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Pulling Out All The Stops

Made meets the team at Martin Goetze & Dominic Gwynn Ltd, where tired pipe organs are given a new lease of life through careful restoration, and new pipe organs are born. Here is where the music begins.

The team at Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn Ltd spend their days restoring historic church pipe organs, using their knowledge and expertise to breathe new life into these unique instruments.Made had the opportunity to meet Dominic Gwynn and the team. Dominic is one of the original co-founders of the company along with Martin Goetze, who sadly passed away three years ago.

Their work often sees them restoring organs that are hundreds of years old, painstakingly going through the delicate process of cleaning and repairing in order to ensure the instruments continue to produce the beautiful sounds they were originally built to deliver.

The workshop is an array of wonderful on-going projects, earthy, wooden aromas and busy craftspeople, all focussed on their particular piece of the puzzle. And whilst refurbishment takes up the majority of their time, the team also take on projects to build brand new organs, often built using the same traditional materials in the same, tried and tested way.

Dominic was working on building a new organ when Made visited his workshops on the Welbeck Estate. This new organ project is based on a 17th century English design and will be spend their days restoring historic church pipe used to play music from that period. It has about 200 pipes organs, using their knowledge and expertise to and includes a manually operated bellow that distributes air, breathe new life into these unique instruments. which is then pushed through the internal workings to create the sounds when the keys are pressed. When complete, it will look and sound like, an organ from the 1600s and is destined for a customer in Brussels.

Refurbishment work remains the mainstay of the business and sees the team working on organs predominately from the 19th and 18th centuries. It's an often long, drawn-out process, par- ticularly, as Dominic points out, the age of the parts they are working with.

"For most organs it's probably been a hundred, to a hundred twenty years since their last restoration," says Dominic. "The main thing that deteriorates is the leather in the bellows. Wherever there is leather it tends to pack up over time. It's tough stuff, but after about 150-200 years you can tear it like paper, the fibres shorten and it slowly deteriorates."

A lot of original organs are housed in stately homes and places such as National Trust properties and museums; there are also a small number in private hands. 

Originally households would have had these organs in the same way that people today have pianos, although, a couple of hundred years ago, the chance to own an organ would be limited to those households that were particularly wealthy.

"They were originally all domestic," says Dominic, "but you would have had to have been quite rich to have had one."

Dominic finds they are increasingly taking on projects to refurbish church organs in particular, something he puts down to the availability of support such as lottery funding that allow this work to get underway.

"The availability of this type of funding means the average parish church can now afford to have a complete restoration carried out," he says.

Past restoration projects include: the St Cecilia's Hall Chamber Organ at Edinburgh University Musical Instrument Museum; Handel House Museum restoration of Snetzler Bureau Organ; Rothbury, Northumberland restoration of the 1866 Hill Organ at All Saints Church; and Erddig House near Wrexham Wales and the restoration of the Bevington Organ for the National Trust. Closer to home, the team has also worked on the 1878 organ at St Anne's church in Worksop as well as at National Trust properties.

"When we set up here 30 years ago, the National Trust had just taken on some houses with little organs, so we also worked on organs at places such as Belton House, Kedleston Hall, Calke Abbey and Staunton Harold.

"We tend to specialise in working with organs dated up to about 1830 and really in the last few years we've started doing more Victorian English church organs."

Dominic himself, some 15 years ago, found himself working on a series of organs that had either been played on or were associated in some way with the great composer George Friedrich Handel. He even restored a musical clock belonging to the Queen, which had music arranged by Handel himself.

Using traditional woods such as oak and pine, the team tend to work on one organ at a time, working alongside each other to see the project through from beginning to end.

"Oak in particular is a classic wood because it doesn't deteriorate, it doesn't get eaten and it doesn't get woodworm, so that's the one that gets used in church most. And the English used pine quite a lot, especially imported wood. The 16th and 17th century we'd used most of our wood, so imported wood was used, particularly among the London builders."

To find out more about the work Martin Goetze & Dominic
Gwynn Ltd carry out, visit:

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
Clumber Park Big Push


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Wednesday, 28 October 2020


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