As part of our vision to make St. Vigor’s a church at the heart of our community, the historic pipe organ originally located in The Knatchbull Chapel has been relocated to the Church of St. Paio in the parish of Requiexo, Aveiro, Portugal. Do visit their Facebook page!
View the gallery about the organ’s journey here or watch two videos of some of the final pieces of music to be played on the organ at St. Vigor’s and two pieces played during and after reassembly in Portugal here.
The organ was installed in St. Vigor’s in May 1995 and dedicated by Bishop Richard Lewis of Taunton at a special service of thanksgiving in December of that year. Bishop Richard noted how St. Vigor’s seemed then to be a magnet for notable pipe organs, the church having previously been the home of the historic George IV organ originally built for The Prince of Wales New Pavilion at Brighton. Unfortunately, that organ was damaged by rainwater leaking through the roof in 1969 and the cost of repairs were far beyond the congregation’s means. It was therefore sold and shipped to America. Following repairs to the roof and other lengthy renovations during which time small portable electronic organs were used, The PCC set about finding a replacement pipe organ.
The one chosen, came as a gift from Mr & Mrs Percy and friends, following closure of their Methodist Church at Folly Gate, a village near Oakhampton in Devon. It was thought that the organ had originally been built by Henry Dicker in about 1858 for Exeter Cathedral but documented details of its exact origins are yet to be proven. In 1880 it is purported to have made its first move to the Wesleyan Church at New Road, Oakhampton. From there it made its way to Fairplace Wesleyan Chapel in 1903, where is underwent a major overhaul in 1950. Then in 1963 it travelled on again to Folly Gate, where it stayed until 1995. The organ has pipes of decorative spotted metal, denoting an organ of quality.
Sadly, but in common with many such fine organs, the organ had not been played regularly since 2006 when the last ‘full-time’ organist retired. It was then played on an increasingly less regular basis until 2013, since when it had not been played apart from the odd funeral and special occasion. However, a report in September 2019 indicated that the organ was in a reasonably good state of repair and relocation would only entail servicing it in its new home as part of the reassembly. The PCC felt that should the organ remain in place, not played, it would have deteriorated without regular maintenance, and it was not seen as prudent to pay for that maintenance if the organ was not to be played. Therefore, in-line with our vision and by agreement of The Diocese of Bath & Wells, it was time once again for this splendid organ to find a home befitting of its quality.
In September 2021, the organ was listed with the Institute of British Organ Building and in October, we were contacted by Bartelemy Janus, who preserves such organs as working instruments by relocating them. Working with William Smyth over a period of 4 days, the organ was dismantled and packed into the tranport van for its long journey south, driving some 1,400 miles through France and Spain, to its new home in the Church of St. Paio in the parish of Requiexo, Aveiro. It arrived safely on Wednesday 27th October and was lovingly reassembled in the organ loft of the church. The organ was dedicated at a special service on the 19th of December 2021 and so lives on. Not only that, it is very well loved and the parish are extremely happy with it. William often gets nice messages from the parishioners, and visiting organists too that go there!
Review – September 2022.
Life really has the most interesting things, I remember when I was a child telling my parents “I would love to play on those large organs like in the sanctuary of Fatima, but in my parish”. I told Fr Hélder (PP of Requiexo) 2 years ago how much it would fulfill my dream, and be a huge honour to have a pipe organ in the parish of Requiexo, I wanted a great instrument so as to play all the organ music I learnt from my Teacher Deacon Fernando Reis at every liturgical Celebration. And here we are!!! After all these years I have fulfilled a childhood dream, a dream that seems impossible to many, but to me was never in vain. This was not possible without the dedication and work of organ builder William Smyth, thank you for all of you help!
Organist Carlos Pires
Vocals by Filomena Mendes
Planning to visit St. John’s Church, Chilcompton? Please note that our planned works require another few days to complete. Therefore, the building will now be closed to visitors from Wednesday 6th September until Friday 8th September inclusive to enable further work to the refurbishment of the chancel floor to be carried out safely. The church will be open again to visitors from Saturday 9th September.
We apologise for any inconvenience.