Why this Portsmouth church needs almost £1,000,000 to save its historic organ

The organ at St Mary's Church'Picture: Paul Jacobs (123976-1)
The organ at St Mary's Church'Picture: Paul Jacobs (123976-1)
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A CHURCH in Portsmouth is hoping to secure hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding to save its organ.

St Mary’s Church in Fratton Road has made a bid for a share of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is given out to heritage projects across the UK.

The goal is to fully restore the Victorian organ to its former glory, to the tune of more than £850,000.

Project manager and assistant organist Matthew Dixon says that the project is about so much more than simply preserving Sunday morning hymns.

The total project will cost £850,000 – though the organ will cost around £460,000.

St Mary’s Church has applied for £696,000 from the fund.

He explained: ‘The organ is used for weddings, funerals and even community events – it encompasses a range of emotions, from elation and celebration to bereavement and heartbreak.

‘It means so much to the community and people genuinely come to the church just to see the organ itself; it has a great amount of importance to the city.

‘It’s not just some instrument that’s stuck up on the wall.’

As the assistant organist, Matthew has seen the organ in action for a number of years – but says it now needs a complete overhaul to keep it in use.

He said: ‘Every half a century or so, an organ like this will need a total revamp.

‘I’ve been going to St Mary’s Church since I was 16 years old, so have heard the beautiful sounds of that organ for many years now.

‘This is a complete refurbishment that is absolutely needed – we have 2,600 pipes and the rest of the instrument will need an upgrade as well.

‘It costs an absolute fortune to repair something like this, so that is why the Heritage Lottery Fund was considered.’

The church has already passed the first stage of funding – meaning it can work on a full application – but cannot start work on the organ just yet.

Matthew explained: ‘It is the second round of funding that will allow us to start working on the organ.

‘The fact that we made it through the first round shows that the Heritage Lottery Fund is at least interested in what we have planned.

‘The total cost of the organ revamp will be around £460,000 – with the whole process to restore it hopefully being completed by 2020.’