Lincoln church’s new organ rivals Notre Dame

A church in the south of Lincoln with a significant history has one more anniversary to add to its timeline — the addition of the second biggest organ in Lincoln.

The new organ in The Priory Church of St Katherine’s on Colgrave Street cost The Priory Trust £180,000 and is currently being fully restored and fitted.

The transitional organ, commissioned in 1855 by Kirkland and Jardine, has 2,008 pipes with over 60,000 working parts.

When it was first built, it was the fifth largest organ in the country.

Once complete, it will be the second finest organ in the city, after the Father Willis organ at Lincoln Cathedral.

It is about three-quarters smaller than the cathedral’s, but is considerably more powerful than the typical church organ.

Priory organist David Mason said: “It’s much more powerful than a building this size would need, but it’s not just the power you’re going for, it’s the massive range and sounds.

“A bigger organ isn’t harder to play, but you have to be conscious of what you are playing for. If you’re playing for a small congregation you don’t want all the stops going — there will be two pedals to regulate the sound.

“There will be about 50 speaking stops — these will link different bits of the organ up and are what actually make your sounds. The cathedral’s has about 80.”

The vicar of the church, The Very Reverend Ian Grey, travelled to Manchester 25 years ago to buy the organ, made of Canadian Pine and containing no knots in the woodwork.

The organ was originally housed in St Peter’s in the city, but due to the church closing down, Father Ian decided to rescue the majestic piece of kit.

Before moving to Lincoln, the organ had been stored in pieces in lockups, metal containers, even back gardens.

It was only now the Trust finally raised enough funds to bring the organ back to its former glory.

The organ has been guaranteed to last at least another 60 years.

Presently half of the organ has been installed as part of the first phase of restoration, but the team are now looking to stage two, which will involve finishing the fitting and adding in a new console to play the organ with.

The entire organ set up will be completed just after Easter 2014.

Diocesan Secretary Michael Wilson, organist David Mason, Business Development Manager Iain Jubbs, and Diocesan Treasurer Chris Horton. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite.

Diocesan Secretary Michael Wilson, organist David Mason, Business Development Manager Iain Jubbs, and Diocesan Treasurer Chris Horton. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Priory’s Business Development Manager Iain Jubbs said: “It’s an awesome piece of kit, and hopefully it’s going to bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

“We will be using it for all kinds of events — organ recitals, church officials invitations, church events such as weddings, Christenings and services.

“There are people from all over the world wanting to come and play it due to being a transitional organ.

“Anyone may come along and play it too. We plan to hold a commercial event where they can contact and be vetted by our organist, book, and come play the organ.

“This building is open every day for people to come in and learn about the 900-year history of the Priory for free — people don’t know there is actually a heritage centre here.”

St Katherine’s has undergone extensive refurbishment to help draw attention to its detailed history.

Presently, the glass floor details a 14th century well underneath the building, which would have been used for the original buildings on the site.

All around the church hall, a number of artefacts are stored in cabinets, as well as activities for children to try out as they learn about the original Priory founded by Robert de Chesney, fourth Bishop of Lincoln, dating back to 1148.

It was custom for bishops of Lincoln to spend the night at the priory before being installed at Lincoln Cathedral.

Since then, the Priory has seen royal coffins stay as they passed through the city to the Cathedral, the first Eleanor Cross erected, revolts, resisted takeover by Henry VIII and been rebuilt twice.

There have been a number of interesting archaeological finds on the grounds, including the discovery of a skeleton without a skull.

Chris Horton, Diocesan Treasurer at the church, added: “One of my jobs is to try to encourage as much use as possible of the church, both as a religious site and educational facility, for children to come and see what we have.

“We have part of the history of Lincoln, and also a very valuable part of Lincolnshire in total. The Gilbertines who founded this site were from Sempringham.

“There’s so much here that ties in with not just the city of Lincoln and Sempringham, but also the UK.

“We’ve got a bit of everything for just about everybody. We try to make what we have here as interactive as possible.

“There’s things here for those interested in history or archaeology, or children aged 5 or 6 coming with parents right through to those doing their GCSEs and A-levels.

“The organ is important in its own right as it’s a magnificent piece of kit. Though when fully set up, it will rival the organ in Notre Dame Cathedral, because it’s of the same time, and it’s not a traditional English church hall organ.

“It will benefit the Priory because of its historic importance and the quality of the sound that it makes, and it will hopefully encourage people to want to come and both listen to it, play it, and bring other musical events here.”

At the same time, the Trust is also have a new glass window installed opposite the organ’s resting place, costing £30,000.

Designed to brighten up the hall, the window will host a simple pattern, featuring Fleur de Lis style work.

The restoration of the organ and the window is funded by the Priory Centre’s work in offering learning opportunities and qualifications to workforce employees without degrees.

The programme, which offers skills in retail, customer service, business administration, and management is funded by Government.

For more information on the organ, booking an event, school trips or qualifications, visit St Katherine’s website.