Huw Edwards calls for safeguards to protect church organs from destruction
Huw Edwards is calling for measures to help save thousands of church organs from being lost to vandalism, neglect and destruction.
The Welsh broadcaster says that a ‘rich heritage’ is being ‘casually thrown away’ as churches and chapels continue to close and the organs are treated as ‘worthless boxes of pipes’.
He speaks from personal experience, having learnt to play the organ at a chapel in Llanelli which was demolished in 1998.
Writing for the National Churches Trust, of which he is Vice President, he says: “The chapel where I learned to play in Llanelli was demolished in 1998 – complete with a lovely two-manual Nicholson pipe organ and the minister’s excellent library – without the slightest note of concern from local authorities.
“A few remnants were rescued – some chairs from the elders’ seat, for example, and a bilingual New Testament used for Communion services, now in my possession – but the place was bulldozed with little thought given to the treasures within.
“This is a horribly familiar story. During the 1960s, some local authorities in the valleys of south Wales engaged in what one historian called ‘officially-sanctioned vandalism’ as they blessed the demolition of dozens of chapels every year.”
When he has time, Huw Edwards continues to play the organ at the Jewin Welsh Presbyterian Chapel in the City of London.
Huw Edwards has called for a ‘devolved’ strategy to help safeguard the instruments. He said: “A strategy – probably on a devolved basis given the cultural responsibilities – would at least safeguard the organs in a state of decay right now, making some of them available for future generations to enjoy.
“A pipe dream? Maybe. But the time to act is now, before we lose so much more.”
One option to help protect organs would be to treat them as being a part of the fabric of a building so that when listed status is granted, it covers the instruments.
A National Pipe Organ Register currently lists more than 35,000 organs across the UK but this number is constantly falling.