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#41 Tony Newnham

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 09:58 AM

This link about Compton wasn't mentioned yet, was it?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi

I think I'd menioned it (but perhaps that was on the other list in a parallel discussion!)

Every Blessing

Tony

#42 Guest_Barry Williams_*

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 11:12 PM

Hi

I think I'd menioned it (but perhaps that was on the other list in a parallel discussion!)

Every Blessing

Tony

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Does anyone know of a church where an Augmentum model organ was installed? I recall mention of a church in Scotland (possibly Glasgow).

Barry Williams

#43 quentinbellamy

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 09:54 PM

I was browsing through "past" topics and noticed this one on Compton. I notice that nobody has referred to Ivor Buckingham's research into this subject. His website is The Compton List To a large extent there is everything you would wish to know (and more) about Compton - and especially the cinema work. He has produced a book called The Compton List which details information of almost every cinema organ the firm ever built. Also details of Electrostatic work, solo strings and the likes....
Well worth a look.

Q :)

#44 MusingMuso

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 02:29 AM

I was browsing through "past" topics and noticed this one on Compton. I notice that nobody has referred to Ivor Buckingham's research into this subject. His website is The Compton List To a large extent there is everything you would wish to know (and more) about Compton - and especially the cinema work. He has produced a book called The Compton List which details information of almost every cinema organ the firm ever built. Also details of Electrostatic work, solo strings and the likes....
Well worth a look.

Q :)



=============================



The problem I have with just about everything I have ever read about John Compton, is the simple fact that everyone has mentioned the "nuts & bolts" but failed to recognise what he actually achieved, and how he did it.

I would suggest that even to-day, there are a number of very important lessons to be learned about John Compton's ability to hear what others often failed to hear; especially just a few years following his death, when cloth seemed to replace grey-matter.

In all fairness, it is easy to see why a theatre-organ buff can get carried away in the belief that they are writing something of great value, but it's a bit like train-spotting when a list is just a list, or a detailed collection of sightings.
Not being a train-spotting type of organist or even organ enthusiast, I would question the value of any "list," which would probably read like my own train-spotting books from the days of steam, when the name "The Duchess of Atholl" meant rather more than just a Scottish castle, malt whisky and grouse-shooting.

To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever poperly addressed the very clever, and rather scientific way that John Compton approached the art of organ-building, and from which tonal-design important lessons still remain valuable to-day in relation to "straight" organs rather than extension ones.

Without the science and the engineering skills, John Compton would just have been a latter-day Robert Hope-Jones, but we know that he was far, far cleverer than that; especially in the way he approached classical organ-building, and built up the tonal synthesis from actually not a great deal: especially with the completely extended instruments rather than the re-builds of already substantial instruments.

The Compton List may have value, if it contains the design patents or details of the clever engineering and electrical controls which Compton designed or used, but without reading it, I cannot know for definite. Even in terms of console ergonomics, John Compton could put most in the shade.

If I were to compare John Compton to his rival Robert Hope-Jones, the latter would probably emerge as never much more than a telephone engineer. Without Norman & Beard or Wurlitzer, I suspect that Robert Hope-Jones would have foundered badly; as of course he eventually did.

MM

#45 quentinbellamy

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:59 PM

=============================
The problem I have with just about everything I have ever read about John Compton, is the simple fact that everyone has mentioned the "nuts & bolts" but failed to recognise what he actually achieved, and how he did it.

I would suggest that even to-day, there are a number of very important lessons to be learned about John Compton's ability to hear what others often failed to hear; especially just a few years following his death, when cloth seemed to replace grey-matter.

In all fairness, it is easy to see why a theatre-organ buff can get carried away in the belief that they are writing something of great value, but it's a bit like train-spotting when a list is just a list, or a detailed collection of sightings.
Not being a train-spotting type of organist or even organ enthusiast, I would question the value of any "list," which would probably read like my own train-spotting books from the days of steam, when the name "The Duchess of Atholl" meant rather more than just a Scottish castle, malt whisky and grouse-shooting.

