Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
MusingMuso

John Compton

Recommended Posts

So is the legend about Christie, Glyndeborne and HN&B true - buying into the firm in order to get the organ built as he wanted?

 

 

============================

 

 

I'll make enquiries among or wibbly-wobbly Tibia friends. They will know, for sure.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
=========================

 

 

So the theatre organ bit comes later, when Norman & Beard had absorbed the interests of Hope Jones, and then amalgamated with Wm.Hill & Sons. The use of the "Christie" name was possibly an attempt to disassociate the classical side of the company with that of the theatre organ, but in essence, it was just two sides of the same business.

 

It has to be said, that Christie were by far the best builders of theatre organs in the UK, but Compton outsold them, and Wulitzer developed such a reputation, that they even set up business in the UK.

 

 

 

MM

 

Hi

 

HNB built a few "Orchestral Organs" for cinemas before the Christie "Unit Orchestra" phase - see for example http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N15535

 

There is a rumour (uncomfirmed) that part of the Glyndebourne organ ended up in The Dome, Brighton. The NPOR survey just says "broken up for parts".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It may be appropriate to advise list members that Ivor Buckingham who did so much research into the life and work of the John Compton organ company, culminating in the well-known Compton List, has died, following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. His website is still up and can be found HERE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are also Ian Bell articles on Compton in back issues of the BIOS journal though mine are packed away at present so I can't check exact references.

A local historian who is researching the old ABC cinema in Plymouth has contacted me, looking for a copy of Ian Bell's article "A Survey of the Work of John Compton" published in BIOS Journal 23 (1999). I can't help as I don't take the BIOS Journal. He's happy to source it on inter-library loan, but I just wondered whether any forum members would be able and willing to offer a quicker solution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
=====================

Your comments about the teaching of technical crafts in schools in the past generations ring so true. My own experiences and learning in these subjects not only gave me a lifelong hobby in such skills, but a vocational trade that served me well for 30 years. I now work in a school, and we have no use whatsoever of engineering machinery in tuition. It merely stands at the back of our workshops, as a reminder of days long gone! Skills? Gone with the curriculum!

 

CP

 

As I suspected; one very bright cookie!

 

Permitting my imagination to wander a little, I can't help but wonder what it was like to be educated at a top school in a city like Birmingham, where the white-heat of technology was possibly on a par with anything in the world. In those days, schools had very strong links with local industry, learned societies, tradesmen and technological institutions.......the grammar schools being the resource from which the next generation of engineers and craftsmen were drawn.

 

In fact, I can only think of Manchester as the other possible rival in the technology stakes.

 

Looking back at my own grammar school education, science and technology were a powerful presence in the school, and I think I was all of thirteen when I started to learn how to use machinery such as lathes, grinders, milling machines and drills, as well as saw wood, plane it, glue it, sand it and french-polish it. We even had lessons in "Technical Drawing" which have come in handy over the years.

 

I wonder how many school-leavers to-day could re-build a car engine, lap a bearing or replace interference-fit valve-guides into a cylinder-head?

 

Add to all this the technology and science of electronics and electrical-engineering (then all the rage), audio-electrical acoustics and rapid advances in materials science, and it amounts to a quite extraordinary hot-house of new, exciting ideas, into which the young John Compton must have been planted.

 

The more I read, the more I am convinced that John Compton was a product of that unique age; ever experimenting with new ideas and, perhaps, only brought to an end by the retro-movement of "classical revival".

 

What I find fascinating, is the fact that John Compton may well have been initially inspired by the work of Robert Hope-Jones, as well as being a major UK competitor to the Rudolph Wurlitzer company, but what Compton did was technically far in advance of anything that they achieved, and to a very high quality.

 

As for the aesthetic of installing those ghastly little toggle-switches for the ventil controls, I have often wondered why they had to be so noisy in operation, and look so awful.

 

The the truth dawns, that these nasty little switches still work perfectly after sixty years.

