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#321 Tony Newnham

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Posted 23 September 2014 - 09:27 AM

Hi

 

The recording of the talk Colin  mentions is available to EOCS members.  I remastered the original recording a few months ago.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony



#322 MusingMuso

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 09:38 PM

Many thanks to Dr Colin Pykett for this information, with which I have just caught up.  

Leslie Bourn has been difficult to pin down, though I know where he lived when he was working at Compton's.

I don't know whether Colin knows or not, but there was quite spat between A H Midgely and Leslie Bourn, and somewhere among my files, I have more details. A H MIdgely had also been working on electronic organ technology, and after leaving Compton, he engaged in a bit of a bitter printed diatribe, claiming that Bourn had not developed anything new, but had merely re-worked his (A H MIdgely's)  technology and claimed them as his own.

 

I believe Bourn's name and that of the Compton both appear on the patents, and if what A H Midgely suggested was true, it is not difficult to imagine that A H Midgely position was untenable.


It's all a bit vague at the moment, but in due course, I will get to grips with the electronic ventures.

I love the bit about Hope-Jone's brother and the source of those Latin organ-stop names.

MM




 



#323 Colin Pykett

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Posted 01 December 2014 - 09:12 AM

Another member of this forum, who visited me only yesterday as a matter of fact, probably knows as much as anyone about the Electrone story and the personalities involved with it.  Though if there is anything he doesn't know, he probably knows a man who does.  In fact the purpose of his visit was to relieve me of some related Compton bits and pieces which have been occupying the garage for some while.  I could PM MM privately if he wishes, but will not prolong this here because it's getting rather off the topic of pipe organs, even though it is still relevant to the doings of a pipe organ builder.  (MM may well know my friend anyway).

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

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#324 MusingMuso

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Posted 06 July 2017 - 03:19 PM

Here we are, a decade and more down the line, and believe it or not, the work on the Compton Co., still continues unabated.

How time flies!

I think it might be fair to suggest that I now have all the information at my fingertips, and writing has not only started, but has now reached in excess of 100 pages. I'm not sure I could call myself an historian; more a forensic scientist!  The great difficulty has been to verify everything in an unusual way, which for the most part, involves secondary rather than primary sources; sifting through evidence, anecdotes, known facts, specific instruments, exisiting instruments and a mass of minor details. The research and forensic thread has now been running for over twelve years, but it's now coming together.

A few random points of interest, which may be of considerable interest to such as Dr Colin Pykett.


Having ploughed through a whole virtual encyclopedia of material, I learned something very interesting about the development of the Compton organ style. It was only partially the work of John Compton, who was really the experimental, tonal genius behind it all. Obviously, he knew about organ-building, and so too did Jimmy Taylor, but the REAL mastermind was Albery Henry Midgley, whom I've mentioned before. The discovery of his papers sheds a fascinating light on a fascinating age, when technologists learned their craft the hard way, in the world of work. That is as much a statement of the age as anything, and in the case of A H Midgley, it turns out that he was born in Huddersfield, where his father was a draper and importer of drapery products.A H Midgley showed an early interest in all things electrical and engineering, and went to what was the Bradford Technical school, having won a scholarship to study there. He was an outstanding pupil apparently; winning many awards on the way.

After leaving school, probably around the age of 15 (I would have to check), he started working for an electrical contractor in Bradford, and then moved to London, where he worked in air-conditioning and air-extraction for a well established firm in the Southwark area. From the start, he was inventive and seriously ambitious; so much so, that he was soon establishing his own business and importing tings from Germany. Within perhaps a decade (I haven't the exact dates to hand) he was a founding director of the C A Vanderwell company, serving the needs of the growing automobile industry, and for anyone who knows about vehicles from that age (Cecil Clutton would have known!) the Vanderwell family were the main suppliers of a vast range of automobile equipment. C A Vanderwell became a huge concern in the Acton area; employing thousands of people in due course. It was eventually taken over, to form the nucleus of Lucas Industries, with manufacturing facilities spread across the UK.

