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Peter Clark

The Lewis Firm

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Gosh! I hadn't realised that such an innocent and naive question would produce such fruit! Thanks to all who responded.

 

MM - tangental but possibly related. With your John Courage connection were you aware that Courage gave the Rosminian Order (Institute of Charity), which looks after St Peter's in Cardiff where I play, their mother house in Derryswood, in Wonersh, Surrey (next door to St John's Seminary)?

 

Cheers

 

Peter

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Gosh! I hadn't realised that such an innocent and naive question would produce such fruit! Thanks to all who responded.

 

MM - tangental but possibly related. With your John Courage connection were you aware that Courage gave the Rosminian Order (Institute of Charity), which looks after St Peter's in Cardiff where I play, their mother house in Derryswood, in Wonersh, Surrey (next door to St John's Seminary)?

 

Cheers

 

Peter

 

 

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

 

Nothing would surprise me, but I confess that I knew nothing of this.

 

The Courage empire, which eventually grew and grew after an extended process of acquisitions and mergers, became the "Imperial Group" merged with W D & H O Wills tobacco. When I worked there, it was the fourth largest company in the UK with huge property-holdings and an entire division given over to property asset-management, estate management and licensee particulars.

 

I forgot to mention a practical benefit of the T C Lewis/Courage Brewery connection, which illustrates a point.

 

When Lewis built the organ for Southwark Cathedral, I would hazard the guess that it was taken to the Thames and floated down to Butler's Wharf on barges, I say this, because I know that the instrument, before being installed at Southwark Cathedral, was stored in Horsleydown Square where I used to live in London. (This was only a few yards away from the original Anchor Brewhouse, Brewery, on Shad Thames). Horseleydown Square was where the Courage draymen kept the horses for the brewery, and there was also a church there, serving part of Bermondsey in what would have been quite a crowded, dockland scene. The church has gone, but at least one horse survives, in the form a suitably massive bronze sculpture.

 

I think it shows what extraordinarily gifted business-people the Courage family and Board of Directors were, and without that extraordinary success, we would all be much the poorer to-day, even as organists and organ enthusiasts.

 

MM

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In "The Harrison Story", Laurence Elvin recorded that Lewis had some connection with Harrisons after he left his own firm, but knew few other details. This was the period when H&H rebuilt the Lewis instruments in Ripon and Newcastle Cathedrals - I wonder if there was some personal influence?

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In "The Harrison Story", Laurence Elvin recorded that Lewis had some connection with Harrisons after he left his own firm, but knew few other details. This was the period when H&H rebuilt the Lewis instruments in Ripon and Newcastle Cathedrals - I wonder if there was some personal influence?

 

 

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I was hoping no-one would mention this.

 

Here followeth the sequel of the day.

 

Having been evicted from the company bearing his name, T C Lewis courted Harrison & Harrison in the days before Lt.Col.George Dixon brought his influence to bear, This is not surprising, because anyone who knew or played a pre-Harrison/Dixon organ, as I once did, will tell you that they were much closer to what Lewis was doing, than to what Willis (for example) were doing. Everything was low pressure, the flues quite natural and the reeds rather modest. They could best be described as sort of upmarket Binns organs, but with somewhat better tonal-finish. There was certainly nothing ponderous or heavy about them, even though they had gravity. The swell organs were always much quieter than the Great, in the terraced tonal-style. They were, of course, beautifully made, and the instrument on which I played (Holy Trinity, Keighley, where Dr Philip Marshall used to be organist) had magnificent timbers throughout, and those beautiful Honduras mahogany face-boards on the wind-chests.

 

I don’t know what state the organ is in these days, but the Harrison organ of Thornton Parish Church, Bradford is a fine example of that to which I refer. It is therefore not difficult to imagine that T C Lewis felt drawn to that style of organ-building, and he may well have had some degree of influence on what Harrisons were doing at the time.

 

However, just as Father Willis had created his vision of the English cathedral organ, Lt Col George Dixon inspired Arthur Harrison to create the second-generation of such instruments; the rest being history, as Willis organ after Willis organ fell under the spell of the Arthur Harrison/Dixon tonal-recipe in subsequent re-builds.

 

In the period immediately before that, T C Lewis and Harrison, in around1903, had collaborated in a proposal and stop-list for the new organ of Westminster Cathedral. I would hazard a guess that T C Lewis was using inside-knowledge of just what point the considerations and proposals had reached. I have never seen a copy of this proposal, but one must assume that it was probably already a quite ‘old’ design, perhaps of the type Lewis had built at Southwark. After all, Harrison were not really fully into their stride at that time, and were producing well-made, fine organs of no earth-moving character. On the other hand, Lewis had done major work and presumably still had friends in high-places; especially in London. One may easily deduce that Harrison saw benefit in a collaboration with Lewis; if only for that one major contract, and because he knew what was going on.

