Campaign to give Shropshire village's listed organ new sparkle

A Shropshire village is gearing up for a major fundraising effort to revamp one of its treasures – the church organ.

The organ is a heritage gem.
The organ is a heritage gem.

The Victorian organ at St Chad's Church in Norton-in-Hales, near Market Drayton, has been given Grade II* Listed status, meaning that it is a heritage asset of national importance.

But with no records of any work ever being done in over 150 years of service, and no repairs in living memory, it now needs a clean and a historical restoration.

Alan Dutton, a member of the parochial church council who is fundraising co-ordinator, said: "The organ was installed in 1865 and was manufactured by J W Walker of London – Walker’s still exist in London.

"The instrument is in remarkable condition considering its age and very few alterations have been made during its long history. It is virtually as it was left by the builder except for an electric blower.

"It is still in use and is played on most Sundays by our resident organist Mel Rees but is sadly in need of restoration.

"We need to raise funds in the order of £100,000 to do an historical restoration. Finding these sorts of funds is going to be difficult but we need to make sure the organ is restored for its next 160 years' of service."

Alan said the PCC had not yet met to formally set the fundraising target as it is awaiting a third quote for the work, and added that a committee would be needed to organise the project funding.

The organ consists of two keyboards, 15 stops, and pedals, and originally cost £350 when presented to the church in 1864 by the Rev Frederick Silver.

"The outstanding feature is the two faces of 17 pipes each. All the faces have been gilded in gold leaf, stencils applied and fine detail added by hand painting. A careful restoration of this art work alone is estimated at about £16,000."

He added: "We have recently raised £24,000 – including grants – during Covid lockdown, quite an achievement, for the repair and refurbishment of the carillon."

A carillon is a mechanism to play the bells.

Alan said: "St Chad’s is well worth a visit, the church is open during the day. Norton-in-Hales is one of very few villages in Shropshire with a village green and has a long record of achievements in Royal Horticultural Society village competitions.

St Chad's Church, Norton-in-Hales.

"The church dates back to the 10th century but evidence dates from the 13th century and much work was undertaken during the 1800s which resulted in the north transept, octagonal baptistry and octagonal vestry being added.

"Eight bells, clock and a carillon were added along with the organ.

"Other treasures include the Cotton memorial which is believed to be an early work of Inigo Jones, and an old helmet which is no longer in the church but in the Leeds Armoury as it was too expensive to insure.

"Considering the size of the village at the time it is extraordinary that such treasures were installed and remain in use today."

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