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Huw Edwards calls for safeguards to protect church organs from destruction

31 Jul 2021 2 minutes Read
Huw Edwards playing pipe organ at Holy Trinity Church, London (Image: @Huw Edwards)

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.”

Strategy

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.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Come on Huw how about a charity single/album for Christmas. I have let my church organist friend know about your cause…

David
David
1 month ago

Huw, so £450,00 does’nt go very far!!

William Habib Steele
William Habib Steele
1 month ago

A much more important concern is the reasons why those churches and chapels closed. I’m acquainted with some chapels whose congregations are in their 70s and 80s. What happened to the young people? Did they move away to become part of other congregations? Did they abandon the Church? Did they abandon The Christian Faith? What are they doing and what do they plan to do to communicate the Good News to all ages, especially the young?

Perhaps a few organs of particular value should preserved and the rest put to rest.

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago

Regards young people, they are probably a significant proportion of the population who like me describe themselves as having no religion. Not so much abandoning as never having had it.

William Habib Steele
William Habib Steele
1 month ago
Reply to  #1Chris

Did parents leave it to Sunday schools to nurture their kids in the Faith? Faith is nurtured in the home. When parents tell their kids Bible stories and pray with them, then as they get older read the Scriptures and pray with them, and as they help their young teens explore the doubts that come at that age, encouraging them to realise that they are not betraying God and their parents by exploring doubts, the young people grow into a mature faith. Kids raised in this way do sometimes abandon the Christian Faith for another faith, but that is not… Read more »

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
1 month ago

If you were Jewish, Sikh or Muslim (for instance), you would be able to write exactly the same words, except with “Christianity”, “Bible” and “Sunday School” substituted for their equivalents. Therein lies the answer to your questions. It’s not about television or sport! Another way for you to put yourself in other people’s shoes might be for you to write the same words again, but with the euphemism “faith” replaced by “arbitrarily selected set of assumptions”. Everyone now has enough access to enough independent sources of information to see for themselves that there’s no reason to prefer your arbitrarily selected… Read more »

defaid
defaid
1 month ago

The article is specifically about musical instruments.

“Tis God gives skill, but not without men’s hand: He could not make Antonio Stradivarius’s violins without Antonio.”

My Galvanised Methodist local had a congregation in its 70s and 80s in the 1970s and 1980s. I had to attend not for my own benefit but for that of my parents’ reputation…

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  defaid

I know it’s an autocorrect from Calvinist but I wish Galvinised Methodists were a thing.

defaid
defaid
1 month ago
Reply to  #1Chris

It wasn’t autocorrect. 🙂

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago

Separation of church and state. It is not a responsibility of Y Senedd to interfere in or support church matters.
How they dispose of or safeguard their assets is not a matter for government.
Nice instruments. Shame for them to be lost. Speak to the church in Wales about it. Or Welty since he thinks he rules the Welsh church

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  #1Chris

I get the impression that many Chapel organs end up being sold cheap in antique shops or auctions. My dad bought one, even though he was CIW. They seem inexplicably undervalued, rather like the many disused chapels that end up either as antique shops themselves, or put on the housing market.
The whole Chapel thing is a sad reflection of Cymru’s transformation from Calvinistic Methodism to godless consumerism. Too late to do anything about that now, but at least the contents of the chapels should be preserved.

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Even as a godless heathen, I do agree with you about the loss and undervaluing of some beautiful artefacts. Although not religious I am not anti-religion and feel quite kindly towards the Welsh Methodism of my mother. And whatever differences I may have with hierarchical religions, they created some beautiful places and things. I hope as much as possible of these can be preserved and ideally used. Just being a firm believer of separation of church and state, I don’t think Y Senedd should be involved, unless in a generic way that offers equal protections to all faiths, not just… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  #1Chris

I agree with that view. I don’t have any faith per se, but I am able to accept that others do. What I can’t accept is any situation where advocates of any faith feel that it’s their divine right to enforce that faith on others by any means. That’s all about freedom of beliefs, a right to embrace views about our existence and the after life, if such a state exists.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Precambrian…Before the Railways!

defaid
defaid
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Much more succinct than I’d have managed in my irritation.

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
1 month ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

I don’t believe that godless consumerism is what’s displacing Christianity. Rather, the decline has come about because of increased access to information. When we all have access to information about the huge diversity of belief systems around the world, it’s rational to think “They can’t all be right.” So if anything has displaced Christianity, it’s Stoicism. Acceptance of uncertainty has displaced the practice of arbitrarily selecting a belief system.

Religions are culturally fascinating, but the disappearance of their artefacts is a price worth paying if we can do away with heresy and apostasy at the same time.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Hannergylch

If anything has displaced Christianity it is its hypocrisy and child abuse, its denial and contempt for this world in favour of an imagined one…

defaid
defaid
1 month ago

“Pipe dream”

lol

Mandi A
Mandi A
1 month ago

For anyone interested in 19th century church history in Wales, Neil Fairlamb, former Rector of Beaumaris, has produced a gazeteer of Welsh churches helped by the Church Building Society 1818 – 1982. Their particular concern in the 19th century was to increase seating arrangements to accommodate the influx of working class people to new industries. One stipulation was that a certain number of pews had to be free. His book has many nuggets of little known information. It can be obtained either as a download or in book form from Rev Fairlamb, All Saints’ Church, Tilford, Surrey or by emailing… Read more »

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