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David Pinnegar

Henry Willis Junior development organ

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Very interesting, David. Henry IV tried to sell me something akin to this once - it was a bit like someone going into a car showroom to look at a Jaguar being told they'd be ok with a used Bedford Beagle. (Those were the days!). And I believe there is one in a church just up the road here in Wiltshire. In all seriousness, HW's suggestion wasn't, at the time, going to be adequate for a school chapel full of lusty singers, but I can certainly see this one's attractions as a practice instrument... I think. The question for me is, assuming I had the space, would I rather have something like this as a practice instrument, pure and beautiful sounding, I expect, but with limited tonal possibilities, or a 2/3 manual Viscount, assuming I had the funds. I suppose it's apples and pears to some extent - the pipe organ would take up a lot of room, but the Viscount would cost a lot more money... and so on... I certainly wouldn't write off extension organs. I played a Walker for four years and it was extraordinary how versatile it was, but it was one of the bigger ones. The biggest weakness for me was the Lieblich rank which served (until Willises fettled a 16ft bottom octave for the trumpet rank when they rebuilt it) as the only 16ft. It really was very weak - great to go with the quiet stuff, but when you had the full swell coupled to the two unenclosed diapason ranks on the great, it was inadequate. But, all in all, a great and very enjoyable compromise. 

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I recall going to the Liverpool IAO Congress back in 1964 (?) and visiting the organ works of Willis and Rushworth's.

It was around the time Rushworth's had acquired the Compton pipe-organ business.

Both workshops had a fair number of "model" extension organs on display, and they all sounded quite decent  I accompanied the Duruflle Requiem (in the days when I could be bothered practising) on a Walker extension job, and that just about provided the ways and means. I also lived with modest Nicholson extension organ, which was fine for most things, but not quite a recital instrument.

These small extension jobs certainly had their uses......like Bedford Beagles, Commer vans and old Jowetts.

MM

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I occasionally played, and frequently listened to, a Willis in Corpus Christi church in Wokingham, which I now think might be a junior development organ. At the time, it only had two manuals, 8,4,2; 8, no swell, and no pedal or even pedals, and was obviously intended to provide the bare minimum for Catholic worship. Nevertheless it was a nice instrument, and had a presence which belied its size. A fortunate combination of almost perfect siting in the building and bold, but not in the least harsh, voicing. I understod that it was prepared for further development, which was never carried out. Unfortunately it was supplanted by an electronic just as I moved to the Netherlands, but left in place. I have no idea what became of it. A pity.

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21 hours ago, David Pinnegar said:

On ebay is a wonderful little instrument well worth preserving - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Henry-Willis-Junior-Development-Organ/273897600962 - an extension organ with a most extraordinarily adventurous and exciting pipe rack . . . 

Best wishes

David P

It was always said that Henry IV had built one of his Junior Development jobs as a "Christmas Tree Organ", but I thought it had subsequently been either altered or recycled.  Maybe this is it, or perhaps there was more than one.

The problem with the JDP jobs, forgive me for saying so, was that they never sounded very nice.  The only one I really liked was at Walberswick in Suffolk, and that improved greatly after John Budgen gave it a going over.

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That instrument on ebay looks a very attractive proposition, certainly for £250, although I'm sure the offers will have become much higher 'nearer the time'.

In common with many other such items on ebay, though, it would have been helpful to have had a little more information.  Still, I'd be tempted despite it being at the other end of the country.

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Not strictly an extension organ. The (two) manual ranks in this instrument are independent, as was the case with all JDP jobs. 

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This certainly does look like the Christmas Tree model and, whatever the tonal qualities, should be preserved as a matter of the design being so very unique.

Best wishes

David P

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1 hour ago, GrossGeigen said:

Not strictly an extension organ. The (two) manual ranks in this instrument are independent, as was the case with all JDP jobs. 

Absolutely - Manual extension was never used in Willis organs (apart from where it already existed in rebuilds, such as St. Matthias, Richmond), but Willis III quite often duplexed stops at the same pitch on different manuals (which he insisted was not at all the same thing) - a practice which he picked up from Skinner in America.  Similarly, the Junior Development organs, when they included Pedal stops (not all did) borrowed them from the Great Gedeckt, usually with an added 16' octave.

I saw a JDP organ in the works at Petersfield in about 1978 which had been rebuilt and did contain manual extension (and other features such as cheap stop-keys rather than the posher but more expensive Willis tilting tablets) , but Henry 4 got round this by affixing a Peter Conacher plate.

