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Battersea Hope(less) Jones?

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I gather that the grand hall at Battersea Arts Centre (formerly the Town Hall) sadly burnt down yesterday. It housed a fairly untouched Hope-Jones, which I thought was in the proces of being restored. Can anyone shed light on the fate of this historic instrument?

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The instrument was actually built by Norman and Beard to the Hope-Jones system of electrical control. Therefore I wonder why W T Best's "hopeless" epithet was borrowed here? In any event, anonymous and wholly subjective casual insults are seldom helpful, and in this case they obscure the facts about H-J which demonstrate the more positive aspects of his legacy if one takes the trouble to look them out. An unfortunate choice of topic title for one of the better organ forums, I feel, especially in view of the tragic dimension of the loss.

 

Some little-known details of the mechanism of this organ, both inside the console and the organ chambers, can be found by following the link below. This takes you to a page on my website, from which a 90-plus page PDF document can be downloaded if you wish. (I thought it better to do it this way rather than commit you to an instant PDF download here, which you might well not thank me for!). It contains a number of photographs together with detailed descriptions of the ingenious combination system, the electrical power-saving system applied to the slider machines, and other aspects of this remarkable instrument. It also illustrates technical aspects of the broader canvas which was Hope-Jones's work in Britain before he left for America.

 

I should add that the document relies heavily on material kindly supplied by some of those who have been intimately involved with the renovation of this organ over recent years, at least two of whom I believe are members of this forum. I shall not name them here but they are acknowledged in the document itself.

 

http://www.pykett.org.uk/HJOrganActions.htm

 

CEP

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The following appeared on Facebook. No doubt more up to date accurate information will emerge in due course:

 

Dear friends: Tonight, one of England's finest concert halls, Battersea Arts Centre, was gutted by a huge fire. Thankfully, the historic 1900 Hope-Jones organ (the largest and most significant survivor of that maverick genius's work) had mostly been removed for restoration and so has escaped the fire - but the Grand Hall has been completely destroyed, the roof and ceiling completely gone, and so one must presume the organ cases and building frames have been reduced to ashes. The reservoirs, relays and console remained on-site below the stage: their state remains unclear. They may have survived, but heat, smoke and water may have caused significant damage. The Arts Centre will rise again, but it needs your support: a fundraising page has been set up at https://www.nationalfundingscheme.org/BAC012#.VQN2GEZFCSE - please consider giving whatever you feel would be an appropriate donation to ensure that the phoenix does indeed rise from the ashes...

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Much of the substance of the instrument has thankfully survived, including the majority of pipework, all slider and most unit windchests, the combination action and parts of the console including the distinctive EP stop-toggle action, being off-site in Browne's workshops and ours. The remainder, including winding system, casework, switchgear and the rest of the console are lost. Still, it would seem technically feasible to reconstruct something of mainly original N+B manufacture that sounds much as it ever did, using mostly original actions, and embodying most of the unique H-J design specifics. As far as the organ is concerned, if ever there was to be a fire, this was the least damaging time for it. A decade ago, not only would the material have been destroyed but also the information we have gleaned over recent years by documenting some of the more unusual aspects of its design in the run-up to restoration.

 

Let us hope that BAC receive the support they need to return their home to its former glory, for the sake of all the organisations and members of the public who benefit from it!

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This is a fascinating thread. Although I have never had the honour of playing a real Hope-Jones I did have the chance to play one of his acolytes' instruments at Elvaston Church, near Derby many, many years ago. It was one of Eustace Ingram's instruments and it totally perplexed me when I was shown the console. Even for a young lad I couldn't fathom why there wasn't anything above 4' pitch - until I realised that the swell had the extra octave of pipes to 'complete' the chorus. My host that night left me in the church to my own devices and it was very spooky, surrounded by many tombs and monuments. Interestingly, the contributor to the NPOR entry comments that it had been unplayable - it was really but I managed something out of it quite a few years before the NPOR survey. I don't think I quite appreciated the glorious Bodley cases into which this thing was stuffed! It is still all there apparently but the church isn't used frequently and the usual neglect has ensued. Many thanks to Colin for his technical information, even as an engineering novice I find the description and explanation of the mechanics clear and informative, interesting technical info. indeed. JUst in case - Colin, I never did have the chance to try St Pauls' or St Modwen's all those years ago despite it being on the doorstep - wish I had! I think I was too pre-occupied by quasi-baroque tricks at that time, or the Compton leviathan at Derby Cathedral (and that is a clever box of tricks). I do hope they make something of Battersea, the casework is / was very attractive and unusual.

Elvaston Church below (don't know how to make it blue......)

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N05392

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I note (somewhat wryly) that the NPOR has already updated the entry for this instrument with a short note about yesterday's fire. If they can do that so promptly....

