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DaveHarries

Osmond, Taunton

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Hi all.

 

Does anyone know what happend to the organ builder George Osmond, once based in Taunton, Somerset?

 

Mr. Osmond himself died in 1949 but according to the NPOR (National Pipe Organ Register) there are records of "Geo Osmond" or "George Osmond" (of Taunton) working in 1980 (Beechen Cliff Methodist Church, Bath), and as late as 1988 (St. Mary's Church, Bridport, Dorset) and in other parts of England in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

 

Anyone got any ideas as to the location of Osmond? The NPOR does not record any takeover.

 

Thanks.

 

Dave

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Were they not taken over by Hill,Norman & Beard at some point? - ex Osmond men are working as independent tuners etc. in this area (Somerset) and Deane Organbuilders of Taunton I THINK maybe was formed from former Osmond employees also. There is a large rebuild of theirs (Osmond that is) at St Peter Parkstone, Bournemouth - Bryceson/Compton etc. which I think had Roger Fisher as consultant - this must have been one of their last large jobs in 1982/3. Not much help - but perhaps try contacting Deane etc. - they will be able to tell you more. They are at Priorswood Industrial Estate, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8DB -Telephone: 01823 253036.

AJJ

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Osmonds became part of the Christie group (which also owned HNB) in the late 1970s. They carried on until early to mid 90s, when a number of the staff left to become the Deane organ builders.

 

Peter

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Examples of the work of Deane Organs may be found at St. Peter's, Parkstone, Dorset (large three-manual rebuild of a Compton, with extension. Consultant: Roger Fisher, for Roger Hill, Organist at the time) and the chapel of Clayesmore School, Iwerne Minster, Dorset. Fairly large three-manual/ four division organ, in chamber over 'west' porch, with the console in a small gallery perpendicular to the west wall. I think that the consultant here was Roger Hill himself.

 

St. Peter's is (if lots of it is used) unsociably loud. The Swell reeds are 'sort-of' French, the GO reeds English and the Pedal reeds are - well, just loud. Roger Fisher did ensure that Deane Organs retained a big (harmonic?) flute on the Choir/Solo Organ- so he could play Vierne's Naiades at the opening recital which, I believe, was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio Three.

 

Clayesmore has some nice sounds, but the scheme has some quirks - a Choir/Solo Trumpet, which is labelled Trompette, but sounds like a smaller version of a H&H Tromba; and a GO mixture, the sound of which resembles 'empties' being deposited in a bottle-bank. I think that there is also a small amount of extension here, too. For example, the Choir Organ mutations.

 

However, this is not to say that neither organ is incapable of making some exciting and musical sounds!

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With regard to Geo. Osmond & Co., they did a great deal of work in the West Country. There are still many examples to be found, often in the condition in which they were left (in the sense of not being subsequently altered). There is a two-manual in Holsworthy Methodist Church, North Devon, for example and a slightly larger two-manual in the Anglo-Catholic Parish Church of St. Michael and all Angels, Bude Haven, North Cornwall (about ten miles from Holsworthy).

 

St. Michael's is actually quite an interesting instrument. It has been restored in the last ten years by Lance Foy, of Truro. The only alteration to the specification was the substitution of the GO Dulciana for a Tierce. However, this stop has turned out to be of diapason scaling. In addition to quite a good extended reed (16p - 8p) on the Swell, there is a huge Trumpet (read 'Tromba') on the GO. Given the coastal position of this edifice, I suspect that this stop was either donated or voiced by the Merchant Navy....

 

Whilst Osmonds were not particularly known for excellent voicing and it is also true that they often produced slightly cheap-looking stop-key consoles, they did do things such as give Gambas and Dulcianas full-length metal basses as a matter of course. However, their mixture-work was less happy. When included, a typical GO mixture was 19, 22, 26 at CC. The effect of these stops is perhaps best described as like 'empties being deposited in a bottle-bank'.

 

Notwithstanding, the rest of the chorus-work was often good and in the quieter flutes and strings, there are often real gems.

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...... there is a huge Trumpet (read 'Tromba') on the GO. Given the coastal position of this edifice, I suspect that this stop was either donated or voiced by the Merchant Navy....

 

I have lasting memories of the Bude organ during a visit where I was part of a choir singing for the Sunday a.m. Mass of the then organist (who I seem to remember was also a jazz pianist of some ability) performing an amazing improvisation at one point amid clouds of incense - the whole thing sounded as if it were going to explode! Likewise at a later choral evensong when I was playing and the above Great reed came on at the hands of a registrant/page-turner for the 'big' chord just before the final fugue in Wesley's 'Blessed be the God and Father' - almost else was obliterated!

