A FOLK museum is raising funds to refurbish its church organ so that it can, once again, take pride of place as a grand attraction.

High House Methodist Chapel in Ireshopeburn sadly closed in 2019 but the building has been purchased by the adjoining Weardale Museum to form part of a development into a heritage centre.

One of the key features of the old chapel is the Vincent Organ which was the first pipe organ acquired by Methodists in Weardale.

The organ is a very fine instrument made by C J Vincent of Sunderland in around 1872; Vincent was a well renowned company.

It has been in the chapel since 1884 but it already had a story behind it, one of great tragedy behind it which is another link to Sunderland.

The organ was bought from the Victoria Hall in Sunderland where, in 1883, a concert was held for children.

With the promise of prizes many children rushed down the stairs from the gallery but a door on one of the landings had been bolted with only a narrow gap.

In the crush that followed 183 children lost their lives, most being suffocated.

The disaster was reported nationally and devastated the town, and a statue was erected to commemorate the lives lost.

Quite how High House Chapel heard of the organ’s availability is not known but it must have taken some generous donations to purchase it, have it dismantled, transported from Sunderland and then re-assembled in Ireshopeburn.

The organ was extended in 1903 and has been renovated on several occasions since.

It’s beautiful and melodious sound has been heard for over 135 years at services, concerts and special occasions with its rich clear tone a tribute to the builder and all those who have followed him.

It is very important to the Weardale Museum that the Vincent Organ continues to play a part in its future but it needs to be dismantled, removed and refurbished before taking pride of place once more.

Kate Gill, Curator of the Weardale Museum said: “The Vincent Organ has been an integral part of High House Chapel since 1884.

"Played at weekly services, weddings and funerals it has been part of the life of Upper Weardale.

"The museum trustees feel that its place in the new museum and heritage centre is vital to continue the link with those who worshipped in the chapel over many years.

"The museum hopes that in the future it will be heard again when it features in concerts and recitals.”

The estimated costs for the work is £16,000, the museum have already received a generous grant which will meet half the cost but the small volunteer community needs to raise the rest.

The museum is now appealing to music lovers, historians and the people of the North East to help preserve this treasure for future generations.

Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth said: “To have one of, probably the oldest organs in working order refurbished could attract visitors to the area and assist the local economy, and is good for Weardale.”

For those who would like to donate, donations can be made via the Just Giving page: justgiving.com/campaign/savehighhouseorgan