The organ in the historic St Michael-le-Belfrey Church, York (where Guy Fawkes was baptised) was built in 1885 by the York organ builder William Denman, and was to be one of the largest instruments of his career. It is housed in a beautifully carved oak case in a side aisle. Some tonal alterations were undertaken in 1925 by Abbott & Smith (fitting harmonic trebles to 8′ chorus reeds) and John Jackson in 1975 (neo-classically inspired alterations in the fashion of the time). The organ’s condition declined to the point that the organ fell unplayable in the mid-1990s.
The organ has now being given a new life. In August 2019, the instrument was completely dismantled and brought to our workshop in Malvern. In December 2019, work commenced on a full historical restoration, returning the organ (with the sole exception of the balanced Swell pedal!) in every way to how Denman left it. The tonal modifications were reversed by making new pipework as copies of surviving Denman examples elsewhere. The soundboards and actions (mechanical to manuals, pneumatic to pedals) were restored without alteration. The beautiful case was badly damaged by an amateur attempt at liming many years ago; the liming has been stripped off and the oak restored and re-finished to its original lustre.
Upon completion of the restoration, the organ was installed into the spacious north transept of St Lawrence’s Church, York. The Denman organ will enhance the sung worship by the congregation and splendid choir of St Lawrence’s Church for many years to come. It has been a privilege to restore this vital part of the musical heritage of the city of York, and to provide St Lawrence’s Church with a fine instrument, the first in the building’s long life that will be worthy of its vast interior.