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Dragon's Den - Jamaican High Commission


Guest Hector5
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Guest Hector5

Mrs Hector and I were sitting in front of the TV this evening watching Dragon's Den. One lucky winner (for those who watched it was for the Reggae Reggae Sauce!) was launching his product at the Jamaican High Commission. During the section of the launch we were treated to a view of the opulent room in the commission, but with a view of a superb organ case, apparently with pipes with French mouths. Can anyone shed light on this instrument at all as it doesn't appear on the NPOR at all???

 

Hector

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Guest Geoff McMahon

I have often wondered about this instrument, having seen it many times on my way from South Kensington underground station to the Royal Albert Hall. The Jamaican High Commission is on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Exhibition Road and you can see the instrument through the windows of the High Commission. I have no idea of its history or builder and would be interested if anybody knows about it.

 

John

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Mrs Hector and I were sitting in front of the TV this evening watching Dragon's Den. One lucky winner (for those who watched it was for the Reggae Reggae Sauce!) was launching his product at the Jamaican High Commission. During the section of the launch we were treated to a view of the opulent room in the commission, but with a view of a superb organ case, apparently with pipes with French mouths. Can anyone shed light on this instrument at all as it doesn't appear on the NPOR at all???

 

Hector

 

Hi

 

I've heard rumours of this organ, but have never found enough info to add an NPOR survey. Maybe one of our correspondants will come across with some info now it's been on TV - or if anyone here know the details, an e-mail to the NPOR office would be in order.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Ref. whether it appears in the NPOR. Does a High Commission have the same legal status as an Embassy? That is that it is actually part of the states it represents, and not part of the country in which it sits?

 

In other words, the organ, whatever it is, is not in the UK, so should not appear in the NPOR anyway.

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I have often wondered about this instrument, having seen it many times on my way from South Kensington underground station to the Royal Albert Hall. The Jamaican High Commission is on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Exhibition Road and you can see the instrument through the windows of the High Commission. I have no idea of its history or builder and would be interested if anybody knows about it.

 

John

 

Some notes I wrote for an Organ Club visit in 1992 may be of interest ......

 

The grand mansion at No 1 Lowther Gardens was built in 1877 for Col. W T Makins MP, Chairman of the Cadogan & Hans Place Estate in Chelsea. This may explain the choice of the red-brick 'Pont Street Dutch' style which contrasts with the Italianate cream stucco facades of the rest of Prince Consort Road, as it is now known. The architect was John James Stevenson.

 

A small organ was installed in the entrance hall of the new house in an oak case complementing the door-cases and wall panelling. The builder was August Gern, ex-foreman of Cavaillé-Coll, who set up business in West London after erecting one of his master's instruments at the Carmelite Church.

 

Alas, nothing remains of Gern's work except the console and case. The organ appears to have been neglected over the years and suffered at the hands of vandals during the conversion of the property before the High Commission took up residence in 1988. Parts of the instrument were stolen and others thrown down the lift shaft. Some of the case pipes were bent double.

 

It was a condition of the lease that the organ should be kept in playable condition. Peter Conacher & Co, finding the Gern material beyond redemption, offered to install a small, second-hand Willis organ at modest cost inside the case which underwent painstaking restoration. It has 2 manuals, with 3 straight ranks on the Positive (Salicional 8, Gemshorn 4, Principal 2) plus an extended Gedackt 16-8-4-3-2 on Great and Pedal.

 

I was asked, about ten years ago, to go along and play the Jamaican National Anthem at an Independence Day garden party. It was a memorable occasion, made the more enjoyable by generous helpings of rum punch, with me playing flat out to accompany the joyously soulful singing of the assembled guests.

 

JS

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John Sayer is exactly right (well, nearly: the work was done in the days when Conacher's was just a Branch Office, as it were, of Willis's). We still maintain the organ, which though not a spectacular specimen by any means, is perfectly adequate for the limited uses to which it is put these days. The High Commissioner is very fond of it apparently!

 

It IS such a pity that the remains of the old Gern were in such a dreadful state - we have photographs of the interiors of the building when it had been completely wrecked by vandals/squatters prior to the lease to the Jamaican HC. I'm afraid that the organ was virtually destroyed and much had gone completely.

 

DW

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