Th1_cell3 Bishop St
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The Organ

NEW Organ website – To help promote and explain our Church Organ,
and opportunities to hear it played, the beginnings of a new website is up and running, at
Keep an eye on the new website as the content expands.

Cherub - Photo by Ruth JoyIn 1847 The church was expanded eastwards by a bay to both give a larger chapel area, and create the area beyond the present pulpit. When first built this would have been for an orchestra and choir. However, as part of a rapid change in church music in the mid-nineteenth century, in 1858 a two manual organ was installed. This was bought from Groves and Mitchell of London, who had incorporated casework that came from St Margaret’s Church, Leicester, where it had been installed in 1772 and for some time was regarded as the work of Father Smith. More recently it is thought to be the work of Christopher Shrider in the period 1710 - 1720. The casework remains as the central portion of what is now a much larger church organ.

Ranshall Rowe photoThe organ has been expanded on a number of occasions, including an extension to the ‘Swell Organ’ in 1869 and the addition of a third manual, the ‘Choir Organ’, in 1878. The most significant renovation was by Hill, Norman & Beard (‘Organ Builders to King George V’) in 1936. Electro-pneumatic action provided a much lighter touch for the keyboard and at the same time the console, originally sited centrally as an integral part of the original organ casework, was replaced by a new detached console in Hill Norman and Beard’s cinematic design. In place of the traditional banks of stops on the left and right of the organ console there were tabs or stop keys arranged in a semi-circular horse shoe design, the tabs being grouped from left to right for Pedal, Swell, Great and Choir respectively. The fretwork panels either side of the original casework were added to cater for the extra rows of pipes needed for the fourteen new stops in the expanded instrument, which also allowed all of the casework to be set further back.

left: Ranshall Rowe, Organist from 1867 to 1910, who oversaw the late-Victorian additions. He is seen here at the console in its original location, against the casework.

Organ rededication programmes

In 1970 the organ received a major overhaul, but has had no significant repair works since then. With the wear and tear on the many leather elements within the instrument, currently around a third of the stops are not working. A recent report indicated that unless urgent work is carried out the organ will soon become unplayable. During our bi-centenary, 2015-16, it is hoped to restore the organ and take the opportunity to restore the casework where the display pipes are tarnished having been last painted in 1936. The total cost of the work is around £92,000. The church has been able to allocate some resources to this, and is busy fund raising for more, and is making grant applications to various bodies in an attempt to get it back to a sustainable condition and full playability.


Casework - Photo by Ruth Joy


organ console

Casework (above) and ‘cinema-style’ console (below) of the Bishop Street Church organ as was before the 2016-2017 renovations



February 2017:
RENOVATION: Organ renovation works are substantially complete. The main internal renovation works were carried out be Henry Groves and Sons Ltd, who have also converted the console to link via network  protocols instead of the 1930s and 1970s electrical system. This has allowed the console to be moved down to the floor of the Church. The pipework has been cleaned and regulated, and various changes to the bellows arrangement ensures adequate air at all times. In September 2017 we celebrated the completion of the renovation with a concert by Simon Headley, Musical Director at Leicester Cathedral.

Organ with new pews and lighting

March 2016:
ORGAN REDECORATION WORKS: The first phase of our long-planned Organ restoration began immediately after Easter 2016. The Organ Repairers will be taking away various parts from inside the organ, to renew and repair them in their workshop. At the same time, scaffolding will be going up over the pulpit and choir gallery, so that the cracks in the arch can be sorted out, and the whole of that area redecorated. The Scaffolding will be there for several weeks, and the phase-one works should be complete by the end of April. We will then have a pause, during which we have an organ concert by Nigel Ogden on Saturday 21th May at 3 p.m, and various bicentenary events, with the phase two works beginning later in the summer.

October 2015:
ORGAN GRANT: We are delighted to report that the Organ Restoration fund has received a massive boost with £44,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This goes towards a total project cost of £92,000, of which we already have around £18,000 from our own fundraising, a legacy, and grants from our circuit and the Historic Churches Trust. This leaves the small matter of £30,000 still to raise. Further grants are being pursued, and the Church Council has agreed to dedicate this year’s Anniversary Gift Day, on November 2nd to the Organ Fund. (Envelopes will be available, and cheques are payable to Bishop Street Methodist Church.) (And can be posted to 10a Bishop Street, Leicester, LE1 6AF.)

Revd Fran Rhys writes, “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are optimistic that the organ restoration project will take the church’s arts and spirituality outreach in the city centre from strength to strength”

Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said, “This is an instrument that has accompanied many special moments in Bishop Street Methodist Church’s history but is now clearly in need of repair. With the church’s bicentenary this year, it’s also a timely moment to make this National Lottery investment which will ensure the powerful sounds of the historic organ echo out over the pews for many years to come.”

BISHOP STREET ORGAN REPORT, December 2015: The last major overhaul of the organ was over 40 years ago, and amongst its encroaching problems, a third of the stops no longer work. The project will overhaul the organ, restore the casework and move the console down to a moveable platform on the floor of the church. The projected cost is £92,262, of which Heritage Lottery Fund have offered a grant of £44,000. Grants have been made by the Leicestershire Historic Churches Trust (£4,000) and the AllChurches Trust (£1,875) together with £8,000 from the Circuit. Other grant applications are in hand. We also have two legacies totalling around £10,800 and have, through Gift Days, talks, concerts and donations, raised £7,000 ourselves. Our current total is therefore over £75,000.

We are intending to repair the plaster cracks in the arch, repaint the choir area walls and ceiling and provide improved lighting.      

The work on the organ itself will be carried out in three stages during the next twelve months, namely:

•Before Nigel Ogden’s concert in May, emergency work will be carried out to ensure that all of the organ works and the leaks on the bellows will be patched.

•From June and prior to our 200th anniversary service in August the casework will be restored and initial work on the organ commenced.

•From September onwards restoration of the organ will be completed and the console moved to its new position.

The full details of the restoration can be seen at

Celebration Concert to mark the completion of the restoration is on Saturday 30th September 2017. Have a look at the events page for details of this and future recitals and concerts.


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