St. Wilfrid's Hele Organ
Builder: Hele & Co. (Plymouth) 1910
Rebuilt & Extended: David J. White 2000/2002
A few facts about the refurbished organ:
The organ is now complete! Around 92 years after the first parts were delivered to St. Wilfrid's, everything is in place. When the organ was built in 1910, it was designed as a large three-manual instrument. Unhappily, the third manual was never inserted and so the instrument functioned in a never-completed state for many years. Now the third manual has been added, perhaps not quite as was originally intended, but it is there and everything is working!
The instrument now contains 1,924 pipes, of which 638 have been added in the recent work. The largest pipe (which laying down due to lack of available height) is almost 18 feet long and is made of solid pine. The smallest pipe has a length of around 3/8 inch!
All the pipes have been cleaned and restored and the long process of tuning and regulating is complete. Consider that it takes approximately 5 minutes per pipe and remember there are 1,924 to tune and regulate!
The action (the bits that make it work — connecting the keys to the pipes) has been totally replaced with a modem electronic system. This is processor controlled and probably has more computer power than the first Apollo moon rockets! The action controls small electro-magnets, which move the valves of the chests. Over 900 magnets have been fifed, each requiring two screws, and two electrical connections — all soldered! To connect everything up required almost 20 miles of cable! Altogether, the total number of electrical connections made in the recent work number over 4,000.
One detail of the organ, which is very up to date, is the key contact system. Up to recent months, we have always used a system of contacts and wipers on the keyboards. The organ at St. Wilfrid's has none of these. Instead, a tiny magnet coming into close proximity to a sensor triggers the action. This means that there are no moving parts to go wrong or silver contacts to corrode. It also allows us to set up the contacting system so that each keyboard has an identical response, something that has never really been possible before. The organ at St. Wilfrid’s is the first in this part of the country with this system. Electrical power is provided by two Switch-mode power supplies. Together, these give out a smoothed current of 1 6volts at 60 amps.
The organ now has a a recording/ playback device. This is a modern gadget which enables the organist to play a piece into a computerised memory, store it on a floppy disk and then play it back any time. The big difference is that it plays back through the action of the organ and so the pipes actually speak, the swell-box opens and closes, all with no organist at the console. Of course, this is a very useful tool for practice and teaching, but also if there is no organist for a mid-week service it would be possible to pre-play all the music in advance.
The wind-system has been improved, with new wooden trunks connecting the main blower to the organ. A new Blower, Bellows and wind system has been built for the choir organ.
When the organ was dismantled there was a huge pile of redundant material in the transept for many weeks. A similar amount of new material has been introduced into the organ. Two van loads of new timber were required, consisting of pine, oak, jetutong, hardwood, ply and MDF board. One of the most awkward tasks in the work was to alter the main frame of the instrument so that there would be more room around the console; this required the dismantling of the front half of the organ and shortening of the the main frame. This involved cutting new joints in three huge timbers. They were about 12 x 4 inches and about 7ft long - so this was no easy job. The whole of the front of the organ was moved back 12 inches. The huge pedal pipes and their chests also had to be moved.
Also in the archive: