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Can Anyone Identify The Builder?


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This is a shot in the dark, but I have just bought an old 7-stop organ and would love to identify the builder. For the last hundred years it has lived in Hall Green Christadelphian Church in Birmingham. On dismantling the instrument, I found labels stuck to Bourdon pipes and larger panels which read "FF Grafton Esq, Heysham Hall, Morecambe Station". It's incredible to think bits of it once travelled by train! Preliminary armchair research reveals that the Grafton family once owned Heysham Old Hall in Lancashire and made their money in the cotton (calico) trade in Manchester. What did get my mouth watering however was the sight of two EF Walcker weights on the reservoir. This could mean nothing more than the builder had them lying around in his workshop; there is also one "G&D" weight too, presumably Gray & Davidson.

 

The specification and sound is delightful, and the mitring on the bass pipes reinforces the likelihood of it having been built as a house organ. The Swell and Great share the same soundboard, with pallets front and back. The Swell shutters are at the rear of the organ, with the Pedal Bourdon behind.

 

Great

Open Diapason 8

Clarabella (enclosed in Sw box) 8

Flute (harmonic from middle C) 4

 

Swell

Viol di Gamba 8

Gemshorn (actually a Principal) 4

Hautboy 8

 

Pedal

Bourdon 16

 

Tracker action (pedals on a more recent pneumatic action with plastic tubes)

 

Here are some pictures: Ebay. However, the facade is not original. I'm told it had painted wooden dummy pipes, which have been replaced by longer Open Diapason pipes in recent years. And, no, I didn't pay £800 for it: the winning bidder defaulted; the church got back in touch - bargain! The organ is now dismantled and safely stored. All I need now is a larger Edwardian house with high ceilings...

 

Any ideas about the organ's possible provenance or maker would be gratefully received.

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Ball

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This is a shot in the dark, but I have just bought an old 7-stop organ and would love to identify the builder. For the last hundred years it has lived in Hall Green Christadelphian Church in Birmingham. On dismantling the instrument, I found labels stuck to Bourdon pipes and larger panels which read "FF Grafton Esq, Heysham Hall, Morecambe Station". It's incredible to think bits of it once travelled by train! Preliminary armchair research reveals that the Grafton family once owned Heysham Old Hall in Lancashire and made their money in the cotton (calico) trade in Manchester. What did get my mouth watering however was the sight of two EF Walcker weights on the reservoir. This could mean nothing more than the builder had them lying around in his workshop; there is also one "G&D" weight too, presumably Gray & Davidson.

 

The specification and sound is delightful, and the mitring on the bass pipes reinforces the likelihood of it having been built as a house organ. The Swell and Great share the same soundboard, with pallets front and back. The Swell shutters are at the rear of the organ, with the Pedal Bourdon behind.

 

Great

Open Diapason 8

Clarabella (enclosed in Sw box) 8

Flute (harmonic from middle C) 4

 

Swell

Viol di Gamba 8

Gemshorn (actually a Principal) 4

Oboe 8

 

Pedal

Bourdon 16

 

Tracker action (pedals on a more recent pneumatic action with plastic tubes)

 

Here are some pictures: Ebay. However, the facade is not original. I'm told it had painted wooden dummy pipes, which have been replaced by longer Open Diapason pipes in recent years. And, no, I didn't pay £800 for it: the winning bidder defaulted; the church got back in touch - bargain! The organ is now dismantled and safely stored. All I need now is a larger Edwardian house with high ceilings...

 

Any ideas about the organ's possible provenance or maker would be gratefully received.

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Ball

 

 

Based on a combination of the soundboard design and the case (because I have a near-identical two-decker myself) my best guess would be Wadsworth. If you want to confirm this, all you have to look at are the stop action rollers which have (if Wadsworth) an unusual arrangement. At the top of pale hickory or ash rollers (planed hexagonal in section - unusual in itself) there will be stout iron arms that both operate the slides and serve as the pivot at the top end. These would be a sort of lazy S in shape if removed from the wood. Hope this helps.

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Based on a combination of the soundboard design and the case (because I have a near-identical two-decker myself) my best guess would be Wadsworth. If you want to confirm this, all you have to look at are the stop action rollers which have (if Wadsworth) an unusual arrangement. At the top of pale hickory or ash rollers (planed hexagonal in section - unusual in itself) there will be stout iron arms that both operate the slides and serve as the pivot at the top end. These would be a sort of lazy S in shape if removed from the wood. Hope this helps.

 

 

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

 

 

I really have no idea, but Wadsworth certainly was a very respected and prolific builder of ye organs in the Lancashire area.

