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Joy as 150-year-old Holdich organ is returned to Norfolk church following £82,000 restoration project

PUBLISHED: 18:09 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:31 20 September 2017

The Upton Sr Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower (left),  who is joined by (l to r) Joyce Warren, the Rev Nick Garrard, Ivan Barnard and Chris Bond, with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

The Upton Sr Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower (left), who is joined by (l to r) Joyce Warren, the Rev Nick Garrard, Ivan Barnard and Chris Bond, with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

Simon Finlay.

After hundreds of hours of painstaking work, a Victorian masterpiece has been returned to its former glory at a Norfolk Church.

The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography. The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

More than £80,000 was raised to fund the restoration of the Holdich organ at St Margaret’s Church in Upton, near Acle, last year.

The instrument, built in 1865, is thought to be one of just 50 remaining organs made by G M Holdich of London.

But its aging condition sparked an 11-year project to restore the instrument, which was first brought to the Upton congregation in 1903.

Now, after 12 months of work by Norfolk organ builder and Holdich expert Richard Bower, it has finally been returned to its former glory.

The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography. The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

Revd Canon Nick Garrard, rector of Upton, said restoration work carried out in the 1960s had some “very negative affects”.

He said the leather bellows were also at risk of splitting.

“I am delighted that after 11 years of planning the project has come to such wonderful fruition,” he said.

“The sound of the organ has been transformed and perhaps we are hearing it now as Holdich intended in 1863.

The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography. The Upton St Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

“The project has gathered in help and great goodwill from the community. I’m excited by its huge potential for concerts, worship and training a new generation of organists.”

The organ, which is cased in dark panelling, weighs 1.5 tonnes, has 943 individual pipes and two keyboards.

Its original ivory keys were replaced by celluloid ones in the 1960s, which have now been removed and replaced by fine quality animal bone.

Some of the pedal pipes, which were also taken away in the 1960s, have been replaced by ones found from a disused organ in a London church.

The Upton Sr Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower (pictured).Photo Simon Finlay Photography. The Upton Sr Margaret's Church organ which has been restored by Richard Bower (pictured).Photo Simon Finlay Photography.

The team rebuilt the organ bellows using 11 sheepskin leather skins. A completely new pedal board was also made.

Mr Bower said: “Holdich was a sensational organ builder whose instruments produced a really colourful and bright sound.”

A week of celebrations marking the restoration begins at the church on Saturday, September 23, with a free community day looking at the history of Upton.

The project was made possible thanks to a £72,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £10,000 raised by the local community.

Organ’s history

The organ was built in 1865 for St Andrew’s Church in Norwich, and was paid for by two very wealthy sisters - Agnes and Elizabeth Stone, who lived in Castle Street.

The congregation at St Margaret’s in Upton began fundraising for an organ in August 1886 when the Rev Alfred Peache visited, founder of the London College of Divinity, donated £2 and two shillings to commence a fund to purchase an organ.

The aim was to raise £100 to purchase an organ, however, in 1903 the actual cost increased to £160. The community at Upton rallied around, organising various events to raise the amount, which they eventually did.

In 1903 The Glasspoole Brothers of Wymondham restored and refurbished the organ after it was sold to St Margaret’s Church, Upton. They were a new family business whose workshops, in their father’s garden, had been built a few decades previously for the purpose of tuning organs.

Week of events to celebrate

A series of events are to be held over the coming week to celebrate the organ’s return.

On Saturday, September 23, from 10.30am to 4pm, a free community day will explore the history of the instrument and the village.

People can play Edwardian games, follow a village trail and explore a collection of historical artefacts.

On September 24, there will be a Thanksgiving and re-dedication service from 11am, which will see the recreation of the 1903 service.

St Edmund Youth Orchestra are performing on Tuesday, September 26 from 6.30pm. Tickets cost £5 on the door.

On September 28 and 29, children from primary schools near Acle will be able to play the Wooden One-Octave Organ for Young Technicians.

And on Saturday, September 30, at 7.30pm Anne Page, will perform the organ’s inaugural concert. Tickets are £10. Call 01603 270769 or 01493 752237 for tickets.

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