 

As for the Solo Cello and Melotone units; the engineering was just amazing, and I immediately think of old Ferrograph tape-recorders and BBC broadcasting equipment of the 1950's and early 60's.....and they still work too!

 

Quite, quite fascinating.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some time has gone by since most of the contributions came into the Forum on the subject of John Compton and his contribution to the development of the organ. There was a lot of interest in the proposal to pull together the material for a good technical and musical biography, that among other things could call on the expertise or writings of people like Ian Bell, Roger Taylor, Laurence Elvin or Ivor Buckingham. It would be a great pity if this proposal were to be forgotten - there is still time enough to collect and collate it all, and soon it may be too late.

One aspect that has hardly been touched on so far is why the Compton firm ultimately failed, some years after John Compton's death. My own contacts with them were precisely during this final period of decline.

The primary problem, I understood, was that Comptons largely failed to detect and follow the revival of the best classic organ building tradition during the fifties and sixties - one in which Mander played a major role. Although Comptons at their best did build a few excellent instruments at that time (St Albans, Holborn, was well designed and built, but badly voiced through no fault of the firm) they had acquired the reputation of being a firm that messed around with electronics, cinema organs and extension organs (though in all three fields they had tended to act responsibly). Cinemas had already lost interest in organs by 1939, and now the church pipe organ business too fell away because of these prejudices and was sold to Rushworth and Dreaper by 1964.

After that, with the theatre organist Alan Lord as managing director, the John Compton company had to rely entirely on their electronic instruments to keep the business going. Unfortunately, they ignored some already promising trends in the synthesis of sounds using valves and transistors and trusted completely their thirty year-old system of rotating condensers. What was worse, in order to save money they simplified it. The original design using engravings of complex wave forms and managed some fairly convincing tones (Manchester Free Trade Hall!) though it was always weak on upper harmonics, which condensers cannot handle. In its simplified form, the condensors were engraved with no more than seven octaves of sine waves, which meant that its capabilities were reduced to those of a Hammond. The 2ft voice lost its only harmonic after three octaves and broke back for the top octave.

Overpriced and under-endowed, the new electronic instruments were unable to compete.

After a bankruptcy in 1966, the firm, renamed "Compton Organs", was acquired by EPTA electronics, which continued production but used part of the factory to make other electronic devices. On one of my visits, a part of the staff seemed to be out on the street repairing the old Rolls-Royce of the new managing director (an elderly colonel). The new firm soon itself went bankrupt and was sold off in pieces. The rotating condenser system went to Compton-Makin (who soon adopted superior solid-state techniques); the name also went to Compton-Edwards who started making small transistor organs, while some employees set up the Compton Organ Maintenance Company to provide service to old John Compton electronic installatIions.0

Interestingly, though Compton-Makin in due course dropped the Compton name (and were later merged with Johannus in Holland who took over Makin production), the Makin building in Oldham, Lancs, was until a recent change of address labelled "Compton House."

 

Graham Dukes

Oslo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
After a bankruptcy in 1966, the firm, renamed "Compton Organs", was acquired by EPTA electronics, which continued production but used part of the factory to make other electronic devices. On one of my visits, a part of the staff seemed to be out on the street repairing the old Rolls-Royce of the new managing director (an elderly colonel). The new firm soon itself went bankrupt and was sold off in pieces. The rotating condenser system went to Compton-Makin (who soon adopted superior solid-state techniques); the name also went to Compton-Edwards who started making small transistor organs, while some employees set up the Compton Organ Maintenance Company to provide service to old John Compton electronic installatIions.0

Interestingly, though Compton-Makin in due course dropped the Compton name (and were later merged with Johannus in Holland who took over Makin production), the Makin building in Oldham, Lancs, was until a recent change of address labelled "Compton House."

 

Graham Dukes

Oslo

 

======================

 

Thank you Graham for this additional information concerning the last years and eventual demise of the John Compton Organ Co.