 

However, for a second-time, Lewis was to be pushed aside, as a new style of organ-building emerged. Some years later, after the end of the first world-war, Harrison put forward a new proposal for Westminster Cathedral, which was your typical big Arthur Harrison/George-Dixon instrument, with 132 speaking stops.

 

Of course, since Lewis & Co (not T C Lewis) had already installed the Apse Organat Westminster Cathedral in, I think, 1911, and due to the fact that John Courage was well established at Westminster Cathedral as a major benefactor, no-one else really stood a chance. Furthermore, John Courage had been the consultant for the T C Lewis organ at Southwark When Willis was merged with Lewis & Co., the contract fell to Willis, but it is quite probable that the work had originally been awarded to Lewis & Co, and had probably started at the Brixton wokshop prior to the merger of Lewis and Willis. I wonder, does the console plate say ‘Henry Willis & Sons Ltd’ or also include the name of ‘Lewis & Co?’

 

What an amazing period this must have been for the people who made up Willis, Lewis and Harrison, with the building of so many very large instruments (Liverpool etc) between circa.1919 and 1930. (One should also include Hill, Norman & Beard in this). It coincided with a seed-change in organ-style, from the more classical tradition of Lewis and early Harrison, to the full-blown orchestral/symphonic instruments which mark the era of both Arthur Harrison/Dixon and Henry Willis 3.

 

So I wonder, is there really a proper answer to the question of Harrison and T C Lewis collaboration?

 

Certainly there is evidence of that, but did it bring any practical outcome beyond paper-specifications and proposals?

 

Of one thing we may be certain, poor old T C Lewis would die a very disappointed man; rejected by almost all, and admired by few. It’s when you listen to Southwark or Albion Church, Ashton-under-Lyne, that you begin to realise that when it came to proper organ-tone steeped in the long tradition of European organ-building, he instinctively knew more than all his rivals put together.

 

MM

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

poor old T C Lewis /snip

 

he instinctively knew more than all his rivals put together.

 

MM

 

A sweeping statement n'est ce pas?

 

He was just as opinionated as all of the others, if that's what you mean!

 

DW

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

 

 

 

The Courage empire, which eventually grew and grew after an extended process of acquisitions and mergers, became the "Imperial Group" merged with W D & H O Wills tobacco. When I worked there, it was the fourth largest company in the UK with huge property-holdings and an entire division given over to property asset-management, estate management and licensee particulars.

 

 

 

MM

 

 

This is tangental too, I suspect, MM, but when I was organist in Holy Trinity in Dockhead, London, about 20 years ago, the church was opposite a Courage pub, the Ship Aground. I spent many hours and pounds in there often after Sunday Mass with a fellow organist (now alas deceased) and would enjoy many (probably too many) pints of Courage Best discussing the merits or otherwise of our Sunday playing and choir singing (and doing the Observer crossword). I suspect that, were you working for Courage at the time, I will have contributed considerably to your salary :blink: .

 

Cheers and mine's a double!

 

Peter

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This is tangental too, I suspect, MM, but when I was organist in Holy Trinity in Dockhead, London, about 20 years ago, the church was opposite a Courage pub, the Ship Aground. I spent many hours and pounds in there often after Sunday Mass with a fellow organist (now alas deceased) and would enjoy many (probably too many) pints of Courage Best discussing the merits or otherwise of our Sunday playing and choir singing (and doing the Observer crossword). I suspect that, were you working for Courage at the time, I will have contributed considerably to your salary :blink: .

 

Cheers and mine's a double!

 

Peter

 

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

 

 

Thank you

 

MM

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A sweeping statement n'est ce pas?

 

He was just as opinionated as all of the others, if that's what you mean!

 

DW

 

 

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

 

 

I didn't know you were that old David!

 

I don't think it is a sweeping statement; far from it. I think, by dint of good fortune, he was bowled-over by one of the finest organ-builders in history; Edmund Schulze, and thus identified with and devoted himself to building organs of that particular type. In doing that, he was linking himself with a tradition which went right back to Silbermann.

 

I don't know whether opinionated is the right choice of word to describe single-minded, obsessive people with a vision of what they believe to be right. By definition, it has more to do with being strong-minded and individual, allied to a certain self-belief. People such as that either sink or swim, and in the case of T C lewis, he swam for a while, and then sank as the tide turned.

 

"If I believed for one minute that Willis was right, I'd shut up shop tomorrow" T C Lewis

 

The two names, Willis and Lewis, were incompatible from the off, I suspect.

 

I would suggest, with some degree of respect, that Willis 3 achieved miracles at Liverpool, and produced something quite special at Westminster. Beyond that, where is the musical legacy which future generations may wish to emulate?

 

On the other hand, people still show respect for what T C Lewis achieved, and in America, people still have respect for what his virtual disciple, G Donald Harrison achieved.

 

Of course, that's only my opinion. :blink:

 

MM

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