RESTORATION work is underway on a piece of Colchester's history.

Specialist restorers Harrison and Harrison from Durham have begun the delicate task of dismantling the Moot Hall organ in Colchester Town Hall.

They will take it away to repair and renovate it so it can be brought back into use.

The project has been made possible thanks to a £416,000 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is the culmination of 13 years of work by former Colchester mayor Nigel Chapman.

Mr Chapman raised concerns about the state of the organ during his mayoral year, 2001.

The instrument was previously used for civic functions including the famous Oyster Feast and mayor making but fell into such a poor condition it could not be used.

Mr Chapman formed the Friends of the Moot Hall organ to support the bid for it to be repaired.

The group, together with the support of Dr William McVicker, the organ curator at London's Royal Festival Hall and the consultant for the restoration project, helped Colchester Council's successful bid for funding.

The organ was installed when the Town Hall was built in 1902 and has been described as the "hidden jewel" in Colchester' historical crown.

It will be carefully dismantled and restored before being rebuilt in situ.

About 80 people attended an open day to hear about the plans for the organ.

A series of creative music and arts projects are being planned to coincide with the work led by animateur Duncan Chapman and the contemporary art gallery Firstsite which is a key partner in the project's outreach scheme.

The organ is due to be reinstated next April.

Mr Chapman, who is also the chairman of the Friends, said: "After 13 years of anticipation, it is a wonderful moment for me to see the organ being removed for rebuilding.

"Sometimes I thought it may never happen.

"During this time support for the project has grown, culminating in the Heritage Lottery Fund grant award and I know how many Colcestrians are now looking forward to its restoration and to it taking its place again in the cultural life of the town."