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Insuring pipe organs in churches


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I wonder if I could ask for some advice from other board members, please.


As far as I can ascertain, our pipe organ here is not insured separately, but only as part of the overall insurance of the building and its contents. I am not sure of the sum, but, whilst it is fairly substantial, if the unthinkable happened and the building was seriously damaged by fire (with the consequent loss of the organ), I am worried that the following might happen.


Our beautiful cruciform Minster church (parts of which date from the Saxon period), is severely damaged by fire. The organ, a large three-clavier instrument containing a few hundred pipes dating from 1664 and 1764, is virtually destroyed. After the clear-up is completed, the church authorities engage an ecclesiastical architect, who proposes a radical rebuilding and re-ordering of the church, together with some pieces of specially commissioned glass-work and sculpture, for example. This naturally takes much of the insurance. Then, we would be left with few choices. Either:


1) To install an somewhat smaller instrument, which would not be capable of supporting large congregations, for example.

2) Installing a redundant organ - which may be unsuitable by reasons of either size or design and may, in any case, need costly restoration of its own.

3) Have to launch an appeal to the wider community, in order to try to raise funds for a suitable instrument. (In the present economic climate, this could take a considerable time.)

4) Put up with an electronic substitute - possibly for several years.


The following information may help.


The Church:


Is cruciform in shape, with North and South aisles both East and West of the Crossing. There are two towers: one over the central crossing and one (with a belfry and a peal of thirteen bells) at the West end of the Nave. Predominantly the architecture of the Nave and Crossing is Norman (although unusually with slightly pointed arches to the arcades). The East end becomes gradually more Decorated in style, with some beautiful medieval glass in the East windows. Maximum seating capacity (with extra chairs), is probably around 850.


The Organ:


Is a three-clavier instrument, originally by Robert Hayward (1664), then Seede (1764), Robson (1856), then Walker (1867, 1899, 1965). It is currently maintained by Lance Foy, of Truro.

There are fifty-four speaking stops (which includes a small amount of extension on the Pedal Organ) and fourteen couplers, making a total of sixty-eight registers. The scheme includes sixteen ranks of mixtures, three full-length flues (two of spotted metal and one of wood), two full-length reeds (one of wood) and a horizontal reed (which stops at C13). The console is detached and is a handsome piece of work, with ivory keys, stop-and piston-heads and with rosewood key-cheeks and divisional stop-jamb panels.


The Music:


There is a four-part choir (involving gentlemen and both boys and girls). They sing a wide-ranging repertoire, from plainsong and a fourteenth-century mass setting, up to Britten and even Will Todd (Mass in Blue). There are normally two fully choral services each Sunday (with Choral Mattins on the second Sunday of each month). During Holy Week, there are often special services. In addition, the choir sings at all major festivals. The Advent Candlelight Service and the unaccompanied singing of the Litany with motets on Good Friday morning are particular highlights. Any instrument in this church would be called upon to provide a suitable accompaniment to a great variety of choral works, psalms and hymns, to lead the choir and congregation (often quite large) in the singing of hymns and to provide a great variety of voluntaries and improvised incidental music at several points - particularly during the mass.


Could anyone advise as to whether I should attempt to persuade our church authorities that this superb instrument should be insured against fire and malicious damage (for example), as a separate entity from the building and its other contents, please?


In addition, if anyone has any experience of this sort of thing, I should be grateful to hear from you.


Thank you.

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"...containing a few hundred pipes dating from 1664 and 1764..."


These, of course, would be irreplaceable. I really hope there is some sort of effective fire-suppression system in place, preferably something harmless like carbon dioxide.

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The best thing is t check with your insurers - but remember that the trustees of the charity (and UK churches are de facto regarded as charities) have a responsibility to protect the charity's asserts, so making sure the organ is adequately insured is pretty important.


Every Blessing



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