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Abbott & Smith Organ-builders, Leeds


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I'm sure that everyone the list will be well aware of the Hill/Gauntlett revolution, and the introduction of the "German Method," which saw the introduction of independent pedal organs and the manual compasses we would recognise to-day.

Outside London, there were a few notable instruments which resulted from this re-thinking of the British organ; the most notable being perhaps the one which was almost solely responsible for the formation of the British Institute of Organ Studies; the Hill organ which once stood in Great George Street Congregational Church, (just down the road from the Rushworth & Dreaper/Willis works), Liverpool, and which I must have been one of the last to play prior to the destruction of both church and organ. (Take the rouble to read the horrific circumstances of this organ's destruction)

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10844

 

However, there are at least two other organs from around the same period; both of which remain sufficiently intact to be quite recognisably early William Hill organs; both of which demonstrate the influence of the same Hill/Dr.Gauntlett revolution.

 

The first is in some ways the least interesting, but it was an organ I knew well in my mis-spent youth, and which the local organist's association often visited. This was the very substantial instrument (with a fine mahogony gallery case) which stood in the absolutely huge Eastbrook Hall Methodist Church, Bradford, West Yorkshire. When the hall closed, there were great fears for the future of this instrument, for although quite large, it was never a very big sound; especially in a building where perhaps 2,000 people would sing the lusty hymns of Wesley. In fact, it was an organ which owed much to the more gentile sound of Gray & Davison, or the even gentler sound of Samuel Green.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D04935

 

This was, of course, the organ which was almost miraculously rescued, just in time to avoid a fire which destroyed the interior of the than redundant Eastboook Hall; of which only the facade now remains as part of a new development. The re-built and re-furbished instrument, which had previously been electrified and slightly altered by Marshall & Sykes, was installed and further re-built as close to the original specification, under the guiding eye of Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite, at the methodist Chruch, Cambridge. A much smaller building than that at Bradford, the organ now sounds splendid, and an important piece of organ heritage was preserved.

 

The second William Hill instrument, of enormous historical importance, is that which still remains silent in the parish church of Low Bentham, (Diocese of Bradford) between Ingleton and Lancaster on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10979

 

Graced with one of the most beautiful organ-cases ever made in Britain (check out the photographs), this instrument really is a national treasure, and was built as a chamber organ for a Leeds gentleman by the name of Mr Walker Joy, who had strong connections with the music and organ at Leeds Parish Church, where William Hill substantially re-built and enlarged the old Greenwood organ already there. Somewhere in the midst of this, the name of S S Wesley crops up.

 

Another name which crops up around the same time, is that of Edmund Schulze, and the building of the great music-room organ for the Kennedy house at Meanwood. This was followed by other instruments, including a large number of ranks supplied to other organ-builders, which were then installed as prized items. One such, was the complete Echo organ at Leeds Parish Church, which in my youth, stood moodily silent on a gallery opposite the main instrument: by then a huge 4-manual Harrison & Harrison warhorse, which stood (and still stands) inside that hideous organ enclosure which has all the grace of a Victorian answer to a Hindu shrine, but without the statues, bright colours, flowers and provocative poses!

 

This was the organ-case, so wonderfully described (I think( by Clutton), as "that weird mass of carving."

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02793

 

 

Of course, in addition to the Hill/Gauntlett "German Method" and the Schulze/Brindley & Foster collaboration, it is almost certain that the names of Mendelssohn and Prince Albert, as well as any number of establishment figure in the musical world, should be included. Leeds, like Manchester and Birmingham, was an hugely important manufacturing city, with enormous wealth canted towards churches, municipal munificance and grand gestures on the part of those who were patrons of churches, the arts and monuments to civic-pride. One only has to go to the model industrial village of Saltaire (where the reed organ museum is located), to witness the enormous care which certain people took in providing for the greater comfort and civilisation of people. On the other hand, taking the more cynical view, it probably averted revolution!

 

This is all well and good, and the names involved above have all been well-documented, but clearly, Leeds, Doncaster and the Eastern side of the Pennines were of very great importance, not only in terms of organs, but in the building of railways; some of which found their way to Leipzig,all the way from Doncaster.

