A Grand Day Out - in Durham

On Monday 18th November we had a change from our usual lunch time meeting. Andre, our President had arranged a day out in Durham.
After a week of gloomy and rainy weather, Monday morning dawned with bright sunshine and a clear sky. By 9.00am we were on the coach setting out for Durham and stopping to pick up more Rotarians from Corbridge and Riding Mill. 21 Rotarians and their partners took part and the coach dropped us off near the Market Place in Durham. A short way from our first stop at the Cathedral.
coffeeArriving at the Cathedral, we were shown to the Prior’s Hall where coffee and cakes were provided and at 11o’clock two guides appeared to show us round. The guides were very knowledgeable and took us through the nave, pointing out the architectural features to the choir, where we admired the 17th century stalls made in the mediaeval style. cathedralThen on to the shrine of St Cuthbert and back through the nave to the west chapel by the entrance. An excellent tour but space forbids a fuller description.
The guides left us at the entrance to the Treasury Exhibition, housed in the former monks dormitory with its magnificent oak beamed roof. This was a special exhibition with exhibits from Pre-Roman times to the present day with examples of music, mediaeval manuscripts and recent embroidery.
lunchWith an overload of new information, we then made our way down to Zizzi’s Restaurant where we were well looked after for lunch in a private room overlooking the Wear. After lunch a short walk down and across the Elvet Bridge saw us back in the coach for a drive to Harrison and Harrison – the famous organ builders.
organ worksWe were welcomed by the Managing Director, Andrew Reid, and split into three parties for a tour of the works. What a tour – we saw everything from the keyboards – sorry manuals – to the 32 foot organ pipes destined for York Minster.  Harrison and Harrison started in Rochdale in 1861 and moved to Durham in 1872. They moved into their current works on the edge of Durham in 1996 and have played a role in the manufacture or restoration of organs across the world from Australia and India to Europe and America. Most recently they have restored the organs in Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and are currently renovating the organ from York Minster. Each organ is worked on by an individual team that dismantles it, moves it to Durham, repairs or replaces all the parts and then re-assembles it in its original location.
voicingWe saw sound boxes and sliders, intricate valves operated by small electromagnets, keyboards or manuals and many, many pipes. All the work is hand done, with sheep or goat skins being used on the sound boxes with poplar wood being used for the boxes. Once the pipes are made, they are “voiced” to provide the correct note and sound. Our guide, Andrew, was a “voicer” and he showed us how it was done and even allowed Lesley and Shelagh to have a go.
voicingHarrison and Harrison train their own apprentices and have a highly skilled and clever workforce. The visit was the highlight of the day and most instructive, the company even guarantees its work for 15 years and expects its organs to last for decades with reasonable maintenance.
All too soon, it was back to the coach to return to Hexham, where we arrived just before 6pm after a most enjoyable day out.