thought to be the largest organ in a village church in the county.

The organ was last re-built in 1905 by Cousans of Lincoln, who moved the instrument to its present position and equipped it with a pneumatic transmission system, the advanced technology of the time. This system unfortunately proved unreliable and in recent times, many pipes inside the organ were rendered unplayable by leaks in the pneumatic systems. Significant water damage in the 1990’s meant that only a very small amount of the organ was left operational.

The first phase of repairs to the organ were undertaken in 2010 by Holmes and Swift, Organbuilders, of Fakenham. This restored some parts of the organ into playable condition but further funds were needed to complete the much-needed full restoration.

Rev Harrington said: “About six years ago about £20,000 of work was done to it - mainly repairs from a leak in the roof. But there were still a lot of things needing to be done to it as about one-third of the organ didn’t work.”

Money was raised from the proceeds of two concerts by the Heckington Singers and several other concerts. The church’s organist, choirmaster and director of music, John Lyon, also waived his usual fees, instead putting the money to the fund, added to by several other private donations. In 2015, Alan Goulding of Pipe Organ Services, Melton Mowbray was commissioned to finish the restoration.

Rev Harrington said Mr Lyon built an electric organ, which sounded uncannily like a pipe organ, with speakers installed around the church, to use while the main instrument was out of commission.

It had been borrowed from a school in Alford where Mr Lyon is deputy head.

Mr Lyon said: “When I arrived here ten years ago, the organ was in a terrible state of repair. Most of the instrument was unplayable and many people doubted that we would ever hear it properly again. It has been wonderful to be able to lead such an important project to return the organ to full playing order and to save it for future generations. All of this has been made possible through the generosity of people who have donated to save this historic instrument. Heckington should be very proud of this wonderful and versatile musical instrument, which will now play its full part in accompanying our choir and our church orchestra in services and other events.”

The restoration work has seen every one of over 1,000 pipes in the organ ‘returned to speech’, as well as the addition of a small number of extra pipes, which complete the instrument. The pneumatic transmission has been replaced with an electro-pneumatic system, which is more reliable and easier to maintain.

A new mobile organ console has been hand built, which allows the organist move the keyboards and pedals to sit near the choir in services or to be seen by audiences in recitals. Finally, after the previous motor failed moments before restoration work began, a replacement blower has been installed to provide the wind that the organ needs to ‘speak’. Although the restoration has seen many new parts installed into the instrument, care has been taken to preserve the tonal quality of the historic pipework to maintain its musical integrity.

Around 70 people attended the rededication service on Sunday, which was rounded off with a finale piece by Mr Lyon on the organ.

A celebrity recital is planned to officially mark the restoration of the organ, to be given by Colin Walsh, Organist Laureate of Lincoln Cathedral. A series of other recitals will follow later in the year.

The church enjoys a thriving musical life as well as playing host to a number of concerts and events during the year. Anyone interested in becoming part of the choir or orchestra, or wanting details of any of the musical events can contact Mr Lyon via the church website: www.heckingtonandhelpringhamgroup.org.uk