AN APPEAL has been launched to save Europe’s largest musical organ in a private house.
The 123-year-old giant has entertained kings, emperors and wounded First World War soldiers at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, but is now due to have a major restoration.
More than £400,000 will be spent on the instrument, which is housed in the palace’s Long Library.
Though it has been regularly maintained over its long life, the organ has fallen victim to wear and tear and needs a comprehensive restoration.
This will include replacing all leatherwork and other worn-out parts, while several stops and pistons which don’t work will be repaired.
Blenheim Palace has launched an appeal to help pay for the restoration with visitors able to sponsor a pipe, ranging from £30 for a small treble pipe to £300 for one of the 32ft-long pipes.
Charles Mould, secretary of the working group which is spearheading the appeal, said: “The Blenheim Willis, which is in almost completely original condition, is increasingly showing signs of wear and it is only a matter of time before it will become unplayable.
“I am therefore passionate that what is considered by many to be Father Willis’ finest organ should be fully restored before this happens.
“In 2010 it was awarded a Grade One certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies stating that it is an instrument of importance to the national heritage and one deserving careful preservation for the benefit of future generations.”
The organ was built in 1891 by renowned maker ‘Father’ Henry Willis and is acknowledged by many to be his finest creation.
It is the largest organ in a private house in Europe with 2,300 pipes and 52 speaking stops.
Built at a cost of £3,669, the equivalent of £240,000 today, the organ was commissioned by the Eighth Duke of Marlborough, but he died only a year after it was completed.
The inscription above the organ bears the initials of the Duke and his wife and says: “We leave thy voice to speak within these walls in years to come when ours are still.”
In 1896 the organ was used to entertain the Prince of Wales when he visited the palace, which was built in the early 18th century.
Kaiser Wilhelm II listened to a recital of Wagner and Handel performed on the organ when he visited in 1899 and during the First World War it was used to entertain the troops when the Long Library was used as a hospital.
Demonstrations of the organ can be heard every Friday at midday and weekly recitals are given on Sundays at 1.30pm by leading organists from all over Britain.
Our top stories:
8:30am Tuesday 21st April 2015
THE NUMBER of rapes across the county has gone up by more than 66 per cent and sex offences have increased by 35 per cent in the last year.
11:19am Tuesday 21st April 2015
A BANBURY woman has appeared in court charged with the murder of 23-year-old Kyle Byfield.
9:30am Tuesday 21st April 2015
Michael Appleton has promised he will look players in the eye and tell them straight if they are not in his plans for Oxford United next season.
8:50am Tuesday 21st April 2015
A woman from Banbury who has been charged with the murder of 23-year-old Kyle Byfield will appear in Oxford Crown Court today.
8:00am Tuesday 21st April 2015
FORMER Blackbird Leys councillor Val Smith is being cared for in Sobell House Hospice after a long battle with cancer.
7:51am Tuesday 21st April 2015
Signalling problems that caused delays and cancellations between Oxford and Charlbury yesterday are set to last all of today.
7:20am Tuesday 21st April 2015
WHILE a fire raged at the Randolph Hotel on Friday, next door at the Oxford Playhouse it was a case of “the show must go on”.
7:10am Tuesday 21st April 2015
FORMER Randolph Hotel Maitre D’ Giuseppe Vurchio said he was shocked by Friday’s devastating blaze.
7:00am Tuesday 21st April 2015
THE Randolph Hotel is hoping to reopen by Monday after structural engineers said the building was safe.
6:30am Tuesday 21st April 2015
A MOTHER whose son was refused a place at his two first choice primary schools says she now faces a 40-minute walk to the one allocated by Oxfordshire County Council.
6:30am Tuesday 21st April 2015
PERSONAL references for an armed robber jailed for more than six years came from the Lord Mayor of Oxford and two city councillors.
6:10am Tuesday 21st April 2015
THE trust that will manage the primary school in the new Barton Park development was decided by councillors yesterday.
5:30am Tuesday 21st April 2015
A HOMELESS man given an anti-social behaviour order for trying to spread tuberculosis (TB) has gone on trial in Oxford Crown Court.
8:08am Monday 20th April 2015
THE manager of Oxford’s Randolph Hotel has said the fire caused millions of pounds of damage.