Husband builds church organ for musician wife and hides it in walls of the house

A four-bedroom house with an organ hidden amongst the walls has now it has sold at auction – and the story behind it is beautiful

The ordinary-looking property in Bristol raised eyebrows when it was put up for sale for £500,000 with the description advising that it “would be sensible to say that the new owner is likely to refurbish the home”.

It was put on the market after the former owner, Joan Baker, 98, died last year, after having lived in the property since the 1940s.

Joan’s husband Ronald built the organ into the fabric of the building with the help of his brother so that his wife, who played the instrument at Holy Trinity Church, could practice at home – something her neighbour said she’d often do whilst Ronald played his trumpet.

Her neighbour, Dick Willis, told the BBC: “She would sit there on the half-landing and play the organ and her husband Ronald would stand on the half-landing below and play the trumpet.

“She was just the most extraordinary person. She died at the age of 98 and had been desperate to make it to 100.

“She had lived in that house since she was 21. She was very much the street granny. She had a great sense of humour. She was just lovely, very sociable.”

The organ, which has not been played in several years, is on top of the stairs, but the pipes go all the way around the landing.

“The base pipe and the pump are in the top bedroom and Ronald knocked through the two cupboards in the two top rooms and made a seating area across the stairwell which is where the keyboard, the foot pedals and the treble pipes are,” Dick said.

“So if you go up the house it dominates the place.”

Organist, conductor and presenter Anna Lapwood told the BBC it was “so unusual” to find a house like this.

“Immediately I thought ‘Oh my gosh – this is amazing’,” she said.

“It is pretty unusual to find an actual pipe organ built into the house in the way it is in this case.

“I sort of thought it’s just the dream house. It makes a massive difference to be able to practise whenever you want in the middle of the day instead of trekking to the church where it is also very cold.

“It has to be in the top 10 houses I’ve ever seen… and I just think it’s such a lovely story.”

But unfortunately it is likely the organ has played its last tune, with property experts expecting it to be removed to create more space.

Estate agent James Bailey from Allen and Harris, who sold the house, said: “It is the first time in my 20-year property career that I have brought to market and agreed a home with a full-scale church organ.”

He said Cliftonwood and neighbouring Clifton had lots of houses “steeped in history”.

The price has not been revealed.