Restoration of the Organ at St. Hilary’s

Best Surviving Organ

"St. Hilary’s Church, Spridlington, houses ‘the best surviving organ’ by Thomas Nicholson"
(Dr. Robert Pacey)

The restoration of the organ is now complete, and this page will in time be up-dated with more information about this project.

The Organ Pipes Before Repainting
The Organ Pipes Before Repainting

The Organ Pipes After Repainting
The Organ Pipes After Repainting

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Restoration Complete!

The historic Thomas Nicholson organ in St Hilary’s Church Spridlington was re-dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln on St Hilary’s Day, 13th January, 2008, following a concert on the previous evening featuring the Louth Consort, Florian Rago (violin), and five organists.

Nicholson built this organ in 1878, three years after the new church itself was opened. It has undergone further work at the hands of others from time to time, but has managed to retain its overall integrity over 130 years. It is very much a survivor.

The time came for a full, historically-informed, restoration to its original condition. This was undertaken by Andrew Carter, organ builder, of Wakefield, and his staff. The ornate decoration of the front pipes was undertaken by Nigel Leaney & Sue Lee of Lincoln. The consultant was Paul Hale. An audio-visual link has been established between the organ console and the church.

The total cost was £73,000. The work was largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Council for the Care of Churches, with further grants from Marshall’s Charity, the John Warren Foundation, Lincolnshire Co-op Society, the Stephen Clark Charitable Trust, the Allchurches Trust, the Idlewild Trust, the Michael Cornish Charitable Trust, and private donations & fundraising efforts.

Organ and Choir Screen
Organ and Choir Screen

Great Open Diapason Inside Pipes
Great Open Diapason Inside Pipes

Original Specification from 1875
Original Specification

The image to the right is the original specification from 1875, and the restoration has now brought the organ back to its original condition except that : – the Swell octave coupler has not been reinstated; the Swell Bourdon is Tenor C, 42 pipes and the bottom octave of the Swell Open Diapason is wood, not zinc, and appears to have always been so.

Read on for some background to this Restoration project and pictures of the dismantling and reconstruction…

Statement Prior to the Restoration

It is now the largest surviving organ by Thomas Nicholson. Minor modifications over the years have hardly affected its integrity.

An electric blower (in need of replacement) was installed in the pit under the organ in 1939. This may have been the time when the Great Fifteenth was replaced by a Vox Angelica 8 (now missing), and the Swell mechanism altered, a very poorly-designed balanced pedal taking the place of the old trigger.

Dr. John Pemberton, Diocesan Organs Advisor, examined the organ in June 2003, and at the request of the Council for the Care of Churches, the parish also commissioned a report by Paul Hale, an independent organs adviser.

The parish is conscious and proud of the historic organ. It is now being restored as far as possible to its original condition by Andrew J. Carter of Wakefield, who restored the nearby 1869 Nicholson organ (also listed) at Hackthorn Church. The Great Fifteenth will be reinstated, and the manual doubles. The unfortunate balanced pedal to the Swell and the pedalboard will be replaced by copies of the original.

The work includes the restoration of the ornate decoration of the front pipes by Nigel Leaney, Lincoln DAC paint adviser. Some previous second-rate repairs are being undone, and the peeling paint on many of the front pipe lips are being repaired, restored, or in places replaced.

A two-way audio-visual link will be installed between the console, buried deep inside the organ, and the body of the church.

£73,000 has been raised for the project, including a grant for £7,500 from the Council for the Care of Churches, and a further grant from them in respect of the front pipe decoration, and an award of £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Other grants and donations have come from Marshall’s Charity, John Warren Foundation, Lincs Co-op, Stephen Clark Char.Trust, Allchurches Trust, Idlewild Trust, Michael Cornish Char. Trust and private donations.

The work started in July 2007, and will take three months.

Once restored, the PCC aims to make the organ fully available for theoretical and practical study by local schools, bona fide organ students, and as wide a range of musical uses within the community as possible by way of recitals, concerts etc.

Commenting on the award Rev. P. Godden said "This is a major achievement for a small village like Spridlington. The village was initially surprised to find that it was custodian to such an important piece of both our local and national heritage, and has taken this project very much to heart. We shall soon be able to use this fine organ to foster serious study of the English organ tradition, and to bring the joy of fine music to Spridlington and the surrounding community."

Explaining the importance of the award HLF regional manager Emma Sale said, "St. Hilary’s Organ is a fine example of Lincolnshire heritage that will be of interest to both locals and much further a field. It’s vital that we hold onto pieces like this to preserve both appreciation of a beautiful instrument, and knowledge of the skills that local people have that are a focus of pride for the region."

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