Refurbishment works completed to restore music to church gallery
PUBLISHED: 09:30 09 November 2019
Music will ring out from the gallery of a Sidmouth church for the first time in 140 years after an 18-month refurbishment project.
The work at the Dissenter of Sidmouth, in All Saints Road, has been carried out by Paul O'Grady to restore the West Gallery to its former glory.
The musicians' gallery dates back to the early 18th century when the meeting house was built after Presbyterian dissenters permitted for a second church to be opened.
The upstairs gallery in the Unitarian Church fell into disrepair after the organ became irreparable during the 1970s.
Mr O'Grady had a huge task on his hands to remove the organ and repair broken windows and holes in the cob wall found behind the instrument.
The improved gallery has been updated with plugs, a new carpet and paint.
To celebrate the end of the project, the national West Gallery Music Association will be the first to perform in the West Gallery on Saturday (November 9).
Mr O'Grady said: "It was a big job and it was all on my own.
"It was an amazing project. What is wonderful is it's going to be a venue of some of interest to the church and the people of Sidmouth."
Back through its history, improvements were made to the church throughout Victorian times to replace the thatched roof with shipboard ceiling and some of the Puritan windows with neo-Gothic designs.
The changes to the windows include a stained glass representation of the Sermon on the Mount and the installation of the organ.
Records indicate it was around 1978 that the organ became unusable and was unable to be replaced.
A church spokesman said: "By then the Unitarian church was less prosperous than a century earlier so it was left untouched for 40 years.
"When it was dismantled the wood and metal were reclaimed and the century of neglect behind the organ had to be made good.
"November 9 will see the first music in the gallery for at least 140 years."
The concert celebrated the bi-centenary of the compositions of the Rev.NS Heineken, friend and mentor to Sidmouth's Peter Orlando Hutchinson.
The performers will also play at Sidholme Hotel's Music Room.