A business partnership was created in 1966 by Christopher Gordon-Wells and Philip Kennedy who had previously been employees of the English firm of organ builders, Alfred E. Davies & Son, based in Northampton.
This initial partnership was dissolved in 1977 when Philip Kennedy moved to England to join the Society of Saint Francis.
In 1980 Christopher Gordon-Wells and David McElderry formed a new Limited Company and developed a range of offices and workshops at Gregg Street in Lisburn.
In 1997 the company took over the pipe-making capacity of the Belfast City Organ Pipeworks to create WK Pipecraft; from 2001 David McElderry assumed sole direction of the business.
Christopher Gordon-Wells died in retirement in 2007 and David McElderry passed away suddenly in 2021.
Following David’s death, as was his wish, Jim Stewart having worked for the firm for 29 years took over ownership. Jim is assisted by previous employees on a freelance basis, carrying on the legacy of both Christopher and David.
In a period of over 50 years since 1966, the Wells Kennedy Partnership has developed a reputation as Northern Ireland’s premier pipe organ specialists. The firm was strongly influenced in its earlier years by the ideals of the Organ Reform Movement, which embraced neo-classical principles of tonal design and, where practicable, the use of mechanical key action.
The management sought to advance highly creative organ design in its numerous contracts in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Their best work often incorporated well-constructed, handsome casework designed by Christopher Gordon-Wells, while the tonal finishing, voicing and specifications were overseen by David McElderry and his team.
As well as an impressive opus list of new instruments, Wells-Kennedy undertake the restoration and rebuilding of numerous important existing organs. This has included large organs in the Cathedrals at Armagh and Londonderry.
An essential part of their work has been the care and maintenance of iconic organs such as the Mulholland Grand Organ in the Ulster Hall, the organ in the Guildhall in Londonderry, the organs in St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast and Down Cathedral, various university organs, and a National Trust organ in The Argory in County Armagh. Their organs in and around the city of Edinburgh are an important part of the firm’s legacy.