St Mark’s Church Organ Restoration

16th August 2023

Historic Norman & Beard pipe organ at St Mark's Church, Whiteley VillageSt Mark’s Anglican Church, Whiteley Village

In 1914, the Trustees of The Whiteley Homes Trust approved the architectural plans submitted by Walter Tapper, for the Whiteley Village Church and with a limit of £5,000 being put on the cost, building began.

Today St Mark’s remains a Church of significant interest, set in the grounds of our arts and crafts style almshouse village.

St Mark’s Church Organ

Thanks to an anonymous donor in 2020, the Trust commissioned a report from William McVicker, a specialist Organ Curator, with a CV including Organ Curator at London’s Royal Festival Hall, to look at the 1916 St Mark’s Church Pipe Organ built by Norman & Beard, which had been decommissioned in 2012.

The organ builders can trace their heritage back to the 1850s. By 1898 they moved into a purpose-built factory in Norwich and gained their reputation as the largest organ factory in Europe. By 1908 the firm had 300 staff and were building at least one organ a week.

Norman & Beard instruments could be seen and heard at Norwich Cathedral (1899), Colchester Town Hall (1902), Usher Hall, Edinburgh (1914), Wellington and Auckland Town Halls (1908 & 1911), Cape Town City Hall (1905) and Johannesburg Town Hall (1916), the same year as the organ was built for the new Church at Whiteley Village.

Although the Whiteley Village instrument had been decommissioned, it was possible for the Organ Curator to coax it back into life by rewiring the blower, cleaning and tuning, modifying the heating, and improving the relative humidity inside the instrument. Further work is required on this very exciting project, and the modest cost so far was paid by previous donations ring-fenced for the organ.

William McVicker described the instrument as “a veritable Bentley… with excellent music quality”, which has been experienced by generations of residents at Whiteley Village.

We have a wonderful team of four local organists, ensuring the organ is played at most Sunday morning services, so it is definitely worth visiting Whiteley Village and attending a service at St Mark’s Church to hear the organ if you have not done so before. Our regular Sunday Service at 10.30 am is open to both residents and visitors to Whiteley Village who may like to join our friendly congregation.

And, as the organ is tuned to concert pitch it can be used by choirs and orchestras, and so the Trust is delighted to be hosting an organ recital on Saturday 9 September 2023, for residents and visitors to experience and enjoy the range of sounds and musical quality:

Organ Recital at St Mark's Church, Whiteley VillageSt Mark’s Church Organ Recital
Saturday 9 September, 2.00-2.45 pm

Join us for wonderful music by Elgar, Holst, Parry, Rheinberger, Karg-Elert, Ibert and Debussy, in this organ recital featuring music from 1917, the year the first residents moved into Whiteley Village.

Performances by Barbara Wadley and Melissa Wood will create an occasion to sing along to famous hymns of the time including “I vow to thee my country, Jerusalem”.

Free performance with a retiring collection in aid of The Whiteley Homes Trust Organ Fund.

Everyone is welcome!

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