 

One tiny, niggling thing immediately started rattling at the back of my brain, but I cannot recall the exact details.

 

I'm sure it would be restricted to the days of electronic organ production, (either as Compton-Makin or as Compton-Edwards), but I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies. That obvioulsy changed in due course, but I wonder if anyone knows why, or how, a company of this magnitude should show an interest in the manufactire of electronic organs on what was obviously a relatively small scale.

 

Curiously, I have tenuous link with the current set-up, in that the current MD is into stock-car racing in quite a big way, and I also dabbled in it as a mechanic in my hideously mis-spent youth.

 

It shows how one's past has a habit of catching up with you in due course., and Dr Harrington (Makin MD) and myself enjoyed a humourous exchange of e-mails on the subject.

 

I agree that it would be a pity if all those with memories of John Compton and the company he founded, disappeared and took the knowledge with them. Compton's contribution, even to the classical revival, was very important. I suspect that the failure to adapt would have been totally alien to John Compton's innovative thinking, but alas, he was no more.

 

The interesting thing is the link between some of Compton's former staff and the organ at New College, Oxford, which demonstrates that the talent was there to make the leap forward into the past.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
======================

I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies.

 

Amongst many other things, Bibby provide small business financing and invoice factoring. I've used them myself for a small business with vast cash value of stock in production. Could it be a simple explanation that a small company in a similar position would rely on such a service for cashflow stability?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Amongst many other things, Bibby provide small business financing and invoice factoring. I've used them myself for a small business with vast cash value of stock in production. Could it be a simple explanation that a small company in a similar position would rely on such a service for cashflow stability?

 

================

 

I don't think so, because the tome, (which I used regularly), was concerned with company names, registration, subsiduries and boards of directors etc. There would be no reason to include factoring, invoice discounting or any other equity arrangements, unless any debt was converted into a majority shareholding; effectively making one party the controlling interest.

 

It's all quite possible, but speculative. I was just wondering that's all, because if memory serves me right, Compton-Makin (I'm sure that was the company), were actually listed as a subsiduary holding of Bibby plc.

 

I'm sure it's not so important that I feel the need to contact the Financial Controller of Bibby plc., but it struck me at the time as curious.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
======================

 

Thank you Graham for this additional information concerning the last years and eventual demise of the John Compton Organ Co.

 

One tiny, niggling thing immediately started rattling at the back of my brain, but I cannot recall the exact details.

 

I'm sure it would be restricted to the days of electronic organ production, (either as Compton-Makin or as Compton-Edwards), but I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies. That obvioulsy changed in due course, but I wonder if anyone knows why, or how, a company of this magnitude should show an interest in the manufactire of electronic organs on what was obviously a relatively small scale.

 

Curiously, I have tenuous link with the current set-up, in that the current MD is into stock-car racing in quite a big way, and I also dabbled in it as a mechanic in my hideously mis-spent youth.

 

It shows how one's past has a habit of catching up with you in due course., and Dr Harrington (Makin MD) and myself enjoyed a humourous exchange of e-mails on the subject.

 

I agree that it would be a pity if all those with memories of John Compton and the company he founded, disappeared and took the knowledge with them. Compton's contribution, even to the classical revival, was very important. I suspect that the failure to adapt would have been totally alien to John Compton's innovative thinking, but alas, he was no more.

 

The interesting thing is the link between some of Compton's former staff and the organ at New College, Oxford, which demonstrates that the talent was there to make the leap forward into the past.

 

MM

 

Dear MM,

I was delighted to read your letter to the Forum.

The explanation as to how Compton-Makin Organs came into the Bibby group is quite simple. One of the Directors in their paper manufacturing division was a keen amateur organist, John Makin Pilling, who knew the Compton people well. When the final collapse came he put a lot of his own money into acquiring and thus saving the Compton rotating condenser system, recruited some Compton people, and resumed production in a section of the paper factory. He realized the limitations of the system, and developed a fine instrument for his own home in the Lake District in which some of the defects of the condenser approach (lack of upper harmonics) were overcome. I have an LP recording of this instrument.

