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Valuation Of Dead Organ


Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

It has just come to my notice that a large 4 manual organ in a noted Gothic church has bought a digital substitute. The old organ is being thrown out. The church has gained no quotation, but a person has offered them £1,200 to take away the organ. They have stated that they intend to re-use some pipework. Who is getting the better deal?

There are about 55 speaking stops from 32' upwards.

Some observations from the Members would be welcome as I read that some of you seem to be avid collectors.

 

Thanks in advance,

Nigel

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It has just come to my notice that a large 4 manual organ in a noted Gothic church has bought a digital substitute. The old organ is being thrown out. The church has gained no quotation, but a person has offered them £1,200 to take away the organ. They have stated that they intend to re-use some pipework. Who is getting the better deal?

There are about 55 speaking stops from 32' upwards.

Some observations from the Members would be welcome as I read that some of you seem to be avid collectors.

 

Thanks in advance,

Nigel

 

I know of some much smaller churches who have gone digital and as no one wants the redundant pipe organs, usually in a pretty bad way, they are having to pay organ builders to remove the instruments. For the church to scrap them as a DIY job incurs all sorts of health and safety and insurance problems. The noted Gothic church might well be lucky to get away with getting £1,200 for it.

 

N.B. I am strictly dealing with facts here, not ethics!

 

FF

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It has just come to my notice that a large 4 manual organ in a noted Gothic church has bought a digital substitute. The old organ is being thrown out. The church has gained no quotation, but a person has offered them £1,200 to take away the organ. They have stated that they intend to re-use some pipework. Who is getting the better deal?

There are about 55 speaking stops from 32' upwards.

Some observations from the Members would be welcome as I read that some of you seem to be avid collectors.

 

Thanks in advance,

Nigel

 

 

Once the decision has been made, I think (probably) that both sides are getting a reasonable deal. The truth is, any organ-builders with stores have already filled those stores with useful parts from the 1001 other organs that have recently been scrapped. Anyone taking down a three or four-decker has to have not just a decent team (who will probably want paying) but also the wherewithal for hiring vans etc. to transport said stuff away. The church may only make just over £1k, but the job of removal will greatly add to new owner's costs*.

 

Mind you, a decent 16' reed is worth £1k on its own if you know someone who's looking for one. He/she will get his money back.

 

*And what happens to the bits that new owner has no use for? A scrap man will give a little for lead, not much for zinc and nothing for most of the timber. Architectural salvage companies are sometimes interested in case panels and decorated fronts, but at best we are talking £100s not 1000s.

 

The incredible disparity in cost/value between old and new pipe organs has always bothered me. Suppose you had to get someone to make you a new Stopped Diapason, for instance - this is a huge outlay of time and money. When one takes down an unassuming little 8-10 stop job from a village church, you frequently find equally attractive ranks virtually for nothing. Some years ago, a new organ was often priced at around £4,000 per stop - the most I've ever paid for a second-hand organ was £900 - for fifteen ranks. Colin Harvey or Peter Clark could tell us how much per rank a new organ often costs now! I recently noted (with alarm) that the (relatively small) Portsmouth Cathedral Nave organ division (one manual, maybe eight ranks, no separate console, electro-pneumatic action) cost somewhere around £130,000. Is it any wonder that churches are too easily tempted to go down the organ-substitute route?

 

I would like to see more jobs like Nicholson's Screen Organ at Southwell, where a good bit of the choruses are (in that wonderful expression) 'pre-owned'. They are (most definitely) none the worse for that and must represent a saving, kind both to our heritage and to the cathedral finances.

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... where a good bit of the choruses are (in that wonderful expression) 'pre-owned'.

 

I have, in another field of endeavour, seen this sentiment souped-up a little by being expressed as "pre-enjoyed". B)

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Once the decision has been made, I think (probably) that both sides are getting a reasonable deal. The truth is, any organ-builders with stores have already filled those stores with useful parts from the 1001 other organs that have recently been scrapped. Anyone taking down a three or four-decker has to have not just a decent team (who will probably want paying) but also the wherewithal for hiring vans etc. to transport said stuff away. The church may only make just over £1k, but the job of removal will greatly add to new owner's costs*.

 

Mind you, a decent 16' reed is worth £1k on its own if you know someone who's looking for one. He/she will get his money back.

 

*And what happens to the bits that new owner has no use for? A scrap man will give a little for lead, not much for zinc and nothing for most of the timber. Architectural salvage companies are sometimes interested in case panels and decorated fronts, but at best we are talking £100s not 1000s.

 

The incredible disparity in cost/value between old and new pipe organs has always bothered me. Suppose you had to get someone to make you a new Stopped Diapason, for instance - this is a huge outlay of time and money. When one takes down an unassuming little 8-10 stop job from a village church, you frequently find equally attractive ranks virtually for nothing. Some years ago, a new organ was often priced at around £4,000 per stop - the most I've ever paid for a second-hand organ was £900 - for fifteen ranks. Colin Harvey or Peter Clark could tell us how much per rank a new organ often costs now**! I recently noted (with alarm) that the (relatively small) Portsmouth Cathedral Nave organ division (one manual, maybe eight ranks, no separate console, electro-pneumatic action) cost somewhere around £130,000. Is it any wonder that churches are too easily tempted to go down the organ-substitute route?

