Fressingfield’s iconic Victorian organ handed lifeline by £50k grant

Fressingfield, Suffolk. St Peter & St Paul Church has received a �50,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore its historic Father Willis organ in the church. Pictured is Jenny Whitehurst and members of the fundraising and development team behind the restoration of the organ.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE ANL-161214-115725009

Fressingfield, Suffolk. St Peter & St Paul Church has received a �50,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore its historic Father Willis organ in the church. Pictured is Jenny Whitehurst and members of the fundraising and development team behind the restoration of the organ. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE ANL-161214-115725009

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An historic fixture of a north Suffolk church which has stood in the village for nearly eight decades has gained a vital lifeline, thanks to a funding boost for urgent restoration works.

St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Fressingfield received £50,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a significant refurbishment of the Father Henry Willis organ, an historic instrument with connections to royalty, and a feature of the church for 77 years.

Following the works, which will involve a full clean and a renovation of the casement, the organ will be available for use by local schools and community groups for lessons, as well as exploring the instrument’s heritage through research, workshops, special talks and music events.

Jenny Whitehurst, organ restoration project manager, explained the instrument was “in quite a bad way”, and she thanked not only the HLF, but also the local fundraisers, for their role in helping keep this “important central part of the village” alive.

She said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and know that the organ will continue to enrich the lives of the village and wider community.

“So many people are involved in the project, learning to appreciate the heritage in the centre of their community.”

Built back in 1865, the Father Willis organ was commissioned by Queen Victoria for the Royal Chapel of Savoy in London.

It remained there until 1939, when it was bought by Reverend Thursford Pitt, of Fressingfield, for £55 — equal to £2,513 today.

Local rector, the Reverend Susan Loxton, stated: “The organ plays an important role in the worship life of church and is enjoyed by the wider community at weddings, funerals and concerts.

“We are so pleased we are able to proceed with this restoration.”

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East England, added: “Restoring the organ and sharing its history and role in the wider community will ensure the rich musical traditions of St Peter and St Paul will flourish in years to come.”