 

Of course, the story of "North Country organ-builders" was covered by the late Lawrence Elvin, but one builder remains something of an enigma. William Hill/Elliot had employed various notable later organ-builders who set up on their own, and two of those names would have to include (if I recall correctly) Ward of York, Denman of York (a former Hill foreman) and a certain Mr Bown, also of York. (The latter two were unsuually fine organ-builders, who worked to very high standards). It would also, I believe, include the name of Issac Abbott, who was a thoroughly good organ-builder in the later Hill style, which had by then eschewed the Tierce mixtures and followed the Schulze/German school of almost exculsively quint choruses.

 

Abbott built some magnificent instruments, of which only a few remain, and of which perhaps the best example is that at Queensbury PC, nr.Bradford....a substantial 3-manual instrument with a pedal reed added around 1970 (?) by Philip Wood, (now Wood of Huddersfield) but taken from another Abbott organ in Rotherham. This splendid instrument is one of the most musical of all from the Victorian era.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N03403

 

However, I am constantly baffled by the fact that the later style of the Abbott firm, under the title of Abbott & Smith (Leeds), rarely seems to get a mention, and yet, they were absolutely towards the top end of the pile tonally. As a company, they built a huge number of instruments, and re-built many of the larger and more important instruments such as that at Leeds PC and elsewhere. They also installed the aforementioned Hill organ at Bentham PC.

 

Anyone who has ever played an Abbott & Smith organ, will know immediately how good they are tonally. Even the later instruments; clouded as they were by the move towards the Edwardian late-romantic orchestral style, are never at all unmusical, in spite of the heavier and more devotional tones. There was one organ by them, which spoke into the magnificent acoustic of a church in Bradford designed by Temple Moor, which had nothing above 4ft and not a single mutation rank, but which sounded glorious in spite of it. The one real weakness of their organs was in the use of the most advanced pneumatic-actions, which usually means that they are in various states of disrepair to-day, where they still exist. Like so many organs from the period, this was the Achilles-heel which doomed many of these splendid instruments to the scrapheap or an uncertain future.

 

It is perhaps not generally appreciated that the organ in St.Paul's Hall, Huddersfield University, was not the first large organ to grace that particular building. In my youth, I would sometimes go to hear or play the original Abott & Smith instrument, and always, there were smiles all around as the beautiful sounds washed around this very resonant church: something which could also be heard at All Soul's, Blackman Lane, Leeds, as recorded on LP by Simon Lindley many years ago. Much as I admire the current organ in what is now the University of Huddersfield concert hall, I can assure anyone that whilst it may be excitingly different, it is no better than what was there before. Another unusually fine organ is another rare example of Issac Abbotts work, at Ossett PC, where the orchestral reeds are almost the equal of anything by Fr Willis or Harrison.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02935

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N02615

 

 

Sadly, there has never been a real record made of this very important organ-builder, and yet, due to the sheer number of organs they built in the North of England (and elsewhere), their legacy remains important; especially when one stumbles across one of their smaller tracker-action instruments, which continue to give sterling service, when many of the pneumatic-action instruments have been discarded or stand silent for want of repair.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/ESearch.cgi? Abbott & Smith

 

Perhaps the main problem is that the company of Abbott & Smith was absorbed into the interests of Wood,Wordsworth & Co., and following a fire, any records which might have existed went up in smoke.

 

So on the basis of this weighty discourse, what does anyone know of Abbott & Smith, and have they ever had experience of organs built by the company?

 

MM

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I know/knew this one (Lilleshall Parish Church, Shropshire):

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N09317

It was a thoroughly good instrument, fitting your comments (above) very well.

 

I believe a lot of the superb organ at Halifax Parish Church is by A&S, much material was retained by H&H at their subsequent rebuild as was (I believe) the weird and wonderful case. H&H enthusiasts will ascribe all its good points to H&H, but this instrument is not like any other H&H I know - the choruses are far more transparent and musical (later Mixtures apart, of course).

