Organ donation brings £350,000 instrument to Ripon church
Last updated Dec 26, 2023
The £350,000 mechanical pipe organ donated to St Wilfrid's Church. Pic Dr John Rowntree.

St Wilfrid’s on Coltsgate Hill, Ripon, has received an amazing early Christmas gift  – an organ worth £350,000.

The Grade II listed church, which is among the city’s architectural gems and described as one of the finest Catholic parish churches in England, has taken delivery of a mechanical action pipe organ, formerly in use at the University of Huddersfield.

Built by JW Walker of Brandon in Suffolk for Castleford businessman Michael Phipps, the organ was subsequently donated by him to the university in 2008 and now, with the assistance of Dr John Rowntree, one of the UK’s foremost organ specialists, it has found a new home in Ripon.

Dr Rowntree, director of music at Douai Abbey in Berkshire, is chair of the British Institute of Organ Studies and the Committee for the Listing of Historic Organs,

Dr John Rowntree (left) and Canon Ian Smith, are pictured in St Wilfrid’s, where the organ will be installed in the loft at the back of the church

He told the Stray Ferret:

“This wonderful instrument is of Grade 1 class and, with its mechanical action, is particularly suitable for playing music from the Bach period.

“It will give a completeness to the restoration of this beautiful church and I look forward to being involved in its installation here in the New Year.”

Parish priest Canon Ian Smith, plays the organ and keenly awaits the day when he has the opportunity take to the keyboards and pedals.

He said:

“It’s a superb instrument and such a generous gift from Huddersfield University. We had to move quickly and, with invaluable advice from Dr Rowntree, all parts of the organ are now here and ready to be reassembled, once we have raised the necessary funding.”

Canon Smith added:

“In making the donation to us, the university had one proviso – saying that its students have the right to visit our church to play the organ. They will be made most welcome,”

Parishioner Barrie Price, who is chair of the church fundraising committee, which has raised £500,000 for an ongoing programme of restoration and development, pointed out:

“The organ is valued at £350,000  and would have originally cost considerably more.

“Its rebuilding and installation cost is quoted at £40,000 and the Leeds Diocese have agreed that we can go ahead for half this figure in the New Year, by loaning the parish the other half.

Mr Price, added:

“We have launched a special organ fund, which is separate  from the Restoration Appeal, which we hope will raise this first half over the Advent period so that it can be installed early in 2024.”