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John Compton

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Mention of W C Jones harks back to my interest in whether Compton might have met Hope-Jones as mentioned in previous posts in this thread, and hence whether there might have been an element of technology transfer between them.  Like Compton after him, Hope-Jones had earlier employed Jones's voicing skills (despite their names they were not related as far as I know, although 'Jones' is a particularly difficult name to trace for obvious reasons) and there remain to us a number of testimonials to the excellence of the reedwork in H-J's organs.  For his part, Jones was supportive of H-J's work.  In response to those who regarded him as a charlatan (some of the most strident rants originating from W T Best), he replied after H-J's death that "whatever else he might have been, he was certainly no charlatan".  Perhaps Compton might have taken that view as well?  It would be nice to know more.

CEP

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It has sometimes crossed my mind to wonder if there had ever been a meeting of John Compton and Hope-Jones and the sharing of technological thoughts. Whenever I've looked at the relay system on the Hull Minster organ (still working reasonably well after 80 years), early telephone technology is very evident.

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Remembering the Forster and Andrews origin of several large Comptons (Hull Minster and City Hall, St.George's, Stockport) leads me to suggest that Compton's work in such cases could have been the making of the instruments.  F&A organs are sometimes reticent to the point of being gormless, especially the larger ones.

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8 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

Remembering the Forster and Andrews origin of several large Comptons (Hull Minster and City Hall, St.George's, Stockport) leads me to suggest that Compton's work in such cases could have been the making of the instruments.  F&A organs are sometimes reticent to the point of being gormless, especially the larger ones.

 

I couldn't agree more. F & A were wonderfully made instruments, but not exactly thrilling tonally, even if they never sound at all bad. I've always regarded the idea of F & A  being "disciples of Schulze" as a bit of a joke. Charles Brindley was infinitely better at it!

It is known, that both the Minster organ and the City Hall organ in Hull, were revoiced substantially when re-built by Compton, and W C Jones was certainly involved in some of the reeds, if not all of them.

I forget who the voicer was at Compton's when they did Hull City Hall, but he did say to an organ enthusiast, that every pipe in the organ "passed through his hands".

I know that when I used to play the beast in my Uni Organ Scholar days at Hull, the Swell organ at the City Hall was quite a pathetic affair as compared with the rest of the organ. That was remedied to a large extent by the fitting of additional swell shutters by R & D when they re-built it.

Now, after a century or so, the organ sounds absolutely superb, but it took a while to get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 2/24/2018 at 10:38, Colin Pykett said:

Mention of W C Jones harks back to my interest in whether Compton might have met Hope-Jones as mentioned in previous posts in this thread, and hence whether there might have been an element of technology transfer between them.  Like Compton after him, Hope-Jones had earlier employed Jones's voicing skills (despite their names they were not related as far as I know, although 'Jones' is a particularly difficult name to trace for obvious reasons) and there remain to us a number of testimonials to the excellence of the reedwork in H-J's organs.  For his part, Jones was supportive of H-J's work.  In response to those who regarded him as a charlatan (some of the most strident rants originating from W T Best), he replied after H-J's death that "whatever else he might have been, he was certainly no charlatan".  Perhaps Compton might have taken that view as well?  It would be nice to know more.

CEP

The evidence is quite compelling Colin.

For a start, John Compton's work attracted a lot of interest, even while he was very young. Stephen Bicknell suggested that Compton was experimenting with extreme harmonics even in the 1890's, and while at Brindley's, he was already a voicer and finisher, which covers the period 1898 to 1902 or so. At that time, Brindley's were startiing to introduce more "orchestral" sounds, while retaining good, solid chorus-work. It is very likely, that Compton had a hand in the big 4-manual replacement organ for the one dstroyed by fire at Pietermaritzburg Town Hall in South Africa, which was completed in 1901. Not the best quality, but there are a couple of YouTube videos played on this magnificent instrument......well worth hearing in spite of the recording limitations.