To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever properly addressed the very clever, and rather scientific way that John Compton approached the art of organ-building, and from which tonal-design important lessons still remain valuable to-day in relation to "straight" organs rather than extension ones.

Without the science and the engineering skills, John Compton would just have been a latter-day Robert Hope-Jones, but we know that he was far, far cleverer than that; especially in the way he approached classical organ-building, and built up the tonal synthesis from actually not a great deal: especially with the completely extended instruments rather than the re-builds of already substantial instruments.

The Compton List may have value, if it contains the design patents or details of the clever engineering and electrical controls which Compton designed or used, but without reading it, I cannot know for definite. Even in terms of console ergonomics, John Compton could put most in the shade.

If I were to compare John Compton to his rival Robert Hope-Jones, the latter would probably emerge as never much more than a telephone engineer. Without Norman & Beard or Wurlitzer, I suspect that Robert Hope-Jones would have foundered badly; as of course he eventually did.

MM

So ermmm.... you haven't read The Compton List? I guess that if you did you may find it quite a bit more than a train-spotting exercise :)

#46 Guest_spottedmetal_*

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:26 AM

If I were to compare John Compton to his rival Robert Hope-Jones, the latter would probably emerge as never much more than a telephone engineer. Without Norman & Beard or Wurlitzer, I suspect that Robert Hope-Jones would have foundered badly; as of course he eventually did.

Wasn't the Norman & Beard story and association rather interesting? It was always my understanding that John Christie of Glyndeborne fame could not get a builder to build the organ he wanted built. So he bought the organ building company . . . ? And the firm then built the extension instrument installed in Christie's organ room. . . .

So one presumes that the Hope-Jones' influence was on Christie, not directly within Norman & Beard?

Presumably this led to Christie cinema organs?

Sorry, this is leading the thread off topic . . . and somewhere the history of HN&B has probably been covered elsewhere . . . but the topic and association seemed worthy of bringing to notice.

Best wishes

Spot

#47 Guest_Cynic_*

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 06:22 AM

Wasn't the Norman & Beard story and association rather interesting? It was always my understanding that John Christie of Glyndeborne fame could not get a builder to build the organ he wanted built. So he bought the organ building company . . . ? And the firm then built the extension instrument installed in Christie's organ room. . . .

So one presumes that the Hope-Jones' influence was on Christie, not directly within Norman & Beard?

Presumably this led to Christie cinema organs?

Sorry, this is leading the thread off topic . . . and somewhere the history of HN&B has probably been covered elsewhere . . . but the topic and association seemed worthy of bringing to notice.

Best wishes

Spot


Norman & Beard must at the very least have taken over some Hope Jones interests. I was amused to find, many years ago, a large supply of Hope Jones bellows-weights inside the Chapel Organ at Winchester College, an instrument supplied by N&B after Hope Jones had left for the USA. This instrument also boasted a far-detached console and an early electric action.

#48 Tony Newnham

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 10:55 AM

Norman & Beard must at the very least have taken over some Hope Jones interests. I was amused to find, many years ago, a large supply of Hope Jones bellows-weights inside the Chapel Organ at Winchester College, an instrument supplied by N&B after Hope Jones had left for the USA. This instrument also boasted a far-detached console and an early electric action.


Hi

Hope-Jones was in a short lived partnership with N&B, who continued to build H-J type organs for a few years after his departure - for instance Battersea Town Hall - a virtually untouched 4 manual due for restoration in the near future, and all Souls, Clive Vale, Hastings among others.

Every Blessing

Tony

#49 MusingMuso

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 06:29 PM

Wasn't the Norman & Beard story and association rather interesting? It was always my understanding that John Christie of Glyndeborne fame could not get a builder to build the organ he wanted built. So he bought the organ building company . . . ? And the firm then built the extension instrument installed in Christie's organ room. . . .

