×The Post War Restoration of the Abbey Church Organ

Church Archivist, Grenville Weltch uncovers facts from the archives about the 1953 rebuild

The need to repair the three-manual organ was first mentioned in September 1946. This proposed a complete overhaul at a cost of £765 of which £200 was promised as a result of war damage. In February 1949, it was recorded that an electric organ blower had recently been fitted by Messrs. J.W. Walker & Co. Ltd. Ruislip, Middx. That May saw the launch of an Organ Rebuilding Fund with a target of raising £5,500 in three years.

By November 1950, the cost of modernising and the entire rebuilding of the organ , moving it from the north east end of the chancel to the western gallery and providing a detached console (close to the chancel) had risen to just under £6,000. Approximately half had already been raised, helped by Mr. H. J. Bolton who left £1,566.14.0 to the organ fund in his will. Unfortunately, though, the total cost of the organ repairs had risen to £6,600 by September 1951. J.W. Walker & Co. Ltd. were appointed to carry out the work on the organ. Undeterred by the rising costs, the project continued and in June 1953 the organ was dismantled. It was temporarily replaced by a large American organ. Rebuilding work began in the west gallery on 12th October 1953 but the cost had now risen to £6,732. Ultimately, the works were achieved with a total cost not far short of £7,000.

Finally, on 18th December 1953 the organ was dedicated by the Archdeacon Emeritus of Southend, the Ven. E.N. Gowing. The Hallelujah Chorus was played and new Congregational Service books were introduced. This was followed two days later by an organ recital given by Mr. Frank Jackson, A.R.C.O., the Church organist, who, in the words of the vicar Canon Cleall, “had for 44 years presided at the old broken organ which had now given place to a truly magnificent instrument, wholly worthy of its noble setting and ranking among the first class three-manual organs throughout the country”. We look forward to recording something similar when our own Director of Music, Jonathan Lilley, plays the rebuilt instrument!