Still in his 20's, Compton seems to have had his admirers, and when J Martin White, the wealthy industrialist, had the house organ at Balruddery House re-built by Hope-Jones (whom he supported financially in his many failed ventures), his next choice of beneficiary (when Hope-Jones eloped to America) was John Compton, whom he regarded as being closest to the Hope-Jones style. Martin White continued to support Compton when Compton went solo around 1904, after Fred Musson wandered off to Conacher's. I think it was 1911, when Martin White became a director of the John Compton Ltd., so he was involved, one way or another, over a considerable period.

After that, it gets a bit obscure, but A H Midgley seems to have been the dominant influence in London after 1925 and the tie-up with the J W Walker & Sons firm.

 

Compton also had the approval of James I Wedgwood (of the pottery family), who spoke in glowing terms about the beauty of the pipe voicing.

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On 2/24/2018 at 12:43, Barry Oakley said:

It has sometimes crossed my mind to wonder if there had ever been a meeting of John Compton and Hope-Jones and the sharing of technological thoughts. Whenever I've looked at the relay system on the Hull Minster organ (still working reasonably well after 80 years), early telephone technology is very evident.

Barry, the relays would almost certainly have been designed by A H Midgley initially, even though he left the Compton company in 1937. The man was a complete genius with all things electrical, and had done design work in telephone systems at GEC. By the time he became a director of the Compton firm (and poured a lot of cash into the company) he was probably worth (in to-day's money) many millions of pounds, having helped found CAV, which became CAV-Lucas Industries.

 

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4 hours ago, MusingMuso said:

The evidence is quite compelling Colin.

For a start, John Compton's work attracted a lot of interest, even while he was very young. Stephen Bicknell suggested that Compton was experimenting with extreme harmonics even in the 1890's, and while at Brindley's, he was already a voicer and finisher, which covers the period 1898 to 1902 or so. At that time, Brindley's were startiing to introduce more "orchestral" sounds, while retaining good, solid chorus-work. It is very likely, that Compton had a hand in the big 4-manual replacement organ for the one dstroyed by fire at Pietermaritzburg Town Hall in South Africa, which was completed in 1901. Not the best quality, but there are a couple of YouTube videos played on this magnificent instrument......well worth hearing in spite of the recording limitations.

Still in his 20's, Compton seems to have had his admirers, and when J Martin White, the wealthy industrialist, had the house organ at Balruddery House re-built by Hope-Jones (whom he supported financially in his many failed ventures), his next choice of beneficiary (when Hope-Jones eloped to America) was John Compton, whom he regarded as being closest to the Hope-Jones style. Martin White continued to support Compton when Compton went solo around 1904, after Fred Musson wandered off to Conacher's. I think it was 1911, when Martin White became a director of the John Compton Ltd., so he was involved, one way or another, over a considerable period.

After that, it gets a bit obscure, but A H Midgley seems to have been the dominant influence in London after 1925 and the tie-up with the J W Walker & Sons firm.

 

Compton also had the approval of James I Wedgwood (of the pottery family), who spoke in glowing terms about the beauty of the pipe voicing.

Thank you for this, MM.  Most interesting, especially the J Martin White aspect of the story.  Forgive my making a perhaps picky remark, but although Stephen Bicknell thought Compton "was experimenting with extreme harmonics" early on, it's worth bearing in mind that 'experimenting' costs money, generally a lot of it, which might not always be appreciated by those who haven't tried it themselves.  So I wonder about the source of funds that the young Compton was able to draw on so early in his career without the problem dragging him down as it did for some others.  This was one of the hurdles which helped to bring Hope-Jones down, because although he was initially probably bankrolled with venture capital from the likes of Thomas Threlfall and White, eventually they would have expected their money back with a return. 

Doing research into novel technologies means you have to first set up the necessary facilities which cost money, the facilities require space somewhere to house them which adds to the total, additional staff costs might be involved, and then there is the time involved in doing the research which to a businessman inflates the total still further (time equals money).  I'm not saying anything you won't know, but maybe not everyone will be comparably aware of the realities.