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I know/knew this one (Lilleshall Parish Church, Shropshire):

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N09317

It was a thoroughly good instrument, fitting your comments (above) very well.

 

I believe a lot of the superb organ at Halifax Parish Church is by A&S, much material was retained by H&H at their subsequent rebuild as was (I believe) the weird and wonderful case. H&H enthusiasts will ascribe all its good points to H&H, but this instrument is not like any other H&H I know - the choruses are far more transparent and musical (later Mixtures apart, of course).

 

Perhaps I ought to have another trip to Durham to see the workshop records from 1929 and establish which ranks were retained from the A&S. There is nothing in the correspondence from Harrison's to give any clue.

 

If you have read Nicholas Thistlethwaite's article in the BIOS Journal you may have noticed that (most of) the former Small Open Diapason from the Great at Halifax became the 8ft Open Diapason on the Swell at King's College Chapel in 1934 (is it still there, I wonder). There were still four Snetzler 8ft opens at Halifax after the 1878 rebuild by A&S, but some Snetzler pipework was replaced in 1896 and perhaps also in 1910, again by A&S. We still have two complete Snetzler 8ft opens, so I would imagine the rank that found its way to Kings would be Abbot & Smith.

 

Abbot & Smith cancelled their maintenance contract at Halifax PC when they discovered that Harrison's were to rebuild the instrument (only Harrison's had been invited to tender). Bishop Frodsham made them attend to do some repairs during the notice period, whereupon they pronounced the instrument beyond repair! Harrison's got saddled with keeping it going for the last year or so of its life.

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Perhaps I ought to have another trip to Durham to see the workshop records from 1929 and establish which ranks were retained from the A&S.

 

snip

 

 

I am delighted to learn that you expect to receive encouragement and hospitality there.

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Perhaps I ought to have another trip to Durham to see the workshop records from 1929 and establish which ranks were retained from the A&S. There is nothing in the correspondence from Harrison's to give any clue.

 

If you have read Nicholas Thistlethwaite's article in the BIOS Journal you may have noticed that (most of) the former Small Open Diapason from the Great at Halifax became the 8ft Open Diapason on the Swell at King's College Chapel in 1934 (is it still there, I wonder). There were still four Snetzler 8ft opens at Halifax after the 1878 rebuild by A&S, but some Snetzler pipework was replaced in 1896 and perhaps also in 1910, again by A&S. We still have two complete Snetzler 8ft opens, so I would imagine the rank that found its way to Kings would be Abbot & Smith.

 

Abbot & Smith cancelled their maintenance contract at Halifax PC when they discovered that Harrison's were to rebuild the instrument (only Harrison's had been invited to tender). Bishop Frodsham made them attend to do some repairs during the notice period, whereupon they pronounced the instrument beyond repair! Harrison's got saddled with keeping it going for the last year or so of its life.

 

 

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

 

Abbott & Smith may have been very competent voicers and pipe-makers, but in the reliability stakes (unlike Arthur Harrison), they were left wanting. This was the point I was making, because I recall many quite substatial A & S organs from my youth, when they were perhaps little more than 30-40 years old, and even then, the actions were slow, often uneven and sometimes had notes off here and there.

 

The trouble is, I'm not aware of what type of action they used, but I suspect it may have been an exhaust-pneumatic action.

 

The sad thing is, that if one were to combine to superb action reliability of Binns, with the tonal qualities of A & S, the results would have been superb AND long-lasting.

 

As I say, one sometimes comes across a small/medium tracker Abbott & Smith, and they are such a joy to play, with just the right sort of Anglican sound. There is a lovely instrument by them at the PC, Ripley Castle nr.Harrogate (assuming it hasn't be sidelined by an electronic), and another one at Oulton PC, Leeds, but they sadly become increasingly rare these days.

 

Their opus list was really quite tremendous for a provincial builder, and it is worth comparing it to Binns, Brindley & Foster and Forster & Andrews. They kept themselves very busy over a considerable period.

 

MM

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Further to all above postings, I would just mention another Abbott & Smith organ, which once again, appears to be both silent and under threat.

