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John Compton

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P Larg & Co 199 Union St Aberdeen advertised in 1899

The New “Positive “ Real Pipe Organ

for Churches and Chapels

Prices from £75 to £250

designs and full particulars of specifications post free from Sole Agents

P LARG & CO

 

Largs were a successful music retailer across Scotland Glasgow ,Dundee and Aberdeen

who supplied many organs of this genre

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Returning to the subject of Research & Development at Compton, there is another inter-related fact, in that Albert Midgley and his son, Albert Morrel Midgley, shared the patent for Midgley-Walker electronic instrument, which was produced briefly by the Walker's just before the outbreak of war. I can't imagine that went down well at Compton's, when they were developing the Electrone model, and installing the electronic Melotones in non-cinema pipe organs. (Wolverhampton Civic Hall was fitted with one in 1937/8, with "straight" stop nomenclature.

I think it was about the time that Midgley left Compton's, but I have yet to discover when Walker's pulled out of the Walker/Compton tie-up, but I believe they sold their shares to the Broad family (father & son), who got control of the Compton firm after the death of "Jimmy" Taylor.

Going back to the R & D, I find it fascinating (and not a little puzzling) how TWO completely different systems developed side-by-side,and not only that, the pre-voicing circuitry was a later idea, when Bourn's first system didn't work very well.  Apparently, John Compton told him to scrap the idea and start all over again.

If there is a slight clue, Bourn was friendly with Kenneth Burge, and it may well be that they co-operated in some way.

In truth, the whole thing is a bit of a mystery.

MM

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Didn’t Burge found the Wyvern company? Maybe Graham Lord who is now in charge maybe able to throw some light..?

A

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Is Graham Lord any relation to Arthur Lord, who came from Australia and was a big name in electronic organs a while ago.

Maurice Forsyth Grant was a pal of Midgley's son while a student and built his own electronic organ a bit later (using mostly surplus telephone parts).  He sold it to a Mr. Maxfield, whom I remember from the Organ Club long ago, and the system was acquired and refined by Jack Davies, the Northampton organ builder who made several instruments using it.

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Hi

Reading the previous few comments, firstly, was it Jack Davies' firm that developed a hybrid part pipe part electronic back in the day?

Secondly, there was an electronic organ firm called "Livingstone-Burge".  I've come across a handful of their instruments back in the day, but I'm not sure where they fit into the general history of such instruments.

Every Blessing

Tony

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23 hours ago, Barry Oakley said:

I'm most grateful, Philip. I wonder what you got for £75? 

At a glance through the British Newspaper Archive a small model Positive Organ would include - 44 note compass

1 Open Diapason  tenorF grooved to 3  spotted metal 8

2 Salicional  tenor F grooved to 3           spotted metal 8

3 Gedeckt Bass and Gedeckt Treble.    wood.               8

4 Dulcet Bass and Dulcet Treble.           spotted metal 4

5 Double Bass.       Patent                        wood.             16

6 Melodic Diapason

Transposer

Combination lever throwing on and off loud stops

Spotted metal front in pyramid form

casework -prepared for

 

These instruments launched in 1896  were advertised extensively in local press by selling dealers with over 400 being sold within a few years

Catalogues , designs and new models are regular features in these ads.

 

 

 

 

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On 28/03/2019 at 22:08, David Drinkell said:

Is Graham Lord any relation to Arthur Lord, who came from Australia and was a big name in electronic organs a while ago.

Maurice Forsyth Grant was a pal of Midgley's son while a student and built his own electronic organ a bit later (using mostly surplus telephone parts).  He sold it to a Mr. Maxfield, whom I remember from the Organ Club long ago, and the system was acquired and refined by Jack Davies, the Northampton organ builder who made several instruments using it.

For the record, Arthur Lord was an electronic and theatre pipe-organ performer, and a friend of Kenneth Burge.  Arthur Lord was also the General Manager at Compton's (possibly from 1960 or 1961) during the time the company went into terminal decline. He (and others) clearly felt that the future was electronic, and that a lucrative "home market" was ripe for development. Unfortunately, the Compton electrostatic system was expensive to engineer, and when cheaper imports (especially from Japan) arrived, they could easily undercut Compton prices.


