Salesbury - St Peter





We are delighted to welcome Paul Topping as our first Organ Scholar.  For the year starting this September he will receive lessons from Mike Wilcock and play for one service a month.  Paul is a concert pianist and teaches at the Blackburn School of Music.

However, the organ is a new venture, demanding an entirely new technique, as well as the addition of feet and stops!

Some of you will have met him already: not only has he played for us a couple of times, but as a boy he lived in the old Vicarage. We look forward to this development of the music at St. Peter’s and hope he enjoys his time with us. 




 The Re-dedication of the Organ

Newcomers often comment on what a lovely atmosphere there is at St Peter’s, and how welcome they are made to feel.   That atmosphere was strongly apparent in the lovely Family Service in June, when the Vicar and the Organist (and Tanya from Belarus, too) led special readings and prayers to mark the restoration of the organ.   Mike Wilcock then played Nimrod from Elgar’s Variations, a favourite piece for many, written to celebrate a great friend.   How wonderful it was to hear the full volume restored, the splendid new voices of the Clarinet and Trumpet, and the pedal part without the accompanying clatter and roll of tumbrels !

The festive nature of the occasion was emphasised by balloons and ‘organ-pie’ cakes with coffee after the service, and the younger members of the choir congregation pitched in to help.

Ten years ago, there was some £260 in the Organ Fund originally set up by Michael Pain.   When the PCC endorsed the appeal seven years ago, there was £14,000.   Today the total raised by the congregation’s efforts stands at over £65,500, a truly wonderful expression of faith and commitment.   When the bills have been settled, there will be enough to establish a scholarship to encourage young palyers to continue the playing of this fine instrument.

Gratitude is due to many people who have helped: especially the Vicar, who has supported every event, the PCC, who did not balk at the idea of raising such a large amount to maintain the church’s heritage, and to David Wood and his team for their outstanding work; but we must remember that it was Mike Wilcock who first asked someone to take on the challenge.   Without his inspiration, motivation, technical knowledge and expertise the organ might well now be silent, instead of being a fitting memorial to Harrison & Harrison of Durham and those Victorian parishioners of 1891.   St Peter’s is blessed by his musicianship and leadership.   Thank you !



Organ Update

March 2010




Please open this file to see pictures and details




January 2010

The Phoenix organ has proved a wonderful instrument for accompanying regular services, weddings and funerals, and was put through its paces with great aplomb  by Mike and Peter Wilcock and Colin Edmondson during the special Advent and Christmas services. What news do we have, however, of our pipe organ?

 Despite losing three weeks’ work because of the snow, considerable progress has  been made, and parts are now returning from Huddersfield. The painted wooden  areas have been rubbed down and painted black. Nearly all the old felt and leather, worn steel and wood have been replaced. One of the soundboards has been repaired, and work has begun on the other. The old pipe-work is being cleaned.  The new pipe-work is currently being voiced by the best voicer in Britain, Dr. David Frostrick, who is ensuring that the sounds produced will be authentic for a Harrison & Harrison organ.

 Other changes you may have noticed include the repair of the plaster of the organ chamber. The work fortuitously revealed the cracks before lumps of plaster rained down on the organist’s head! (Once again, the hard work of the Thursday team as plasterer’s labourers saved the church a considerable sum.) Furthermore, the interior has been covered with brown paper, another authentic touch used by the Harrisons to improve the reflection of the sound into the church. This is particularly important as our lovely wooden screens and carpets absorb so much of the resonance!

 Hopefully everything will continue smoothly to allow completion of the work around Easter time. A settling-in period will then be necessary before the official ‘opening’ of the organ. Having attended an opening where the celebrity organist had to cope with sticking stops and ciphers, and the organ builders diving into the organ at intervals to fix the problems during the programme, I can appreciate the value of a little patience in this respect.

 David Wood has invited some of us to see the progress of the work in Huddersfield at the end of the month.

Clare Harding 






St Peters Organ

 St. Peter’s Church Organ

When the ‘new’ Jubilee church of St. Peter’s was built at Salesbury in 1887, it was decided that an organ was needed to encourage attendance, improve the singing, and compete with the successful nonconformist churches springing up in the area! The Vestry Committee members at a meeting on 24th November 1890 donated £65 towards the purchase of such an instrument, on condition that the remainder of the cost was raised by subscription. Parishioners were canvassed, the choir went carol-singing to raise further funds, and by January 1893 the firm of Harrison & Harrison of Durham was in correspondence with John Ward, an alderman of Blackburn, soliciting the contract for the organ.

The specification drawn up by Harrison & Harrison was accepted by the Committee in April 1893. After protracted negotiations concerning materials, stops and mechanism, from which the organist appears to have been excluded, the organ was finally sent in December 1893. It was dedicated in a service on the afternoon of Wednesday, 17th January 1894.

Whilst the employment of the firm of Harrison & Harrison owed much to luck, and not a little to business ‘sweeteners’, the Committee could not have made a happier choice. Our 2-manual tracker organ, although small, has a beautiful tone, and has been described as a ‘Rolls Royce’ among organs. The firm that built it went on to construct many famous organs, including those at Durham Cathedral, London’s Albert and Festival Halls, and King’s College Cambridge, and gained an international reputation.

Why is Restoration Needed?

  •  Many of the materials from which the organ is made are original, and the wear and tear of more than a century of playing has led to a certain amount of clattering and wheezing becoming audible! So much air leaks out that some combinations are unusable.
  • Whilst there has never been a complete overhaul of the organ, some ‘improvements’ have been made, which were fashionable at the time, but which are now regarded as retrogressive in musical circles. It is proposed to return the organ to the original intention of the builders.
  • Finally, it is hoped to augment the original design in the true spirit of Harrison & Harrison to give more flexibility in the many roles which the organ is called upon to perform.


How much will it cost?

The original estimate for the cost of the organ was £520-6-6!

  • Sums are rather larger today, and the estimate of the well-regarded firm of David Wood for £58,000 was accepted by the PCC in November 2007.
  • The Organ Fund was originally instigated by Michael Payne, and thanks to the efforts of Mike Wilcock and the choir, contained £14,000 at the start of the project.
  • A massive program of fundraising, application for grants, and the generous donations of local and not so local benefactors has raised to date the sum of approximately 



How can I help?

  • Support the various fundraising events. The next one is:


 Further details from Clare Harding on 01254 240127


Purchase goods for the Organ Restoration Fund from the back of the church.

These include;

  • cards made by Liane Dorée
  • notelets by Lakeland artist Christine Isherwood
  • votive candles commemorating the church’s bi-centenary
  • a book ‘Keys to Heaven’ giving the full history of church music in the area
  • assorted home-made preserves


  • Make a donation in the ‘organ pipes’, also to be found at the back of the church.


  • If you are a tax-payer, please consider adding value to your contribution by completing a ‘Gift Aid’ envelope.


Want to find out more?

  • Read the book ‘Keys to Heaven’
  • Have a word with the organist after the service