 

The existence of Walcker bellows weights comes as no surprise, because Walcker exported quite a few organs to the UK, and many proved to be less than durable. (There was at least one Walcker organ in Bradford, at a Methodist Church on Otley Road).

 

Just to think.....a whole organ must have trundled through my home town by train; passing both the old Worth Valley lines, as they then were.

 

MM

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This is a shot in the dark, but I have just bought an old 7-stop organ and would love to identify the builder. For the last hundred years it has lived in Hall Green Christadelphian Church in Birmingham. On dismantling the instrument, I found labels stuck to Bourdon pipes and larger panels which read "FF Grafton Esq, Heysham Hall, Morecambe Station". It's incredible to think bits of it once travelled by train! Preliminary armchair research reveals that the Grafton family once owned Heysham Old Hall in Lancashire and made their money in the cotton (calico) trade in Manchester. What did get my mouth watering however was the sight of two EF Walcker weights on the reservoir. This could mean nothing more than the builder had them lying around in his workshop; there is also one "G&D" weight too, presumably Gray & Davidson.

 

The specification and sound is delightful, and the mitring on the bass pipes reinforces the likelihood of it having been built as a house organ. The Swell and Great share the same soundboard, with pallets front and back. The Swell shutters are at the rear of the organ, with the Pedal Bourdon behind.

 

Great

Open Diapason 8

Clarabella (enclosed in Sw box) 8

Flute (harmonic from middle C) 4

 

Swell

Viol di Gamba 8

Gemshorn (actually a Principal) 4

Hautboy 8

 

Pedal

Bourdon 16

 

Tracker action (pedals on a more recent pneumatic action with plastic tubes)

 

Here are some pictures: Ebay. However, the facade is not original. I'm told it had painted wooden dummy pipes, which have been replaced by longer Open Diapason pipes in recent years. And, no, I didn't pay £800 for it: the winning bidder defaulted; the church got back in touch - bargain! The organ is now dismantled and safely stored. All I need now is a larger Edwardian house with high ceilings...

 

Any ideas about the organ's possible provenance or maker would be gratefully received.

 

Kind regards

 

Ian Ball

 

Hi Ian

 

Can I sak you to e-mail NPOR with details of this organ and where it came from (and also where it's going)? We like to ty and keep up to date!

 

Many Thanks

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

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Hi Ian

 

Can I sak you to e-mail NPOR with details of this organ and where it came from (and also where it's going)? We like to ty and keep up to date!

 

Many Thanks

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

Thanks Tony, will do. Paul Derrett has been extremely helpful and we're now tending towards Bishop & Sons. It is VERY similar to this: Bishop. More digging to be done, but there are several similar Bishops listed on NPOR.

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... Paul Derrett has been extremely helpful and we're now tending towards Bishop & Sons. It is VERY similar to this: Bishop. More digging to be done, but there are several similar Bishops listed on NPOR.

 

Not only was Paul extremely helpful, I would say he was rather more accurate with Wadsworth than your suggestion of Bishop & Son.

 

Firstly, when you see several builders listed and the word rebuild on the NPOR list, you can not be certain that the console or anything else is actually from the original builder. On the one in the link you gave there had been two subsequent builders.

 

You will have noticed that the key cheeks on your organ are quite simple: square with 45° corners and in fact very typical of Wadsworth and another Northern builder Wilkinson of Kendal (I don't think it is one of his though).

 

The drawstops are set in two box sections and many of Wadsworth's organs were built like this.

 

Other clues that we have to work on to help date the organ are the stop names. The use of Hautboy and Gemshorn together gives a pretty good indication of the date. Wadsworth for example was using Hautboy up until 1870 and together with Gemshorn in the 1860s. Only very rarely do you find anything other than oboe after 1870.

 

You might like to compare your console with two Wadsworth organs at St John's Kirk Merrington, Durham 1866 and Cranborne, Dorset 1880 on the NPOR. I realise they are not the same size, but comparing size and similar specifications is not the best way to track down a mystery builder.

 

As well as Paul's description of the stop action, does the organ have splayed backfalls? Or is there a more usual roller board?

Wadsworth was well known for using the former action.

 

There are a few Wadsworth's listed for Surrey which ties in with the information you have too.

 

Of Course if it is Bishop & Son, there will almost certainly be a label to that effect on the inside of the wind chest.

 

Are there opus numbers stamped on the wood pipes? Bishop & Son had reached Opus 1551 by 1896, and it would be unusual for any Bishop organ not to have opus numbers. An Opus number in the 100s is more likely to be Wadsworth than Bishop & Son.

 

Keep digging for clues!

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Not only was Paul extremely helpful, I would say he was rather more accurate with Wadsworth than your suggestion of Bishop & Son.

