The treasured Ally Pally organ that has survived bombs, fires and snow

�The world famous London Welsh Male Voice Choir is coming to Alexandra Palace next month to boost a 21-year battle to save the building’s renowned organ.

Built in 1875, the organ has survived 135 years of adversity. But it has not emerged unscathed and the Friends of Alexandra Palace Organ still need �1million to complete their project to save it.

In 1873, “Father” Henry Willis, the greatest organ maker of his day, was commissioned to build an organ worthy of the great hall. But three weeks after his superb instrument was installed, a fire destroyed both the palace and organ.

Willis, who was at the palace at the time, risked his life trying to salvage what he could.

After the fire, he began work on the organ which still stands in the palace today. It was completed for the opening of the reconstructed palace in 1875.


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Although slightly smaller than the organ Willis had built in 1871 for the Royal Albert Hall, his Ally Pally model was always regarded as tonally superior.

During the First World War, thousands of refugees were housed in the great hall.

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The were given oil lamps and stoves and, as a result, the inside of the organ became coated with grease and dust – making it impossible to play.

An appeal was launched to rebuild the organ as north London’s memorial to Queen Alexandra – a plan which was sanctioned by King George V.

A grand reopening followed, attended by the Lord Mayor of London, and the organ’s glory years began.

Until 1939, it was used all the time with the famous French organist Marcel Dupre describing it as the finest concert organ in Europe.

But then the Second World War broke out and a doodle-bug came down just behind the Great Hall and blew out the great window at the back.

The elements were released on the organ and over the war years it was covered with rain and at one point, amazingly, even in snow.

But still the troubled history of the organ and the palace did not end. After decades of fundraising to make it shipshape again, and in a heartbreaking echo of the its predecessor’s fate, the palace burned in 1980.

In the devastating fire, the front pipes were melted. But in a rare stoke of luck, the inside parts had been placed in storage and now the Friends of the Alexandra Palace Organ are determined to ensure its future.

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