Compton's therefore simplified the electrostatic system, which brought with it certain musical compromises, until the point that the Bourn system was totally outclassed, if not obsolete.

In order to reduce costs, the pipe-organ side of the business was run-down, and even before it was sold off to Rushworth & Dreaper in 1964, some of Compton's best men left the company. The news created shock-waves at the time, and I recall the LIverpool IAO congress that year, (I was all of 15) when R & D demonstrated various extension-organs in the works, which sounded quite Comptonesque.

The obvious failure, was that Compton's never went down the obvious path pioneered by H,N & B Ltd., Noel Mander and the firm formed of former Compton employees, Deegen & Rippen, which really had an impact some years later, when Maurice Forsyth-Grant supported them and worked out a new tonal direction. The rest is history, as they say.

Arthur Lord left Compton's before the final collapse, so far as I know, and  went to work for Wyvern Organs and his old friend Kenneth Burge. His title was "Artistic Director", whatever that involved. Some time later, he set up the Arthur Lord Organ Studios, where numerous light-music concerts were heard, involving both electronics and, I believe, a Compton theatre pipe-organ.

By that time, the Compton firm was dead and gone..

MM

Correction:  It wasn't Arthur Lord, but the Arthur Russell Organ Studios which had the Compton theatre-organ.

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On 28/03/2019 at 22:08, David Drinkell said:

Is Graham Lord any relation to Arthur Lord, who came from Australia and was a big name in electronic organs a while ago.

Maurice Forsyth Grant was a pal of Midgley's son while a student and built his own electronic organ a bit later (using mostly surplus telephone parts).  He sold it to a Mr. Maxfield, whom I remember from the Organ Club long ago, and the system was acquired and refined by Jack Davies, the Northampton organ builder who made several instruments using it.

 

On 28/03/2019 at 22:08, David Drinkell said:

Is Graham Lord any relation to Arthur Lord, who came from Australia and was a big name in electronic organs a while ago.

Maurice Forsyth Grant was a pal of Midgley's son while a student and built his own electronic organ a bit later (using mostly surplus telephone parts).  He sold it to a Mr. Maxfield, whom I remember from the Organ Club long ago, and the system was acquired and refined by Jack Davies, the Northampton organ builder who made several instruments using it.

I had to smile at the idea of other people using Compton technology, because I was at a chemical works last Wednesday, and went into the master control room. Not since playing the organ at Southampton Guildhall last year, have I seen quite so many luminous-touch buttons....probably about 300 of the things on a huge control panel. The technician was amazed to discover that the technology went back to 1932. He even let me press some of the buttons!  (If you learn of a huge explosion at a chemical works, it was probably me!)  All they need now is the stop-combination action.

MM

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52 minutes ago, AJJ said:

Unrelated Googling dug up this:

https://www.pipeorganlist.com/Organ_Webpages/St._Peter,_Gustavus_Adolphus_College_Chapel,_Hendrickson,_sp.html

Right near the end, Compton ref. I had not realised that they exported...or maybe I had missed something earlier on here.

A

Looking at the year 1961/62 and it saying Compton , Liverpool,is it not more likely to be an item from Rushworth & Dreaper that arrived in this Chapel in America rather than a Compton export?

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18 hours ago, philipmgwright said:

Looking at the year 1961/62 and it saying Compton , Liverpool,is it not more likely to be an item from Rushworth & Dreaper that arrived in this Chapel in America rather than a Compton export?

This IS rather fascinating!  I've never come across it before.  IF the date is correct (1961) then the Chase Road, North Acton premises were still in existence and still functioning; though concentrating more and more on electronic organs, while winding down pipe-organ production. However, the custom made "specials" used (so far as I know) the same combination action as the pipe-organs, so providing one would not have been a problem. (They were also used in the Strand Lighting consoles; some of which were exported as far away as Venezuela)

For the record, Rushworth & Dreaper  didn't acquire the pipe-organ side of the business until 1964.

