with the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches [DAC]

46, Hallgarth Street,
Tel: 0191-386-2301




Organs in churches

The organ is often the single most valuable item in a church, and so it makes good sense to appraise its capacities and qualities, and to seek an informed view from time to time about its maintenance.  Independent advice becomes a necessity if major overhaul seems due, or if moving, re-building or replacement of the existing instrument is envisaged. 

Useful general background guidance is provided in various publications: the Church Buildings Council [CBC, formerly the Council for the Care of Churches]'s booklet "Sounds good" (Church House Publishing, 2002), and its earlier pamphlet "Repair or Replace?" (1990, content now online).  Dominic Gwynn's booklet "Historic Organ Conservation: a practical introduction to process and planning" (Church House Publishing, 2001), and The British Institute of Organ Studies' online Guidance webpages, are also useful sources.  Nevertheless, the local circumstances are important;  organs and their particular attributes are infinitely diverse. The Diocesan Advisory Committee therefore includes a specialist on organ matters, able to assess the worth, utility and condition of an instrument, and the appropriateness and value for money of proposals. 

As a first step in considering any work or changes involving an organ (other than limited work or tuning - see next paragraph), churches are encouraged to contact and discuss matters with the Diocesan Organs Adviser. The Adviser will normally arrange to inspect the instrument and advise on a possible course of action (or options) and procedures. Early informal consideration and understanding is mutually valuable, helping the client in preparing suitable proposals, and the Diocesan Advisory Committee consider them favourably when those proposals are progressed. That way, hopefully, the procedural pitfalls can be avoided as well. It is in everyone's interest - not least because there are "teeth" which could be brought to bear - to be certain before commencing work that the church has obtained the necessary Faculty or Archdeacon's written authority, to be clear as to what if any conditions apply, and then to abide by them (see below). Organ builders as contractors are party to these requirements.

On 1st Jan.2016 the new simplified Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 came into force, which includes significant changes, most notably the introduction of two nationally applicable minor works lists.  Works on what is called List A can usually be carried out without any diocesan consent, subject to some standard conditions [this replaces diocesan de minimis and minor works lists]. Works on a second List [B] can usually be carried out without a Faculty, but do need the written consent of the Archdeacon after informal consultation with the DAC or one or more, often specialist, members.  All other works will still require a Faculty, although that process has been simplified in
a number of respects. The DAC Secretary will be able to advise on the best way forward. You can also find more information including some Frequently Asked Questions on Churchcare: http://churchcare.co.uk/churches/faculty-rules-2015

Since the 1st April 2020, the Faculty rules that govern how churches manage their buildings, churchyards and contents have changed and a new process now exists for all cases submitted on the Online System. https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/12/12/faculty-jurisdiction-further-amendments-april-2020   

As part of these new rules, a number of works have been added to the List A (where permission is not required). The following concern Musical instruments: 

A2. Musical instruments
(1) The introduction or disposal of musical instruments (other than pipe organs and non-portable electronic organs) and associated equipment No article of historic or artistic interest is disposed of
(2) The routine tuning and mainhttps://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/12/12/faculty-jurisdiction-further-amendments-april-2020 tenance of organs and pianos In the case of organs, any works do not involve tonal alterations, changes to the action or major dismantling of the instrument
(3) The repair or replacement of electrical motors and humidification equipment for organs Any work to an electrical installation is carried out by a person whose work is subject to an accredited certification scheme (as defined in rule 3.1(6))

Also in List B (where archdeacon's consent is required):

B4. Church contents
(2) The replacement of an electronic organ (but not of a pipe organ) The original introduction of the electronic organ being replaced was authorised
The replacement electronic organ is on a similar scale to the electronic organ being replaced
(3) Like for like repairs and works of conservation to a pipe organ The archdeacon is satisfied, having regard to the advice of the diocesan advisory committee or a member or officer of the committee, that the person who is to carry out the work has the necessary skill and experience
(4) The installation of humidification equipment for a pipe organ The archdeacon is satisfied, having regard to the advice of the diocesan advisory committee or a member of officer of the committee, that the person who is to carry out the work has the necessary skill and experience
Any work to an electrical installation or electrical equipment is carried out by a person whose work is subject to an accredited certification scheme (as defined in rule 3.1(6))

Note: if intended work does not meet the criteria for List A or List B then full Faculty is required.

It is not always appreciated that organ blowing equipment and the electrical supply to the organ also require regular inspection and maintenance, which may indeed be a condition of fire insurance. 

For questions concerning an harmonium or reed/American organ, you might find it useful to consult the Cambridge Reed Organs website, or Phil Fluke at the Saltaire Reed Organ Museum [e-mail]. 

