WHEN the sounds of the organ at St Andrew’s Church rang through the historic building on Saturday evening, to a packed crowd that included the Bishop of Hull, it marked the culmination of a 22-year conservation crusade by Cathy Otton-Goulder.
When she moved to Bainton, deep in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds near Driffield, in 1994, the Gothic church was in need of substantial restoration.
Little did she know the project would take over the next two decades of her life, a “personal crusade”, which has literally seen her become part of the fabric of the building - as she, and her cat, are now immortalised as stone gargoyles of the south facing facade, a thank you from the church council.
The complex restoration of the 19th century organ was the final major project of the £1m restoration of St Andrew’s, which has included a new roof, restoration of the tower, and the creation of community rooms, a kitchen and toilets, securing a future for the Grade-I listed building.
It had been unplayable for 30 years, and there were fears that it was beyond rescue, but experts from one of the country’s few remaining specialist firms, A.J. Carter Organ Builders in Wakefield, completely dismantled, cleaned and tuned the 27 pipe instrument.
The “amazing” moment when the organist Paul Hale, played it on Saturday, could not have come soon enough.
Miss Otton-Goulder said: “The last time the organ played was back in 1986 and it was in such bad condition that when the keys were pressed and sound boomed out mice jumped out of the pipes. Hearing the church filled with music again is such a delight. It’s a fabulous tribute to two decades of hard work rescuing this beautiful place.”
Raising £1m has certainly been a challenge. It has seen Miss Otton-Goulder, a barrister, dedicate untold hours of time to applying for grants, with major donations coming from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and around 40 other smaller trusts and foundations also giving smaller donations.
It has also seen her take on personal fundraising challenges, such as a sponsored bike ride and opening a pop-up restaurant in her house, to persuading villagers to open their own homes to bed and breakfast guests attending conferences and events at the church.
There are still some stonework jobs to finish, but a break of sorts now beckons for Miss Otton-Goulder. She will now devote much of the time she spent applying for grants and coming up with fundraising ideas to completing the doctorate she has been studying for part-time at Oxford University on the effect of the Reformation on East Yorkshire churches for the last seven years.
She added: “There will always be maintenance and restoration work required on a building of such grandeur, size and antiquity, but it is now essentially in a condition in which it will comfortably survive without major expenditure for another century.”
The 14th century St Andrew’s is not the only church Cathy Otton-Goulder has tirelessly fundraised for - 11 other churches in the East Riding have had a similar treatment.
But it is St Andrew’s that is closest to her heart. “It’s the biggest, the best and the most beautiful,” she said.
The Norman font survived the incursions by the Scots that probably destroyed the original church, and the highly decorative features that stand today date back to the 14th century. The organ, built by Hull’s, Forster & Andrews, dates back to the mid 1800s.
Two free organ concerts are planned for August 27 and September 24, starting at 7.30pm, and Beverley Minster Choir will also be giving a celebratory performance at the church on October 2 at 5pm. Tickets can be reserved by calling 01377 217283, or online using Eventbrite.