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John Compton

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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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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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