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Plans to restore Wolverhampton's historic organ to its former glory scrapped

By Annabal Bagdi | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Plans to restore Wolverhampton's historic organ to its former glory have been scrapped after council bosses refused to pay the £2 million revamp fees.

Organist Damon Willetts with the Compton Organ at Wolverhampton Civic Hall, which will cost too much to repair and restore

More than 6,200 pipes of the organ, which dates back to 1938, will be 'disposed' of after Wolverhampton Council claimed proposals were 'no longer financially viable'.

But the Labour-led council has since been blasted for failing to move the iconic organ from its home before work at the 80-year-old Civic Halls began.

Leader of the opposition Councillor Wendy Thompson said: "If the organ was removed before the asbestos work, the organ would still be in a good condition.

"It's not just immensely disappointing, it's a sign of greater issues because it's now, yet again, another example of Wolverhampton Council not taking proper care of public money and assets.

"I think many people in Wolverhampton care about history. I'm sure they will wish more care had been taken with it, and more thought."

The council revealed plans to remove the organ from its home in the roof of the Grade II-listed Civic Hall two years ago.

The organ, which was built by British firm John Compton and Company, needed to be moved to enable better ventilation for fire safety and increase stage space as part of the Civic Halls refurbishment.

It has 6,241 pipes, which range from one-and-a-half inches to 16 feet in height.

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Further investigation during the works uncovered the pipes were in poor condition but now plans have had to be scrapped due to 'staggering' costs and no possibility of funding from the Heritage Lottery.

Historic England has no objection on heritage grounds to dispose of the pipes, as approved by planning officials, the council said.

But the council is reviewing options to preserve the organ console.

Councillor John Reynolds, the council's cabinet member for city economy, said: "We are in the process of carrying out a sensitive refurbishment of Wolverhampton’s historic Civic Halls.

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“Working closely with Historic England, we have looked at all the options available to us with the organ but unfortunately this is the only one that makes financial sense and we are really disappointed we are unable to restore it.

“The Civic Halls are internationally recognised and popular among UK audiences and the entertainment industry, attracting very large audiences.

“Increasing the space above the stage at the Civic Hall will enable it to accommodate bigger productions including touring groups, which the region cannot currently attract.

“There is huge potential for bringing new audiences from across the West Midlands to live events and music, festivals, the arts, culture and night life.

“This in turn means even more visitors to Wolverhampton city centre and the wider sub-region resulting in the creation of more jobs in the local economy.”

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton.

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