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Restoration of the ex-Irvin's Marenghi


The first thing I noticed when winding up the blower to see how she played, was the reservoir still lying flat with the blower screaming away. I took off two of the six springs and immediately it rose as it should. Measuring the pressure, my water-gauge read 9½ inches, which was about right.

My next task, as with any restoration, was the complete dismantling of the instrument. The most important tool here is a camera. This is used to record in detail where everything is, to help with later assembly. In the old days I used a Polaroid, so I was sure of the picture "coming out" before destroying the evidence, as it were. Now it's digital. My first picture was of the complete organ as it was before I started, shown above.

First, the façade carvings were removed and the proscenium lowered down from the roof. This, as can be seen in the picture, was not sitting level, but was higher at one end than the other. This was because the tilt (canvas cover) was lying under it. In fact, there was nothing between the carving and the roof of the lorry, which had been bouncing on it all the way from Scarborough, some 185 miles. I found that the heavy hinge on the right-hand side had been bent upwards by the weight of the 9-inch thick carving. Measuring the lorry, it was found that there was only 7½ inches of space between the top of the organ and lorry roof.

Once the façade was out of the way, and the side cases had been un-bolted, I began to remove all the remaining pipes from the organ. The pipework is divided among the various divisions of the organ's musical scale as follows:
In the back of the organ is the clarinet mixture, playing on melody (4 ranks) mounted centrally. Either-side of this are 4 ranks of accompaniment, and then 3 ranks playing on bass. In front of these, is the fretwork divider. In front of the divider is the largest of the clarinet mixture ranks. Either side of that are the eight trombone pipes (painted pink), with convoluted mitres under the roof due to their great length. In front of these, mounted in the centre  are 5 ranks of violins, playing on counter-melody, and at the very front is the clarinet reed (painted amber with pink sides), playing with the clarinet mixture. Either side of the violins are 3 ranks of "saxophone" comprising a trumpet, painted green, a flue helper, then the saxophone reed itself, painted amber with pink sides. In front of these are 4 ranks of piccolos, ranged in a 2x2 layout. The long ones in front are pan-flutes in brass with wood acorns on top. In a separate case mounted on the front of the organ are 2 ranks of baritone (box reed with flue helper), playing on melody the reeds painted amber with pink sides, and each side of those are the glockenspiel units. There are two ranks of bass pipes under the organ's floor.

The baritone case came off first, and the pipes removed, followed by the pipe-chest and glockenspiel. The case was then lowered to the ground and stored in the shed. The picture here shows the back of the baritones and action tubing, once the case had been separated from the main case

All other pipes were then removed rank by rank and labelled, except the trombones and the large basses which were still trapped in the organ. More of these later. The ones destined for delivery to Judith were packed (she would be restoring most of the flue pipes), and the reeds and baritone helper were stored in the shed.

Having got the pipes and façade out of the way, I could concentrate on the rest of the dismantling. The tubing at the back came out first, then the register box and keyframe. The tubing was of a very narrow bore, which I decided not to retain. Then followed the clarinet riser, piccolo risers, violin chest and its associated tubing, and the two saxophone chests.

Now I had access to the trombones, which had to be removed one by one, together with their staying brackets. There were far too many of these for my liking (most of them weren't original anyway), and I made a mental note to re-use fewer upon re-installation. An organ like this travels around constantly, with its case moving and flexing. If trombones were fixed firmly to the case roof they are likely to come under great strain and mitres could come apart. The order in which the trombones were removed was recorded on paper, as this information would be an invaluable time-saver later.

Then came the blocks the back pipework had been mounted on, and the riser below that. These items carry the wind from the main chest to the pipes, which are mounted above the primary action from the keyframe. They still had some pipes' feet mounted on them, which had come away at the wrong point, and would have to be removed later. Now the main chest was fully accessible from the top. Looking underneath, I removed the action tubing connecting the bass chest under the floor, and the various connections for wind to the bass chest, side cases and baritone case. There was an extra ventil box fitted to the underside of the chest. This had been an attempt to improve the wind supply to the saxophones to aid accurate tuning, done in 1990. I had had no problems in this regard in the past, so the box, and all its associated tubing was removed and discarded.

Now came the task of removing the main chest itself. This is easily the largest item in the organ, and the heaviest, being 8 feet 6 inches (2.6m) in length. After disconnecting the main wind trunking, the chest was lifted out. Now I had unrestricted access to the wind reservoir which was not original. The organ had lost its two reservoirs and feeders (and cranks) during the 1974 Chiappa overhaul. They were probably now being used in another organ, having been replaced by a centrifugal blower. It was a simple matter to take out this reservoir.

The organ case was now empty, save for the bass pipes below the floor. The picture here (taken in 1983) shows the pipes in position. Back then the organ was physically hoisted up to gain access to the pipes, but in 2003 that facility was not available, so the case needed to be lowered onto its back in the lorry.

I was aghast to find that the organ hadn't been bolted down. Instead, a few small screws had been simply forced through the runners into the floor - not straight down, but at an angle across the edge. It's amazing it hadn't been shaken free on the journey.The pipes and their action chest were then drawn out on their own framework. Once out the assembly was dismantled.

The octave cellos (open pipes) were separated first, followed by the bourdons (stopped pipes). During the dismantling of the organ I had measured and counted all the springs and reed tuning wires that needed to be replaced by phosphor-bronze, so the required wire could be ordered. This is where the real work of restoration was to begin.

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