 

(Tony, I know that you are all volunteers, but some of us have submitted updates, corrections and new surveys years ago, and these have yet to appear. As has any reply to my offer to be trained in order to assist in the inputting of data on to NPOR surveys....)

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I gather that the grand hall at Battersea Arts Centre (formerly the Town Hall) sadly burnt down yesterday. ...

 

The front of the building remains, but the main hall (and, I believe another hall below this) were largely destroyed.

 

http://news.sky.com/story/1445029/battersea-arts-centre-fire-damage-photos-emerge

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article10108150.ece/alternates/w460/Battersea-Arts-Centre-fire2.jpg

 

http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/81636000/jpg/_81636674_61adb294-04bc-4d42-98e2-492b5a71bf45.jpg

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I note (somewhat wryly) that the NPOR has already updated the entry for this instrument with a short note about yesterday's fire. If they can do that so promptly....

 

(Tony, I know that you are all volunteers, but some of us have submitted updates, corrections and new surveys years ago, and these have yet to appear. As has any reply to my offer to be trained in order to assist in the inputting of data on to NPOR surveys....)

 

I've also submitted data, in one case, over two years ago - and it still hasn't appeared!

 

I also offered to be trained in order to assist updating data for the NPOR! At first they seemed interested and then the person, I was corresponding with, moved on and I had an e-mail that left me thinking that I wasn't suitable!

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I am surprised that we have not had a specific thread reserved for the NPOR. I'm sure we all have experiences of exasperation at times but knowing how it used to be staffed are reluctant to comment in public.

 

On a more positive note they have recently introduced two electronic forms which can be completed online to speed things up. They are under the notes for contributors section. A problem I have found with this is that, unlike say eBay, I did not get an email copy of what I had submitted so given my memory they could well end up with the same info several times!

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I have never had the honour of playing a real Hope-Jones ...

 

There aren't many left now. There's a tiny one at St Dyfnog's, Llanrhaedr (1894) and a slightly larger one along the same lines at St Mary's, Pilton (1898 - this is the Devon Pilton, not the one near Glastonbury). At least, this was the case when I last revisited the situation, though things might have changed now. The Llanrhaedr instrument is/was the more authentic in that it hadn't had much done to it in terms of tonal changes, though that at Pilton has experienced major interventions. The saving grace here is/was that the original Hope-Jones stops were still entirely intact and readily identifiable when I last played it. This organ had a shaky outlook a few years ago when the church itself had major fabric problems which verged on the dangerous. However I understand these difficulties have now been resolved. Both have splendid (if you like that sort of thing) and well-trodden Diaphones on the pedals which virtually obliterate everything else! As period pieces they are well worth visiting for first-hand experience of what a Hope-Jones organ sounds like, especially as they obviously won't last for ever.

 

Forgive yet another reference to my website, but there's an article on the Pilton organ at:

 

http://www.pykett.org.uk/the_hope-jones_organ_at_pilton.htm

 

This was first published in Organists' Review in 1993 so it would be difficult now to find it there unless one has a lot of back issues. Hence an excuse for the web reference just given.

 

Oh, by the way it also has a Phoneuma (vide the nom-de-plume of the author quoted above!). This is interesting of itself - it's a double touch stop tablet which brings on a second undulating rank when pressed a second time.

 

CEP

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There are a couple of organs with Hope-Jones pedigrees up this end of the country - St James in Arnside and St Mary the Virgin in Ambleside (both in Cumbria), although there seems to be some doubt about the St James organ, with Laycock and Bannister being cited as the original builder. Both have had tonal additions added along the years with St James acquiring more upperwork in comparison to St Mary. Not had the chance to hear St Mary's but the St James instrument has a bit of poke as far as I remember. Wether this has anything to do with parts of the aisles being commandeered to make parish rooms etc and the organ not being altered to deal with the church's reduced space I don't know I'm afraid :unsure:

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Thanks for the reminder about Arnside, that's on my to-do list next time I visit Morecambe (someone has to and one does feel the place is trying its best these days!). My old parish priest has just retired to Keswick so that may well be another opportunity to go to Ambleside (and I hear that Crosthwaite is also worth a visit). And, of course, I must get myself an hour at Lancaster Town Hall some time.

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I remember going to the small HJ at St. Mary's RC Church, Croydon, with the Organ Club many years ago. It was an impressive noise, lacking somewhat in brightness, although not as much as one might perhaps have expected. I think it's still there, but usurped by a toaster.

 

For another remarkable N&B in similar style, if you're ever in those parts, have an hour or so on the organ at Colchester Moot Hall, currently being restored by Harrisons' and due to be re-opened in May.

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I played the HJ at St. Mary's, West Croydon, for a couple of years 1975-77, whilst I was teaching at the Secondary School next door. I would agree with your comment, David. It was dull, but relatively forceful.

Tony

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