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Help us to restore organ music to the Monastery

An 8-minute read

“There’s nothing as soothing to the soul,
than the tones of an organ of old.
By whispering a prayer with celestial sound,
we catch a glimpse of heaven around.”

We’re fundraising for the next important chapter in the restoration of our much-loved heritage site.

The Church of St Francis has been lovingly (and painstakingly) restored. It has taken twenty-five years of fundraising and conservation to reinstate the fallen roofs and repair fragile masonry. A feat many thought impossible! The buildings were made watertight. The interiors restored and reorganised to support the needs of a heritage and community venue. The car park and an impressive new wing added. Now the original, decorative paint schemes are preserved. The crucifix saved and returned. And, the 12 larger-than-life statues of Franciscan saints – unique to The Monastery – are back standing gloriously regilded in the Great Nave.

So, what’s left to do?

There’s still an integral part of the site missing. Its 1888 Wadsworth organ.

Music has the power to raise our spirits and can lift our hearts and minds. It’s a source of inspiration and provides a soundtrack to our lives stirring memory and emotion. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to reinstate an 1880s Wadsworth organ and fill the church with the music it was designed for.

Gorton Monastery’s organ was dismantled when the church and friary were sold in 1989. The organ pipes were probably sold for scrap. The organ loft has remained empty. We hoped one day an opportunity would arrive to put this last missing piece of The Monastery back where it belonged.

Gorton Monastery organ

History of the old Wadsworth organ

In 1888, Father Aiden decided it was time to invest in a new organ more suitable for the size of the building. He began fundraising. That same year, Gorton celebrated the magnificent, new organ with a special service. A distinguished Franciscan organist, Father Augustine d’Hoole, travelled from Glasgow to play the organ. Many at Gorton thought their lay brother, Brother Raphael, was a musical genius at the organ and equally talented to Father Augustine.

‘Fr. Aiden wanted a new organ. There was a three-day bazaar in May 1888 and on 15th July the Solemn Opening of the new Organ took place with a distinguished Franciscan organist, Fr. Augustine d’Hoole, OFM, being brought from the Friary, Glasgow, for the occasion. There were many that thought the laybrother, Bro. Raphael, a genius in the kitchen, and also an inspired genius at the organ and the regular organist for many years, could have easily compared with Fr. Augustine. But there it was.’

Excerpt from Father Justin McLoughlin’s book, Gorton Monastery 1861-1961

Organ music was at the height of fashion. They were not only found in churches and chapels (as we tend to think of pipe organs today). They provided musical soundtracks at theatres and music to sing and dance to many fashionable houses.

The organ was built in 1888 by Wadsworth & Brother, a Manchester firm of organ builders set up by Edward Wadsworth in 1861. Born in Chorlton in 1839, Edward was the son of an estate agent. He trained as an apprentice organ builder and soon decided to set up his own business. A ‘sound’ decision during a period of huge growth for organ manufacturing.

Wadsworth manufactured over 1,000 organs during their 85 years. Most made for the parish churches of North West England. Today, only a small fraction of these organs exist. As church attendance declined in the 20th century and churches closed, many organs were dismantled as sold as scrap. Just as happened here at Gorton Monastery.

Manchester Monastery organ loft

A new organ for Gorton

We have fabulous opportunity to return a Wadsworth organ – and its magnificent music – to the Great Nave at the Monastery.

In 2020 during the first Covid lockdown, our CEO, Elaine Griffiths, OBE, was contacted by David Emery the organist and treasurer at Patricroft Methodist Church in Eccles, Salford. His church had closed and David was trying to find a new home for their 1884 Wadsworth organ. The organ was originally built for Trinity Church, which stood on the same site. It’s only four years younger than Gorton’s and is almost identical in size and specification.

The organ restoration

The organ was kindly gifted to us, with only a requirement to pay for its removal from Patricroft and its installation in Gorton.

We obtained expert advice, about the practicalities and cost of moving the organ, from George Sixsmith & Son organ works in Mossley, Ashton-under-Lyne. The Patricroft organ was originally installed and maintained by Cyril Wood of Ashton-Under-Lyne. When Cyril died, George Sixsmith (who once worked for Wadsworth) acquired his business and continued to maintain the organ.

Once dismantled, the organ will be restored and repaired. It’s in good working order – Wadsworth organs were built to last! But, we must take the opportunity to make relatively small repairs necessary for an instrument’s ongoing maintenance and to clean and restore it to its full glory.

Patricroft Methodist Church in Eccles, Salford
The organ at Patricroft

To fit our organ loft, the organ needs to be rebuilt and reconfigured. This won’t affect the way it sounds – it will just change the way it fits the space. This is no mean feat with over 1000 pipes!

Excitingly, this also gives us the opportunity to add modern playing aids – if we can raise enough.

