IT STARTED eight years ago, when members of the congregation at
St Michael's, Betchworth, in Southwark diocese,
realised that their Victorian organ was dying. On some Sundays, it
would not work at all. A rebuild was ruled out as too expensive; so
the PCC decided to try and raise £250,000 for a new pipe-organ - an
enormous venture for a parish of 900 inhabitants.
It was a marathon of fund-raising, starting with a
calendar-girls-type calendar; then a magnificent Edwardian Fair,
when the whole village turned out in period costume; an auction of
promises; a flower festival; quiz nights; golf days; bridge
afternoons; a dog show; and a cooking show. There were swimathons,
a Young Farmers' Cowpie Rally (whatever that is), and concerts.
Eventually, they offered sponsored pipes to suit every pocket,
and each sponsor had a beautifully designed certificate naming the
pipe and a dedication - and that alone raised £33,000.
But, not unsurprisingly, after a few years, ideas began to flag
until their new Rector, the Revd Carol Coslett, suggested that the
space where the old organ had been should be converted into a new
vestry/green room. That was universally agreed to be a great idea,
and it was incorporated into the scheme, the cost of which had now
risen to £400,000 - and they still did not have enough funds to
place an order for an organ.
So they went back to the village, and asked individuals to
pledge a monthly sum for three years. The money started to come in
again, and so did a generous grant from the Peter Harrison
In the mean time, however, while excavating the floor for the
new vestry, they found two old vaults from the 17th century which
had to be expensively reconstructed, and one of the churchwardens,
Graham Williams, fashioned a new casket for the disordered bones
from one of the old wooden organ-pipes before a service of
Now, after eight years, the whole project is nearly done, and
the inaugural organ concert will be on the last day of May.