Saved! Plans to send historic Sunderland church organ to Germany are shelved

Controversial plans to ship an historic Sunderland church organ to Germany have been shelved.

Thursday, 14th March 2019, 5:00 am
A fundraising drive will aim to collect fund to protect the organ for future generations.

Now a drive is to be launched to raise more than £40,000 to allow the instrument to be partially restored and returned to Holy Trinity Church in the city’s East End.

A Save Our Heritage appeal was launched late last year after the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) said it proposed to remove the instrument as part of a project to turn the disused church into a new community space and allow a German company to have it.

A fundraising drive will aim to collect fund to protect the organ for future generations.

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CCT regeneration manager Rachel Barrett told the meeting the trust had taken advice on what to do with the organ because the cost of restoring it had not been included in the original budget for the scheme.

“We did not have the money to put it back, so we started looking for expressions of interest,” she said.

“We did get a number of expressions of interest from abroad - the only expression from the UK was for parts.”

Holy Trinity Church project to save the organ with help from The Churches Conservation Trust

The idea had been to pass the organ on to a German firm which would refurbish it and give it to a community which would not otherwise be able to afford one.

Related: Future of Sunderland church’s organ in doubt again as meeting looks to gather city’s views“It was not going to be sold, it was going to be given,” she said.

Gavin Elliott, of the Save Our Heritage Group, said the plan had now changed: “The organ will go back in some form,” he said.

“What form it goes back in will depend on what can be achieved in the next year.”

Inside Holy Trinity Church in the East End.

After the meeting, Denise Craig, a member of the campaign team, said: “Save Our Heritage are delighted that The Church Conservation Trust are keeping the pipe organ.

“At a meeting last week it was agreed we would work together.

“We are looking into fundraising to provide the CCT’s shortfall in their budget with the view to keeping the pipe organ for future generations who will be able hear its magnificent sound.

“Holy Trinity in the East End known to locals as Sunderland Parish Church holds a special place in the hearts of Sunderland people past and present.

The panel (from left) Gavin Elliott; architect Tim Mosedale; Rachel Barrett; chair The Venerable Bob Cooper, Archdeacon of Sunderland; CCT director of regions Colin Shearer and CCT head of northern region Judith Patrick

“She stood through two World Wars and so many people turned to the church in their hour of need.

“We are also looking forward with interest and excitement to when the church is renovated and open to the public.

“We can’t wait to bring in the New Year with the bells ringing out once again on New Year’s Eve whilst our grand old pipe organ plays in triumphant splendour.”

Ms Barrett told the meeting the trust’s budget would cover the £57,000 cost of removing and storing the organ for the year-long duration of the church restoration but funds would have to be raised to cover what happened next.

To replace the organ in partial working order would cost an additional £45,000.

She said: “The reason we are aiming for £45,000 and not the full working order is that to have it fully restored, you are looking at £123,000, and the £45,000 is more achievable.”

Holy Trinity Church

Further restoration would be possible once the organ was back in place: “A lot more work needs to be done. We can do that as we go.”

If the target had not quite been reached in time, the second option was to extend the storage period: “That will depend on how much is left of our budget or has been raised,” said Ms Barrett.

The third option was to put the console, pipes and case back but not replace the organ’s internal workings: “Option number three is the worst case scenario,” she said.

“I think all the community want the organ to be in complete.”

Asked if the idea of giving the organ to Germany had been abandoned, she replied: “At the moment, we are not considering that.

“The worst case scenario is to put the casing back in the church. The internal mechanism would not be installed but there are probably companies in the UK that would take it.”

People were able to ask questions at the session to discuss what will happen next to the organ.
Holy Trinity Church organ
People gathered at a meeting to hear about what would happen next.