Gate Helmsley - St Mary Organ

Information about the organ


The organ was built by a Leeds firm, Abbott and Smith – no longer in existence.

A service for “Dedication of the new organ and vestry” was held on Nov 20th 1913, following a fundraising effort that seems to have lasted over 2 years.  There was a Faculty for the electric blower dated Feb 18th 1947.  As far as we know, there has been no major work done on the organ since its installation.  In recent years tuning and necessary maintenance has been carried out by Principal Pipe Organs (PPO) of York.


The organ is a 2-manual + pedals with 9 stops. The manual action is exhaust pneumatic – an action used quite extensively by Abbott and Smith around that time.  The pedal chest has a charge pneumatic action. There is a balanced swell and the drawstops are mechanical.


Great Organ                                 Swell Organ                                    Pedal Organ

Open Diapason    8                      Viol de Gamba      8                            Bourdon       16

Wald Flute           8                      Lieblich Gedackt   8

Dulciana              8                      Gemshorn             4

Harmonic Flute     4                      Oboe                    8

Couplers:              Swell to Great;  Swell to Pedal;  Great to Pedal


Present state of the organ   There are two principle problems that are a result of normal ageing in an instrument of this construction.  Firstly the sliders, that allow air to be admitted to a rank of pipes when a stop is drawn, are made of thin hardwood.  Several of these have twisted and this allows air to leak – to a variable degree depending on atmospheric conditions – between the pipes.  Secondly the leather and sheepskin components of the mechanisms that operate the valves (“motors”) and allow air into the pipes when a key is pressed are worn and perished.  Several of these have been replaced by PPO over time when they have failed completely.


Other parts of the organ also suffer the effects of ageing so that the difficulty – and cost - of keeping the instrument in a useable state is increasing.  The electric blower that supplies wind to the organ is over 60 years old.  It is still in working order, but may be close to the limit of its life and could fail unpredictably.


The organ sound      The stops on the instrument are fairly typical for an instrument of its time.  However, the sound is rather dull in some respects and the position of the organ – with most of the pipes within the vestry – mean that it is somewhat lacking in volume and brightness for leading congregational singing..  The additional of one or more bright stops and/or extension of the present range by superoctave couplers, would give a noticeable improvement to the sound produced in the body of the church.


Restoration                The following options have been explored:

1.   Continue as at present – repairing faults as they arise

2.   Replace the current pipe organ with an electronic instrument

3.   Restoration of the current instrument to its original state with no other changes

4.   Restoration with some alterations to the tonal mixture and perhaps to the action

The Diocesan Organ Advisor has inspected the organ and is of the opinion that it is worthy of restoration.  The PCC therefore agreed to institute a fundraising programme to allow either option 3 or 4 to be carried out.  Either of these would be expected to extend the life of the organ to another 100 years or so.

In 2014 a Faculty was obtained allowing option 4.  The pneumatic action will be retained as it typifies the work of Abbott and Smith around the turn of the century.  Among some tonal adjustments a 2' pipe will be added to the Great organ.  Similar changes were made by PPO to an identical A&S organ in Winksley parish church to very good effect.

Further information about our fundraising appeal “Pipe Up !” is displayed in the church

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