In due course Pilling moved production to Oldham, Lancs, and David Clegg was taken on as managing director. Mr Pilling continued to subsidized the company from his own pocket. Progressively, the firm moved away from the condensers and began to build excellent transistor instruments ultimately producing the advanced sampler organs of the present day.

John Makin Pilling died of cancer in 1996. He had set up a trust fund to continue his work, but the trustees did not have the resources to keep things running as they had been. Mr Clegg had already since 1989 good contacts with Gert van der Weerd in Holland, who had founded Johannus and made it a major manufacturer of sampler organs. A form of merger was therefore adopted, with the Dutch holding company buying Makin in January 1998. Manufacture and further development were transferred to Holland, though Makin continued to sample the best English organs, and their samples are used in todays Makins One or two development experts at Makin objected to the merger and left to found Phoenix.

There is a small firm today selling "Compton" transistor organs of the simpler type. I do not know whether it had any historic links with the earlier ventures (e.g. with Compton-Edwards) or is an entirely new firm.

 

So much for the history. Now, what do we do about the John Compton book? I cannot really volunteer to take it on. I am a lawyer, physician and amateur organist and have done a lot of editing and writing, mostly books in the medico-legal field, and some minor literary ventures (including one on our ancient Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost!). However, I simply do not have the knowledge to produce a book like this. What I might consider is an editorial role, pulling together materials and coordinating a good team of experts, each dealing with one Chapter, and ensuring the quality of the whole thing. One drawback to my involvement: I live in Oslo, Norway, and only get to UK now and again. Another: though officially retired, I have a lot to do. What about your possible role?

 

Sincerely,

 

Graham Dukes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...I am a lawyer, physician and amateur organist and have done a lot of editing and writing, mostly books in the medico-legal field

 

How interesting, Graham. I am also an organ-playing doctor and I'm sure there must be a few more musical medics.

 

I don't suppose you are the same Graham Dukes who used to work for a pharmaceutical company called - wait for it - Organon? If so, what a very appropriately named company to have been with!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How interesting, Graham. I am also an organ-playing doctor and I'm sure there must be a few more musical medics.

 

I don't suppose you are the same Graham Dukes who used to work for a pharmaceutical company called - wait for it - Organon? If so, what a very appropriately named company to have been with!

 

Dr John Pemberton, curator of the Hull City Hall Compton organ is also a medical doctor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How interesting, Graham. I am also an organ-playing doctor and I'm sure there must be a few more musical medics.

 

I don't suppose you are the same Graham Dukes who used to work for a pharmaceutical company called - wait for it - Organon? If so, what a very appropriately named company to have been with!

 

Yes, Contrabombarde, I was the Graham Dukes who was Research Manager of Organon in The Netherlands in the sixties. We had several good organists in the Research Division, and a joke went around that this was the reason why the firm was called Organon. Much later Organon disappeared into the clutches of Scherinbg-Plough, which in turn was absorbed by Merck. I left Organon forty years ago to join the Netherlands Ministry of Health, and later the World Health Organization and the University.

I'm afraid this discussion has moved off track, but perhaps John Mander will forgive us.

Graham

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
======================

 

Thank you Graham for this additional information concerning the last years and eventual demise of the John Compton Organ Co.

 

One tiny, niggling thing immediately started rattling at the back of my brain, but I cannot recall the exact details.

 

I'm sure it would be restricted to the days of electronic organ production, (either as Compton-Makin or as Compton-Edwards), but I remember reading, in one of those huge, yearly company listing books, (I forget the name....it was blue), that Compton-Makin (I think), were a part of the huge Bibby group of companies. That obvioulsy changed in due course, but I wonder if anyone knows why, or how, a company of this magnitude should show an interest in the manufactire of electronic organs on what was obviously a relatively small scale.