In the right hands the Parkstone organ can sound very impressive - on a visit some years ago (before some more recent work by Michael Farley) the Assistant organist form Wimborne Minster played an extended demsonstration/improvisation based on plainsong themes that made it sound very French at all levels of dynamic.

AJJ

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I have lasting memories of the Bude organ during a visit where I was part of a choir sining for the Sunday a.m. Mass of the then organist (who I seem to remember was also a jazz pianist of some ability) performing an amazing improvisation at one point amid clouds of incense - the whole thing sounded as if it were going to explode! 

 

Now that would probably have been the Organist (still in-post) - Roy Dinshaw, who, aside from being a personal friend, is a very good jazz pianist and can also play the organ whilst peeling an orange....

 

Yes, I have played the Cocker Tuba Tune on the Bude organ - it works reasonably well, if you do not mind tying-up the GO. I have also had to tune the Fog-horn - sorry, Trumpet, on a few occasions. Close-up, its effect is even more devastating! :)

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Another thing that seems to be that organs worked on by Osmond have name plates removed relating to builders who had previously worked on the instrument - leaving only theirs. So making it difficult to sort out a history etc. I have found this to be the case on several occasions.

AJJ

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Guest Barry Oakley
Another thing that seems to be that organs worked on by Osmond have name plates removed relating to builders who had previously worked on the instrument - leaving only theirs. So making it difficult to sort out a history etc. I have found this to be the case on several occasions.

AJJ

 

This is not essentially a comment about the firm of Osmond but about the application of builder's nameplates. The organ in Hull City Hall is fundementally a 1911 Forster & Andrews (F&A), yet perhaps to the unknowing, because of a very predominant nameplate, it would appear to be the work of the now defunct firm of Rushworth & Dreaper. They, of course, acquired the business of the John Compton Organ Company during the 1950's, Compton's having rebuilt and enlarged the instrument just after the 39/45 war. Yet the nameplates of F&A and Compton have been reduced to ones of an almost insignificant size. I believe that the original builder's names should be first and foremost.

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Good to see information about the Clayesmore organ here. Not sure you're right about extensions on the positive, but the 4ft great reed is an extension of the 8ft and there is also some (poor) extension work on the swell. The great mixture is overwhelming at close quarters and the positive cymbal a nonsense. The organ is presently under review. I gave a recital at St Peter's Parkstone last year and loved it! Great fun and very satisfying to play, certainly from a non-purists point of view.

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Hi

 

Still with Osmonds - but to change the topic slightly - I learned to play mainly on a 2 manual extension job of theirs in St. Giles, Kingston Buci, Sussex (I remember it being installed). It made some reasonable sounds - considering the amount of extension - but it put me off detahced consoles and non-tracker action for life!

 

I was just wondering how many similar instruments they made (there are a couple of 1 m extension organs elsewhere in Sussex), and how they compare to the Walker positifs of the same era. (1960's)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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They produced loads of little one-manual extension things with a device that picked out the lowest note played and added a 16', which were a reasonably ingenious solution but probably rather short-termist. Not only did nobody ever learn to use the pedals, a good number of historic but feeble chamber organs got slung on the bonfire to make room.

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There was a 2 man extension job by Osmond till a few years ago at St Michael and All Angels, Andover - now replaced by a rather nasty Allen. I played it for school carol services etc. and it worked quite well for this purpose - quite bright and un-stodgy sounding on the west gallery of a fairly resonant modernish church - see the NPOR for details.

AJJ

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There was a 2 man extension job by Osmond till a few years ago at St Michael and All Angels, Andover - now replaced by a rather nasty Allen. I played it for school carol services etc. and it worked quite well for this purpose - quite bright and un-stodgy sounding on the west gallery of a fairly resonant modernish church - see the NPOR for details.

AJJ

Yes - the sound of the one in Shoreham was quite good - but the action response coupled with pipes at one end of the church and the console at the other wasn't so clever.

 

I've also come across a single manual plus pedal 2-rank extension job by them - in SOuthwick Community Church (details on NPOR). I don't know what the current state of it is, as they've just built a new building. The plan was to re-instate the organ, but I don't know if that's actually happened.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Leathered-Lips
With regard to Geo. Osmond & Co., they did a great deal of work in the West Country. There are still many examples to be found, often in the condition in which they were left (in the sense of not being subsequently altered). There is a two-manual in Holsworthy Methodist Church, North Devon, for example and a slightly larger two-manual in the Anglo-Catholic Parish Church of St. Michael and all Angels, Bude Haven, North Cornwall (about ten miles from Holsworthy).

 

St. Michael's is actually quite an interesting instrument. It has been restored in the last ten years by Lance Foy, of Truro. The only alteration to the specification was the substitution of the GO Dulciana for a Tierce. However, this stop has turned out to be of diapason scaling. In addition to quite a good extended reed (16p - 8p) on the Swell, there is a huge Trumpet (read 'Tromba') on the GO. Given the coastal position of this edifice, I suspect that this stop was either donated or voiced by the Merchant Navy....