Thanks David

 

There are indeed splayed backfalls. Actually, the suggestion of Bishop was a tentative one of Paul's after I sent him photos of the dismantling, including shots of apparently non-Wadsworth stop action. He also mentioned that the 'tuble-style' manual coupler was uncommon (wish I could paste a photo here). It was only a tentative suggestion though, but Bishop's did make a number of 'model' organs of this type.

 

Obviously, I take your point about rebuilds, and given the numerous alterations to the facade over the decades, and the lack of wear on the manuals, I wouldn't be surprised if the console was a later addition, or had at least been rebuilt. I'm very grateful for your post however and will follow your suggestions re opus numbers and labels.

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Thanks David

 

There are indeed splayed backfalls. Actually, the suggestion of Bishop was a tentative one of Paul's after I sent him photos of the dismantling, including shots of apparently non-Wadsworth stop action. He also mentioned that the 'tuble-style' manual coupler was uncommon (wish I could paste a photo here). It was only a tentative suggestion though, but Bishop's did make a number of 'model' organs of this type.

 

Obviously, I take your point about rebuilds, and given the numerous alterations to the facade over the decades, and the lack of wear on the manuals, I wouldn't be surprised if the console was a later addition, or had at least been rebuilt. I'm very grateful for your post however and will follow your suggestions re opus numbers and labels.

 

 

'Tuble' above is Ian's perfectly correct copy of my mis-type for tumbler.

Those of our readers with experience inside organs may have seen this kind somewhere. In every dozen little tracker jobs I don't think you would necessarily find one of these, so this is a useful pointer towards a likely builder. As David E says, the extremely simple (?oak) key cheeks are a pointer away from several firms.

 

This Swell to Great is unusual: essentially, instead of a set of backfalls further insde the organ or even a drum-stick arrangement, what he has is a hardwood roller, about 1.75 inches in diameter, containing slots with mini-stickers that essentially engage between the two sets of keys when rolled forward. These are individually retained within the beam by pins. [ian might like to post just this one of his set of photos.]

 

Who's seen one, and by whom was it made?

 

Interestingly, for me this search was a real piece of luck through serendipity, Ian's photos resolved the question of exactly who made the small two-manual I rescued about five years ago from the Song School at Westminster Cathedral. This is now in a young musician's studio in Japan (he got it very cheap!). The similarity is near enough 100%.

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'Tuble' above is Ian's perfectly correct copy of my mis-type for tumbler.

Ah! That explains it :rolleyes: (you did refer to a tumbler in your later email - apologies). How do I post a picture here? I guess it's only possible via hyperlink to an external site?

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Do the packing labels suggest a point of origin, or which regional railway carried the goods. This might yield some clue ?

 

H

Sadly not, but it would have been long before the glory days of the London, Midland and Scottish :rolleyes:

 

I hope all will be revealed once I crack open the soundboard... or invite John Budgen for a decent bottle of claret and several hours' anecdotes.

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The more photos the better Ian! There are several free sites you can join and post images on, Facebook is one. Or send them to me via PM and I'll put them on mine.

 

Just looking more closely on the ebay photos reveals some interesting points:

 

The stop knob for the Open Diapason is different to the rest. It has red initial letters, and refers to "Open Diap. Large 8 ft". As there is only one OD on this instrument, the stop knob is likely from another organ. Also, all the other stops knobs only list the number without the 'ft'. To add to the Bishop & Son idea, the diapason stop knob is actually typical of that firm, during the Bishop & Star period, where all initial letters (including their impressive brass name plate) were in red. I'm willing to believe though that other builders also used this style during the same period, but I've not seen any examples.

 

As to the Clarabella stop knob, the inclusion of the word 'stopt' suggests that this was not from a Bishop organ.

 

The yellowing of a few others, doesn't necessarily suggest they are from elsewhere, as Ivory often ages at different rates, and of course depends on use. Perhaps the OD stop knob was replaced because the engraving had completely worn off.

 

It seems that there are at least two builders involved. The absence of any obvious name plate suggests that neither Bishop nor Wadsworth actually built or rebuilt the organ as it stands now. I would think that there was a third builder who put the whole thing together, or made significant repairs. Let's hope that the pipes are at least from the same builder.

 

The casework finials don't seem quite elaborate enough to be the work of Bishop & Son. Theirs were more like little castle turrets, but again, there may well have been many exceptions, particularly for a house organ.

 

Did the Church in which it stood for 100 years tell you about the original stencilled façade pipes? It seems a shame these were discarded.

 

You might be able to eliminate Bishop & Son by contacting them (Mr Maurice Merrell), their telephone numbers are on the easy-to-find web site. Given the 'Grafton Esq, Heysham Hall' clue, if it is B & S, then they should have records of it. They have been very helpful in the past.