 

Curiously, I have tenuous link with the current set-up, in that the current MD is into stock-car racing in quite a big way, and I also dabbled in it as a mechanic in my hideously mis-spent youth.

 

It shows how one's past has a habit of catching up with you in due course., and Dr Harrington (Makin MD) and myself enjoyed a humourous exchange of e-mails on the subject.

 

I agree that it would be a pity if all those with memories of John Compton and the company he founded, disappeared and took the knowledge with them. Compton's contribution, even to the classical revival, was very important. I suspect that the failure to adapt would have been totally alien to John Compton's innovative thinking, but alas, he was no more.

 

The interesting thing is the link between some of Compton's former staff and the organ at New College, Oxford, which demonstrates that the talent was there to make the leap forward into the past.

 

MM

 

 

 

Dear MM:

 

I should add to my message of last night that my belief that the original parent company of Compton-Makin was a Bibby division was simply derived from your own findings on the Bibby association. All that I know was that the direct parent of Compton-Makin when it was set up in 1970 was J & J Makin Ltd of Rochdale. Whether Makin was in turn a daughter of Bibby plc I really don't know.

 

Graham Dukes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dear MM:

 

I should add to my message of last night that my belief that the original parent company of Compton-Makin was a Bibby division was simply derived from your own findings on the Bibby association. All that I know was that the direct parent of Compton-Makin when it was set up in 1970 was J & J Makin Ltd of Rochdale. Whether Makin was in turn a daughter of Bibby plc I really don't know.

 

Graham Dukes

 

 

====================

 

I was trying to find the copies of the said business information tome last night. It's one of those that cost about £500 each year, and each of the two volumes was about the size of a Bible. Being well past their sell-by-date, I may have thrown them out due to the bulk and increasing irrelevance year-on-year.

 

However, the fact that I found the name Compton-Makin under the Bibby listing, almost certainly confirms the legal ties with Bibby plc at that time. There simply wouldn't have been any other reason for the organ company to be there.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dear MM,

(edited)

 

So much for the history. Now, what do we do about the John Compton book? I cannot really volunteer to take it on. I am a lawyer, physician and amateur organist and have done a lot of editing and writing, mostly books in the medico-legal field, and some minor literary ventures (including one on our ancient Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost!). However, I simply do not have the knowledge to produce a book like this. What I might consider is an editorial role, pulling together materials and coordinating a good team of experts, each dealing with one Chapter, and ensuring the quality of the whole thing. One drawback to my involvement: I live in Oslo, Norway, and only get to UK now and again. Another: though officially retired, I have a lot to do. What about your possible role?

 

Sincerely,

 

Graham Dukes

 

===========================

 

 

 

I would love to get involved with this, but immediately, I come up against a whole raft of problems.

 

One simply could not approach John Compton, and the staff of the company he founded, in the usual way. The whole enterprise was so multi-layered and such a part of that "white-heat" generation of engineers, scientists and technologists, it would require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things concerned with materials, engineering, electronics, electro-magnetic devices, sine-wave synthesis, pipe-organs, extension methods, switching and logic mechanisms, diaphones, ....and then all the usual stuff about pipe organs generally.

 

Diverting slightly, I once sat down at a wedding reception near Bristol, and on the same table were three members of the same family, all of whom had been involved in designing and building "Concorde." I was in total awe of what they knew between them, and a fourth member of the family, who was obviously the stupid one, was a mere headmaster at a prestigious school!! It didn't take long for me to reaslise that I could barely converse with them except in the most general of terms, and yet, I have an early engineering background and can easily talk to engineers generally. (I've never known a good organ-builder to be a fool, and some are exceptionally multi-talented).

 

To put it another way, when I was at school, there was a pecking-order in society. The people schoolboys most looked up to were engineers, followed by doctors and then teachers. The finest engineers were held in awe, and I just suspect that John Compton was in that class of top-drawer technologists and innovators.