On the wider front, Compton DID export things; most notably a cinema organ for Cairo in Egypt, which was the second organ to be sent there; the first "lost at sea".

Other exports inluded a 32ft Polyphone to America, which Walter Holtkamp came over the water to see.  I think it still exists, but there was talk of a rebuild going on not long ago. I'm not sure if the organ also incorporated a 32ft Harmonics.....I'll try and check.

MM

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Further information from the Organ Historical Society, America:

The church is St Paul's, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

The Pedal 32‘ Polyphone was a novel idea that warranted a special article in The Diapason for this single pipe:. . . An unusual feature of the organ is a pedal stop, the polyphone, 32 ft., which is one pipe able to play the pitches of the 32-ft. octave. This stop was made by the Compton Organ Company of London, England. The Compton Company also provided complete working details of two pedal cornets, one of 16-ft. pitch and the other of 32-ft. pitch.It was surely a cost-saving measure to include the 1-pipe 32‘ extension, as a 1950 quote for a 12-pipe bass rank for a 32‘ Bourdon from American Organ Supply would have run $1,490.00. The one pipe from Compton apparently ran about $1,200, including shipping. Blodgett visited the John Compton Organ Company, Ltd., of London twice to discuss the polyphone and cornet. Mr. Holtkamp apparently also made the journey

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I'm not sure anyone can help with this, but it's worth a shot, as I'm almost at the end of the Compton tome.....about 220 pages.

I'm not sure if I have notes about the end of the Compton firm, or whether it was contained elsewhere, but I'm struggling to discover what happened after the company went into receivership in 1966. It's interesting that the only piece of documented evidence I have found, includes the names of the oficial receiver and four other directors of the Compton firm; none of who I recognise other than Leslie Bourn, the electronics expert.

My understanding is, that the firm was bought by a company calling itself Hirel  Electronic Developments Ltd, shortly after the winding up of "The John Compton Organ Co,Ltd".

Hirel only took on board the electronic side of the business; the pipe-organs section having been sold off the Rushworth & Dreaper in 1964.

The partial hole in my knowledge is what happened after this, because another company name was suggested to me, by the name of EPTA. There was also mention of an elderly ex-army Colonel, by the name of Col Peavey-Johns. The simple facts I need are the date that Hirel sold out to (presumably) EPTA. (Nothing to do with the Italian based refrigeration company) of that name.

It would be nice to be precise, but it's not so critical that it can't be fudged into a general statement.

I have tried all sorts of company gazettes and company history, but EPTA has drawn a blkank.

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Hugh Banton may know the answers.  He has written a detailed, highly readable and very interesting account of the origins of Makin Organs which includes their roots in the rump of Compton - as you may know.  It's on the web at:

https://www.organworkshop.co.uk/images/files/Makin_history_1972-1992.pdf

Just a thought.  I can't think of a better person.

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Thank you Colin, but this doesn't help much I'm afraid.  In fact, I was looking at the Makin history only yesterday, searching for clues. I should have mentioned the name of Frank Fowler, who I think was the Managing Director of Compton for a short while, before moving off the H, N & B Ltd.

Even the Makin history doesn't mention the fact that the company went into administration in 1966, by which time they had sold off the pipe organ division. The problem of course is, that no records of the company were left, and trawling through companies house information and other things such as the Kelly's Register, only gets as far as the 1966 administration arrangements. The list of directors during the administration doesn't throw up a single, recognisable name other than Leslie Bourn, who remained with Compton's right to the end. There is, for example, no mention of Eric and J J Broad; the latter the Financial Director after the death of Jimmy Taylor. They managed to wrestle back the shares previously held by John Compton, who had left them to Jimmy Taylor, and which in turn went to Jimmy Taylor's widow. Mr Broad (not sure whether it was senior or junior) managed to convince Mrs Taylor that the shares were fairly worthless, but she would receive a pension for the rest of her life. This turned out to be just three months!  In addition, they took Jimmy Taylor's car, which although registered at the Compton premises, was actually Jimmy Taylor's property!

It seems to get very murky at this point; leading to the company going into administration.

Hirel then bought the company out, and made electronic organs (among other things), but it soon fell on bad times and was insolvent by 1970.