 

In 1950, the Methodist Church at Heaton, Bradford, closed it doors. A magnificent building in GOTHIC church style (unusually), it is still a spired building of great elegance.

 

Shortly after WW11, a great many Ukranians came to the UK and settled here, (along with many of their Polish counterparts), so the old Methodist Church at Heaton, became a focus for the Ukranians in the area, and opened up as a Ukranian catholic church.

 

With the steady decline of first generation Ukranians, one wonders how long the church can remain thus, but of course, one never knows: it may become a Polish church in due course, if the numbers of migrants are anything to go by!

 

However, there is within this splendid church an old Abbott & Smith organ of some size, which I think the Rev.Tony Newham knows a bit about. Again, it is one of the intriguing older instruments, which may originally be the work of Isaac Abbott, (judging by the existence of a Swell IVrks Mixture) even though it was obviously enlarged and re-built by Abbott & Smith after the turn of the century.

 

MM

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

 

Abbott & Smith may have been very competent voicers and pipe-makers, but in the reliability stakes (unlike Arthur Harrison), they were left wanting. This was the point I was making, because I recall many quite substatial A & S organs from my youth, when they were perhaps little more than 30-40 years old, and even then, the actions were slow, often uneven and sometimes had notes off here and there.

 

The trouble is, I'm not aware of what type of action they used, but I suspect it may have been an exhaust-pneumatic action.

 

The sad thing is, that if one were to combine to superb action reliability of Binns, with the tonal qualities of A & S, the results would have been superb AND long-lasting.

 

As I say, one sometimes comes across a small/medium tracker Abbott & Smith, and they are such a joy to play, with just the right sort of Anglican sound. There is a lovely instrument by them at the PC, Ripley Castle nr.Harrogate (assuming it hasn't be sidelined by an electronic), and another one at Oulton PC, Leeds, but they sadly become increasingly rare these days.

 

Their opus list was really quite tremendous for a provincial builder, and it is worth comparing it to Binns, Brindley & Foster and Forster & Andrews. They kept themselves very busy over a considerable period.

 

MM

#

 

The longevity of actions is a fairly recent consideration. 100 years ago, churches would expect that an organ would be worked on roughly every thirty or forty years. Labour was cheap and fine leather not much more. The trouble is, the sort of benefactors who used to donate large sums towards organ maintenance or improvement are now giving hardly anything anywhere, let alone to the church. Whatever became of 'Guilt', a useful emotion in the rich!

 

The secret of Binns' actions was that he made friends with a chemist early on who advised him (in effect) to pickle his leather. I know at least one large Binns nearly 100 years old still on its first set of pneumatic motors. Mind you, even a restored Binns does not necessarily have a very responsive action. Once again, our expectations are different. We have grown up with lightening quick voicing, direct electric action and feather-light modern trackers. 100 years ago, tone was what mattered. A&S didn't do badly at all....we have mentioned Binns (actually, I don't like all of his organs, some are just too powerful/fundamental in tone) IMHO Brindley and Foster did well - but once again results were dependent on pneumatic actions which have failed since.

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Guest Barry Oakley
#

 

The longevity of actions is a fairly recent consideration. 100 years ago, churches would expect that an organ would be worked on roughly every thirty or forty years. Labour was cheap and fine leather not much more. The trouble is, the sort of benefactors who used to donate large sums towards organ maintenance or improvement are now giving hardly anything anywhere, let alone to the church. Whatever became of 'Guilt', a useful emotion in the rich!

 

The secret of Binns' actions was that he made friends with a chemist early on who advised him (in effect) to pickle his leather. I know at least one large Binns nearly 100 years old still on its first set of pneumatic motors. Mind you, even a restored Binns does not necessarily have a very responsive action. Once again, our expectations are different. We have grown up with lightening quick voicing, direct electric action and feather-light modern trackers. 100 years ago, tone was what mattered. A&S didn't do badly at all....we have mentioned Binns (actually, I don't like all of his organs, some are just too powerful/fundamental in tone) IMHO Brindley and Foster did well - but once again results were dependent on pneumatic actions which have failed since.

