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Hi all, I stumbled across this thread while researching my family history as Joseph Halmshaw was my Great Great Great Grandfather and the founder of Halmshaw and Sons, Organ builders of Birmingham. Joseph (then a joiner) and 3 of his sons, John, William and Henry had earlier moved from Dewsbury to Birmingham and set up their factory in their home at 367 Coventry Road, where they can be found in the 1851 census. Son William was an Organ Pipe maker. When Joseph died in 1864 John took over and after his death Henry took over and took on John Compton as an apprentice. Henry retired due to ill health around 1911 and died shortly afterwards. It is assumed that the factory (by then it had moved to a new location) closed at the beginning of WWI due to conscription of all the workers. I have much fuller details, though still far from complete, if anyone wishes to know more.

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The late Colin Norvall from Frome in Somerset did a considerable amount of work on Halmshaw some years ago. I am not sure how comprehensive this is but his widow Valerie might be able to assist you. PM me if I can help by putting you in touch.

A

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  • 3 months later...

I spoke with Valerie by telephone a while back but she was unable to add to what I had at the time but promised to call back if she found anything further. I have since found a little more on my own searches when I came across a letter of Administration dated November 5 1913; Following Henry Halmshaw's death in Selly Park Nursing Home on 9th May 1913 he left the sum of £12 10s. to the Manager of Joseph William Halmshaw Organ Builders. This may imply that the company was still active at this time but I have not found any post war references at all. The last known address I have for the company was at 191/193 Camphill, Bordesley, Birmingham, Warwickshire. This from an 1879 gazeteer.

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Well, I don’t know whether this helps or not (or you may already know), but according to NPOR J Halmshaw & Sons were succeeded in 1912 by Frederick William Ebrall at 193 and 194 Camp Hill Birmingham, and there until 1923 (with an earlier address, from 1908, at Shrewsbury).  NPOR have quoted the Directory of British Organ Builders references below:

The DBOB reference for Halmshaw is 2374, and for Ebrall 5163.

NPOR lists 15 organs for Ebrall.  I haven’t carried out any analysis, but the firm of Halmshaw (with a longer history, of course) is very much more prolific with 78 listed.

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Very helpful Rowland, thank you. I had read somewhere of partnership talks but assumed nothing had come out of it. Henry had already retired due to ill health before the 1911 census where he was living as a boarder and for occupation had put retired organ builder. The legal wording of the administration letter quoted the manager of the firm which may have been Ebrall or a partner. From census records at least one worker was a nephew (surname London) living with the Halmshaw's. The London's were the children of Henry's wife's sister Anna. My Great Grandmother Hannah was John Halmshaw's daughter, so I am trying to write the history of their lives. Up to 1871 the Halmshaws were living at No 194 with the premises listed as 191/193 but by 1881 they were living at the other end of the road in No 12.

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  • 2 months later...

After a mere thirteen years, I can now claim that the Compton book is finally finished; running to 57,000 words and about 215 pages in total.
I have had wonderful fun trying to get to grips with formatting, but I've now successfully created a pdf file, which reads well

I didn't realise that electronic publications have variable flow, which means that page numbers are irrelevant and indexes quite useless.

In view of the limitations of colour print within a book (not to mention the expense) I feel that a digital format is by far the best option, and of all file types, the pdf option seems to offer the most.

So it may be that I will produce it in CD format using the pdf file, and work out the best way of distributing it.

More later, but what a good day it's been!

MM
 

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6 minutes ago, AJJ said:

My wife though thought you meant it was being ‘read’ on a CD. Possibly by Martin Jarvis!

Bruce Willis.

Martyn Lewis.

George Harrison.

Charlie Drake.

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Well, the Compton e-book is finally been published and it's entitled COMPTON ORGAN, A STORY OF GENIUS IN ORGAN-BUILDING.

The first batch of CD's arrived yesterday, and for the moment, I've just stuck some on e-bay. They'll keep appearing. The first book was snapped up within 4 hours!  

I'm not sure I would ever want to repeat the exercise, after what has taken 12 years or so.  It has been very much a labour of love (obsession) and I cringe to think how many hours I put into the research, even with the help of many other people along the way. I also cringe to think what it has cost; wandering around looking at things and even travelling 600 miles to Southampton and back in a single day, just to have a bash on the Guildhall organ and hear Richard Hills play it in concert.

I shall be bored now.........

Maybe a book about Mander Organs is long overdue!  Our hosts have done some terrific work along the way.

 

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Many congratulations.  I'm so pleased you've released the fruits of your labours to the wide world, rather than issuing it within a closed scholarly society such as BIOS as some other authors do.  That's all very well, but their global membership is so small especially in the context of today's internet era (c. 600 - 700 when I last looked), and getting hold of the publications is difficult for those outside the fold and far more expensive than what you are asking.  My experience of doing similar things over the last 20 years or so is that, yes, you have to put in a lot of effort and, yes, it does cost a fair amount of money.  But I think you will now come across the upside in that you'll probably get a lot of very appreciative correspondence over the months or years to come which (in my case anyway) more than compensates for the hard labour!

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Hi

Glad to hear that the book is now available - but a search on e-bay UK failed to find it!  

Is it possible to buy direct from you (I have reservations about e-Bay) and what's the price?  

Every Blessing

Tony

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4 hours ago, ptindall said:

What do you mean, getting hold of BIOS publications is difficult? It's perfectly simple. And anyone can join BIOS: it's not a 'closed society.' That you choose not to do so is your own business. 

