Restoration of the 1766 Thomas Parker organ at St Mary and St Nicholas, Leatherhead
In 1989 there was a fire at Leatherhead Parish Church which was, for this restoration project, providential. It rendered the Victorian organ unusable, but did not touch the parts of the 1766 organ which had been re-used and somewhat altered by Walker in 1873. These Georgian parts were identified and stored under the supervision of Martin Renshaw, who also researched the organ's history.
It appeared the organ was not made for Leatherhead, but was moved by J W Walker in 1843. It was originally made for Watford parish church. Walker had taken it in part exchange for a new organ in 1841. A payment of £163 was made to Thomas Parker by the churchwardens of St Mary's Watford in August 1766.
The pipe marks on the Leatherhead pipework, and the manufacturing style of the keys and pipes also show that they are by Parker. An increasing number of organs can be ascribed to him, but at present no church organs, though the large house organ built for Charles Jennens (librettist of Messiah) survives unaltered at Great Packington near Birmingham airport. This organ was used to supply all the information missing at Leatherhead.
The organ was restored in 2007, as the culmination of a project which had been a long time in the planning. The funding mostly came through the Heritage Lottery Fund. For the church the project was directed by Mike Lewis. The opening concert was on November 24th 2007 with James O'Donnell playing with the Brandenburg Sinfonia directed by Robert Porter.
Linda Heath, the church archivist, wrote a booklet about the organ which is available from the church. The specification of the organ and a restoration report with much technical information is available from the builders. You can also find more about the history of the organs of this church, and its daughter church of All Saints, Leatherhead on the church's history website at: parishchurch.leatherheadweb.org.uk/parkerorgan/
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