A PRIVATE donor has given £1 million towards a once-in-a-century refurbishment of York Minster's Grand Organ.

Work has started on removing almost all the organ's 5,403 pipes, so they can be taken to a workshop in Durham for repair and rebuilding.

The project will take about two years to complete, with the restored instrument due to be ready for use in autumn 2020, and it will cost £2 million.

Director of Music Robert Sharpe revealed today that half the bill had already been met by a private individual who wishes at this stage to remain anonymous.

He said he had never expected such a huge donation and said there would also be funding from the Chapter of York’s reserves, but there would also be fundraising activities and other public donations would also be welcomed.

“Organ music has been at the heart of worship at York Minster for nearly 1,000 years and we hope this project will allow us to continue that tradition throughout the 21st century and beyond," he said.

He said that during the two years of refurbishment work, the cathedral’s full music programme would continue, with a grand piano used alongside an existing chamber organ in the Quire, and a digital organ would also serve both the Nave and Quire.

He revealed that a bank of 12 speakers had been installed - which would screened to ensure the digital organ was an adequate temporary replacement for the Grand Organ.

Director of works Alex McCallion said organ specialists Harrison and Harrison would spend October removing the instrument, with scaffolding erected to assist in their work.

The instrument, which dates from the early 1830s and is one of the largest cathedral organs in the country, weighing approximately 20,000kg, and its pipes range from the size of a pencil to 10metres long.

A majority of the 100 decorative case pipes, which are seen by worshippers and visitors and have been silent since the last major project in 1903, will work again after the work.

The project will allow a new music library to be created underneath the organ, inside the screen which separates the Quire from the Nave, subject to the relevant permissions being obtained.