So one presumes that the Hope-Jones' influence was on Christie, not directly within Norman & Beard?

Presumably this led to Christie cinema organs?

Sorry, this is leading the thread off topic . . . and somewhere the history of HN&B has probably been covered elsewhere . . . but the topic and association seemed worthy of bringing to notice.

Best wishes

Spot



=========================


I think it is very important to distinguish between the "Unit Orchestra" of Hope-Jones, and the full-blown theatre organs of the type we associate with Wurlitzer, Christie, Compton et al.

The "Unit Orchestra" was a concept born of the age; and Norman & Beard were really at the forefront of development. They were as interested as anyone else in the orchestral-organ, which was a very different animal to something like the "Symphonic Organs" by Cavaille-Coll, and the town-hall organs of Willis. "Symphonic" does not imply "orchestral," but rather, the concept of an heroic instrument capable of symphonic colours and range of power.

Robert Hope-Jones, in his quirky madness, came up with the idea of exact replication of orchestral sound, using organ-pipes: something that was doomed to failure when you care to think about it. Having heard the Hope Jones organ at Battersea TH, when it was actually almost in playing condition, the striking thing was the individuality of the registers. Very fluffy Diapasons, very keen strings, very smooth Tubas, very heavy basses etc etc.

The next most striking thing, was the complete lack of blend; with individual voices standing apart from each other.

Norman & Beard were obviously well aware of the orchestral tendency of the day, and to that end, they spent many hours, days and months, developing a style of organ which could combine the many orchestral elements in such a way that they would actually blend.

There are a few good Norman & Beard organs still in more or less original condition, and it always strikes me, that working within the more orchestral concept, they achieved a very good compromise between traditional organ tone, and the purely orchestral tones of Hope Jones. For instance, they thought long and hard about the blend of flues and reeds, and to a great extent, pulled this off without resorting to the kind of Harmonics mixtures (really a type of Cornet) employed by Arthur Harrison. Indeed, the reed-voicing at Norman & Beard was probably, in its own way, the equal of Fr Willis, but it tends not to be appreciated fully to-day.

Hope-Jones spent time in the Norman & Beard voicing-room, and it was that co-experimentation which gave rise to the Tibia Clausa; which was never intended as a theatre-organ stop, but as a great flood of orchestral flute tune. The Tibia Clausa is actually a rather nice sound, but of course, it really never had a place in the classical organ line-up.

The bigest contribution of Robert Hope-Jones, was in the introduction of electric-action, using the telephone-exchange technology with which he was familiar as a telephone-engineer in Birkenhead.

So after trotting off, (fleeing a sexual scandal with one of his male employees actually), to America, Hope-Jones once more began to build his "Unit Orchestra." It was the very successful, old family firm (back to the 16th century in Germany) of Wurlitzer, who saw the potential of the "Unit Orchestra" in the cinemas; then springing up on every street corner, showing silent films. Due to the fact that Wurlitzer were major manufacturers of automaton instruments, and especially fair organs (called Band Organs in America), they had a ready-made, virtual "unit orchestra" system of their own. The Fair Organ, using punch-card mechanisms, was divided into Solo, Accompaniment and Counter-melody sections, with a suitable Bass section corresponding to the pedal organ in a classical instrument.

With the combination of Hope-Jones telephone-exchange technology, and Wurlitzer know how with percussion registers, and sliderless-chest operation, it was a stroke of genius which combined the two. Almost overnight was created an instrument capable of accompanying silent films, providing novelty sound effects and being under the operation of a single performer, using an organ-console. That in turn created a whole new breed of musician; the best of whom were utterly remarkable, and the worst of whom were simply awful.

Due to Hope Jones fleeing the UK, he was unable to finish certain contracts, and when Norman & Beard absorbed the interests of the Hope Jones company, they had to finish off a few outstanding Hope Jones contracts; of which Battersea Town Hall was one.

