New life breathed into 130-year-old organ at Hartlepool church

Organist Ian Pounder plays the Laurenson Memorial Organ at St Mary's Church in Hartlepool.
Organist Ian Pounder plays the Laurenson Memorial Organ at St Mary's Church in Hartlepool.

The sounds of an organ which dates back to the 1800s has once again filled a Hartlepool church after parishioners began a campaign to have it restored.

The Laurenson Memorial Organ was built in the 1880s, but it fell into disrepair after St Mary’s Church on the Headland was rewired several years ago.

The Laurenson Memorial Organ at St Mary's Church in Hartlepool.

The Laurenson Memorial Organ at St Mary's Church in Hartlepool.

At the weekend, however, members of the church’s congregation enjoyed a very special surprise as the organ was played at the end of mass.

Built by William Denman & Son of York, the organ was officially unveiled on the November 21, 1886, in which solemn high mass was sung.

Max Elliott, PhD student at the University of York studying organ builders, recently visited the church and informed members that the organ is one of only 20 to have survived without significant alteration.

The organ has remained silent for more than 10 years until St Hilda’s Church organist Ian Pounder agreed to play for the congregation at the end of mass.

Parishioners now hope to fully restore the organ and hold a concert at the church.

“We’re really in the very early stages of the restoration,” said Terry Curren, of the Headland, who attends services at St Mary’s.

“But it does need a complete re-turning and a proper clean as well.

“We need professionals in to tell us exactly what needs doing to the organ.

“We aren’t sure what the price of the work will be at this stage, but hopefully we’ll find out soon and be able to come up with a target to raise.”

St Hilda’s Church organist Ian Pounder kindly agreed to play for the congregation on Sunday.

“We’re really grateful to Ian,” added Terry.

“We got in touch and asked him to play even though it’s an organ he doesn’t know and it’s one which needs restoring.

“But he said ‘OK, I’ll do it’ and he did a really good job.

“For us just to hear the organ being played once again was great.”

Terry also said that members of the church hope to have the organ fully restored sometime soon.

“We hope that by later on in the year that it is fully restored and we will be able to have a concert using it.

“We’d also love to have budding organists come and play such a historic instrument.”

Post-graduate research carried out by the University of York found that Hummells’ Mass in B-Flat was the first piece of music ever to be played on the organ.