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Terry Doyle preparing metal in the workshop

Organ pipes made with exceptional care by a dedicated team

Chris Shires cutting metal in the Shires workshop

From modest beginnings, starting as a one-man operation in the family garage back in 1997, Shires Organ Pipes has expanded and is now established in a former textile mill in Bramley, Leeds.

 

Chris Shires, left, who now runs the company after taking over from his father, is proud of the legacy he has inherited.

 

He has developed a talent for facades, flue work and reeds and has been trained and mentored by the skilled team that Shires Organ Pipes are proud to employ.

 

Today’s team comprises four full-time pipe makers: Chris Shires, George Fowler, Steve Parker, Terry Doyle and one part-time pipe maker, Dave Reynolds.

 

All but Chris were trained at FJ Rodgers of Leeds before joining Shires. Annie, Chris’ mother and a partner in the firm, looks after the accounting and administration.

There is a strong sense of pride in the continuity to our training and skills that have passed down the generations.

An old friend and elder statesman to the company, John Warr – now well into his eighties but a fountain of knowledge on pipe making – trained George, who trained Steve who trained Terry Doyle. All of whom contributed to the skills training of Chris.

 

Shires makes pipes for organ builders in the UK and throughout the world. It goes without saying that customers are at the heart of our business and that each organ builder is guaranteed personal contact with a pipe maker from within our team.

 

Customers can be sure that pipes will be hand-made to their specification with exceptional care. Moreover, the pipe maker will work on your stop from start to finish, recording all job details as a matter of good practice and to reinforce our commitment to a truly personal service.

Chris Shires says: 

'I started here almost by luck. One of our pipe makers had retired and there was a place to fill. I'd considered further education and university but instead I decided on this. Dad knew I wasn't going to mess about and he put me on a trial period to see if I could do it. Thankfully I stayed.

 

'I have been learning the pipe making craft for nine years. It was quite daunting when I started because I didn't know anything about it. But we have very experienced people who taught me a lot, though there's still much to learn. For example, jobs come in and I still think how do I do that? Fortunately advice is always on hand. Then there are the names of stops, often continental, that you've never heard of. And there are the wacky things like the Nightingale stop we were asked to make recently.

 

'Dad has been making pipes for nearly 50 years and he's taking a back seat as a consultant. So I'm now taking on more responsibilities, such as calls, answering mails, providing estimates and pricing. At 27 taking over is a challenge, as there's much to do. For example, it's important to check the rising and falling price of metal. I also need to work out how long a job will take, if it's not something we've done before.

 

'There is a huge amount of skill and knowledge in our workforce and at some point in the future we'll be looking to recruit someone to join us and learn the trade. Aptitude and attitude are the most important qualities as we have some good teachers here, but the best way to learn is by saturation in the job.

 

'It can be tough learning the basics, but gradually you improve. You start to think 'why is that seam not so neat' – but once you settle into the work you can almost go into automatic mode. As a job, it's great.'

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