Church Renovation 2000-2004

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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.


Quite a few years of discussion and steady argument over rulings took place before the Heritage Lottery Grant was  awarded.  The situation was that in order to acquire the £1.4 million necessary for all the work, the church had to find 25%.  This amount was almost available from the resources of the organ restoration funds.  Make up was achieved from local business sources and other grants.  However, the organ money was ring fenced and only became available when work on the organ actually started – hence big loans from the Diocese in order to get work on the church started.


It goes without saying that a major part of the organ restoration programme has been the complete cleaning of its pipes, structure and immediate environment. Along with this went the routine replacement of materials damaged by corrosion and exposure to elements both within the building and from the acknowledged air pollution that has been particularly bad in Leeds through the 20th Century.



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 These have been replaced by a return to traditional floor level convection installations.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.


Hence the proposition to bring both the Choir and Echo up to a position level with the Great, and pointing forwards instead of presenting a side to the front.  This had further obscured the Echo, then behind both the Great and the Choir.  The new arrangement prompted the moving of the Swell Organ upward and forward.  Further to that, new shutters were fitted which gave a greater dynamic breadth.Our advisors underlined the fact that decisions regarding the voicing of the pipes could only be taken following further study and research, after examining other existing examples of Schulze's work. The overall policy was for a comprehensive and meticulous restoration, in which aspects of the Organ's musical and mechanical state would be paramount. Materials and methods conformed as much as possible to the original works.


Former layout, suspected to be as at Meanwood and in St. Peter.s, Harrogate .

For detailed plans of the layout of the organ and Pipes, drawn between 1973 and 1978, see Organ Plans

The new layout using the full height of the North   Transept.

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:
    1.  Our famous organ would now have a safe and secure home for the future.
    2.  We could go ahead with the long-awaited restoration of the organ we have described within.


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 external work was completed by July, 2001. Every roof has been stripped and re-slated, and the upper reaches of the Church and Tower stonework have been re-pointed. A mass of lightning conductors have replaced the old pair of copper strips, and new safety facilities have been built in to all accessible parts of the roofs.  Delays to the reduction of the scaffolding were in part due to trying to find a relatively calm spell of weather to complete work on the spire cross. This was managed during January, and the gold leafing has proved a spectacular sight in the low sun.


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.


The new lighting, designed by a Bishop Aukland consultancy, is the improvement most commented on by the all-year round visitor (though most people turning up in Winter remark on the warmth of the church).  This lighting hangs above the congregation and shines upwards as well as down.  This causes glass angels and disco-type glass bowls to sparkle, and it brings out the beauty of the roof-work.  It has since one a prize for excellence.  Comments about the heating are forthcoming since the extravagant design has produced a system in which the church is comfortable within 30 minutes of switching on, added to the fact that a minimum of 10°C is maintained at all times.

A booklet about the Church Restoration, complete with numbers of colour photos, is on sale. 
Written by Mike & Thelma Collins,   in 2002.          See Restoration & Renovation

At last, in May, 2002, work began on the organ. Harrison and Harrison of Durham were on site over a period of five weeks, taking out the whole of the interior. Most of it was transported to their shops, leaving only the lower end of the 32-foot Pedal rank in situ, along with a variety of pipes which will require little more than cleaning.


From June, 2003 several contractors were used to provide electric points and lighting, a water supply and humidifier. Now the interior of the chamber is illuminated to provide excellent facilities for tuning and maintenance, and power points are strategically placed (except for the later discovered omission of one to fit a small heater in to warm up the organist!).  Harrison & Harrison’s contractors again erected scaffolding, this time to the full height of the organ. This enabled them to clean and gently polish the whole case, and the uppermost angels were part gilded by local labour. From July onwards the organ frame was reconstructed and the organ returned to the new layout.

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.

The organ was officially re-launched in an extravaganza held over the weekend of Spring Bank Holiday, 2004. On the Friday (28th May) proceedings were opened with a presentation and demonstration given by Mark Venning the Managing Director of Harrison & Harrison and with Graham Barber on the organ.  An evening concert followed of two halves; first Graham, our resident organist and Nicolas Kynaston (consultant to the restoration).  On the Saturday things got under way with a morning Coffee Concert given by Leeds Cathedral Girls’ Choir, with Christopher Newton and Joseph Butler on the organ.  In the afternoon there was an illustrated talk on the Story of the Schulze Organ by Mike Collins, followed by an evening concert by Dame Gillian Weir.  On both days remarkable buffet suppers were put on by Liz Whitaker and friends.  Whit Sunday morning was celebrated with a Festival Mass, including the first

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
Order Form  Souvenir Programme, 2004, price £2.50 including P&P