 

I did a little bit of work on a tonally fine A&S in Rotherham more years a go than I can remember. The church has since been secularised and I've no idea what eventually became of the organ. As MM has suggested, the somewhat sluggish action was exhaust pneumatic.

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#

 

The longevity of actions is a fairly recent consideration. 100 years ago, churches would expect that an organ would be worked on roughly every thirty or forty years. Labour was cheap and fine leather not much more. The trouble is, the sort of benefactors who used to donate large sums towards organ maintenance or improvement are now giving hardly anything anywhere, let alone to the church. Whatever became of 'Guilt', a useful emotion in the rich!

 

The secret of Binns' actions was that he made friends with a chemist early on who advised him (in effect) to pickle his leather. I know at least one large Binns nearly 100 years old still on its first set of pneumatic motors. Mind you, even a restored Binns does not necessarily have a very responsive action. Once again, our expectations are different. We have grown up with lightening quick voicing, direct electric action and feather-light modern trackers. 100 years ago, tone was what mattered. A&S didn't do badly at all....we have mentioned Binns (actually, I don't like all of his organs, some are just too powerful/fundamental in tone) IMHO Brindley and Foster did well - but once again results were dependent on pneumatic actions which have failed since.

 

 

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

 

 

That is rather interesting Paul!

 

I had no idea why Binns actions lasted so long, but now I know. It may have been on its last legs, but when I played at Armley back in 1985, IT WAS STILL FUNCTIONING......just!

 

I'm not sure I would agree about responsiveness in Binns action. I played one for several years in pristine (rebuilt) condition, and whilst the pressure pneumatic (with those lovely relay touch boxes) was not lightning fast on the attack, the repetition and overall uniformity of touch was outstanding. I think a lot of that had to do with an attached console and short pneumatic runs.

 

Brindley & Foster is a fascinating subject in its own rights. Not many people are aware of the phases of this particular company, but Charles Brindley did quite a lot of voicing for Edmund Schulze; suggesting that he was rather good at it. The organ at Selby Abbey by Brindley, was considered superb.

 

Until about 1880 or thereabouts, Brinldey had an ex-Schulze voicer working for him, and working in a very German style, they came very close to the Schulze style. I mentioned that magnificent organ at Dewsbury Centenray Methodist Chapel, which is sadly no more. What a stupendous copy of the Armley great organ! Same lousy reeds, of course!

 

After 1880 or so, things went downhill, as they turned towards factory style organs, standard scaling and the use of complex pneumatic actions based on the German "kegladen". The tones certainly got heavier, and by 1910, there best period was over. However,, anyone who has a pre 180 B & F really should have a gem, but you will not find a powerful French Swell like Willis, or fine chorus reeds. The dynamics are terraced German style, and the choir organs usually just a pleasant but rather feeble collection of flutes, mild stringsm Dulcianas and usually an awful Clarinet!

 

I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but Isaac Abbott could knock spots off the lot of them tonally!

 

MM

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

That is rather interesting Paul!

 

I had no idea why Binns actions lasted so long, but now I know. It may have been on its last legs, but when I played at Armley back in 1985, IT WAS STILL FUNCTIONING......just!

 

I'm not sure I would agree about responsiveness in Binns action. I played one for several years in pristine (rebuilt) condition, and whilst the pressure pneumatic (with those lovely relay touch boxes) was not lightning fast on the attack, the repetition and overall uniformity of touch was outstanding. I think a lot of that had to do with an attached console and short pneumatic runs.

 

Brindley & Foster is a fascinating subject in its own rights. Not many people are aware of the phases of this particular company, but Charles Brindley did quite a lot of voicing for Edmund Schulze; suggesting that he was rather good at it. The organ at Selby Abbey by Brindley, was considered superb.

 

Until about 1880 or thereabouts, Brinldey had an ex-Schulze voicer working for him, and working in a very German style, they came very close to the Schulze style. I mentioned that magnificent organ at Dewsbury Centenray Methodist Chapel, which is sadly no more. What a stupendous copy of the Armley great organ! Same lousy reeds, of course!

