Work has started!

The Great Waltham Abbey Organ Rebuild of 2018-19 has begun!

Well, a comparatively small part of it has, in a painstaking and at times hair-raising operation lasting some eight hours (not counting site prep and clearing by some very patient bell-ringers) and involving the closure of part of the church.

The organ’s trusty old blower was dismantled, and a hoist erected in the tower to winch the heavy pieces down through the bell-hatch and away to the Surrey workshop of The Duplex Pipe Organ and Blower Company. Conveniently for everyone involved, Duplex also have the know-how to refurbish a wind reservoir and regulator which live in the blowing chamber, and to renew the specialised electrics that manage the phased starting up and shutting down of the whole organ in sync with that of the blower motor.

Might we just as well (i.e. more economically) have acquired a new blower?  No! – organ blowers are virtually bespoke, and, the old one was well enough built in the 1950s to keep going for a very long time given timely maintenance.

Meanwhile, the specialised removal of some asbestos, previously made safe by saturation in oil to save removing the blower specially, can be put off no longer. In the immortal words of Michael Flanders: Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

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Full Steam Ahead

Great news! Our Rector, Revd. Peter Smith, has signed the contract with Mander Organs to rebuild our Walker organ. Thanks are due to the many supporters who, over nearly ten years, have contributed by fundraising, donating and organizing the Heritage Organ Appeal to provide an instrument for the 21st Century. It is an enormous achievement by Waltham Abbey church, supporting the long heritage of Anglican church music in this place by providing for its future.

Mander Organs will start by manufacturing the brand new parts of the organ in their London workshops. Starting on 23rd July, the existing organ will be removed over a period of two weeks. The parts we are retaining (mostly pipes) will be taken away to be cleaned and restored. Finally, the new instrument will be re-installed probably in the Spring of 2019.

There will be other associated works taking place including the renovation of the organ blower by Duplex Pipe and Organ Blower Ltd, new electrical supply and connections by Bradshaw Electrical Ltd, and scaffolding installation by Jon Scaffolding Services Ltd. Scaffolding inside the West end of the church will be in place for three to four weeks during the removal in July/August and again for longer in Spring 2019. During these periods the South Door will became the main access route for visitors and for services.

We are also taking to opportunity to remove the eyesore of the scaffolding walkway at the back of the gallery and replace it with a proper ladder to give maintenance access from the gallery to the South Clerestory.

For those who are interested, a full pipe specification of the rebuilt organ will shortly be available on these pages. [Now added!] Meanwhile, here is the initial design for the new facade incorporating the largest of the new pipes.

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Faculty Consultation Underway

The Diocese of Chelmsford has issued a Notification of Advice for our Faculty Application for the initial stages of the organ rebuilding. This is part of the process of getting approval for the proposed works and means that a consultation period has started. The Notice may be seen on display in the church.

Amongst the bodies that we will consult are Historic England (formerly English Heritage) who comment on all works on listed buildings. We will also be asking the local historical society about their views on the change to the appearance of the organ front once the design has been completed.

As the photo shows, the current organ front it rather dull in appearance and does not cover the whole width of the gallery such that the scaffolding access walkway is visible. We intend that the new design will solve these issues and greatly improve the appearance of the west end of the church.

We will make a second faculty application to the diocese one the design of the organ front is complete.

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Organ builder appointed

Mander Organs Ltd have been appointed to rebuild our Walker Organ following an exhaustive tendering process. We were very impressed by the similar rebuilt organ at St Michael’s Church in Bishop Stortford which Manders completed in 2016 and expect that ours will sound just as good.

On Monday, the team from Mander Organs, John Mander and Michael Blighton, joined organ consultant William McVicker and key people on the organ committee to start the process of finalising the specification.

The organ console (below) is due for an overhaul, with an upgraded combination system and new pedal sweeps.

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This picture illustrates some of the challenges in the organ gallery; very cramped access for tuning and routine maintenance, caused by new sections being added on in the past. The rebuild allows us to start from scratch with the layout and optimise the use of space to makes access for maintenance much easier.

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As well as the pipes here being rather dusty, some of them are supported with cloth ties where the original soldered loops have failed.

Running repairs

So, while Manders get busy on the design, we have started work on preparing a two-stage faculty application, firstly to enable a contract to be signed and dismantling work to start, and then to approve the final design including a new façade to improve the appearance of the West of the church.

Welcome to the rebuild blog site

Dear Visitors, Supporters and Enthusiasts,

Welcome to this blog site where we shall be posting regular updates about the progress regarding rebuilding the 1953 Walker Organ. We have exciting news in the pipeline but cannot say anything yet! Watch this space in the next couple of months.