Heritage Crafts

Organ building

The building and restoration of pipe organs (mainly in churches), including tuning and maintenance.
Currently viable
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area practiced currently


The craft of organ building in the UK stretches back hundreds of years, peaking in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The craft has been influenced by European styles over the centuries.


The profession encompasses a broad range of specialist skills in wood-, metal- and leather-work, alongside those required for the voicing and tuning of pipework and the designing of new instruments. The craft also includes the restoration, to particular standards, of existing pipe organs and the regular maintenance of a large number throughout the UK.

More specifically, the skills include carpentry, cabinet making, leatherwork, electrical work (mainly for modern control systems), tuning, voicing (making pipes speak at the right note), design (including CAD), and conservation techniques.

The crafts come together to produce a wide range of pipe organs from small single manual instruments to very large instruments comprising 3 or 4 manuals and pedals; the skills required also support the building and restoration of instruments with mechanical, pneumatic, electrical or electronic control.practice organs.


Organ building might be considered a sub-craft of musical instrument making; within organ building, the skillset associated with constructing a large cathedral organ would be considered slightly different to those associated with building small portable organs.

Issues affecting the viability

  • Funding: parishes, parishioners, town halls (and other public buildings) have limited resources. Grants, especially from the Heritage Lottery Fund, are available but not all projects meet their requirements.
  • Covid 19: The coronavirus pandemic is expected to have a negative effect on church attendance and fund raising which will in turn affect the organ building industry.

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

The Institute of British Organ Building has a list of accredited organ builders on its website.

Other information

The Institute of British Organ Building has recently had a national organ building apprentice standard approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships, with the Royal College of Organists as the assessment body. However, the industry has experienced difficulty in appointing a training body that meets the government’s criteria so the scheme has not yet commenced

National Lottery Heritage Fund
Swire Charitable Trust
The Royal Mint
Pilgrim Trust
Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation
William Grant Foundation

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