Basingstoke Trip

Saturday 25 June 2011

Our first trip of the year visited a number of organs in the north of the county, all of which have been worked on recently.

Our first visit was in St Michael's church Basingstoke, an oasis of 14th century charm that contrasted markedly with the impersonal atmosphere of the Festival Place shopping centre and the Anvil Arts centre next door. The organ is an extensive, if not comprehensive, two manual instrument. The pipes and somewhat uninspiring case stand on a platform in the south western corner of the nave above the main entrance, while the organ is played from a mobile console. Although its basis was in an 1860s J W Walker organ, it has been comprehesively rebuilt several times, most recently by Henry Willis and company in 2005.

OUr next stop was another charming ancient church, at Old Basing, which is the church that is prominently seen just to the north of Basingstoke on the London train line. This church has been sensitively extended recently with a tasteful complex of rooms providing extra facilities and a meeting room for the church. Over coffee and excellent home made biscuits, the organist described the restoration of the largely unmolested Bevington organ by Walkers in 2004. This comprehensive restoration also removed the mock tudor case added in the 1930s, uncovering the splendid stencilled pipes, which were restored. This organ proved to be a typically characterful and engaging example of a mid-Victorian country village parish church organ, which delighted all that heard and played it, not least its highly appreciative congregation and organist.

After the customary pub lunch, we visited Harltey Wintney, where the Victorian church has been described as "The most ugly building in the county", following the demise of the 1960s Hampshire County Council HQ office block in Winchester four years ago. The organ was very pleasing however, placed in a prominent position on a platform in the weternmost bay of the nave, from where it fills the church with sound with ease. The console is mobile and is usually placed at the east end of the north nave aisle but it was moved to the head of the nave for our visit. The church is about to embark on a large building project and the position of the organ is causing some controversy and it may be moved.

Our thanks go to our hosts at Basingstoke, Old Basing and Harltey Wintney, as well as Jeffery Williams for arranging the visits.



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