This instrument, listed as Opus 680, was built by what was, at the time, the largest organ-building firm in Europe, E. F. Walcker of Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Walcker organs are quite rare in the UK – only around 200 found their way to these shores which is a very small percentage of the total number of pipe organs installed throughout the British Isles.
The cost of the organ was, for the time, a substantial £900.00 and it was opened on the 8th. November 1894 by one of the greatest recitalists of the era, W. T. Best, organist of St. George’s hall, Liverpool.
Very little is known about why the trustees of the church chose to place an order with this particular firm, but suffice it to say that they received an instrument of exceptional quality and most of the original pipework can still be heard today, along with several additional stops which have been added at various points during the organ’s life.
Modifications to the specification and pipework of the organ occurred in 1914, 1921 and 1934 under the auspices of the Liverpool firm of Rushworth & Dreaper.
By 1954, it was the action connecting the console to the pipes which was in need of serious attention. The original Walcker console was operated by what is known as tubular pneumatic action but, because of considerable deterioration, much re-leathering work was needed to keep the organ operative. These repairs lasted until 1973 when the organ was in a state of impending collapse and a unanimous decision by the church trustees resulted in this special instrument receiving a total rebuild, including a new drawstop console with electric action. The work was entrusted to the pendlebury organ company of cleveleys and it was completed in time for a re-opening recital by Jennifer Bate on the 3rd. September 1974.
Each pipe in the organ is fitted with a leather motor, or small bellows, resulting in a total of over 1600 motors. By the early 1990’s, much of this leather work was showing signs of deterioration and further refurbishment work was completed in 1998 at a cost of £8342.00.
The forward-looking decisions taken by various groups of church officials over the years have ensured that this superb instrument will be able to continue to serve The Drive Methodist Church for many years to come. Alongside this description of the organ is an extract from the original hand-written designs and specification drawn up in 1893 by Oscar Walcker, Great Grandfather of the firm’s current Managing Director.