 

After 1880 or so, things went downhill, as they turned towards factory style organs, standard scaling and the use of complex pneumatic actions based on the German "kegladen". The tones certainly got heavier, and by 1910, there best period was over. However,, anyone who has a pre 180 B & F really should have a gem, but you will not find a powerful French Swell like Willis, or fine chorus reeds. The dynamics are terraced German style, and the choir organs usually just a pleasant but rather feeble collection of flutes, mild stringsm Dulcianas and usually an awful Clarinet!

 

I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but Isaac Abbott could knock spots off the lot of them tonally!

 

MM

 

 

Here's a Brindley that exemplifies the Schulze connection that MM mentions - Christ Church, Little Drayton, Shropshire - a very fine-toned instrument. The choruses are robust, virile, clean and highly musical. The instrument is pretty compact for a three-decker, the action is well made (mechanical) and there are some clever space-saving features.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N06611

 

I can't resist telling you about the modifications made to this organ by Dr.Michael Sayer - a founder member of BIOS and author of articles in The Organ and a splendid book on Samuel Renn. When I last played this organ (which bears a BIOS Historic Organs Certificate) the stop jambs were still painted matt black and the department labels were printed out in German on Dymo tape. These cosmetic matters of the 1970s may have been corrected since, but it did raise an eyebrow or two at the time.

 

Mind you, some of present BIOS hierarchy have done worse to historic organs in their charge! I hope this is a sufficiently vague comment to be able to get past the moderator this time. [Only last time I mentioned Dr.Harold Shipman.....]

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Here's a Brindley that exemplifies the Schulze connection that MM mentions - Christ Church, Little Drayton, Shropshire - a very fine-toned instrument. The choruses are robust, virile, clean and highly musical. The instrument is pretty compact for a three-decker, the action is well made (mechanical) and there are some clever space-saving features.

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N06611

 

I can't resist telling you about the modifications made to this organ by Dr.Michael Sayer - a founder member of BIOS and author of articles in The Organ and a splendid book on Samuel Renn. When I last played this organ (which bears a BIOS Historic Organs Certificate) the stop jambs were still painted matt black and the department labels were printed out in German on Dymo tape. These cosmetic matters of the 1970s may have been corrected since, but it did raise an eyebrow or two at the time.

 

Mind you, some of present BIOS hierarchy have done worse to historic organs in their charge! I hope this is a sufficiently vague comment to be able to get past the moderator this time. [Only last time I mentioned Dr.Harold Shipman.....]

 

 

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

 

It is very likely that this organ would be voiced by Karl Schulze (no relative of Schulze), who moved to Brindley & Foster after working for Edmund Schulze, and who later went to the firm of Albert Keats.

 

MM

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My first experience of a pipe organ was as a chorister at All Souls' with St James' Church, Bolton. A stunning, red brick, 1000-seater hall church designed by Paley & Austen, the organ was built by Ike Abbott c. 1879. Although only a two-manual instrument, it filled the church and shook the fine wooden choir stalls. The organ was cleaned and restored in the early 1980s by Peter Wood (ex-Wood Wordsworth). Sadly the church was declared redundant in the mid-eighties and it still sits, empty although not entirely unloved. The local community (now almost exclusively Muslim) has begun a consultation exercise about the building's possible future use and, as far as I know, the organ remains in situ (see here and wonderful 360 degree shots here and here). The church has a fine peal of bells too, including the heaviest tenor bell in the area. Some interesting and unusual photos here too, including one shot of the Great organ stop mechanism, and the fabulous view of the nave roof from the ringers' gallery. It still grieves me that this church is redundant. My earliest musical memories were formed there: great Diocesan and RSCM choral festivals, organ recitals, the fine choir; later on, freezing fingers from 3 hours' practice every Saturday morning.

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Further to all above postings, I would just mention another Abbott & Smith organ, which once again, appears to be both silent and under threat.