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The more photos the better Ian! There are several free sites you can join and post images on, Facebook is one. Or send them to me via PM and I'll put them on mine.

 

Just looking more closely on the ebay photos reveals some interesting points:

 

The stop knob for the Open Diapason is different to the rest. It has red initial letters, and refers to "Open Diap. Large 8 ft". As there is only one OD on this instrument, the stop knob is likely from another organ. Also, all the other stops knobs only list the number without the 'ft'. To add to the Bishop & Son idea, the diapason stop knob is actually typical of that firm, during the Bishop & Star period, where all initial letters (including their impressive brass name plate) were in red. I'm willing to believe though that other builders also used this style during the same period, but I've not seen any examples.

 

As to the Clarabella stop knob, the inclusion of the word 'stopt' suggests that this was not from a Bishop organ.

 

The yellowing of a few others, doesn't necessarily suggest they are from elsewhere, as Ivory often ages at different rates, and of course depends on use. Perhaps the OD stop knob was replaced because the engraving had completely worn off.

 

It seems that there are at least two builders involved. The absence of any obvious name plate suggests that neither Bishop nor Wadsworth actually built or rebuilt the organ as it stands now. I would think that there was a third builder who put the whole thing together, or made significant repairs. Let's hope that the pipes are at least from the same builder.

 

The casework finials don't seem quite elaborate enough to be the work of Bishop & Son. Theirs were more like little castle turrets, but again, there may well have been many exceptions, particularly for a house organ.

 

Did the Church in which it stood for 100 years tell you about the original stencilled façade pipes? It seems a shame these were discarded.

 

You might be able to eliminate Bishop & Son by contacting them (Mr Maurice Merrell), their telephone numbers are on the easy-to-find web site. Given the 'Grafton Esq, Heysham Hall' clue, if it is B & S, then they should have records of it. They have been very helpful in the past.

 

Thanks David. I have posted a lot of the photos on my Facebook, but I try to keep that private. I suppose I could start a group, but that would be a tad grandiose. What's your email address? Mine: ianfball@hotmail.com.

 

I did wonder about the LARGE Open Diapason, although the font seems consistent with the rest of the organ (British Leyland used their own parts bin across the range; no reason why an organ builder can't, but it's a bit shoddy...). I do hope the pipework is all from the same conception - it formed a lovely mélange the one time I played it, about a month ago: a real luxury for one used to house organs that only possess one unevenly voiced chiffy 8ft on unsteady wind, common to both manuals and pedal, topped by an asthmatic 4 foot and a vanilla 2' Gemshorn. I'm sorry, but even a trio sonata sounds better played on well-voiced 8 foots. And I have no wish to practise trio sonatas at my time of life; there's too much Vierne, Reger and Howells to learn! Oops, and Eben, obviously.

 

I would love a Celeste tho. I could improvise away with the Gt 4' Harmonic Flute coupled to pedal til the Merlot makes me insensible... Pedal divide anyone? Digital 32' for left foot?

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It has red initial letters. I'm willing to believe though that other builders also used this style during the same period, but I've not seen any examples

 

Just a thought. What about Alexander Young? The console lid/music desk arrangement is also consistent with this firm's style.

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Guest Barry Williams

A number of organ builders engraved the initial letter in red. It was a characteristic of Gray & Davison and looks very elegant.

 

Barry Williams

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A number of organ builders engraved the initial letter in red. It was a characteristic of Gray & Davison and looks very elegant.

 

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

I certainly wouldn't want to try and determine the builder just from this - as Barry says, it was pretty common - it comes up in descriptions on NPOR regularly - I would add Hill to the list of builders that did this (there's one in a local church) and many others.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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'

This Swell to Great is unusual: essentially, instead of a set of backfalls further insde the organ or even a drum-stick arrangement, what he has is a hardwood roller, about 1.75 inches in diameter, containing slots with mini-stickers that essentially engage between the two sets of keys when rolled forward. These are individually retained within the beam by pins. [ian might like to post just this one of his set of photos.]

 

Who's seen one, and by whom was it made?

 

Ian has kindly sent me several photos, but the resolution is not really high enough to pick out detail. I have selected a few that show the most interesting details, I can add more later with Ian's permission, and they should be available here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=1139...mp;id=547372733

 

Audsley mentions that the tumbler coupler was used during the first half of the 19th century and a modified version, allowing adjustment as this one has, was invented by Kirtland & Jardine of Manchester. However, he describes there being troughs cut in the surfaces of the key tails to allow the stickers or 'jacks' to slide. I can't see such troughs, but it may just be that the photos don't pick them up.

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