Church Renovation 2000-2004
Restoration & Improvements, 2000 to 2004
There were three major stages to the Restoration Programme of 2000 – 2004. First off was the external work on the church, and because of the timing of the Heritage Lottery Grant, this fell in the wild, wet winter of 2000/1, running into late spring. So as a result we have pictures of the roofers, who worked almost constantly throughout this period, padded up with more skins than an onion, and later stripped to the waist. The second stage concentrated on the internal church work (through a particularly pleasant summer), and lasted into the early spring of 2002. Finally came the Schulze Organ – the inspiration behind the entire project – from stripping out in May, 2002 to gently re-opening in part for Christmas, 2003, with completion in May, 2004.
Improvement work on the church included the removal of the unsightly and threatening gas radiation strips down both sides of the building. These have been replaced by a return to traditional floor level convection installations. The old system had been seen to contribute to the condensation within the organ, leading to material damage, and adding to that dramatic damp on the manuals was in evidence following severe changes in winter weather. This was due to large fluctuations in the internal temperature as heating occurred just briefly at weekends. Now a minimum temperature is achieved through a constantly monitored thermostatic control. Along with the removal of the gas heating came the replacement of the fluorescent tube lighting in a return to the 1900 look of chandeliers. These have been hung in a far more effective manner, away from the arches and over the congregation or audience. As a result, the aesthetic appeal of the bare arches is apparent for the first time in the building's life. Regarding the organ, both terms 'restoration' and 'improvement' lead to proposals which fuel debate amongst various experts, and a sensitive balance has to be maintained between the contemporary technology for which the pipes were designed, and more radically, that of today.
There was a line of argument to try and return to the type of subtle attack which Schulze achieved with his action. This was amended by Binns, and changed considerably in later years with the introduction of an electro-pneumatic system of sharp attack. Uncertainty about the precise nature of the original delivery led our consultants to tread warily on this one. They appeared happier when considering the actual pipe-work. Though generally excellent, there was evidence of certain pipes being on the verge of over-blowing, due to irregularities created over the many years of work on the instrument. This most likely occurred during cleaning operations, rather than at the time of the Binns major overhaul.Of great interest was the question of overall layout. To our best knowledge the various organs were arranged in a similar fashion to their original set up at Meanwood, and later in St. Peter's in Harrogate . Judging by the somewhat cramped layout before 2002, the arrangement of the various departments must have been retained as at St. Peter’s, perfectly fitting the south transept there. It appears that no opportunity was taken to house the organ differently within the extra space afforded by the gargantuan proportions of St.Bartholomew's.
In the former layout the bulk of the Great Organ was felt to somewhat obscure the Choir and Echo, both of which were situated behind and below. Where they would have filtered out within the confines of the Meanwood chalet, they tended to appear muffled from the back of the large auditorium at Armley.
On 25th July, 2000, we were informed that St. Bartholomew’s had been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant towards carrying out repairs and improvements. As far as the Schulze Organ was concerned this news meant two things:
As a result, in the late-September of 2000, the Church was rapidly being cocooned in scaffolding, and as from June 2002, the Organ was silenced for about 18 months as the specialist contractors, Harrison & Harrison, took it to bits for cleaning, restoration and re-ordering. Fittingly, Prof Graham Barber gave a short closing recital to visitors to the Leeds Heritage Open Weekend on Sunday afternoon, 16th September, 2000. He concluded with a requested performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which, despite a storming presentation, managed to adequately show up the faults and problems that lay within.
Throughout the Autumn of 2000, the Church gradually disappeared under a very impressive cloak of scaffolding, stretching right up to the cross at the peak of the spire. (So impressive in fact, that it inspired a souvenir postcard to add to our currently available collection.) The work of Mitie of Middlesborough, the scaffolding disappeared much later than planned due to the extremely bad weather experienced in the Autumn and Winter of 2000/2001. Overseeing the exterior work were the building contractors Walter G. Birch of Harrogate.
All the stained glass windows have been repaired and restored. These had been vandalised over the years, starting with air gun pellets, small stones and golf balls, graduating upwards to footballs! Working from old photographs and considerable experience, what we thought to be the impossible restoration of the stained glass was carried out to a remarkable standard. This work was done either on site or at the specialist studios of Kyme's in Middlesborough, who have also provided and fixed new protective guards. As a by-product of this work, the windows in the North Transept have been opened up for the first time in living memory, allowing daylight into the Organ chamber. One interesting sideline of the work was the opportunity to take a picture of the Organ from the unique position of the high rose window of the South Transept, whilst one of the repaired sections of glass was being installed.
Major work on the interior of the church, including the new lighting and heating and the provision of better wheelchair access, was completed in April, 2002 . Two sections of scaffolding gave access to the roof angel hammer beams for gilding, and the Chancel and Sanctuary ceilings for repair, painting and part gilding. Suspension columns for the new lighting were fixed in this period. Meanwhile, at floor level, the new heating system was installed, and broken and cracked concrete flooring was replaced in Yorkshire stone. Extensive masonry work, by G. Payne Masonry of Ripon, was carried out, with the accommodation of wheelchairs in mind. Steps were removed as floors were levelled, and both internal and external ramps were provided. A new public address system was installed, with CD playing facilities. For the bulk of 2001 all main church services were transferred to the Church Hall.
In early January 2004 the organ was ready for the final pipe installations and for final voicing and tuning. This was a long and laborious operation and was only partly completed when the organ was heard again for the first time on Sunday, 22nd February. It was prematurely rededicated, along with the church, by the Archbishop of York on 3rd March.
performance of a Mass for St. Bartholomew by Graham Barber. In the evening a Grand Concert of pieces for organ and orchestra took place featuring the weekend’s principal organists. Spring Bank Holiday morning brought a return of the popular Christopher Newton (Assistant Organist) morning concert.
For a copy of the programme recording this momentous occasion, see