 

In 1950, the Methodist Church at Heaton, Bradford, closed it doors. A magnificent building in GOTHIC church style (unusually), it is still a spired building of great elegance.

 

Shortly after WW11, a great many Ukranians came to the UK and settled here, (along with many of their Polish counterparts), so the old Methodist Church at Heaton, became a focus for the Ukranians in the area, and opened up as a Ukranian catholic church.

 

With the steady decline of first generation Ukranians, one wonders how long the church can remain thus, but of course, one never knows: it may become a Polish church in due course, if the numbers of migrants are anything to go by!

 

However, there is within this splendid church an old Abbott & Smith organ of some size, which I think the Rev.Tony Newham knows a bit about. Again, it is one of the intriguing older instruments, which may originally be the work of Isaac Abbott, (judging by the existence of a Swell IVrks Mixture) even though it was obviously enlarged and re-built by Abbott & Smith after the turn of the century.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

I've been in this church once (as an ecumenical guest at the RC Deanary's annual "International Mass"). The organ case fronts are still there - and from what little I could see, probably the pipework is still present, but there was no sign of a console. (the non-Ukranian style hymns in the service were "accompanied" with an unamplified home keyboard, with predictable results).

 

The building is, I understand, currently in a poor state of repair, and it's possible that the Ukranian congregation will decamp to the current St. Cuthbert, Heaton building.

 

I suppose efforts could be made to acquire the A&S organ & rehouse it - but with so many redundant organs around, it would be a mammoth task.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

One of my contacts, who is awaiting approval for this list, asked me to post the following:-

 

"This is an interesting thread. I''ve been fascinated by the work of the Northern organbuilders for some time.

 

Some people may not know that although James Binns started his own firm in 1880 he worked for Issac Abbot from 1873 to 1880. He was head voicer during his later time there. Therefore some Abbott organs of this period have pipes voiced by James Binns. I find it interesting to think if Issac Abbott or James Binns had the most influence on the final sound of Abbott organs from about 1877 to 1880.

 

On a related topic I'm doing some research into the history of the organ at Eriswell parish church in Suffolk. It was previously thought to be a Brindley and Foster but it now known they only rebuilt it (c.1895) as a new organ for Sewerby parish church in Yorkshire. It is now declared as unknown builder. An interesting discovery during the present rebuild was that one of the end wooden pipes in the Swell says 'James J Binns Leeds May 6/73' (obviously May 6th 1873) in very large pencil writing. I've now realised that the note inscriptions on the other pipes also appear to be in the writing style of Binns. The organ just may be an Abbott (I understand Binns was with abbott by May 1873 - the date on the pipe) but the slightly primitive nature of the organ suggests it may have been an early organ by Binns if he made any himself at this time. The reservoir is single rise which I understand was rare for Abbott, some Swell Principal pipes are winded off (suggesting a miscalculation), the Swell Diapason wooden bottom octave is too small in scale and the Swell Lieblich Bourdon and Pedal Bourdon are identical. If it is an early Binns he would have doubtless obtained some parts from another organbuilder. I wonder if anyone has got any suggestions about this curious instrument?

 

Regards,

 

John Ramsbottom

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  • 2 weeks later...
As a chemist mself, I would be interested if someone had an idea about the way Binns used to "pickle" his leather. Furthermore, keping it supple.

Is this knowledge totally gone ?

 

 

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

 

I just know that this is going to be on eof those moments when we trawl the world looking for answers.

 

However, (don't ask me why), but a rather dim, solitary brain-cell glimmered into life, and the words "Chromic Acid" entered upon my consciousness.

 

Does anyone know, are is my brain confusing organ-leather with motor-vehicle restoration?

 

MM

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

 

a rather dim, solitary brain-cell glimmered into life, and the words "Chromic Acid" entered upon my consciousness.

 

Does anyone know, are is my brain confusing organ-leather with motor-vehicle restoration?

 

MM

 

Chromium certainly should ring bells: Chromium Sulphate - not Chromic Acid - is used in most 'Mineral' tanning.

