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St. Michael's church, Highworth.


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I'm hoping any members on here might be able to help me. On one of the groups I'm a member of on Facebook, someone has posted some pictures of St Michael's church, Highworth. One is a view of the west end of the church, and it shows an organ divided on either side of the tower arch with what looks like the back of a console at floor level on the right of the picture. I looked it up on the NPOR, but the most up to date survey is from 1995 and shows H&H did work in 1972, and John Coulson, but it's undated. Sadly, there is no further information and the only spec given is from a survey from 1963. I looked on the church's website but it doesn't offer any more information. Does any member here have anymore info and an up to date specification?

I live in hope!

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The church has undergone a major re-ordering.  You can find details and photographs from the Heritage section on the church website.  Essentially most of the interior fittings (including the organ worked on by H&H and others) were totally cleared and have been replaced by modern functional ones.  A faculty was obtained, and whilst I haven’t waded through all 23 pages of the Acting Chancellor’s Judgment, paragraph 89 says this:

89.    The current organ has reached the end of its useful life and therefore replacement is necessary. A new first class organ would significantly contribute to the church’s worship as well as its potential as a venue for cultural performances and that this outweighs substantially any perceived harm that would be caused by the loss of the organ in its present location. Therefore, I allow the proposal for a combination organ with speakers as set out in the proposal by Modular Pipe Organs Limited and dated 31.08.2014. I direct that the D.A.C. should be consulted concerning the siting of the organ pipes and the materials used for attaching them to the wall and their colour. All efforts should be made for them to be unobtrusive where possible. The proposal gives no indication as to where other speakers may be sited and the D.A.C. should be consulted about these as well. For the avoidance of doubt, the small commemorative brass plaques for previous choristers, organists and ringers should be retained and displayed on the wall of the new vestry.

MARK B. RUFFELL B.D. (A.K.C.)

ACTING DEPUTY CHANCELLOR

Bristol Consistory Court 12 September 2016

My own solitary reaction to this, a wry smile that “all efforts should be made for them [organ pipes] to be unobtrusive where possible”!  I daresay there are details elsewhere, possibly from Modular Pipe Organs, about the subsequent installation and specification of the organ as in the picture which you mention.

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Thank you Rowland for that. As always, it seems to be these days, our organs seem to be an obstruction to certain elements of the clergy and parish councils. I find it beyond belief that ANYONE should consider organ pipes to be obtrusive in a church where the organ is to be the main instrument of supporting worship. Maybe I'm missing out on something!

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Well, it all looks very nice - but the organ pipes are so unobtrusive as to be invisible in any of all those photos! Why the Acting Chancellor should deem it desirable that they be unobtrusive, is a mystery and I agree with undamaris. When a pipe organ is almost certainly the single most expensive and valuable item in a church, it seems extraordinary to want to hide it away, especially when re-ordering. Even speaker enclosures can be made to look attractive. 

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Further evidence that the only sound that the clergy like in " their"  premises  - is that of their own braying.

Any excuse in fact to get rid of that " wretched expensive noise "  ( to use my previous quote )

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Something very similar was done to the church where I ‘grew up’ and was confirmed, the contents entirely stripped, stalls, high altar and reredos, pulpit all gone, even the Lady Chapel altar and sacristy (a stone structure) demolished. But in that case the organ was the sole survivor, a substantial and very fine 1922 Nicholson in a large chamber with two ornately carved cases - perhaps too big a job to remove.  Sadly, I’m told it’s now in a poor state, although I haven’t been back.  This all happened last century after I had left the parish.  Another interested former parishioner and I investigated, and could find no record of a faculty.  Most of the discarded furnishings found their way to Japan, of all places, I was told.  This all appeared to be the work of a new vicar out of sympathy with the tradition of the parish.

Having now seen Adnosad’s comment, posted while I was typing mine, we have as yet no idea how the new ‘combination organ’ sounds.  The Chancellor approved the scheme in the expectation of “a new first class organ” being installed.  Also, in fairness, the reordering of St Michael’s was to permit other community use, something which will become more and more common for some churches to remain viable.

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1 hour ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

we have as yet no idea how the new ‘combination organ’ sounds.  The Chancellor approved the scheme in the expectation of “a new first class organ” being installed.  Also, in fairness, the reordering of St Michael’s was to permit other community use, something which will become more and more common for some churches to remain viable.

Not sure about the 'combination organ'. From the church website:

"The nineteenth century organ was in a poor playing state with an inherently heavy playing action and occupied most of the north transept; it has been replaced with a modern digital instrument which is moveable. The transept is now a new, fully equipped commercial kitchen, whilst the earlier kitchen is a utility room. The Cullerne Room, that had previously been adapted from a chapel, was further changed to create a vestry and storage areas together with a meeting room on a new first floor."

 

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Firstly, I must make clear that I have no personal knowledge or connection with St Michael’s.  If they have gone down a different route with their replacement organ I hope they obtained permission to vary the faculty before departing from what was specifically authorised by the Deputy Chancellor.  I suppose an organ “which is movable” might merely refer to the console.  Non-organists are notorious for describing organs inaccurately.  This can only be resolved by someone with local knowledge.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 14/08/2021 at 09:56, Adnosad said:

 

 

Further evidence that the only sound that the clergy like in " their"  premises  - is that of their own braying.

Any excuse in fact to get rid of that " wretched expensive noise "  ( to use my previous quote )

And under the present management from York and Canterbury, the braying becomes louder and of increasing irrelevance as the brayer ascends the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Sadly, the future of the organ in large measure is linked with the general demise of the Church, both nationally and parochially, so that with the current contraction of the parish system and the hegemony of the "progressives", there will be fewer places to house these noisy instruments which are considered such a drain on dwindling financial resources. The same fate awaits the bells which an increasing number of incumbents regards as equally clamorous and expensive. 

 

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