 

Another factor concerns the history of the company, because most of the details were lost in a fire, making it difficult to know exactly what went on. Not only that, the demise of Compton was probably accelerated by a loss of staff during World War II, and the fact that the factory did quite a lot of MOD work. The factory also made, so far as I know, every single component which went into an organ, with the exception of blowers. That makes Compton almost unique in the modern age.

 

I therefore hesitate, as I think many would, because by the very nature of the beast, I am only partially up to the challenge, and would find myself going blank at various points.

 

So really, what sounds like a simple undertaking, is far from it, and to do justice to John Compton and his team, it would probably require a concerted effort by a number of specialists working in collaboration with each other.

 

How can that be achieved and who are the remaining specialists from that era?

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
===========================

 

 

 

I would love to get involved with this, but immediately, I come up against a whole raft of problems.

 

One simply could not approach John Compton, and the staff of the company he founded, in the usual way. The whole enterprise was so multi-layered and such a part of that "white-heat" generation of engineers, scientists and technologists, it would require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things concerned with materials, engineering, electronics, electro-magnetic devices, sine-wave synthesis, pipe-organs, extension methods, switching and logic mechanisms, diaphones, ....and then all the usual stuff about pipe organs generally.

 

Diverting slightly, I once sat down at a wedding reception near Bristol, and on the same table were three members of the same family, all of whom had been involved in designing and building "Concorde." I was in total awe of what they knew between them, and a fourth member of the family, who was obviously the stupid one, was a mere headmaster at a prestigious school!! It didn't take long for me to reaslise that I could barely converse with them except in the most general of terms, and yet, I have an early engineering background and can easily talk to engineers generally. (I've never known a good organ-builder to be a fool, and some are exceptionally multi-talented).

 

To put it another way, when I was at school, there was a pecking-order in society. The people schoolboys most looked up to were engineers, followed by doctors and then teachers. The finest engineers were held in awe, and I just suspect that John Compton was in that class of top-drawer technologists and innovators.

 

Another factor concerns the history of the company, because most of the details were lost in a fire, making it difficult to know exactly what went on. Not only that, the demise of Compton was probably accelerated by a loss of staff during World War II, and the fact that the factory did quite a lot of MOD work. The factory also made, so far as I know, every single component which went into an organ, with the exception of blowers. That makes Compton almost unique in the modern age.

 

I therefore hesitate, as I think many would, because by the very nature of the beast, I am only partially up to the challenge, and would find myself going blank at various points.

 

So really, what sounds like a simple undertaking, is far from it, and to do justice to John Compton and his team, it would probably require a concerted effort by a number of specialists working in collaboration with each other.

 

How can that be achieved and who are the remaining specialists from that era?

 

MM

 

You are not the only one, MM, who would love to get involved. I tried several years ago, enquiring first of Alistair Rushworth, thinking that R&D would have a great deal of documentation relating to Compton. He was of little help, putting me on to his man in Edinburgh who had been a Compton employee. I then had a lead to Frank Hancock who was John Compton's reed voicer in the company's more latter days. Unfortunately, when I telephoned I learned that Frank lay very ill in bed, but I spent quite some time talking to his wife. She and Frank had met one another when they were both employed by the firm. A most interesting and knowledgeable lady, not only did she talk about the company's core business of organ building, but went on to describe the work they did in designing and making electronic equipment for the war effort. If only I had been more attentive to some of the anecdotes of Jimmy Taylor who I met on a number of occasions when the company was rebuilding the Hull City Hall organ. Little did I realise that John Compton was to become a legend in the history of British organ building. But I was only a mere lad still a year short of leaving school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You are not the only one, MM, who would love to get involved. I tried several years ago, enquiring first of Alistair Rushworth, thinking that R&D would have a great deal of documentation relating to Compton. He was of little help, putting me on to his man in Edinburgh who had been a Compton employee. I then had a lead to Frank Hancock who was John Compton's reed voicer in the company's more latter days. Unfortunately, when I telephoned I learned that Frank lay very ill in bed, but I spent quite some time talking to his wife. She and Frank had met one another when they were both employed by the firm. A most interesting and knowledgeable lady, not only did she talk about the company's core business of organ building, but went on to describe the work they did in designing and making electronic equipment for the war effort. If only I had been more attentive to some of the anecdotes of Jimmy Taylor who I met on a number of occasions when the company was rebuilding the Hull City Hall organ. Little did I realise that John Compton was to become a legend in the history of British organ building. But I was only a mere lad still a year short of leaving school.

