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The parish of

Kings Norton

Part of the Church of England

The Organ

On March 6th 1906, Mr. George E. Bellis of Middleton Hall Road placed an order with Norman & Beard of Norwich for a church organ to be installed in St Nicolas' Church, Kings Norton. Construction was completed in September 1906 at a cost of £671 10s 0d (671 pounds 10 shillings and 0 pence). That's the equivalent of £38,510 at 2010 prices*. Similar organs were constructed, at the same time, in the churches of The Ascension, Stirchley and St Agnes, Cotteridge, both now sadly demolished.

The organ replaced an instrument which had been installed in 1857 at a cost of £216 (the equivalent of £9,322 today*) by Joseph Halmshaw of Birmingham and which may have stood near the base of the tower at the west end. In 1875 it was redesigned by Mr. J.A. Chatwin and moved to the new chamber created during the restoration of the church. Nothing is known of its size or specification.

The First 30-Year Service

By October 1936, Mr. Sudworth, the organist, was complaining that the swell reeds were losing their tuning despite quarterly visits by William Hill & Son and Norman Beard, Ltd. The cost of fitting new tongues to replace the fatigued brass tongues and also to revoice the two stops was £29 10s 0d (= £1,090*). This included carriage to and from the factory in London. At an additional cost of £4 10s 0d (= £166*) the couplers were replaced and, possibly at the same time, the hand blower was replaced with an electric discus blower.

Wartime Repairs

A pipe organ has a long lifespan provided that it is regularly tuned and has and regular overhauls. The most extensive work to be carried out on our organ took place during 1940's. In September 1944, a long correspondence began between the Churchwardens, Mr. Masters the organist, William Hill & Son and Norman Beard Ltd, who had been temporarily evacuated to Lewes, Sussex. The requested overhaul was planned to take five weeks and was estimated to cost £100 (= £2,595*).

With all the restraints of war-time, shortages of materials and prohibitive taxes, work didn't begin until 1948 and was not complete until June 1949. The final cost was £180 15s 0d (= £4,117*) and included new thumb pistons and pneumatic mechanisms for other accessories. These additional works were suggested, and paid for, by Mr. Masters as "a special Thank Offering Gift to Almighty God for our own merciful deliverance during this last war".

(*Historical currency conversion courtesy of the National Archive).

The 60s & 70s

As it approached its half century, the organ received its biggest overhaul yet. In 1964 it was completely stripped down and several parts renewed. The exposed pipework was rehoused and painted and new woodwork was provided by John Kennerly, who had sung as an alto in the church choir for almost 60 years, from 1917 until 1976. New stops were created and the whole organ was revoiced.

The work was carried out by Rushworth and Dreaper and cost approximately £3000 (= £38,580*). The opening recital was given by Arnold Richardson on 19th April 1964 and included J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Frank's Prelude, Fugue and Variations, pieces by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Whitlock and finished with a flourish with Toccata (Symph 5) by Widor.

Apart from tuning and the replacement of an electric motor replacement, all was quiet until 1976 when the organist, Peter Carder, asked for another overhaul to be considered. Several schemes were put forward, including some to bring the sound out of the stone chamber into which the organ was originally built. Sadly, the church council found these schemes to be too expensive and a compromise was arrived at in the form of an overhaul and some alterations.

Work continued from September 1976 to January 1977 and was carried out by our present organ builders, Hawkins and Son (then of Walsall Wood, now in Lichfield). Apart from revoicing the Great Flute and Swell Voix Celeste, a Swell Principal 4' and a Larigot were introduced, the Great Dulciana 8' was transformed into a Quartane II and Sub Octave tone and a Resultant Bass Pedal were created. The other major change was that the action was electrified. The work cost more than £4000 and was completed in time for an opening recital on 20th February 1977 at which Antony Le Fleming played a programme including works by J.S.Bach, Schumann, Sweelinck, Vivaldi and Wesley.

Regular tuning has been the order of the day since 1977, and in 1996, under Sylvia Fox, another overhaul was instigated. No major alterations were involved this time, just sufficient repair and maintenance work to ensure the instrument made it to through to its 100th birthday and beyond in good order.