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 also been recently discovered that Conacher & Co reused pipes from an earlier instrument and the evidence of that organ's position can still 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 of the specialists who examined the organ told us we were 'living on borrowed time'. At some point in the foreseeable future, the organ will fail.


It is important for the heritage of our church and this community that the organ, which has performed so well for so long, should be put back into a condition which will guarantee its use and enjoyment for future generations while preserving as much of the old mechanism as possible in the same way as when it was first installed here.


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. 


Our dedicated church organist makes the very best of this ageing instrument but there are times when a note refuses to play or when a note refuses to stop!


In addition, some of the wooden organ pipes are now beginning to show signs of cracking and no longer play a clear note. 


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 the  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 and were able to buy a new and silent pump for the organ which 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!


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


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.