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Does anybody on here have any information on Hunter organs.

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Hi Everybody ,

I just wondered if  anybody connected with this site had any idea if there were any records surviving of the organbuilders Hunter of Clapham  ?

The reason I am asking is I am trying to get the organ in Brownhill Road Baptist Church into a playable condition , it has not been used  for services for about  25 years and has been unplayable  for the last 20 or so  ,

NPOR entry  below


I have been trying to find out some of its history  but sadly there is nobody left at the church  that can answer my questions , as far as I have been able to  discover is it was installed in the church second hand   at about the time of the first world war but beyond that I have not been able to discover anything , I just wonder if  anybody  here might have any access to any historical information

Any information, would be very gratefully  received .

Thanks in anticipation


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Not sure what kind of company records you might expect to find after 100 years or how they might assist your project, but although there’s very little about the company on NPOR, they were quite prolific and numerous instruments survive.  There are literally several pages of entries on Google devoted to A Hunter & Son.  I have no doubt that the person you need to talk to is Robert Bowles who is restoring his own Hunter organ, and he wrote on here only a matter of days ago on the Nuts and Bolts thread thread ‘Redundant ivory stop knobs. …. ‘ etc.  I see that he has also given a presentation about Hunter to the Southwark Organists’ Society, so he is clearly an expert in this field.

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Hi Peter

I can't help with info about Hunter, but I'm pleased to see a Baptist Church getting a pipe organ back to playable condition.  Good luck!

Checking on DBOB, I see that Hunter was taken over by Willis, so it might be worth asking David Wylde if there's anything in their archives.

Every Blessing


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Thank you, Rowland, for your kind words.  I wouldn't go so far as to class myself as an "expert" on Hunter, but I do have experience. As far as I know the Hunter company records have not survived, but there is correspondence in Willis's  archives relating to the financial arrangements surrounding their absorption into Willis in 1937.  

I have a couple of unpublished Opus lists (which are not the same!!) but neither of these includes Brownhill Baptist Church.  However I can see from the NPOR photos that the Brownhill instrument is  typical of what they were producing between, say 1905 and 1925, so it definitely is a Hunter.  Somewhere inside someone will have written the name of the church it was built for, but that might be anywhere!!

I have worked on several of these, and I can see that under the leadership of Robert Hunter (Alfred's son) they developed some fairly standard ways of doing things.  I suspect that they batch-produced some components.  For example, their chests and under- actions usually have 62 pallets/motors, presumably so the decision as to which would be the C side could be made late in the process.  They produced stop mechanisms that always had an even number of stops, so where an odd number was required, there will be a "spare" hiding behind the jamb.  Their pneumatic actions were standard.  Their pipe-rack fronts were made up of pipes from the 16ft and 8ft Open Diapasons, slotted at the back to allow the tops of the pipes to follow symmetrical lines - no casework or shades were anticipated.  They often did not use the bottom 5 or 6 16ft pipes in the display, but placed them inside on a short sliderless chest.  I see that's what happened at Brownhill - though it seems they finished up borrowing from the Bourdon and not installing the bottom metal pipes

The Brownhill instrument is described as "unplayable" and I wonder what that means.  Hunters used good quality materials and had a skilled workforce.  It is normally decay in the leatherwork that causes them to become unplayable - either in the primary reservoirs (no wind) or in the motors for individual notes in the under-actions.  They can also suffer from lead tubes falling out.   All those problems can be dealt with quite straightforwardly  by re-leathering and the judicious application of hot-glue.  If the soundboards themselves are split, that's a different kettle of fish....

A key factor in determining what is involved in getting one of these worthy instruments going again is access for removing components that need releathering.  On some instruments this is easy. Timber panelling is removable, and then you just have to work out how to wriggle into the interior and remove parts.  Others can be a nightmare, with everything squeezed into sold brick chambers.

Peter - if you would like me to come and have a look - out of interest - do send me a private message.  I don't live far away!







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