An organist and organ enthusiast, as well as a seriously gifted engineer and electrical engineer, it seems that there was some sort of row during the Lucas takeover, and by then Technical Director at C A Vanderville, he resigned the board and went his own way.
Clearly a man to seek out, it wasn't long before Midgley joined the Compton board and acted as Technical Director, and at this point, it was he who put his mind to developing the control systems of the extension organ, which included both cinema theatre-organs and their more classical counterparts, even though they shared a great deal between them.  Not only that, he brought the expertise of modern industry to bear, and caused outrage among organ-builders, by adopting mass production techniques and introducing more modern materials such as Bakelite.

In his spare time, Midgley was designing bomb fuses, which he later specialised in after resigning from the Compton firm. The new venture was called Midgley-Harmer Ltd., and whilst the jury is still out as to whether he invented the delay fuses for the bouncing bomb, he certainly was responsible for the fuses of other epic pieces of military fireworks, such as the Tallboy bomb.

To add to the intrigue, Midgley went, in a very limited period of time, from humble servant to highly respected inventor, and in material terms, from a terraced house in Huddersfield, to large, detached properties in London. It was in one of these that his first 100 stop house organ was installed; built by the Compton company of course. That first instrument was superceded by a second instrument, and the first one was to become the still extant organ of St Luke's, Chelsea.

Add to all this the tonal genius of Compton, the electronics genius Leslie Bourn, the genius of Jimmy Taylor and the financial genius of the industrialist J Martin-White (one time president of the Organ Club) and what Compton's had was a dream team of incredibly multi-talented and highly capable people. What a hot-house of ideas that must have been. 

So, we plough onwards and upwards, still gathering information, but more importantly, making sense of what I have got, in such a way that the information is verified as true and reliable.

MM



#325 Colin Pykett

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Posted 07 July 2017 - 07:41 AM

This is certainly very interesting MM and thank you for posting it.  I might add that MM has also provided a lot of historical background to me on a personal basis relating to Compton's work.

 

I also find it interesting to reflect on the wider background to the subject.  There seem to me to be two threads running through the development of electric actions for organs.  One of them is how national electricity supplies evolved.  In the early days, organ builders such as Robert Hope-Jones were severely constrained by the limited availability of mains electricity which was almost unknown outside the larger towns.  This meant they had to use batteries for organs in rural areas with all their obvious drawbacks.  Even when mains power was available, there was no standardisation of voltage or frequency or even whether it was AC or DC.  In at least two important cases, Worcester in the UK (I think - from memory) and Ocean Grove in the USA, Hope-Jones had to cope with a sudden change in voltage imposed by the suppliers after he had already procured the blower motors.  And when using the limited power from batteries he was consequently driven to use electropneumatics to operate much of his equipment such as coupler relays and motorised stop key actions in order to get enough force for the mechanisms.  However by the 1930s when Compton was active on the scene, the National Grid had arrived in the UK and mains voltages therefore rapidly began to stabilise at the 230V 50 Hz AC we still use today.  Similar things happened in the USA once the 'AC - DC Wars' (Tesla vs Edison) were resolved in favour of Tesla.  This enabled Compton's to re-engineer some of Hope-Jones's early electropneumatic mechanisms to use electromechanical (direct electric) operation because prime power was no longer an issue.  This happened with their coupler relays and stop key units for example, and in particular with their very clever combination capture systems which were also all-electric rather than electropneumatic.  I hope he will not mind me saying so, but forum member Lucien Nunes is the world's greatest living expert on this aspect, having recently restored the 80 year old systems at Southampton Guildhall on both the classical and theatre consoles.  And when I say 'restored' I actually mean restored in the sense of getting it all to work again at the level of individual magnets and contacts - not just by chucking it all out and fitting a solid state capture system.

 

Standardisation on AC also enabled the Hammond organ and the Compton Electrone to appear because both relied on a stable mains frequency to remain in tune.  Both would have been unthinkable until this happened.

 

The other historical thread is the motor vehicle.  The Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust in Manchester recently unearthed the fascinating fact that a certain Henry Royce, before he became half of the R-R marque, manufactured magnets and (probably) low voltage dynamos for Hope-Jones in the 1890s.  And as MM has shown, this continued with Compton via A H Midgley and his connections with what became CAV-Lucas, a firm well known throughout most of the 20th century in motor vehicle electrical parts as many readers will no doubt recall.

