Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Theft of Organ Pipes


Recommended Posts

On 29th August I arrived at Chynhale Methodist Church in Cornwall ready to start dismantling and packing the unused 1880 Sweetland organ to be relocated to St. Mark's Anglican Church in Florence. To my horror I found that all the pipes in the Swell were missing along with the Great Dulciana. There was no sign of a break-in at the church. All doors and windows were securely locked. Most of the pipes on the Great were still in place and the culprit had been reasonably careful to replace certain pipes you need to move in order to open the Swell door that swings out over the Great. The rack board and stays to the Swell Oboe were also taken, so this suggests they were removed by an organ builder, or someone with aspirations to build their own organ. Metal thieves would simply have taken the many metal pipes on the Great.

Other than the Sunday services, where no access to the organ gallery is possible, the last person to have had a key was the local organ tuner sometime at the start of 2022. The organ ceased playing due to a burnt out motor in December 2017. The local organ tuner had been asked to check up on the state of preservation and to estimate the organ's value. His report did not mention that anything was missing and he confirmed this over the phone last week. He had carefully looked after the organ for 40 years.

The police have been informed and discussions are underway with the insurance company, but they are being very unhelpful. I suppose they don't understand that a Church would naturally trust their organ tuner with a key, particularly after his 40 years of loyal service.

Anyway, in case any of you organ sleuths out there have heard anything about 6 ranks of Sweetland pipes  becoming available over the last 18 months, please let me or the Helston police know.

The local organ tuner was asked on 1st September if he could help us source some replacement second-hand pipes, but so far no reply.

Another organ builder replied within 12 hours and has been very helpful. There is hope that St. Mark's will eventually get a full organ. I leave for Florence tomorrow to start erecting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting that the oboe stays and rack board have also been taken - obviously someone with experience.   Of course this is not the first time that things have mysteriously disappeared and turned up in other places in the magical county of Cornwall with no one apparently knowing anything about it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not expecting anyone to go to jail, I just want the pipes back please. The 'misappropriation' appears to have happened around the time the local Newspaper  ran a story about the organ being moved to Italy. Perhaps some locals were not happy with foreigners getting their hands on one of their, albeit abandoned, organ.

Of course the Newspaper conveniently forgot to mention that the person coordinating the transfer to the Anglican Church in Florence was British, which might have been enough to quell the zenophobia - if indeed this was what drove the pipe remover to somehow convince the Methodists to let him have a key to the closed church.

The police refused to investigate the incident as there was no sign of a break-in. I believe most art thefts, such as that of the Mona Lisa, also did not involve any smashed-in doors or broken windows, but because the value was a tad higher than 246 old organ pipes, they usually investigate art theft. Money talks, to hell with the definition of theft. For what it's worth if the person who took our pipes is reading this or hears about it from one of you, please let them know that I will not be wanting them thrown in jail (whatever happened to good old British gaol?), just all our pipes back nicely packed in several transporting crates and with the necessary funds to ship them to Florence.

Just as a footnote, the loss adjuster suggested I might have hidden all the pipes before telling one of the church members that they were all missing. I was met by one of the Methodists even before I'd taken my coat off and had just looked in the Swell to check all was ok. As I'd stupidly left my phone in Switzerland, I borrowed said Methodist's phone to photograph the empty pipe racks and the large clods of dried mud the culprit had left on the Oboe top board. Even in the photo you can see that the mud is dry, so that does tend to rule me out as a suspect. The loss adjuster, Ian, was asked to visit the church and we delayed dismantling for half a day before he finally said that photos of before and after would suffice and he wouldn't need to visit. Well clearly that was not true. He also said he would telephone me to ask questions, but he has not done that either. I do hope his boss is reading this, I certainly will not be recommending their services to any of the churches I'm organ consultant for.

So if any of you have your organ insured, you really ought to check up on it just before your tuner leaves, and if you can't manage that, simply make sure the vestry window is smashed.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Lausanne said:

The police refused to investigate the incident as there was no sign of a break-in.

Well, I wouldn’t want to take on Devon & Cornwall Police!   They are possibly correct about theft, but this appears to fall within the offence of burglary:

 Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968, summarised:

A person is guilty of burglary if he enters any building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent to steal anything in the building or having entered any building or part of a building as a trespasser he steals or attempts to steal anything in the building.  

I don’t suppose this is any help in your problem, but in the absence of other explanation, this was a criminal act.  Your insurance loss adjuster should be familiar with the definition of burglary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/09/2023 at 12:54, Classic car man said:

This reminds me of Dunchurch and Rik Bruggencate, who I think went to jail in the end over it?

He got a suspended sentence so didn't get locked up.  He passed away in Wales a few years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...