WORK has started to dismantle the Father Willis organ at Salisbury Cathedral ready for its refurbishment.

It has taken more than a year of planning.

The last time a comprehensive restoration was undertaken was 50 years ago.

The restoration work is being carried out by organ builders and restorers, Harrison and Harrison, who have cared for the organ since 1978.

It will take around three weeks to remove the organ and over a year to clean it and reassemble it again but by January 2020 everything expected to be back in position.

John Challenger, assistant director of music who is one of the cathedral’s organists, said: “It is really exciting to see the restoration work begin on our beloved Father Willis Organ after years of planning – and probably the only time in my life that this sort of overhaul will take place.

“It’s also sad to think that the organ will be silent for the next fourteen months, but this is brief moment in the life of the organ, and it deserves restoration work of the highest quality.

“When the ‘Father Willis’ returns, clear of the accumulated dust and grime of half a century, it will sound all the brighter and hopefully be good for another 50 years.”

Next month, the cathedral will be launching an interactive exhibition, Pulling out the Stops, that will explore the history of the organ and take visitors through the restoration process.