 

=====================

 

 

I seem to recall from somewhere, that Compton did work on radar components, but that may be wrong. Actually, interesting though it is, the MOD work is only a smoke-screen to the real, core business which is of specific interest, so I expect it doesn't matter TOO much what they did. In any event, the MOD may be a help, as they have substantial archives and resident historians.

 

Having got that problem out of the way, I had only just finished writing my previous response when a further truth dawned.

 

Rather than looking to people who are now probably getting on in years (to say the least), there are people who work with all the same Compton components to-day, in the world of Cinema Organ preservation. There are many examples of these around; some in good playing condition and I am informed that the differences between an extension church organ and an substantial extention cinema organ are actually quite small. I think I am also right in suggesting that Compton components were so reliable, many extant organs are still using the original electrical components. The quality of engineering was of a very high-order indeed.

 

Coming back to ex-Compton people, there can't be many left coming to think about it. It was 46 years ago that the company was acquired by R & D, and if one adds 15 years to that to get the age of the then youngest apprentice, they will now be 61, and the more experienced men very much older....probably in their 70's and 80's.

 

What the late Ivor Buckingham achieved was useful, in that he compiled the "Compton List" which tracked the movement of Compton organs and components. (He didn't know that I have a Tuba 8ft stop-key as a key-ring, which came from the organ of the Astoria cinema, Finchley Park, London, as well as one of the company ashtrays!)

 

Unofrtunately, that list only scratches the surface of the thinking which went into Compton's and Taylor's endeavours.

 

Still, there ARE sources, and there are people who know enough, as well as organs like Wakefield Cathedral, Wolverhampton and St Bride's, Fleet Street. However, to understand all the derivations and borrowings, as well as the compound Mixture derivations, it would take weeks of investigation, crawling around one of the instruments in good working order.

 

It's a big task.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
=====================

Still, there ARE sources, and there are people who know enough,

MM

 

Ian Bell's name springs to mind as he worked for them and has given talks and written on Compton.

PJW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rather than looking to people who are now probably getting on in years (to say the least), there are people who work with all the same Compton components to-day, in the world of Cinema Organ preservation. There are many examples of these around; some in good playing condition and I am informed that the differences between an extension church organ and an substantial extention cinema organ are actually quite small. I think I am also right in suggesting that Compton components were so reliable, many extant organs are still using the original electrical components. The quality of engineering was of a very high-order indeed.

 

This is indeed true. There are many Compton theatre organs still in good working order, and a good many of them still operate on their original direct-electric relay system which is as efficient and long-lasting as it is ingeniously designed. Although probably not as plentiful as theatre organs in this state, there are also a good many pre-war Compton church organs still ticking along quite happily in their original condition. One was brought to my attention only recently in Sussex which retains a horseshoe stopkey console on a west gallery, so that it's rarely seen by members of the congregation! The build quality was good, but also what I would call "substantial", and it is this that gives you a good degree of confidence in their work.

 

Coming back to ex-Compton people, there can't be many left coming to think about it. It was 46 years ago that the company was acquired by R & D, and if one adds 15 years to that to get the age of the then youngest apprentice, they will now be 61, and the more experienced men very much older....probably in their 70's and 80's.