I just don't know what happened with Hirel Electronic Developments, or whether the old Colonel became the new owner, which I think was under the company name of EPTA. The only thing that I know about Colonel Peavey-Johns, is that he had a B Sc degree and an AMIEE diploms, and owned a Rolls-Royce. He had served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; rising to Colonel at some point.

It seems a pity to have to gloss over the details, which hint at quite a bit of skullduggery and sordid conduct; not to mention a competition for a folding caravan; the outcome of which was known even while they were selling tickets at the Ideal Homes Exhibition.

At the moment, fudging the issue becomes increasingly attractive, but if anyone knows............

MM



 

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A few weeks back, mention was made of a Compton instrument at Canterbury Cathedral, which I said I would investigate. There was some speculation as to whether or not it was an early electronic organ. However, it seems that far from being electronic, the organ had eleven ranks of pipes and was situated in a remote area outside the cathedral, with the sound relayed into the nave of the cathedral. At the same time, there was a Hammond Organ installed in the cathedral.  Presumably, the outdoor organ must have been playable from the main console, but I can't be sure of that.

It's strange that no mention is ever made of the instrument, or the fact that it set a precedent for the entombed organ at Salford Cathedral a short while later.

MM

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I have found what I was looking for re: the end of Compton's. I have been sitting on it for a long time without realising it. The final days are covered in "Pipes and actions" by Lawrence Elvin. There is mention both, of the old Colonel and Hirel Ltd., and it seems that they were one and the same.  There is no mention of a company by the name of Epta, and even if one turns up, it is unlikely to have any relevance.
 

After more than ten years grubbing around, this seems to conclude all the digging and searching, so apart from creating an index and getting the layout absolutely right (plus lots of other little things) it looks as if the final phase has begun.

MM

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On 13/05/2019 at 07:11, MusoMusing said:

A few weeks back, mention was made of a Compton instrument at Canterbury Cathedral, which I said I would investigate. There was some speculation as to whether or not it was an early electronic organ. However, it seems that far from being electronic, the organ had eleven ranks of pipes and was situated in a remote area outside the cathedral, with the sound relayed into the nave of the cathedral. At the same time, there was a Hammond Organ installed in the cathedral.  Presumably, the outdoor organ must have been playable from the main console, but I can't be sure of that.

It's strange that no mention is ever made of the instrument, or the fact that it set a precedent for the entombed organ at Salford Cathedral a short while later.

MM

Like most people, I expect, I've never heard of this instrument, although I knew about the Salford example (and I have an idea that a similar idea was used at Wrexham RC Cathedral in Wales).  If the Canterbury Compton existed, I''m sure it would have been commented upon (maybe in scathing terms by Henry Willis III), so I am inclined to think that, at the most, it never got further than an idea.

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The evidence for the existence of the organ came from a Compton employee who knew all about it. There was specific mention of 11 ranks of pipes housed outside the cathedral, and the further information that it was not there very long. It is therefore primary source information.

All very intriguing!

MM

 

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On 12/05/2019 at 19:00, Colin Pykett said:

Hugh Banton may know the answers.  He has written a detailed, highly readable and very interesting account of the origins of Makin Organs which includes their roots in the rump of Compton - as you may know.  It's on the web at:

https://www.organworkshop.co.uk/images/files/Makin_history_1972-1992.pdf

Just a thought.  I can't think of a better person.

Thanks for that link. I was intrigued to read the background to the Makin Micro120, which was our previous instrument here in Charlbury - a horrible thing! 

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Heh!  I once played that instrument for a christening.  It was not an experience I wished to repeat.

Paul

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WARNING!

If you think music is complicated, don't get involved with print layout and formatting. I never knew just how much was involved. It really is a vast subject.

I am getting to grips with it all, fortunately.

MM

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On 15/05/2019 at 22:38, MusoMusing said:

WARNING!

If you think music is complicated, don't get involved with print layout and formatting. I never knew just how much was involved. It really is a vast subject.

I am getting to grips with it all, fortunately.

MM

I'm wondering what software you are using, Colin?

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