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annewillis11

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  1. The Willis family and census returns

    Thanks for this I see that Henry Willis was variable about his birth place in the census returns. In 1851 it is given as St Luke Middlesex (the same as his wife); in 1871 Middlesex; in 1881 Christ Church Middlesex (Hoxton or Spitalfields?) and in 1891 Spitalfields. in 1861 he was absent on the night of the census. According to Thistlethwaite his father sang in the choir at the Surrey Chapel, Blackfriars, so did the family live south of the river at some point? Or was the music at the Surrey Chapel worth a long walk?
  2. Thank you for this. 

    I see that Father Henry Willis was somewhat variable in census returns for his place of birth.  In 1851 it was the same as his wife's  'St Luke's Middlesex'; in 1871 plain Middlesex; in 1881 Christ Church Middlesex (Hoxton or Spitalfields? ) and in 1981 Spitalfields. [In 1861 he was declared 'absent'.]

     

     

  3. Humidifiers

    Wide variation in humidty made a substantial contribution to the problems with the HWIII organ at Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon. An organ in a church on a flood plain does not have ideal conditions; the relative humidty along the Avon valley can go up to 90%, never mind floods and leaky roofs Heating and vicious drafts tended to dry the organ out, and at one point the Vicar resorted to galvanised zinc flower trays inside the organ to rehumidfy it. Eventually a humidifier was installed. A new oil-fired heating system gave wide fluctuations inside the church and uninsulated heating pipes passed through the blowing chamber. The final straw was a hot-air heating system installed against the advice of the then organ tuner (John Coulson) and the organist. The sad effect was to ruin the Pitman chest action in the organ. Even if it had been renewed when suggested in the early 1970's it would probably have required another renewal as no attempt was made to tackle the basic problems until very recently. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) is a good source of advice on the right degree of humidity and associated problems.
  4. I was doing some census searches for someone else entirely and found the young Henry Willis I in Factory Row, Marylebone in 1841. The senior organ builder was William Richardson, aged 45, and the other organ builders included Willis, James Miller, both aged 20 and Thomas Matthews aged 25. According to Boeringer Richardson was ‘a London and Lancashire organ builder established 1845’, but I have found that Boeringer is not always accurate with his dates. Matthews and Miller are not mentioned in Boeringer but apparently there was a BIOS article in January 1979 about ‘Matthews (Thomas): of London: unknown organ-builder’. Subsequent census searches for Richardson, Matthews and Miller have not been successful; too many people and not enough information. I had always thought Henry Willis I was with Grey and Davison. Frederick Davison was in Marylebone in 1841 , but I suspect this was his private address. Was Willis a journeyman with Richardson, or was Richardson an outpost of Gray and Davison? And when did Henry Willis I set up on his own account? The 1891 census is a lesson not to have total trust in census returns. In 1891 Vincent Willis is listed with the HWI family in London and described as 'single'. 1901 sees the Vincent Willis family in London with five children, the eldest, Esther then aged 12. Also in the household was his brother in law James Arthur who is described as an 'organ maker'. Did Arthur work with Vincent in Liverpool? I can only assume that there was a slip by the enumerator in 1891 as Vincent had married Hannah Arthur in West Derby in 1887 and had had at least two children by 1891 .
  5. Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon

    The former West Gallery organ at Holy Trinity Organ is mentioned in the Sperling notebooks as being built by GP England around 1800. Boeringer makes the comment that this is apparently the only source that preserves this information. In 1798 the organ was rebuilt by John Maddey of Bristol for £163. In 1807 it was repaired by Todd (who was he?) and Smith (presumably John Smith I of Bristol). A flute and a dulciana were added by John Holland of Bath in 1808 and 1810 respectively, and Holland maintained the organ until 1828. Further improvements included a new keyboard installed by Fricker of Bath in 1833. The Holy Trinity organs and organists are well documented between 1729, when a vestry meeting decided to have an organ built, to the present day, apart from a gap for the years 1813 to 1819. It is possible that GP England built an organ for the church sometime between 1813 and his death, but is it probable? If so, why did Sperling date it to c1800? A further mystery is the 'device ' fitted, by Gray, in 1856. As far as I can see there is no entry for this in the Gray and Davison accounts in the British Organ archive. The writing is obscure in the churchwardens' accounts and it is unclear whether Gray (unspecified in the accounts) was working with a Mr Dawson or Mr Davison. 'Charles Dawson' is mentioned in Boeringer as 'an inventor of organ devices, active from at least 1849 to 1851' and I presume that the 'device' was some sort of pneumatic lever which must have made the instrument easier to play. (According to the Trowbridge Advertiser Robert Gray gave the first recital after the work) All this glory was destroyed between 1864 and 1866 when the church was largely rebuilt. William Sweetland, 'the eminent organ builder of Bath' installed an organ in 1870, but that's another story Comments would be very welcome please
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