CEP

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6 hours ago, MusingMuso said:

 

I couldn't agree more. F & A were wonderfully made instruments, but not exactly thrilling tonally, even if they never sound at all bad. I've always regarded the idea of F & A  being "disciples of Schulze" as a bit of a joke. Charles Brindley was infinitely better at it!

It is known, that both the Minster organ and the City Hall organ in Hull, were revoiced substantially when re-built by Compton, and W C Jones was certainly involved in some of the reeds, if not all of them.

I forget who the voicer was at Compton's when they did Hull City Hall, but he did say to an organ enthusiast, that every pipe in the organ "passed through his hands".

I know that when I used to play the beast in my Uni Organ Scholar days at Hull, the Swell organ at the City Hall was quite a pathetic affair as compared with the rest of the organ. That was remedied to a large extent by the fitting of additional swell shutters by R & D when they re-built it.

Now, after a century or so, the organ sounds absolutely superb, but it took a while to get there.

 

 

I feel sure that the revoicing of the Hull City Hall organ when rebuilt by Compton's, certainly the superb reeds, would have been done by Frank Hancock, the company's then chief reed voicer. As you also say about Forster & Andrews and the excellent quality of their work, their tone was rather gentle and modest. I know Compton's opened up the City Hall F&A pipework to make it the magnificent organ it is today and I reckon he did the same at Hull Minster (Holy Trinity) when he rebuilt it in the late 1930's.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

Thank you for this, MM.  Most interesting, especially the J Martin White aspect of the story.  Forgive my making a perhaps picky remark, but although Stephen Bicknell thought Compton "was experimenting with extreme harmonics" early on, it's worth bearing in mind that 'experimenting' costs money, generally a lot of it, which might not always be appreciated by those who haven't tried it themselves.  So I wonder about the source of funds that the young Compton was able to draw on so early in his career without the problem dragging him down as it did for some others.  This was one of the hurdles which helped to bring Hope-Jones down, because although he was initially probably bankrolled with venture capital from the likes of Thomas Threlfall and White, eventually they would have expected their money back with a return. 

Doing research into novel technologies means you have to first set up the necessary facilities which cost money, the facilities require space somewhere to house them which adds to the total, additional staff costs might be involved, and then there is the time involved in doing the research which to a businessman inflates the total still further (time equals money).  I'm not saying anything you won't know, but maybe not everyone will be comparably aware of the realities.

CEP


My distinct impression of John Compton is that of a quiet, rather reclusive workaholic.

There is evidence....lots of it.

It was Compton himself who wrote about tonal experiments going back to 1896.  Somewhere, I came across a reference to the voicing shop, and a rank of pipes being out of tune, because JC had been in there experimenting with different temperaments  late into the night.

There is a patent for an enharmonic organ

Compton wrote about a Tibia rank he created......"I made and remade the pipes many times"

Then there are the 32ft cubes, based on the Ocarina and Helmholtz resonators, the bi-phonic pipes, the Harmonics of 32ft, the synthetic registers....it's quite a list, and they couldn't have happened overnight.

I think it was at Northill in Bedfordshire, where Compton used a sliding mouth arrangement to get the speech of bi-phonic pipes right.

He experimented with Diaphones, and wrote a quite lengthy article about them.

I suspect that a lot of this was done late at night, when everyone had gone home, but I can't prove that.

What I do know, is that Compton was a tonal genius, and that's where his real interest lay.

As for 'venture capital', I don't think Martin White needed the money. I suspect that he was a passionate amateur with a bee in his bonnet about orchestral organs.

I would also add, that alongside the partnership of Compton and Harry Smith Mills during the period spent at Measham, there was another coompany known as "The extension organ company" operating from the same address. I think there was one organ bearing the name, but nothing much else. I suspect, but cannot know for certain, that this was the "experimental division" operating separately from the partnership with Mills, possibly as a way of distancing the partnership from the work of Hope-Jones, which was highly controversial at the time.

MM

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