Sunderland church organ rehomed in Malta as £4.3m restoration on historic site forges ahead

An organ from a former East End church which is undergoing major renovation has found a new home in Malta – despite appeals to keep it in Sunderland.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 1:58 pm

Holy Trinity Church will reopen in its new guise as Seventeen Nineteen this autumn after a £4.3million regeneration project to transform it into a new events space, with a range of uses.

As part of the transformation, the organ was removed so that urgent remedial work could take place to treat damp and water ingress on the building.

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), who run the building, were keen for the organ to be used by a worshipping community and the musical instrument, which was built by H.J. Nelson & Co of Durham in 1936, was offered to other churches, nationally and internationally.

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The church organ from the former Holy Trinity Church is being moved to Malta
The church organ from the former Holy Trinity Church is being moved to Malta

But plans to remove it were approved and CCT was able to approach specialist company Instrumente Ladach with a view of relocating the organ.

A number of international expressions of interest were made and CCT accepted an offer from the Basilica of Christ the King, Poala, Malta The organ in now on its way to Malta where it will be restored under the care of Master organ builder Giuseppe Mastrovalerio before being installed with the worshipping congregation in the Basilica of Christ the King.

The last music played on the organ of Holy Trinity Sunderland was Blaenwern, a Welsh tune used for the hymn Love Divine All Loves Excelling, written by Charles Wesley. The Maltese community have already vowed that this will be the first thing played on the newly-restored organ.

Basilica of Christ The King in Malta who will rehome the organ.

Seventeen Nineteen will have an ongoing friendship with the parish community in Malta, following the journey of the organ and joining them through live streaming for certain events.

Sarah Robinson, director of Conservation, CCT, said: “We are delighted that this historic instrument from Holy Trinity has found an eminently fitting new home in the parish church and basilica of Christ the King, Paulo, Malta.

"Once restored the organ will be played daily to support worship, used by organ pupils under the tutelage of the Cathedral organist, and heard by thousands of people every year. I look forward to one day in the not too distant future being able to visit Malta and hearing it in person.”

Denise Craig from the Save our Heritage group, say they are disappointed to see the organ go.

The former Holy Trinity Church in the East End which has undergone major restoration

She said: "I speak on behalf of the community in saying that we are very sad and disappointed to hear that our beautiful Pipe Organ will not be staying in Sunderland and finding a new home in Malta.

“We did our very best to save the organ with our fundraising efforts. But felt we were not supported or helped by the CCT or the Council to achieve our goal of keeping it in Holy Trinity Church, East End, Sunderland, where it belonged.”

Canon Marc Andre Camilleri, Parish Priest, Basilica of Christ the King, said: “We feel rather honoured and privileged to be able to offer a new home to the fine English organ from Holy Trinity, Sunderland.

"Malta has many enduring social and economic ties with the United Kingdom and a firm bond of friendship exists between us. Once it has been fully restored by our master organ builder, the revitalised instrument will adorn our currently empty organ gallery, high above the great west doors of the Basilica of Christ The King, Paola.”

The organ when it was in situ in Holy Trinity. It was built by H.J. Nelson & Co of Durham in 1936

Once an ‘at risk’ building, the major repair and refurbishment works at Seventeen Nineteen have been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Sunderland City Council and All Churches Trust.

The new name is after the year, 1719, that the church was created for the newly created Parish of Sunderland. It served the community until 1988 when dwindling numbers forced its closure.

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The organ will support daily worship at Basilica of Christ the King
The organ is in need of costly repairs