So the theatre organ bit comes later, when Norman & Beard had absorbed the interests of Hope Jones, and then amalgamated with Wm.Hill & Sons. The use of the "Christie" name was possibly an attempt to disassociate the classical side of the company with that of the theatre organ, but in essence, it was just two sides of the same business.

It has to be said, that Christie were by far the best builders of theatre organs in the UK, but Compton outsold them, and Wulitzer developed such a reputation, that they even set up business in the UK.

Fortunately, a few good Christie organs remain, but sadly, not the largest and most famous, which was once in the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch, London. The last that I heard, the organ was badly stored in any number of old trailers in a farm-yard, and restoration was being assessed.

For those interested in cinema organs, the late Sidney Torch made many of his finest, up-tempo recordings on the Christie Organ at Edmonton; with its snappy trumpets, lush Tibias and tuned percussions. They remain classics; demonstrating the ferocious energy of a master pianist turned entertainment organist, orchestral conductor, composer and outstanding arranger for the BBC.

MM

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 09:39 PM

Robert Hope-Jones, in his quirky madness, came up with the idea of exact replication of orchestral sound, using organ-pipes


Thanks for such a brilliant rundown of the fascinating story of this area of organ development - I grew up with a Symphonium in my bedroom in my first five years - and in those days dreamed of an automatic orchestra - but luckily have grown up since then. :lol: But perhaps not when thinking of my mad idea of putting on the Poulenc . . . (Anyone game for it? )

So is the legend about Christie, Glyndeborne and HN&B true - buying into the firm in order to get the organ built as he wanted?

There is a useful webpage on the Glyndeborne organ
http://www.ondamar.d.../trz/glynde.htm

I understood the instrument to have been removed to a church in the Strand

Best wishes

Spot

#51 MusingMuso

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 07:19 AM

So is the legend about Christie, Glyndeborne and HN&B true - buying into the firm in order to get the organ built as he wanted?



============================


I'll make enquiries among or wibbly-wobbly Tibia friends. They will know, for sure.

MM

#52 Tony Newnham

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 09:22 AM

=========================


So the theatre organ bit comes later, when Norman & Beard had absorbed the interests of Hope Jones, and then amalgamated with Wm.Hill & Sons. The use of the "Christie" name was possibly an attempt to disassociate the classical side of the company with that of the theatre organ, but in essence, it was just two sides of the same business.

It has to be said, that Christie were by far the best builders of theatre organs in the UK, but Compton outsold them, and Wulitzer developed such a reputation, that they even set up business in the UK.



MM


Hi

HNB built a few "Orchestral Organs" for cinemas before the Christie "Unit Orchestra" phase - see for example http://npor.emma.cam...ec_index=N15535

There is a rumour (uncomfirmed) that part of the Glyndebourne organ ended up in The Dome, Brighton. The NPOR survey just says "broken up for parts".

Every Blessing

Tony

#53 Philip J Wells

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 02:44 PM

Parts of the Glyndeborne instrument are in the 1971 HNB instrument in the Guards Chapel, Wellington Baracks, Westminster London. Please see:

http://npor.emma.cam...ec_index=N07766

PJW

#54 quentinbellamy

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 10:08 AM

It may be appropriate to advise list members that Ivor Buckingham who did so much research into the life and work of the John Compton organ company, culminating in the well-known Compton List, has died, following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. His website is still up and can be found HERE

#55 Vox Humana

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 07:59 PM

There are also Ian Bell articles on Compton in back issues of the BIOS journal though mine are packed away at present so I can't check exact references.

A local historian who is researching the old ABC cinema in Plymouth has contacted me, looking for a copy of Ian Bell's article "A Survey of the Work of John Compton" published in BIOS Journal 23 (1999). I can't help as I don't take the BIOS Journal. He's happy to source it on inter-library loan, but I just wondered whether any forum members would be able and willing to offer a quicker solution.

