First built by the Leeds organ-building firm Frederick Holt in 1865, the original organ in St Peter’s was revised by Scovell of Edinburgh in 1913, with Rushworth & Dreaper undertaking further restoration work between 1958-60. There are few extant records of the first instrument, and although the original specification exists, it is uncertain as to how much of it still remains.
Like all machinery, organs need periodic overhauls, and by 2002, the organ was in a bad state of repair. Recognizing this, and with music in all its forms being so integral to worship in St. Peter’s, in 2004 an organ committee was given the task of investigating how best to proceed with refurbishing the organ. After much discussion, deliberation, consultation and debate, it was eventually agreed the church would embark on a major rebuild of the organ, and we were delighted to accept the services of Principal Pipe Organs, York, under the direction of Geoffrey Coffin.
The previous organ was completely removed in March 2009, and the newly refurbished one completed in January 2011. During the enormous and complex rebuild, a brand new wind system was fitted, all the soundboards and actions were fully restored and the internal pipe layout was completely changed to help improve the tonal projection. The best of the existing pipe-work was cleaned, mended and re-voiced, and seventeen ranks of pipes were replaced. The team at Penny’s Mill, Wiltshire, made the two new European Oak cases.
Although not completely finished, in December 2010, the congregation at the Carol Service were the first to hear this exciting and versatile new sounding instrument. With choral music being so important in St Peter’s, it was considered appropriate to celebrate its completion with an opening concert consisting of Choral Music from the Church Year, and the choir of St Peter’s gave this on 25th February 2011. It was conducted by Director of Music, Rupert Forbes, with the Organist, Sheila Chisholm, displaying many of the colours now available on the new instrument. It was re-dedicated on May 15th 2011 by Bishop Brian Smith, the then Bishop of Edinburgh, and a highly successful Opening Organ Recital Series was held at the end of 2011 with recitals given by Dr John Kitchen (Edinburgh), Michael Harris (Edinburgh), Michael Bonaventure (London) and Susan Landale (Paris).