Pipes fit for a queen as organ’s golden years return: IMG 8289

01 Sep 2023

Pipes fit for a queen as organ’s golden years return

Leeds Town Hall Arts

More than 160 years ago, they made their glittering debut during a right royal performance attended by Queen Victoria.

Now the magnificent decorative pipes of Leeds Town Hall’s stunning organ are being restored to their former glory as part of a once in a lifetime renewal project.

Specialist artists Robert Woodland MBE and Debra Miller of The Upright Gilders have taken on the painstaking task of recreating the spectacular appearance the organ pipes had when the iconic building’s Victoria Hall hosted the queen and other dignitaries for its opening night in 1858.

Carefully stripping away layers of more recent paintwork, they have uncovered original ornamental designs hidden for more than a century. Using delicate, traditional stencil techniques employed by Victorian artisans, they have also meticulously applied beautiful gold leaf by hand to recreate the pipes’ vintage look.

Robert, a master marble painter and wood grainer, has been studying the hall’s original decorative artwork. He said: “The restored pipes look absolutely stunning, and it’s been a real privilege to recreate the original artistic vision the designers had all those years ago.”

Debra added: “We’ve uncovered a field of gold ornament hidden for some 100 years under several period decorations and restored to the original scheme Queen Victoria herself viewed at the opening of Leeds Town Hall in late summer of 1858.”

The restoration of the organ’s external pipes marks the latest stage in the landmark heritage project to rejuvenate one of the largest instruments of its kind in the world.

Elsewhere, engineers from Nicholson and Co. Ltd have been working on the colossal, 70 tonne organ’s 6,000 internal pipes replacing much of the ageing mechanism to give the organ an improved sound during future performances.

Music lovers also have the chance to adopt one of the historic organ’s newly refurbished pipes. Their names will be added to a special book permanently housed inside the instrument when it is completed. Money from the pipe adoption scheme will go to support the cost of the organ refurbishment.

The organ project is itself part of a much wider scheme which will refurbish and restore Leeds Town Hall preserving a Grade 1 listed public asset and ensuring the building can host large-scale events and concerts, generating significant income for the council and the city whilst engaging with the wider audiences.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund pledged a grant of £249,810 toward the project to restore Victoria Hall and rebuild the organ. 

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “Leeds Town Hall is one of the city’s most beloved heritage assets and has been an iconic part of Leeds’s urban landscape for more than 160 years. It’s crucial that we protect and preserve such an important aspect of our city’s identity and culture.

“This once-in-a-lifetime project is also about the building’s future and will create a 21st century performance venue that will welcome thousands of visitors every year and generate significant income and investment for the city as a whole.

“It’s exciting to see this landmark project progressing and to see the past, present and future of Leeds Town Hall coming together.”

More information on the town hall, including upcoming events and how you can support the building by making a donation and being part of fundraising, can be found at: www.leedstownhall.co.uk/support-us

More details on the adopt an organ pipe project can be found at https://www.leedstownhall.co.uk/support-us/adopt-an-organ-pipe


For media enquiries contact:

Leeds City Council Communications team