The pipe organ at Bishop Street Methodist Church is ranked among the top handful of Leicester's pipe organs. With a three manual Hill Norman and Beard console and casework that dates back possibly to the time of Father Smith, it both looks and sounds both impressive and harmonious.
In 1847 The church was expanded eastwards by a bay to both give a larger chapel area, and create the area beyond the present pulpit. When first built this would have been for an orchestra and choir. However, as part of a rapid change in church music in the mid-nineteenth century, in 1858 a two manual organ was installed.
This was bought from Groves and Mitchell of London, who had incorporated casework that came from St Margaret's Church, Leicester, where it had been installed in 1772 and for some time was regarded as the work of Father Smith. More recently it is thought to be the work of Christopher Shrider in the period 1710-1720. The casework remains as the central portion of what is now a much larger church organ.
The organ has been expanded on a number of occasions, including an extension to the 'Swell Organ' in 1869 and the addition of a third manual, the 'Choir Organ', in 1878. The most significant renovation was by Hill, Norman & Beard ('Organ Builders to King George V') in 1936. Electro-pneumatic action provided a much lighter touch for the keyboard and at the same time the console, originally sited centrally as an integral part of the original organ casework, was replaced by a new detached console in Hill Norman and Beard's cinematic design.
In place of the traditional banks of stops on the left and right of the manuals there were tabs or stop keys arranged in a semi-circular horse shoe design, the tabs being grouped from left to right for Pedal, Swell, Great and Choir respectively. The fretwork panels either side of the original casework were added to cater for the extra rows of pipes needed for the fourteen new stops in the expanded instrument, which also allowed all of the casework to be set further back.
In 1970 the organ received a major overhaul, but then had no significant repair work until a substantial restoration in 2016-2017. This most recent work cost about £92,000. As well as local fundraising, and grants from the Methodist Circuit and District, this significant sum was raised with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund (£44k) and the Historic Churches Trust. On completion, the restoration bequethed Church and city a marvellous instrument. Download the attached file to see the organ's post-restoration specification.