One of Britain’s top organ assessors visited Blue Coat School to certify that restoration of our rare and historic Father Willis organ, generously paid for by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, was finished to his satisfaction.
The 1875-built organ, located in Shirley Hall, passed with flying colours, having been restored by its renowned original builder, Henry Willis and Sons, of Liverpool, which regarded this as a prestige project.
Dr William McVicker, who is Chairman of The Association of Independent Organ Advisers, and Associate of the Royal Academy of Music and curates some of the UK’s greatest organs, said: “The work has been done to the highest standards. I congratulate the School and the Willis team on such high-quality project and restoration work. It has been a pleasure to oversee these works.
“The instrument is returned as far as possible to its Victorian condition. The organ is a pleasure to see and it now plays as if new. I am happy to certify that the works to the organ have been carried out according to contract by Henry Willis & Sons and returned to excellent playing condition.”
This is the crucial final step in the organ restoration project, which is now complete as contracted after three years. The certification is a critical part of a final evaluation report to the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which supported the project, as proof the organ is back in full working order.
Henry Willis and Sons was the top nineteen-century British organ builder, and constructed our instrument in 1875, which was gifted by the Macraes, a wealthy cotton-broking family, of West Derby.
With Willis being such a long-established company with a huge range of rare materials in stock, as Dr McVicker noted in his report: “Materials have been replaced like-for-like and no modern products have been introduced into the instrument.
“The leatherwork has been restored to exacting standards. Corrective measures have been undertaken to careless works carried out in the past.”
Such is the quality of the restoration that with any luck the organ will last for another 150 years!
To find out more about the restoration of our Father Willis organ and wider Blue Coat For All project, please click here.