Organist’s 1,000-mile cycle will support ambitious church refurbishment plan

First published on: 26th March 2024

An organist at a North Tyneside church is set to embark on a unique bike ride to raise vital funds for an ambitious fundraising project.

Nigel Brown plays the Postill organ at St John’s, Killingworth, which is so historic it is listed - and likely pre-dates the 155-year-old church.

A huge fundraising campaign is ongoing to raise £600,000 which would re-model the North side of the church - and also help to restore the organ, constructed by the prolific organ builder Robert Postill in the 19th century, back to its former glory.

Nigel, an experienced organist who enjoys cycling, is set to ride his bike to all of the nine churches in the UK where Postil organs are present. He will do this over several separate journeys over the course of this year, totalling 1,000 miles.

He will venture north to Arbroath in Scotland, through the North of England and the Midlands to the chapel at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

“It is a real privilege to play the Postill organ at St John’s,” said Nigel. “As an organist and as a cyclist I just had this idea of cycling to other churches where they are present. I see it as a fate accompli and I hope it raises awareness of these historic organs as well as supporting the fundraising campaign.”

A clinical scientist by profession, Nigel has played at St John’s for over two years and has previously done so elsewhere in Newcastle Diocese, at St Cuthbert’s, Bedlington, on the Wirral in Merseyside, and in London.

Nigel will begin his mission in April. He is currently planning his various routes and trains most days – by cycling to work in Ashington from his home in Morpeth.

The Revd Sarah Moon, Priest in Charge of Killingworth Parish, said the church hopes to secure two two-thirds of the £600,000 fundraising total through grants, but the congregation is aiming to raise the other £200,000 through various activities, including Nigel’s cycle.

There will be a music event, a recycled fashion show and a series of running initiatives. A team from St John’s will take on the Edinburgh Marathon in May, while Sarah is preparing for the Great North Run in September.

St John’s Church was built long before Killingworth town existed, while it is believed the original construction project in the 1860s ran out of money before it could be properly completed.

It means the North side of the church which faces the town is an uninspiring wall. But plans - drawn up by architects Ainsworth Spark Associates - aim to open it up with a new entrance there with step-free access, as well as toilets, a serving area, much-needed storage space and an eco-friendly heating system. It is also hoped that the organ will finally get the grand positioning it deserves – raised to mezzanine level.

“This is an ambitious project,” said Sarah, “but we want to set our church up for the next 155 years. The church will still be eastward facing but we also want to be visible from Killingworth town as well as Killingworth Village.”

A fundraising page for the church refurbishment will be available in due course. In the meantime, you can donate to the organ restoration fund here.

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