of organ pipes often provides an immediate clue to the date and
builder of an instrument.
(Click on image to see wider view)
Gilding - the
covering of the metal with gold leaf - was a common practice in
the eighteenth century and is sometimes used in modern instruments.
It provides a rich finish that contrasts especially well with casework
in a dark wood. Despite the gold covering being very thin (about
1/1000th of an inch) it is extremely durable.
Figure 1. shows
a modern choir organ case with gilded pipes on ~ approximately ~
18th century lines. This is in St Lawrence Jewry, in the City of
London: (the main case is visible in the background in the larger
image - just click on the picture to the left). The gilt-finished
pipes reflect the use of this material elsewhere in the building
~ notably on the capitals of pillars, ceiling bosses and candelabrum.
churches of classic design remain, especially in the City of London
and in parts of the USA where colonial-style architecture is preserved.
Where original organ cases exist, they are usually well worthy
of examination. Copies and reproductions can easily be detected;
a look at this smaller addition at St Lawrence's, even in a photograph,
shows that it is modern.
taste for elaborate decoration led to a fashion ~ that lasted
for half-a-century or more ~ for painted and ornamented front
pipes. This Willis organ (fig 2.)shows gilt applied to paint.
The arrangement is less formal and regimented than usual, with
pipes of varying base colours. This may have been influenced by
a vogue for Chinoiserie; furniture and clocks in similar style
date from the 1870s as does this organ.
Click on image to see large version
The more usual
decoration of painted pipes, had "boot topping", mouths
and sometimes centre panels picked out in another colour or in gilt.
Numerous firms, large and small, catered for Victorian taste for
elaborate, sometimes florid, decoration. Stencils and transfers
in graduated sizes for application to display pipes appear in their
catalogues, occasionally to be found in secondhand bookshops.
The final appearance
these give was not always what the designer intended. One organ
with block ornament on its visible 32' pipes has more than once
elicited an enquiry as to the source and proposed use of such large
rolls of linoleum (oilcloth).
of some builders has been a finish unadorned metal. Zinc, with its
bluish tint, is sometimes seen for bass pipes, as is copper; opinions
on their beauty vary.
of choice of many is an alloy with a very high tin content: indeed
many instruments, perhaps especially in Germany, Holland and Austria
have pipes of proof tin. The final picture in the Diary of the building
of the Town Hall Rieger (May
18th 1997) shows Wendelin Eberle giving front pipes a final
The beauty of
this finish is unsurpassed and most durable; in churches, it reflects
colour and light from windows and candles. So it does in Christchurch
Town Hall as shown by Jenny Setchell's picture 3, which she calls
~ Pipe flames ~
The facade of the Christchurch Rieger pit only by the house working
lights. Picture 1:
Crown copyright: by permission the Royal Commission on Historical
Monuments/English heritage. Pictures
2 & 3; Jenny Setchell.