St Mary & St Margaret - Castle Bromwich Parish Church 

Our historic church organ

What needs to be done and why

The west gallery
The west gallery

Peter Conacher & Co installed a pneumatic-action organ at Castle Bromwich church in 1927 and it has done a sterling job for almost 100 years.

 

There are now only three remaining Conacher pneumatic organs left untouched in the country of which ours is one. 

 

It has been recently discovered that Conacher's reused pipes from an earlier instrument and evidence of its position can be seen on the rear wall of the church gallery. This takes the history of our organ back a further 100 years. Knowing the information about the use of earlier pipework, it is clear that this instrument in its present state is unique.

 

However, although the organ has been regularly tuned and maintained, it is now in need of a thorough restoration. One specialist who examined the organ told us we were 'living on borrowed time'. At some point the organ will fail.

 

It is important for the heritage of our church and community that this organ, having performed so well for so long, should be put back into a condition to guarantee its use and enjoyment for future generations while preserving as much of the old mechanism as possible.

The problem

The problem is that, after 70 years, the leather used throughout the installation has perished. It has gone hard and brittle and leaks air.

 

The bellows in the windchests are stiff and cracked and air can be heard hissing from the cracks. In addition, some of the wooden organ pipes are now beginning to show signs of cracking and no longer play a clear note. Our dedicated church organist makes the best of this ageing instrument but there are times when a note refuses to play or when a note refuses to stop!

 

Below: church organist Martin Bates demonstrates the problem.

 

The solution

Part-way there

The 1927 organ pump has now been replaced.
The 1927 organ pump has now been replaced.

When the organ was built here in 1927, the organ pump was placed up in the bell tower on a floor in between the ringing chamber and the belfry. This was so that the considerable noise of the pump would not be heard inside the church. A large pipe took air down through the ringing room to the organ gallery. After almost 100 years, the pump was  in poor  condition and the bellows were worse. 

 

A modern silent pump installed
A modern silent pump installed

 

In 2016 the bellringers began a complete restoration of the bell installation. Unfortunately, the organ pump and its pipework stood in the way of the proposed drop of the bell ropes.

 

Fortunately, the ringers were able to attract funding to buy a new and silent pump for the organ. This was placed on the gallery directly behind the instrument. A happy solution all round.

 

 

But there's much more to do.

This will be a major job!

 

The whole organ will be taken apart so that all the connections can be made good and all the perished leather parts will be replaced to ensure a stable and consistent supply of air from the blower to the windchests and then to the other components. There are hundreds of slender lead tubes connecting the keyboard to the pipes and hundreds of pipes in the organ itself. Any faulty pipes will be made good.

 

A simpler and cheaper solution would be to replace the complicated arrangement of pneumatic lead pipes with a modern electronic system. But that would not be our historic church organ - it would be a modern compromise. 

 

As ours is one of only three Conacher organs which have kept the 150-year-old system of pneumatic control, the  Organ Restoration Committee is committed to retaining this unusual surviving feature. 

 


ORGAN SPECIFICATION