 

In fact the contemporary fascination with automobile engineering in the 1930s even surfaced in Willis III's infinite speed and gradation swell mechanism.  Organs get louder more quickly and cars go faster the more you press on the pedal of either, and vice versa.  There is also a 'neutral' position in both and an automatic 'decelerator' in the Willis scheme to prevent the shutters audibly slamming shut.  These terms were actually used in Willis's patent, and I have long wondered whether the similarities were deliberate or unconscious.  There even exists a tenuous analogue of the 'kickdown' feature in automatic gearboxes, which were under development in the 1930s - if the swell shutters were allowed to close completely a subtle mechanism kept them tightly closed after the pedal had returned to its central ('neutral') position, until you next pushed it forward again.  Then of course the position of the swell shutters was also indicated at the console using actual car dashboard fuel gauges!  All this was invented mainly by Aubrey Thompson-Allen who was perhaps the Willis equivalent of Compton's A H Midgeley, until he left for America and founded his own firm that is.

 

All fascinating stuff.  Thank you, MM.

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

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#326 MusingMuso

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Posted 07 July 2017 - 03:38 PM

Thank you for those details about the elctricity supply, much of which I knew, but by no means all. I would hasten to add that some organ-builders used gas engines and low voltage dynamos to secure a steady (presumably) DC supply.

I've mentioned this previously, many moons ago, but an horrific memory was entering the blower plant.....yes plant is the right word.....at a Methodist church in Rochdale. This consisted of a huge crank mechanism and feeders; all of which needed to be lubricated periodically. Driving all this was a large DC motor, and in the corner of the room was a mercury arc rectifier, which flashed and spat as the needle bounced over the surface of the conductive mercury bath enclosed in a flask. It was like something out of the movie Frakenstein, and to a 15 year old, quite intimidating.

I'm not sure when this contraption was installed, because the organ was a 19th century Binns, but it was proof enough that the lecky supply had changed after the installation of the blower mecahnism; possibly converted from a previous water-engine or something.

Now if you want to know something rather amusing and, at the same time, definitive, you need to know something about Compton's right hand man, Jimmy Taylor (the inventor of the electric combination capture system). "Jimmy" Taylor enjoyed a very close working relationship with A H Midgley of C A Vanderwell; presumably after he had resigned his directorship with CAV when it became CAV-Lucas.

In a recorded interview, ex-Compton employee, Roy Skinner, mentioned that "they got on very well together" and refers to "a meeting of minds".

Well, if you pour through all the patents relating to A H Midgley as inventor, you will discover an awful lot; most concerned with auto-electrical parts and control systems, quite a few to do with pipe organs, and some concerned with electronic instruments. He probably pre-dated Hammond in the quest for sine-wave synthesis, using tone-wheel generators inspired by Cahill in America. He even had the tone-generators spinning at different speeds through a similar gear-train to that formulated by Hammond. For whatever reason, Hammond managed to get his patent accepted first, but there may well have been some skulduggery involved, because Midgley was ahead of him.

However, he was clearly an auto-electrical man, and probably fascinated by automobiles. So too was Jimmy Taylor,(your local Nottinghamshire genius) judging by an interesting patent in his name, which reveals a design for an automatic gearbox. I just get the impression that the Compton people just delighted in ideas, inventions and whatever crazy thing they could dream up next.

It's amazing to think that one was the son of a draper (as was John Compton), and the other was the son of a humble church caretaker.

Whatever happened to PROPER education?

MM

 



#327 Colin Pykett

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Posted 08 July 2017 - 07:03 AM

 

some organ-builders used gas engines and low voltage dynamos to secure a steady (presumably) DC supply.

 

Indeed, and Hope-Jones did in his first prototype instrument at St John's, Birkenhead.  It's possible if not probable that the dynamo was made by Henry Royce.  But town gas was little different to mains electricity in those days in the sense that both were seldom available outside large towns.  It's still much the same today with gas.