 

Whilst Osmonds were not particularly known for excellent voicing and it is also true that they often produced slightly cheap-looking stop-key consoles, they did do things such as give Gambas and Dulcianas full-length metal basses as a matter of course. However, their mixture-work was less happy. When included, a typical GO mixture was 19, 22, 26 at CC. The effect of these stops is perhaps best described as like 'empties being deposited in a bottle-bank'.

 

Notwithstanding, the rest of the chorus-work was often good and in the quieter flutes and strings, there are often real gems.

 

The console at which I used to preside some years ago was originally a 2 manual 1886 Forster and Andrews. It was the first organ which Geo Osmond's had converted from tracker to electropneumatic action in the 1950's and they seemed to do so pretty well. I remember Harrisons commenting along the lines of it being a workmanlike conversion. The action was really very responsive indeed. The organ did unfortunately have one of those cheap and nasty detached consoles with very old and decrepit stop tabs. However, to their credit it worked and so far as I am aware they respected the original pipework which still had that characteristic and warming blending sound which Forster and Andrews were always renouned for. The one bad thing I think they did was to remove the double-rise reservoire and intall 2 single rises. From then on the organ always suffered from wobbly wind. It was not until much later that another somewhat larger Somerset firm got hold of the thing in the 1980's and stuck the most gross revolting repeating 26.29.33 mixture on it on a seperate chest (90 pipes)- I very much doubt there's anything quite like it anywhere. In fact I remember having the top rank cotton-wooled. It sounded vile and quite the most revolting mixture I have ever heard in all my years, the sound still haunts me. O yes, and the original gamba and clarinet also went in the bin, and a lovely 2' Blockflute went onto the Great just to add to the authenticity, it was a flute up to middle C then it turned into a kind of fifteenth! The Swell piccolo was changed to a fifteenth harmless enough I suppose. I believe one of the diocesan organ advisors was organist there at that time.

 

There was no Osmond stop on that job so far as I'm aware, but having played lots of Osmond organs the quality was very variable from one organ to another. The typical village organ tends to be functional and conservative with nothing too daring but all the usual stuff. Before the organ at Wellington School was ripped out and, (so I hear), quite literally smashed to pieces for a Roland, Osmonds had been adventurous having a put a Larigot on the Swell and all the synthetic components of a cornet as the choir organ. Quite a few of their tracker organs were notoriously heavy to play, but I remember the build quality of most being pretty solid and when they came across an organ of good pedigree, so far as I am aware they had the sense to respect the original work in many cases. So far as I am aware the Hill at Holy Trinity Taunton was restored conservatively by Osmonds and with the orginal console, but some years since I saw that now.

 

Edna.

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There are still a number of e Osmond men around the south western counties doing excellent tuning etc. on instruments in many of the villages - mine included. The large 3 manual Osmond rebuild of a Compton (late 70s/80s?) at St Peter's Parkstone in Poole has been mentioned here before - it is certainly very exciting - complete with Tuba and 32' reed. The last time I heard it (a few years ago on an Organ Club trip) the player concerned did a very respectable improvisation on plainsong themes in a very 20th Century French style - he has also been known to contribute to these discussions on occasions I think....!! Despite the somewhat unorthodox use of extension (check the NPOR) it can sound very effective. I believe Michael Farley has worked on it since then - the acoustic helps too - I think Roger Fisher was consultant to the Osmond work - the console is very sumptuous as I remember with no tabs in sight.

 

AJJ

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There are still a number of e Osmond men around the south western counties doing excellent tuning etc. on instruments in many of the villages - mine included. The large 3 manual Osmond rebuild of a Compton (late 70s/80s?) at St Peter's Parkstone in Pool has been mentioned here before - it is certainly very exciting - complete with Tuba and 32' reed. The last time I heard it (a few years ago on an Organ Club trip) the player concerned did a very respectable improvisation on plainsong themes in a very 20th Century French style - he has also been known to contribute to these discussions on occasions I think....!! Despite the somewhat unorthodox use of extension (check the NPOR) it can sound very effective. I believe Michael Farley has worked on it since then - the acoustic helps too - I think Roger Fisher was consultant to the Osmond work - the console is very sumptuous as I remember with no tabs in sight.

 

AJJ

 

I believe that any organist practising in the evenings at St. Peter's, Parkstone, is required to play quietly after 22h - otherwise local residents call the police! The organ is extremely exciting - and can also be very loud! For all that, it is a good and versatile instrument. The good acoustic is due, I believe, in no small measure to the fact that the architect of the church was J.L. Pearson....I wish we had lots of stone vaulting.... <_<

 

There is also a rather smaller example of the work of Geo. Osmond & Co., at St. Mary's, Ferndown. It is a fairly undistinguished two-clavier instrument, with a prepared-for reed on the GO.