#56 Vox Humana

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 09:56 PM

A very kind reader has come to my aid. You know who you are and I thank you most sincerely for your speedy response!

#57 Contra Posaune

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 08:01 AM

=====================
Your comments about the teaching of technical crafts in schools in the past generations ring so true. My own experiences and learning in these subjects not only gave me a lifelong hobby in such skills, but a vocational trade that served me well for 30 years. I now work in a school, and we have no use whatsoever of engineering machinery in tuition. It merely stands at the back of our workshops, as a reminder of days long gone! Skills? Gone with the curriculum!

CP

As I suspected; one very bright cookie!

Permitting my imagination to wander a little, I can't help but wonder what it was like to be educated at a top school in a city like Birmingham, where the white-heat of technology was possibly on a par with anything in the world. In those days, schools had very strong links with local industry, learned societies, tradesmen and technological institutions.......the grammar schools being the resource from which the next generation of engineers and craftsmen were drawn.

In fact, I can only think of Manchester as the other possible rival in the technology stakes.

Looking back at my own grammar school education, science and technology were a powerful presence in the school, and I think I was all of thirteen when I started to learn how to use machinery such as lathes, grinders, milling machines and drills, as well as saw wood, plane it, glue it, sand it and french-polish it. We even had lessons in "Technical Drawing" which have come in handy over the years.

I wonder how many school-leavers to-day could re-build a car engine, lap a bearing or replace interference-fit valve-guides into a cylinder-head?

Add to all this the technology and science of electronics and electrical-engineering (then all the rage), audio-electrical acoustics and rapid advances in materials science, and it amounts to a quite extraordinary hot-house of new, exciting ideas, into which the young John Compton must have been planted.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that John Compton was a product of that unique age; ever experimenting with new ideas and, perhaps, only brought to an end by the retro-movement of "classical revival".

What I find fascinating, is the fact that John Compton may well have been initially inspired by the work of Robert Hope-Jones, as well as being a major UK competitor to the Rudolph Wurlitzer company, but what Compton did was technically far in advance of anything that they achieved, and to a very high quality.

As for the aesthetic of installing those ghastly little toggle-switches for the ventil controls, I have often wondered why they had to be so noisy in operation, and look so awful.

The the truth dawns, that these nasty little switches still work perfectly after sixty years.

As for the Solo Cello and Melotone units; the engineering was just amazing, and I immediately think of old Ferrograph tape-recorders and BBC broadcasting equipment of the 1950's and early 60's.....and they still work too!

Quite, quite fascinating.