 

 

Well, if you pour through all the patents relating to A H Midgley as inventor, you will discover an awful lot; most concerned with auto-electrical parts and control systems, quite a few to do with pipe organs, and some concerned with electronic instruments. He probably pre-dated Hammond in the quest for sine-wave synthesis, using tone-wheel generators inspired by Cahill in America.

 

Hope-Jones pre-dated the lot of them though, because he described the principle of additive synthesis in a lecture to the College of Organists in 1891 (they were not 'Royal' then).  Unusually for him though, he never seemed to have patented it.

 

 

It's amazing to think that one was the son of a draper (as was John Compton), and the other was the son of a humble church caretaker.
 

 

I don't know about church caretakers necessarily being humble - I've come across some pretty aggressive ones in my time who almost frog-marched me out of the building having previously switched off the organ blower.  Mind you, the way I play sometimes could have given them the excuse ...

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

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#328 Henry Willis

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 02:20 PM


 
I hope he will not mind me saying so, but forum member Lucien Nunes is the world's greatest living expert on this aspect, having recently restored the 80 year old systems at Southampton Guildhall on both the classical and theatre consoles.  And when I say 'restored' I actually mean restored in the sense of getting it all to work again at the level of individual magnets and contacts - not just by chucking it all out and fitting a solid state capture system.

CEP

 

Actually, you may find that there are one or two 'others' who know at least as much and that this statement may be just a little sweeping!

 

I am not aware of how old Mr. Nunes might be but I am fairly confident that he is considerably younger than I and while he has an impressive interest in all things electrical (and indeed organ-wise) I and another employee of Moss Empires Ltd. in 1975 completely 'restored' the Compton relay and capture system in the Strand Light Console at The Palace Theatre in Manchester.   This system - which I know that Lucien Nunes is also well aware of - was installed there in 1949 and had not had any major work carried out up to 1975 so, during the summer when the theatre was 'dark' we set to the task.  I had worked at The Palace Theatre first during school and college holidays but then decided that it would be fun to do it for a while on a more professional basis - that experience was invaluable in all sorts of ways.

 

Instead of controlling the mechanism of an organ,  the Light Console,  through a huge Compton Relay controlled several banks of dimmers (at The Palace, 108 in 3 banks of 36) operated by electromagnetic 'Moss Mansell' clutches and several sets of rather heavy-duty, mains contactors - all of this equipment was also thoroughly overhauled at the time.  I left The Palace in 1978 or 79 and I believe that the Light console continued in regular use for a while after - though I was also informed that after I left they were unable to find anyone else who could actually operate the system - being an Organist it all seemed quite logical to me.

 

A fascinating insight for those who were otherwise unaware of this strand of organ-related technology put to other uses can be seen at     http://www.magmouse....tre-manchester/

 

So Colin,  perhaps not the only (or even World's Greatest) living authority - I do so dislike the term 'expert'.

 

By the way,  Fred Royce didn't make magnets and other items only for Hope-Jones!

 

David Wyld



#329 Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 03:51 PM

"Experto crede" - believe in the one who is experienced. And has the scars to prove it.

Not such a bad term, when properly understood



#330 Henry Willis

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:25 PM

"Properly understood" - So you say.

Experts 'soi-disant' abound in the organ world - in fact careers have been founded on "experts" declaring themselves to be so.

For what it's worth I do like the decryption of the word given me by a (much respected) colleague: "'X' is an unknown quantity and a Spurt is a drip under pressure" - it has fitted the case in so many instances!

Those of us with any experience at all and who know what we don't know, prefer to be thought of as being knowledgeable. I've only ever met one expert, in the person of Professor Peter Plesch, now gone, unfortunately.

DW

#331 Henry Willis

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 12:47 PM

I should perhaps also have mentioned - sticking to the Compton thread here - that we have the machines that are seen in the Compton Works film which many will no doubt have seen.  These machines had passed to Rushworth & Dreaper when they took over the remains of Compton in (I think) 1963 and were included in the contents of the sale when we (Henry Willis & Sons) acquired the buildings and contents here in Liverpool some years ago.

 

There is nothing particularly clever or innovative about any of the items but they do allow the rewinding of coils etc. and the jigs for the setting up of some of the rather fiddly components make it all incredibly easy.

 

DW






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