 

However, in my experience, whilst Osmond organs often have a strident Mixture III (19, 22, 26) on the GO, they do usually have full-length metal basses to ranks such as gambas and dulcianas - in several areas, their workmanship was rather better than some other small firms.

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[i was a chorister at St Peters at the time of the Osmond rebuild, my father was church warden. The Compton organ was very unreliable with very funny full organ ciphers a regular occurrence. A noisy instrument in its death throws as the blower is turned off was guaranteed to make a ten year old laugh.

 

The rebuild was Osmonds (yes they were owned by Hill, Norman and Beard) last job as Brian Verriker decided to set up the Deane organ builders soon after. Roger Fisher was the consultant with Roger Hill. The new console was a mixture of traditionalism with draw stobs rather than the Compton tabs but micro processor "time divided multiplexing" control. The original keyboards were retained as they were ivory!

 

In my mind, the most stunning recitals were performed by Stephen Bell (Director of Music at Queens College, Taunton) who managed to coax the most amazing continental sounds out of the instrument. Cesar Frank's symphonies were stunning.

 

For the budget, the re-build in 1982, was a stunning improvement. Alas, Roger Hill was not enjoy the fruits of his labours for too long. In about 1988 he suffered a massive stroke. He was quite a genius. When he started campaigning for the re-build, the church authorities stated he did not know what he was talking about and that he knew nothing about extension organs. He proved them wrong by building one in his living room!

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I think Brian Verrier left Osmonds after Parkstone was completed and joined the already formed Deane Organ Builders.

 

I had sight of the HN&B/Osmond cost sheets in their London office when Parkstone was carried out. If I remember correctly the cost to the firm was almost exactly double what the church was charged.

 

What happened to the old Bryceson Leclanche cells in the vestry at Parkstone ? Are they still in situ or long gone ? Perhaps Peter Keats can tell us.

 

Headcase

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The Final Days of George Osmond & Co of Taunton

 

George Osmond was taken over sometime in the 80's by HNB / Christys

 

In Jan 1990 the first set of reduncancys was announced, this left only a handfull of staff remaining, but these were also all gone within the next 7 months.

 

In 1989 George Osmond had 2 large jobs in Progress.

1. The rebuild of the organ at Chittlehampton Parish Church

2. The Rebuild of the 3 manual organ in the chappel at Blundels School, Tiverton.

 

So What happened to them after?

 

Ivor Stevens - Retired

Vernon Clarke (metal shop) - Retired

Derek Simmonds (part time) - Retired

Donald Irish (ill at the time of the redundancys) - Unknown

Brian Rodgers - Suspect moved to the Dean

Phil - Went back to work for the council

Vernon Higgins (apprentise) - Unknown

Matthew Brown - Moved to Northampton working in the AE Davies / GDB works

Stanley Baker (Manager) - Unknown, but suspect he set up on his own as a tuner and voicer.

Val (sectrety) - Unknown, but suspect she retired

 

Matthew

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The Final Days of George Osmond & Co of Taunton

 

George Osmond was taken over sometime in the 80's by HNB / Christys

 

One day I will write the history of what actually happened concerning the take over of Osmond by HNB until their closure. It is interesting and complicated to say the least and would make a good novel, but it could not be published until after I have gone!

 

Frank Fowler

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The Final Days of George Osmond & Co of Taunton

 

George Osmond was taken over sometime in the 80's by HNB / Christys

 

In Jan 1990 the first set of reduncancys was announced, this left only a handfull of staff remaining, but these were also all gone within the next 7 months.

 

In 1989 George Osmond had 2 large jobs in Progress.

1. The rebuild of the organ at Chittlehampton Parish Church

2. The Rebuild of the 3 manual organ in the chappel at Blundels School, Tiverton.

 

So What happened to them after?

 

Ivor Stevens - Retired

Vernon Clarke (metal shop) - Retired

Derek Simmonds (part time) - Retired

Donald Irish (ill at the time of the redundancys) - Unknown

Brian Rodgers - Suspect moved to the Dean

Phil - Went back to work for the council

Vernon Higgins (apprentise) - Unknown

Matthew Brown - Moved to Northampton working in the AE Davies / GDB works

Stanley Baker (Manager) - Unknown, but suspect he set up on his own as a tuner and voicer.

Val (sectrety) - Unknown, but suspect she retired

 

Matthew

 

Philip S Baker does a lot of work in the Frome area - tuning etc. I had always understood he was ex Osmond too.

 

AJJ

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