Recent information pamphlets 

* "Acoustics and Church Music" - a guide for churches and organ builders. Acoustics vitally affect the way in which a congregation experiences both worship and musical performance. Too often decisions made on aesthetic grounds have unexpected acoustic consequences. In particular alterations to a church or its furnishings can have a significant effect on both speech and music, including the sound of the organ. 
* "Church Heating and the Organ" - advice for those who have the care of the organ, and want to secure its continued well-being; 
* "Dealing with Asbestos" - advice for organ-building professionals; 
* "Writing Organ Reports" - advice for organ-builders on the basic information expected when  preparing reports, is also helpful to those commissioning or considering work to organs; 

Each leaflet is available online on the Institute of British Organ Building's website, or free by post [E-mail] (for full address see "other sources" below)


Grants for the restoration of organs
The possibilities for obtaining grant support for organs from heritage funding, national trusts, and local sources, have varied in recent years, but do exist even in times of economic austerity; for results one needs effort, then patience. Grants are never given lightly, are usually available only for genuine restoration work (not alterations) to worthy organs, and often have some strings attached. So it is important to approach the right sources carefully and objectively, with enthusiastic, well targeted, thoroughly thought out and properly prepared plans and proposals, designed to stand the best chance of meeting the grant giver's criteria. 

The British Institute of Organ Studies has prepared a useful leaflet: A Guide [to] Grants for funding work on historic pipe organs, which is available online as a .pdf file, to save and/or print off as required. 

The Institute of British Organ Building's leaflet: "Writing Organ Reports", produced in association with the Council for the Care of Churches) gives advice on best practice in the preparation and presentation of Organ Reports, which is particularly useful if it is intended to seek grant assistance for an organ scheme. This advice is also available online, or free by post from the Institute of British Organ Building [E-mail] (for full address see "other sources" below). 

The Diocesan Organs Adviser can provide preliminary advice as to the likely best grant source(s) and course of action. Please note however that the DOA is not in a position to provide a complete consultancy service, for which separate arrangements would need to be made. A consultant familiar with the requirements could plan and supervise the scheme from start to finish, obtaining and assessing estimates for the work, negotiating, justifying the right scheme to the grant source, and finally overseeing and controlling the quality of work in progress. The Association of Independent Organ Advisors maintains a list of accredited independent organ advisers able to assist those wishing to commission new organs or restore existing ones (contact details below).


The law and procedures in relation to organs 

Changes to previous procedures first came about because of the enactment of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991, intended in part to address a need for consistency with current national Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas legislation. Ecclesiastical exemption from secular controls requires that similar procedures to those which have long applied in the Church of England as the established church, have now been introduced for other denominations also - for Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and URC churches. Nevertheless the future of "self- regulation" will always remain under scrutiny, and it remains in the strategic interest of these church organisations at all levels to be seen to abide by the legislation if the privilege of exemption (as it has been described) is to continue to be seen to be deserved and available. 

Churches need to show that they can exercise proper care and control over the fabric and contents of their buildings and churchyards. In the Church of England, the Measure is applied through the authority of the Diocesan Chancellor and Registry  ie. its legal officers, with sanctions through church courts. A published "Code of Practice" to the Measure, useful but not particularly light reading, is available from the Cathedral Bookshop.

The current advice from Church House on "How to manage your Buildings" is here:

A Diocesan Organs Adviser does not make the rules about the procedural requirements in relation to organs. He, with the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches to whom he is responsible, must try to apply them locally! 

    The DAC Secretary, Dan Spraggon, can be contacted at: 
    The Diocesan Office, Cuthbert House, Stonebridge, DURHAM DH1 3RY 
    Tel: 01388 660001. 

DAC Webpage

The Diocese's Webpages


Other information sources

The Association of Independent Organ Advisers maintains a list of accredited independent organ advisers able to assist those wishing to commission new organs or restore existing ones. Contact: via website

The Institute of British Organbuilding is committed to promoting, achieving and sustaining the highest standards in the building and care of pipe organs, has introduced a system of accreditation for organ-builders, has published a series of useful leaflets, and maintains a register of pipe organs surplus to their present requirements and seeking a new home. 
Details of the IBO may be obtained from: 
      The Administrator: IBO, 
      13 Ryefield, Thurston, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 3TD. 
      Tel.& Fax  01359 23343; E-mail

The Church Buildings Council [CBC] is a permanent commission of the General Synod of the CofE which seeks to educate, promote best practice and provide guidance on all aspects of the care of churches and their contents, overseeing and co-ordinating the work of Diocesan Advisory Committees. The associated Churchcare website provides valuable online advice and guidance on care and maintenance of church contents, including organs. Its Organs Advisory Committee considers and publishes policy and advice on organs, particularly historic instruments, for which grants may be offered from funds provided by the Pilgrim Trust and other charitable sources. 
Contacts: David Knight on organ matters, or e-mail with general enquiries.  The CBC's address is: 
Fifth Floor, Church House, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3NZ. 
Tel. 020 7898 1874; Fax 020 7898 1881.


Other national, regional, and local organ pages which may be of interest:

The British Institute of Organ Studies
The Incorporated Association of Organists
The Royal College of Organists
Darlington Organists' Association
North East organ recitals
Newcastle Society of Organists
Durham Cathedral organs:
Booklet * Brief history * Father Smith * Stoplist * Recitals * The Organists

The Cathedral Website (including forthcoming service music, and diary of events) 

Other organs in the Diocese: (pages and links being developed) 

  • Sherburn Hospital
  • Auckland Castle Chapel
  • Winterton former Hospital Chapel (St.Luke's): organ moved to Brancepeth
  • *
    Simon Fitzgerald's Durham and North East organ pages and links

    Why not see if an organ you know is in the National Pipe Organ Register
    or if it is not, do please send details.

    Maintained by Richard Hird : E-mail : Webpages
    Last updated 16 Feb.2020