MM



#58 Graham Dukes

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 05:48 PM

Some time has gone by since most of the contributions came into the Forum on the subject of John Compton and his contribution to the development of the organ. There was a lot of interest in the proposal to pull together the material for a good technical and musical biography, that among other things could call on the expertise or writings of people like Ian Bell, Roger Taylor, Laurence Elvin or Ivor Buckingham. It would be a great pity if this proposal were to be forgotten - there is still time enough to collect and collate it all, and soon it may be too late.
One aspect that has hardly been touched on so far is why the Compton firm ultimately failed, some years after John Compton's death. My own contacts with them were precisely during this final period of decline.
The primary problem, I understood, was that Comptons largely failed to detect and follow the revival of the best classic organ building tradition during the fifties and sixties - one in which Mander played a major role. Although Comptons at their best did build a few excellent instruments at that time (St Albans, Holborn, was well designed and built, but badly voiced through no fault of the firm) they had acquired the reputation of being a firm that messed around with electronics, cinema organs and extension organs (though in all three fields they had tended to act responsibly). Cinemas had already lost interest in organs by 1939, and now the church pipe organ business too fell away because of these prejudices and was sold to Rushworth and Dreaper by 1964.
After that, with the theatre organist Alan Lord as managing director, the John Compton company had to rely entirely on their electronic instruments to keep the business going. Unfortunately, they ignored some already promising trends in the synthesis of sounds using valves and transistors and trusted completely their thirty year-old system of rotating condensers. What was worse, in order to save money they simplified it. The original design using engravings of complex wave forms and managed some fairly convincing tones (Manchester Free Trade Hall!) though it was always weak on upper harmonics, which condensers cannot handle. In its simplified form, the condensors were engraved with no more than seven octaves of sine waves, which meant that its capabilities were reduced to those of a Hammond. The 2ft voice lost its only harmonic after three octaves and broke back for the top octave.
Overpriced and under-endowed, the new electronic instruments were unable to compete.
After a bankruptcy in 1966, the firm, renamed "Compton Organs", was acquired by EPTA electronics, which continued production but used part of the factory to make other electronic devices. On one of my visits, a part of the staff seemed to be out on the street repairing the old Rolls-Royce of the new managing director (an elderly colonel). The new firm soon itself went bankrupt and was sold off in pieces. The rotating condenser system went to Compton-Makin (who soon adopted superior solid-state techniques); the name also went to Compton-Edwards who started making small transistor organs, while some employees set up the Compton Organ Maintenance Company to provide service to old John Compton electronic installatIions.0
Interestingly, though Compton-Makin in due course dropped the Compton name (and were later merged with Johannus in Holland who took over Makin production), the Makin building in Oldham, Lancs, was until a recent change of address labelled "Compton House."

Graham Dukes
Oslo

#59 MusingMuso

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 09:27 PM

After a bankruptcy in 1966, the firm, renamed "Compton Organs", was acquired by EPTA electronics, which continued production but used part of the factory to make other electronic devices. On one of my visits, a part of the staff seemed to be out on the street repairing the old Rolls-Royce of the new managing director (an elderly colonel). The new firm soon itself went bankrupt and was sold off in pieces. The rotating condenser system went to Compton-Makin (who soon adopted superior solid-state techniques); the name also went to Compton-Edwards who started making small transistor organs, while some employees set up the Compton Organ Maintenance Company to provide service to old John Compton electronic installatIions.0
Interestingly, though Compton-Makin in due course dropped the Compton name (and were later merged with Johannus in Holland who took over Makin production), the Makin building in Oldham, Lancs, was until a recent change of address labelled "Compton House."

Graham Dukes
Oslo


======================

Thank you Graham for this additional information concerning the last years and eventual demise of the John Compton Organ Co.

One tiny, niggling thing immediately started rattling at the back of my brain, but I cannot recall the exact details.

I'm sure it would be restricted to the days of electronic organ production, (either as Compton-Makin or as Compton-Edwards), but I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies. That obvioulsy changed in due course, but I wonder if anyone knows why, or how, a company of this magnitude should show an interest in the manufactire of electronic organs on what was obviously a relatively small scale.

Curiously, I have tenuous link with the current set-up, in that the current MD is into stock-car racing in quite a big way, and I also dabbled in it as a mechanic in my hideously mis-spent youth.

It shows how one's past has a habit of catching up with you in due course., and Dr Harrington (Makin MD) and myself enjoyed a humourous exchange of e-mails on the subject.

I agree that it would be a pity if all those with memories of John Compton and the company he founded, disappeared and took the knowledge with them. Compton's contribution, even to the classical revival, was very important. I suspect that the failure to adapt would have been totally alien to John Compton's innovative thinking, but alas, he was no more.

The interesting thing is the link between some of Compton's former staff and the organ at New College, Oxford, which demonstrates that the talent was there to make the leap forward into the past.

MM

#60 Heckelphone

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 09:36 PM

======================
I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies.


Amongst many other things, Bibby provide small business financing and invoice factoring. I've used them myself for a small business with vast cash value of stock in production. Could it be a simple explanation that a small company in a similar position would rely on such a service for cashflow stability?




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