This would allow us to play the organ from the nave and to program it to play music arranged digitally. We’d love to program the organ to play uplifting music at the same time every day for our visitors to enjoy!

Please help us to reach our target of £100,000 to reinstate the Wadsworth organ and return its rich music to the Monastery. We’ve already raised £35,000 thanks to some generous donors.

Its music can be a powerful instrument of mediation and celebration. It can bring joy, soothe our grief, and move us to think differently. Its power – delivered through over 1000 hand-rolled pipes – can stir our deepest emotions.

“To my eyes and ears the organ will ever be the King of Instruments.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1884 Wadsworth organ

Ways you can help us to bring organ music back to Gorton Monastery

Sponsor a unique pipe

Would you like to sponsor a unique pipe, or row of pipes, with your name & generosity forever inscribed on a plaque in the Monastery? It’s easy!

Simply click here and fill in our sponsorship form.

Buy our book

All proceeds from the sale of our latest book, Trust: The Story of Gorton Monastery, go to the appeal. You can buy your copy from the Browse our Books section of our website or by clicking here.

Donate online

It’s super easy for you to donate using our JustGiving donate button.

Fundraise for us

You can fundraise using our JustGiving page. You can find it quickly by clicking here or visiting

Raise awareness

Help to spread the word about our fundraising.

Do you know a community group who would like this project? Does your company want to sponsor the organ restoration? Please contact us and we’ll be very grateful for your support.

Thank you for helping to support our appeal. You’re helping to bring the music back to the Monastery.

Words | Dr. Caroline Paige  Photography | Len Grant

Book Review: Gorton Monastery 1861-1961

Subject: Victorian Manchester; Manchester history; Manchester heritage; Franciscan history.

By Father Justin McLoughlin; reviewed by Janet Wallwork, published 1961 (Historical Reprint Series).

Gorton Monastery 1861-1961: The story of 100 years of the Friary, Gorton, Father Justin McLoughlin, Monastery Publications (Historical Reprint Series), 46p, £2.99. First published in 1961. ISBN 978-0-95714-841-3

In 1861, a small group of Belgian Franciscan Friars arrived in Gorton. Despite having a local Catholic population of just a few hundred and very little money they enlisted the famous church architect, Edward Welby Pugin, to build them a friary and church ‘of cathedral-like proportions.’

Over the next century, they also established three schools and an impressive range of parish organisations – spiritual, educational, cultural, and social.

This little book, written by the archivist of the Order, was published to mark the centenary of the friars’ momentous arrival. It tells the story of the buildings and of the flourishing parish that surrounded them.

Sadly, in 1989 the friars left Gorton and for years the church stood empty and derelict. In 1996, a charity was established – The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust – to raise the funds to rescue and restore the church and friary buildings. It reopened its doors in 2007 with a new life as a community, cultural, and corporate venue.

The Trust obtained permission to reprint Father Justin’s book to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the day the friars came to Gorton.


Editor’s note: This book – and other Monastery Publications – are available to buy both in our onsite Monastery Shop and via our online bookshop.

Book Review: Assisi to Gorton

A 2-minute read.

Subject: Victorian Manchester; Manchester history; Manchester heritage; Franciscan history.

By Father Agnellus Andrew; reviewed by Janet Wallwork, published 1938 (Historical Reprint Series).

Assisi to Gorton: A brief record of the work of the Franciscans in England, and especially their work in Gorton, 1861-1938, Father Agnellus Andrew, Monastery Publications (Historical Reprint Series), 108p, £4.99. First published in 1938. ISBN 978-0-95714-842-0

The Church and Friary of St Francis, Gorton – known locally as ‘Gorton Monastery’ – was built by Belgian Franciscans who arrived there in 1861. They engaged the famous church architect, Edward Welby Pugin, and over the next ten years, and with only limited resources, they constructed a magnificent church of cathedral-like proportions.

The church opened in 1872 but work to complete it continued for many years. It was consecrated in 1938 and this book was published to mark that occasion.

It gives first a brief account of the Franciscans in England, from the arrival of the first friars in 1224, followed by the story of their work and achievements in Gorton.

Although the friars left in 1989 their wonderful buildings survive. They now belong to a charity, The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust, which rescued and restored them as a community, cultural and corporate venue. The Trust reprinted this little book to mark the 150th anniversary of the Franciscans in Gorton.

Father Agnellus Andrew was one of the best known and loved members of the Gorton community. He later found fame as a pioneer of religious broadcasting. In 1980, Father Agnellus was called to Rome where he was ordained a bishop and became the Vatican’s head of Press and Broadcasting Relations. Based at Gorton from 1932 to 1954, he was a charismatic and inspirational preacher. In this history of The Monastery he tells the Franciscan story simply and clearly.

Editor’s note: This book is available to buy in our Monastery Shop.