The Blue Coat School is excited to have been awarded a National Lottery grant to undertake an innovative music and social project focused on the restoration of our historic pipe organ.

The project, called Blue Coat For All, will restore the school’s rare, museum quality 1874-built Father Willis organ with a £180,600 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. Once fully functional again, the organ will become the heart of regular public concerts for the first time. The project will also include forming a 50-member Community Choir, digitally cataloguing the School archive and making it publicly accessible on a new website, and developing a community outreach programme with local primary and specialist schools.

Once restored, the Father Willis organ will be the prominent focal point of a wider major refurbishment of our 1906-built assembly hall, named Shirley Hall, in honour of a former Trustee and benefactor WH Shirley.

We have launched our Pipe Up fundraising appeal to create a lasting legacy to Blue Coat For All. We are very pleased to report that our campaign to raise money to fund our new Blue Coat Organ Scholarship has so far reached £10,000. Our grateful thanks to those who have sponsored some of the 1,224 pipes of our historic Father Willis organ.

If you’d like to support Pipe Up please click here.


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An insight into our fascinating 300 year history can now be found in one place. Highlights from our new heritage brochure include, a pen portrait of Blue Coat’s Founder Master Mariner Bryan Blundell, the School’s evacuation to Anglesey during the Second World War, as well as photographs documenting Blue Coat School life during the nineteen and twentieth centuries.

To view our new heritage brochure, please click here.

Ever felt that karaoke was not your thing, but somehow you wanted to sing out loud? And were there other people out there who likewise wanted to be part of the choir, but didn’t know how to get started?

Well, you’re in luck as the new Blue Coat Community Choir is looking for members to launch itself into reality, leading up to a very special public performance in January 2020, when we will unveil  our newly restored historic Father Willis pipe organ.

Everyone is welcome, whatever your age or experience – the main requirement is enthusiasm. The choir will be led by Old Blue and Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Dr Chris McElroy who has plenty of expertise in bringing out the best in people.

It’s all part of the innovative Blue Coat For All music and community project, to encourage wider engagement with the School and share opportunities with the wider public.

Information regarding our rehearsal schedule will be published here soon.

If you are interested in joining, please contact: Peter Elson, Blue Coat For All Project Manager at p.elson@bluecoatschool.org.uk or on 0151 733 1407 ext. 207.

Share your Blue Coat memories and be part of our Blue Coat For All oral history project.

Join us for afternoon tea and a glass of fizz and take a trip down Blue Coat memory lane during one of our special oral history reminiscence events on Thursday 27th June and Friday 5th July from 2.30 – 4.30 p.m. and Friday 11th July from 6.30 – 8.30 p.m. at The Blue Coat School.

We want to hear your stories of Blue Coat days gone by! Your memories of Blue Coat will help us paint a more detailed and more personal perspective of our vibrant history. A talented team of students volunteers, trained in the art of interviewing, will play a key role in this exciting new project.

The recorded soundscape of memories will be added to The Blue Coat School archive and National Museums Liverpool archive, bringing new voices and a new dimension to their extensive local history collection.

Open to all we look forward to welcoming back former staff and students back to The Blue Coat School.

To find out more please contact our Blue Coat For All Project manager Peter Elson on 0151 733 1407 ext 207 or at p.elson@bluecoatschool.org.uk.

Blue Coat School’s historic Father Willis pipe organ, a dominant fixture for 113 years in Shirley Hall, was dismantled in a mere three days when it was removed for restoration during Spring Half Term.

Six staff from Henry Willis & Sons – the company which built the organ 145 years ago – arrived at the School and in no time the 1,224 pipes and nearly 9,000 other parts were unscrewed, unhinged, undone and loaded into vans for work to be started at the company’s premises in St Anne’s Street, Islington.

The restoration is expected to take around six months and it is planned this rare, museum-quality instrument will be reinstalled during the 2019 autumn term. Tuning and ‘settlement’ will take several months as its various component materials – wood, leather and metal – reacclimatise to Shirley Hall’s atmosphere.

David Wyld, managing director of Henry Willis & Sons, said: “The restoration is going well. This is a high quality instrument which will regain its authentic Victorian voice by the time we’ve finished. We’re putting the organ back into a state so when it’s restored again in 50 years’ time people will think it’s never been changed.”

Mr Wyld said that during restoration staff had found an inscription on the bellows dated 1875. This contradicts the organ’s memorial brass plaque which reads: In loving remembrance of James Hardy Macrae, Easter Day, April 5, 1874.

He said: “This means the organ is probably a year younger than we thought, as the plaque could date from when the Macrae family ordered the organ for the School. This could be a lucky find as our surviving letter books only date from 1875 and could give us further information on the organ’s history.”

To take a look at our organ being dismantled please click here.

Our thanks go to everyone who has generously supported our Blue Coat For All project, including:

  • National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • EMI Music Sound Foundation
  • The Hilda and Doris Farmer Trust
  • Margaret Wethered Charitable Trust
  • The Pilgrim Trust
  • The Rushworth Trust

To find out more about Blue Coat For All and how you can get involved please contact our Blue Coat For All Project Manager, Peter Elson, at p.elson@bluecoatschool.org.uk