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Why a flatulent organ in a Finsbury Park church is one of Islington’s most precious artefacts

PUBLISHED: 16:04 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:11 14 June 2017

St Thomas the Apostle Church parishioners and organ fundraisers, from left: Cynthia Mapp, Anthony Dass, Julie Evans, Anne Rose and Andrew Greer. Picture: Catherine Davison

St Thomas the Apostle Church parishioners and organ fundraisers, from left: Cynthia Mapp, Anthony Dass, Julie Evans, Anne Rose and Andrew Greer. Picture: Catherine Davison

Catherine Davison

It’s been defaced with 127 years’ worth of graffiti and suffers chronic flatulance. But the organ at St Thomas the Apostle Church is one of Islington’s most precious artefacts.

The Alfred Monk maker's sign at the top of the organ in St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison The Alfred Monk maker's sign at the top of the organ in St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison

It was built by famous organ maker Monk’s of Holloway. Some reckon it’s the only unaltered Monk organ remaining in the world.

It was installed at the church in St Thomas’s Road, Finsbury Park, in 1890. But after so many years of wear and tear, the time has come for repairs.

Organist Andrew Greer says: “The bellows, which control the wind, are leaking really badly. Whenever the organ is on, you can hear the gust through the whole church. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the actual service.”

The bellows need to be re-leathered. To do that, the whole organ must be repositioned and dismantled. But the church needs help – this week-and-a-half job will cost about £70,000.

Andrew Greer plays the organ in St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison Andrew Greer plays the organ in St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison

“The space inside the organ is minuscule,” says Andrew. “I don’t know how they did repairs back in the day. It wouldn’t pass today’s health and safety regulations.

“This organ has been here from the very start. It’s vital to how we operate as a church – a huge part of our worship. And the fact it was made by a local organ builder in Holloway Road means it has real historical importance. It’s one of the few unaltered Monk organs left.”

St Thomas the Apostle opened in 1889. Church historian Malcolm Marjoram says: “Worship on that site actually goes back to the 1870s. Finsbury Park had a growing population, and there was a temporary chapel built to meet demand.

“Eventually people couldn’t get in because it was too crowded, so the current building was built and opened in 1889.

St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison St Thomas the Apostle Church, Finsbury Park. Picture: Catherine Davison

“The organ was installed a year later. It has loads of graffiti scratched onto the woodwork from choirboys over the years – and we are hoping to keep this when it’s renovated.”

To raise money, the church is holding a “midsummer music night” at 7.30pm next Thursday. The concert will feature Britain’s Got Talent winner Jamie Raven, Highbury Young Voices, Gillespie Band, Highbury Grove School, Highbury Chamber Choir and classical guitarist Julian Morgan.

Tickets on the door are priced £5 to £8. Alternatively, book by visiting eventbrite.co.uk/e/organ-fund-summer-concert-tickets-34581144133

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