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This is not the only Christmas tree organ as I recall pictures on the internet of two either side of the chancel of a church at the front of the nave.  Unfortunately, I can not remember the name of the church!

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Quite a few Willis JDP organs came to Scotland largely through the excellent Scottish Manager 

Ian Frost based in Edinburgh Pleasance Works. I believe the tilting tablets were standard Willis economy 

console but the illumination was a rear number plate lamp from a Morris Minor or similar!

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Similarly, the dial indicators showing the position of the shutters with the Willis Infinite Speed and Gradation swell pedals were fuel gauges - I think as used on Rolls Royce cars at the time although I'm not 100% certain of the latter detail.

The tilting tablets were used quite widely as an economy measure.  The largest example I ever met was the three manual console controlling a Willis rebuild plonked in West Walton Church, Norfolk, which stood there for about twenty years before being supplanted by its predecessor - a Holdich which had remained in the church (although at one time it was claimed to have been sold).  https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N06772 

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22 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

Similarly, the dial indicators showing the position of the shutters with the Willis Infinite Speed and Gradation swell pedals were fuel gauges - I think as used on Rolls Royce cars at the time although I'm not 100% certain of the latter detail.

The tilting tablets were used quite widely as an economy measure.  The largest example I ever met was the three manual console controlling a Willis rebuild plonked in West Walton Church, Norfolk, which stood there for about twenty years before being supplanted by its predecessor - a Holdich which had remained in the church (although at one time it was claimed to have been sold).  https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N06772 

I remember when I enjoyed a visit some years ago to the Willis premises in Liverpool seeing a couple of old cars, possibly Rolls Royce, proudly displayed in one side of the factory.  Perhaps that might have given Willis the idea.  Perhaps the fuel gauges came from those very cars!

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LOL - those would have been David Wyld's.  Apart from his prowess as an organ builder and recording engineer, he is also an expert at restoring classic cars.

Henry Willis III, who introduced the Infinite Speed and Gradation swell pedal, never ran to anything so posh.  In one of his letters quoted in Charles Callahan's "The American Classic Organ", he mentions, 'Got a new car - a little Morris'.  And I remember Henry 4 saying, in the late eighties, that he had hitherto been loyal to British cars, driving Fords, but had recently succumbed to getting a Japanese one because the build quality was so much better.

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21 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

LOL - those would have been David Wyld's.  Apart from his prowess as an organ builder and recording engineer, he is also an expert at restoring classic cars.

Henry Willis III, who introduced the Infinite Speed and Gradation swell pedal, never ran to anything so posh.  In one of his letters quoted in Charles Callahan's "The American Classic Organ", he mentions, 'Got a new car - a little Morris'.  And I remember Henry 4 saying, in the late eighties, that he had hitherto been loyal to British cars, driving Fords, but had recently succumbed to getting a Japanese one because the build quality was so much better.

Yes, of course.  Come to think of it, my visit was much later than the Willis era.

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I bought the organ as described above by David Pinnigar and have installed it in St Pancras Church Arlington near Hailsham East Sussex.

It has had many favorable comments from visitors and congregation alike!

 Peter Willson 

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How really WONDERFUL!

It's such a really creative and unique design that it should inspire through being just so . . . unexpected.

It would be great to organise a visit perhaps from the Crawley and Horsham District Organists' Association if perhaps you might welcome visitors. I've been saying to priests for a long time that a good instrument and good music can be an attraction which can get people back into churches.

There are a steady trudge of instruments towards Ebay and I fear that not all will experience the happy ending to their former story that this organ has.

Best wishes and many congratulations and all encouragement,

David P

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Yes of course I would love to welcome you to Arlington! It would be great to meet you again David. When we lived at Forest Row we met you not long after you acquired Harmmerwood Park! I've got plans to build another organ to match it

Kind regards 

Peter Willson 

Mobile is 07850 889936

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I have now found another Tub or Christmas Tree by Willis organ at St Martins Knebworth (- information supplied by my friend Matthew Copley) This one has two tubs apparently. 

Peter Willson

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6 hours ago, Peter Wilson said:

I have now found another Tub or Christmas Tree by Willis organ at St Martins Knebworth (- information supplied by my friend Matthew Copley) This one has two tubs apparently. 

There are pictures on NPOR

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