Restoring organs > Restoring pipe organs
"Father" Willis Organ
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Within our Parish we have two brilliant instruments one of them being an 1865 "Father" Willis. The instrument is listed on the National Pipe Organ register as last being surveyed in 2006 and 'playable'. Since then the organ has deteriorated and although still slightly playable is in a state of disrepair. I have recently been made Organ Scholar and we have decided to make it a project to have this instrument restored. From the information I have read online and in a report by Ian Bell, it appears that this organ is one of only a few remaining of its kind, bearing in mind its age. I therefore feel it is important that this organ is restored so that it can be enjoyed by many generations to come and does not simply become 'unusable'. With all this in mind and obviously being in the very early stages of getting our appeal up and running, I have a few questions which I would like to be answered.
Firstly, is this organ likely to qualify for the Historic Organ Scheme and if so is it advisable to have it put on this register? Secondly, can anyone advise of companies who are seen as leaders in the present day as organ builders suitable to restore such an instrument?
If anyone can answer my questions or have any advice, please either send me an email or post a reply. Your input would be very much appreciated.
The link to the details of the instrument on the National Pipe Organ Register is:
Could you post a link to the NPOR listing, it might help to know where you are and the spec of the organ.
It looks a mighty fine instrument, certainly worthy of restoration. I would say that the organ would be a prime candidate for a Historic Organ Certificate, and an application should be made as soon as possible. Once obtained this may well help in applications for grant money towards restoration of the instrument.
Regarding companies for restoration; Harrison & Harrison have very recently completed the restoration of the Father Willis organ in the Union Chapel, Islington London. This was a restoration completed on strict historic principals, which is just what you are looking at with your Willis organ at Preston St George. Interestingly, Ian Bell was also the advisor for that project. As far as I'm aware H&H are the only company to have completed this kind of restoration on such an original Willis organ, and certainly the only one in the last 12 months! They also rebuilt the Father Willis in what is now the 'Cottier Theatre Glasgow', which included the construction of a totally new Barker Lever machine which had been thrown out when the organ was electrified. H&H are the only organ builders to have recently had such extensive experience in these kinds of mechanisms.
You might like to go and see the Union Chapel Willis, it would provide a very useful incite into what the results of a Historic restoration, which is what you're looking at, will be.
Good luck with it all!
Willis' themselves have recently built/rebuilt Barker Lever (and Willis floating lever) actions.
Quoted by NEorganist: "H&H are the only organ builders to have recently had such extensive experience in these kinds of mechanisms. ".
How strange then that we're currently restoring (another) 1891 Willis-Lever instrument for Leiden. It must just be a rumour. ::)
(Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.)
P.S. You might like to take a look at the pages on our website regarding the new organ for Florence, which has Floating Lever - an infinitely more difficult and complicated mechanism than Barker Lever. http://www.willis-organs.com/florence_general.html (click on the link which says "show/hide construction photographs (updated)" There are also pictures of the new round-section trackers made on what we understand to be the only machine surviving.
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