 

What the late Ivor Buckingham achieved was useful, in that he compiled the "Compton List" which tracked the movement of Compton organs and components. (He didn't know that I have a Tuba 8ft stop-key as a key-ring, which came from the organ of the Astoria cinema, Finchley Park, London, as well as one of the company ashtrays!)

 

It would be Ivor Norridge who was mentioned earlier in this thread as being in Edinburgh. He was, I think, a just post-war apprentice and I believe is still about. Another of that period is Doug Litchfield who trained in flue voicing under Johnny Degens. He went to Nicholsons and Ian Bell filled his shoes at Chase Road. Doug is still with us and living in Gloucester. I see him from time to time and, although he suffered a mild stroke last year, is keeping reasonably well and still getting out. In fact, as I am now the holder of Ivor Buckingham's archive, Doug very kindly gave me his 1944 indenture document, which contains the signatures of J.C. and J.I.T. as well as the company's wax seal.

 

MM - I will make a note of the Finsbury Park stopkey! I assisted in the removal of the remains of that organ from Aylesbury Civic Hall a couple of years ago. It was all very high quality stuff, and obviously not a cheap job. I too have one of their ashtrays. Mine is a theatre organ version with a depiction of the Playhouse, Windsor console, but I believe they made other versions. These were given out to visitors touring the factory - a very early corporate "freebie" I suppose....

 

SD

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Something strikes me very forcibly as I read back through the posts. The knowledge and contacts which people have is extraordinary, and in only a very few posts, we have achieved something which would have taken months before the days of the internet.

 

I even know someone in Greece who knew Maurice Forsythe-Grant, (Racal/Vodafone), who in turn was connected with the likes of Johnny Deegens, when they set-up Grant, Deegens & Rippen. I also know of the man who invented the concept of the mobile phone, who worked for PYE electronics in Cambridge. THEY decided to drop the idea! (What a mistake THAT was). In the end, Ted Wragg went on to become one of the top race-horse trainers in the country, but his passion and spare-time hobby was always electronics.

 

It's this ability to make links which saves so much time, and leads to such delightful responses such as, "I don't know the answer, but I know someone who will."

 

The Compton story CAN be done, and done well, but it requires co-ordination and exchanges of information to make it possible.

 

The publishing part is easy, but only in e-book format. It's never going to be a money-spinner, but as a work of reference and as a social comment on an era, quite invaluable.

 

MM

 

PS: Stephen, the 16ft Tuba stop-key was lost when I had a car stolen, but I've still got the 8ft one.....just for list, you understand! :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I then had a lead to Frank Hancock who was John Compton's reed voicer in the company's more latter days. Unfortunately, when I telephoned I learned that Frank lay very ill in bed, but I spent quite some time talking to his wife. She and Frank had met one another when they were both employed by the firm. A most interesting and knowledgeable lady, not only did she talk about the company's core business of organ building, but went on to describe the work they did in designing and making electronic equipment for the war effort.

 

=======================

 

 

I'm not trying to take over the Mander Board to-day, but we've had a series of happy events "sleuthing in the archive division" this morning; which I normally abbreviate to S.A.D. :lol:

 

I can tell Barry that in is book "21 years in Organ Building" by Maurice Forsythe-Grant details the work he did at Compton's as an electrical-engineer (electronics included it would seem), and their contributiuon to the war effort.

 

Miraculously, I am in regular touch with the son of the RAF Group Captain who oversaw the work at Compton's, and which led directly to the development of RADAR detection. The aforementioned Group Captain liased directly between Compton's, Sir Robert Watson-Watt and the RAF, and when he was appointed as Commander in Chief of the Eastern Signals Command, Maurice Forsythe-Grant was appointed as Chief Signals Officer in Bombay.

 

MM

 

I thought Barry might appreciate the inclusion of the word aforementioned. :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have discovered another quite large source of Compton material, I'm happy to report.

 

This is looking much easier than I could have imagined.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×