 

Though, at the time we're thinking of, most tanning was 'Vegetable' tanning (employing Tannin or Tannic Acid), before the mineral tanning process came in. The main reason for the change being time - several weeks for the Vegetable method over a few days for the mineral method. Tannins are astringent (polyphenols) which are capable of shrinking proteins - in the case of leather, Collagen. Tree bark was the usual source of the tannin.

 

The term 'pickling' isn't something peculiar to Binns, Abbott or anyone else for that matter as it is a standard term for one of the processes involved in tanning generally - the leather is treated with a mixture of Sodium Chloride and Sulphuric Acid.

 

The fact is that leather was better tanned then than it is now and, depending on where he got his skins, they might have led him to believe that he was getting something 'special', leading to his saying that HIS leather was 'pickled' - as indeed everyone else's was!

 

David Wyld

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Chromium certainly should ring bells: Chromium Sulphate - not Chromic Acid - is used in most 'Mineral' tanning.

 

Though, at the time we're thinking of, most tanning was 'Vegetable' tanning (employing Tannin or Tannic Acid), before the mineral tanning process came in. The main reason for the change being time - several weeks for the Vegetable method over a few days for the mineral method. Tannins are astringent (polyphenols) which are capable of shrinking proteins - in the case of leather, Collagen. Tree bark was the usual source of the tannin.

 

The term 'pickling' isn't something peculiar to Binns, Abbott or anyone else for that matter as it is a standard term for one of the processes involved in tanning generally - the leather is treated with a mixture of Sodium Chloride and Sulphuric Acid.

 

The fact is that leather was better tanned then than it is now and, depending on where he got his skins, they might have led him to believe that he was getting something 'special', leading to his saying that HIS leather was 'pickled' - as indeed everyone else's was!

 

David Wyld

 

 

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Ah! I WAS thinking of those Jaguar chrome-bumpers after all.

 

Dr David's post was interesting, and got me rummaging around checking out the various leather tanning processes.

 

I was fascinated by another method, called "brain tanning," which uses the brains of the animal in the process: there being just enough brain in a beast to tan its own skin!

 

I was interested, because when I was at junior school (age 7 -11) and completely fearless, I would walk from home, through an industrial area to the school, and when I wasn't spitting down train-funnels and running across the top of iron-girder bridges, (waving like "Spiderman" at the engine drivers 60ft below in the cuttings.....the "old" no.2 Worth Valley line to Bradford), I would often stop off and watch the men working in the tannery. It was a very slow process, and all rather gooey and messy, with this big mechanical paddle thingy slopping away in a stone trough across the skins. It stank of course, like all leather processes do, and on a hot day, the raw, unscraped hides were just evil; but I got used to it.

 

I was given some pieces of finished leather one day, and I still have them; as supple as the day they were made, perhaps nearly 50 years ago!

 

Of course, all those small, private tanneries have now largely disappeared, but a few survive.

 

I gather that the specialist in the organ-market is Russells:-

 

http://www.russels.com/pipe-organ.htm

 

 

Their site makes interesting reading.

 

However, something which interest me is the availability of a special type of organ-leather. I do not know how true this may or may not be, but an organ-builder once said to me, that the quality of split leather available to Arthur Harrison (and presumably many of his contemporaries), was simply not available anymore.

 

I seem to recall that some of the old organ-leather is quite orange in colour, and extremely supple to the touch.

 

Is there any truth in this?

 

MM

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Some organists in France (around Toulouse) suggested that the best quality of the leather used in the XIXth century was due to the quality of the lambs and sheeps themselves. I quite doubt this. Most of the skin used in France is from a town named Millau (pronounce mee-o), and are raised on the Larzac moores. Life there is not much different for the sheeps since once century...

So I would tend to think that the tanning methods are the crucial point, as I have to admit that some ACC, Merklin and Puget leather still are there and efficient since more that 100 years, but it was necessary to releather completely the belows of an organ in Toulouse, built in 1981...

 

(For example, the leather on the bellows at the Manchester Town Hall is still the original ACC one, it seems. It's in great need to be changed, but it's still there.)

Has anyone experimented such a difference ?

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