Rebuilding of the Organ

by John Wilks (Organist & Choirmaster)

(To celebrate the completion of the Organ refurbishment, John Wilks explains the changes)

The recent rebuilding of St. Wulfram's organ is something of a landmark for Grantham and especially so for the Parish Church. The work, completed in June 1994, was entrusted to Philip Wood & Son of Huddersfield, who are shortly to carry out similar work at Beverley Minster and St. Asaph Cathedral.

Most church organs of the size of that in St. Wulfram's have their origins in instruments built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and in some cases even earlier. The Commonwealth was sadly responsible for the wanton destruction of many fine organs built before that time. Almost all of these organs have been rebuilt a number of times since then. It is in the nature of such a complicated instrument that repairs are carried out every fifty years or so and on each of these occasions it is quite usual for improvements of some kind or another to be made. The history of St. Wulfram's organ follows that pattern and is outlined as follows:-

1736 A three manual (i.e. three keyboards) organ was placed on a screen in the centre of the church.

1851/68 This organ was rebuilt and enlarged and placed in its present position in the north aisle.

1906 It was again rebuilt and enlarged and the splendid casework by Walter Tapper was provided. This, with some modifications carried out in 1971, is essentially the same organ we have known to the present day. Laurence Elvin, writing in 1934, lamented the fact that the choir and solo divisions were both played on the same manual, so that the choir organ "was not available for accompanimental purposes against the solo"; this has been a fairly serious shortcoming of an instrument of this size and potential flexibility.

1971 New keyboard actions were fitted to replace those of 1906 and the choir. organ was replaced with a "positive" section, useful mainly as solo stop combinations.

1993/4 - By now, major refurbishment was necessary, work which would involve the complete dismantling of the instrument. This was an obvious opportunity to overcome the limitations of the 1906 organ by fitting the fourth manual (keyboard). In this connection, it has proved possible to put in a new choir division which will be used mainly for accompanimental purposes; the 1971 "positive" is now part of the solo organ. The much-talked about Tuba is also in place.

All that is needed to complete the rich tonal scheme of this excellent instrument is the 32' pedal reed (Contra Posaune) which we have not been able to afford within the budget. However, the stop is "prepared for" by the builders and it is our fond hope that, in the not too distant future, a generous benefactor may be found who might find it exciting to have his or her name associated with the thrilling sound that these pipes would make, for a mere £6000!

The refurbished organ has been in use from Whitsunday and was dedicated by the Bishop of Grantham on Sunday 12th June. The instrument, always held in high regard in the past, is now without doubt one of the finest organs in Lincolnshire and will be a lasting tribute to the work of the 2000AD Appeal committee who provided the funds for this major restoration work.