Oh dear Paul, I'm sorry if my opinion caused offence, especially if you are currently a BIOS member yourself.  Yes, of course anyone can join BIOS, and I have been in the fold on two occasions going back to the 1980s when its illustrious founder-members were still running the show.  And when you are a member then, naturally, you get the regular publications automatically.  But for something of the magnitude of MusoMusing's work, that would probably have been published separately if it had hypothetically been done through BIOS, and they sometimes do this as you will know.  But I have experienced difficulty on several occasions when trying to order these types of one-off publication, both as a member and non-member (which I'm presumably entitled to do since they were advertised on the BIOS website when I last looked).  The difficulties have been considerable, such as not getting replies to emails to the publishers of the items in question seeking basic info such as how to pay for them (because the publisher's web site did not offer that facility, or subsequently seemed to have shut down completely).  So that has been my experience for what it's worth.  And as for 'closed society', the term was perhaps ill-chosen, but I find it 'closed' in the sense that it's difficult for the community outside the membership to get much information about the said publications, though again it's quite possible things are different now.  Added to the other problems, my view is that 'closed' is a fair description of my own experiences.  I can't speak for anyone else of course.  What I can say is that I spend a lot of time discussing and corresponding within the global 'organ' academic community, and find that BIOS does not seem to be particularly well known outside these shores.  On one occasion there was, in retrospect, a hilarious exchange with a US academic who thought I was referring to the BIOS on computer motherboards!  So I'm afraid its visibility might not be quite as good as its work merits, but again, perhaps 'closed' was the wrong adjective.

I hope this answers your question as to 'what I meant' by the remarks in my post, and I'm also pleased that you agree that it's my business whether I choose to be in membership or not, though I'm grateful to have been reminded of the fact.  (It's curious that you broadcast a presumption about my membership status though.  Aren't such things private within BIOS nowadays?). But this thread is not about BIOS, it's about MusoMusing's magnum opus on Compton, and I reiterate my pleasure that he's made it so widely available and so cheaply.  I hope you find it as rewarding a read as I have done.

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Bios publications as such are limited to the Journal, the Freeman book and the Leffler facsimile, and these (and the publications by David Shuker) are easily available via the website. I think you may be pardonably confusing it with Positif Press, which does publish the journal. I would agree that it is quite difficult sometimes to obtain their own publications.                                                   The BIOS membership list is distributed to members, so I made the assumption that since you were not in it in October 2019, it was unlikely that a sudden rush of enthusiasm had taken place. Incidentally, a quick estimate suggests that about 5% of members are outside the UK, which seems rather what one might expect. 

 

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9 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

Many congratulations.  I'm so pleased you've released the fruits of your labours to the wide world, rather than issuing it within a closed scholarly society such as BIOS as some other authors do.  That's all very well, but their global membership is so small especially in the context of today's internet era (c. 600 - 700 when I last looked), and getting hold of the publications is difficult for those outside the fold and far more expensive than what you are asking.  My experience of doing similar things over the last 20 years or so is that, yes, you have to put in a lot of effort and, yes, it does cost a fair amount of money.  But I think you will now come across the upside in that you'll probably get a lot of very appreciative correspondence over the months or years to come which (in my case anyway) more than compensates for the hard labour!

I have nothing against the BIOS, but the Compton story is almost unique, in that it has a lot of appeal to various types of people.....cinema organ enthusiasts, classical organists, electronic organ enthusiasts, students of technology, electrical engineers, computer geeks, theatre lighting people, RAF wartime activity (including making the Link trainer aircraft) and others. This has been the problem of writing the book.....the sheer volume of research necessary, and then cutting it down to a readable entity. I'd like to think that it's a match for any other single organ-builder history, but other can judge for themselves.

I was just thinking the other day, before the master went off to the duplication company, that to do justice to what Compton did, would probably require 1,000 pages of fine detail; such was their breadth of activity. Cutting it down to 214 pages has been quite a challenge, whilst still doing justice to the whole.

The thing I'm still mystified by, is how a single organ-builder (no doubt with outside help) ever managed to build, in their busiest year, something like 1.4 organs a week and making very big profits from over-priced cinema organs.

The other mystifying question, which will never be answered properly, is how such a firm of such genius and quality could survive little more than 60 years!

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8 hours ago, Tony Newnham said:

Hi

Glad to hear that the book is now available - but a search on e-bay UK failed to find it!  

Is it possible to buy direct from you (I have reservations about e-Bay) and what's the price?  

Every Blessing

Tony

At the moment, until I can work out a better system, the e-bay entries will enable me to get some idea of demand. There are only 100 discs in existence at the present time. Keep checking on e-bay. As soon as one sells, I'll relist it again.

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1 minute ago, revdnsm said:

I too woiuld like to buy a copy but it iseems to not be on ebay as far as I can search

 

1 minute ago, revdnsm said:

I too woiuld like to buy a copy but it iseems to not be on ebay as far as I can search

Check my other posting about e-bay. Another listing starts at 18.00 to-day, but I was a bit taken aback by the speed at which the first one was snapped up!

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I just noticed that the item is still in my 'watch' list (because I put it there the other day) even though it's now stated to be 'out of stock'.  It was listed under the heading 'COMPTON ORGANS, A STORY OF ORGAN-BUILDING GENIUS'.  So you could maybe set a search watch (or whatever the correct title is) for this term, or just use COMPTON ORGAN perhaps.  Then you'll get emails every time an item with those words in the heading appears.  You might also get miscellaneous stuff related to pipework, consoles, tremulants, relays and lord knows what else, but it should also trap the disc you want.

Update:  I just searched for 'organ', then organised the results by 'newly listed'.  Lo and behold, the first two items which appeared are the very ones you are looking for.  One of them has the ebay item number 143518777694.  So if you're quick you might just get it ... (Good luck!).

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