St Mary & St Margaret - Castle Bromwich Parish Church 


Our historic church organ

What needed to be done and why

The west gallery
The west gallery

Peter Conacher & Co installed a pneumatic-action organ here at Castle Bromwich church in 1927 and it did 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 was recently discovered that Conacher's had 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 that we were 'living on borrowed time'. At some point the organ will fail.


We believed that it was important for the heritage of both our church and the wider Castle Bromwich 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 was that, after 70 years, the leather used throughout the installation has perished. It had gone hard and brittle and leaked air.


The bellows in the windchests were stiff and cracked and air could be heard hissing from the cracks. In addition, some of the wooden organ pipes were beginning to crack and no longer played a clear note. Our dedicated church organist made the best of this ageing instrument but there were times when a note refused to play or when a note refused to stop!


Below: our church organist Martin Bates demonstrates the problem.


The solution

Part-way there

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

When the organ was rebuilt here in 1927, the organ pump was placed up in the bell tower on a floor in between the bell 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 has been installed
A modern silent pump has been 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.



A major undertaking

The whole organ would have to be taken apart so that all the connections could be made good. All the perished leather parts would have to be replaced to ensure a stable and consistent supply of air from the blower to the windchests and 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 would also 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 preserved the 150-year-old system of pneumatic control, the Organ Restoration Committee was committed to retaining this unusual surviving feature.