 

I would like to see more jobs like Nicholson's Screen Organ at Southwell, where a good bit of the choruses are (in that wonderful expression) 'pre-owned'. They are (most definitely) none the worse for that and must represent a saving, kind both to our heritage and to the cathedral finances.

 

 

Forgive me for replying to one of my own postings!

**I just wanted to add to this by saying, I have just learned of a quote from one of our major firms (who had better remain un-named - but it's not our host!) for the construction of three new stops (all flue work) to the firm's own normal pattern. I understand the quote to have been £22,000 for a grand total of 162 pipes. This quotation does not cover the cost of installation or any mechanical work on the organ at all.

 

I calculate this cost to break down at around £135 per pipe! Thinks: It's a pity that second-hand (sorry, that should be 'pre-enjoyed') pipework isn't worth anywhere near that much!!! I'd be rich.

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"I would like to see more jobs like Nicholson's Screen Organ at Southwell, where a good bit of the choruses are (in that wonderful expression) 'pre-owned'. They are (most definitely) none the worse for that and must represent a saving, kind both to our heritage and to the cathedral finances."

 

 

Maybe, (having just read, and responded to a new thread about the Nicholson nave organ for Worcester), that use could be made elsewhere of the old Worcester organ that Nicholson's have in their workshops?? How about a transplant to Llandaff (the Hope Jones connection would be an interesting story in itself)??? :)

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<snip!>

 

The incredible disparity in cost/value between old and new pipe organs has always bothered me. Suppose you had to get someone to make you a new Stopped Diapason, for instance - this is a huge outlay of time and money. When one takes down an unassuming little 8-10 stop job from a village church, you frequently find equally attractive ranks virtually for nothing. Some years ago, a new organ was often priced at around £4,000 per stop - the most I've ever paid for a second-hand organ was £900 - for fifteen ranks. Colin Harvey or Peter Clark could tell us how much per rank a new organ often costs now! I recently noted (with alarm) that the (relatively small) Portsmouth Cathedral Nave organ division (one manual, maybe eight ranks, no separate console, electro-pneumatic action) cost somewhere around £130,000. Is it any wonder that churches are too easily tempted to go down the organ-substitute route?

 

I would like to see more jobs like Nicholson's Screen Organ at Southwell, where a good bit of the choruses are (in that wonderful expression) 'pre-owned'. They are (most definitely) none the worse for that and must represent a saving, kind both to our heritage and to the cathedral finances.

 

As a guide, the cost of a new pipe organ is currently around the £15,000 per stop mark, excluding VAT. I have heard one builder mention about £18,000 per stop recently but I - and many of you - will know of all-new organs which have been considerably cheaper.

 

I rather agree with Cynic that there's a lot of excellent "pre-owned" material out there that could and should be re-used. I remember one job where we used some Henry Jones pipework in an otherwise new organ and I felt that it sounded considerably better than the equivalent new pipes. The obvious pipes that get reused are large wooden ones, which are currently expensive to make from scratch due to high labour costs.

 

At Twyford, we re-used all the existing Walker material, supplimented with further period Walker material and this body of pipework led the way for the new pipework to be scaled and manufactured as near-replicas of the old. I think about 40% of the pipework is old. The result is remarkably homogenous and beautifully musical organ which once again has impressed me all over again this morning and yes, it did come in quite a bit under £15,000 per stop.

 

However, using old pipes in an otherwise new organ doesn't save as much money as some people are suggesting. The cost of the pipes is really a small fraction of the cost of an organ - think of soundboards, action, wind system, frame, casework, etc. Old pipework will still need regulating and tuning on site for its new position and potentially restoration before it can be re-used. While an old rank of pipes can be picked up for £0-£200 pounds, it will still need money spending on it before the work is complete. Bear in mind that the cost of all-new pipes only comprises about 10-20% of the £15,000 price guide of a stop.

 

One thing to bear in mind is that there are risks - unless you really know what you're doing and know exactly what you're looking at, the chances of ending up with a mongrel are high. I'm always concered that if it's done as a cost-saving exercise, it is a slippery slope to a return of Husskinson-Stubbington syndrome, re-using any part of an organ whch comes up, negelecting disciplined design and quality craftsmanship in an effort to keep costs down. However, if the organ is carefully designed and well made, using the old material sensitively and intelligently, the results can be exceptionally good and easily a match for "all new".

 

One final point: The re-use of old material, forming part of the heritage of music in our church was an important factor for getting the go-ahead for our project - otherwise the work might not have happened and I may have been playing this morning on the dreadful old mongrel I had before - which also contained a great deal of "pre-owned" material.

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  • 5 months later...

When our lovely 3 manual Bishop found itself looking wistfully up at the sky after the church roof came off thanks to the famous Birmingham tornado we were offered £1000 by a Dutch firm who specialised in buying up old Victorian British organs and fully restoring and relocating them; or a higher figure for scrap and conversaion into an extension organ. PCC, DOA and myself were unanimous in rejecting the higher offer and observed a very professional removal. Initially £1000 didn't sound a lot compared to the half million or so originally the instrument would cost to build in today's currency, but on realising how blessed we were to have a sympathetic buyer I think we actually did extremely well out of the tornado. As the organ was already in a perilous condition and would not have had any money spent when it eventually died, for it to be completely restored, albeit in new surroundings, was an opportunity we could not afford to pass on.

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