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.
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.
However, the removal of the organ was met with objections with more than 650 people raising concerns with city planners to keep the organ in the city as part of the Sunderland Save Our Heritage campaign.
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.
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.
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.”