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John Compton

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

 

Thanks for the interesting reply; much of the content being buried somewhere in my data collection on Compton. I sense that Compton was at his very best when he was re-building organs, and had a good basis on which to build. That is very much the case with Hull City Hall, Trinity Hull, Ilkley and even Wakefield among others. The dividing line seems to be the inheritance of an indpendent Swell Organ (at the least), and as I know the organ at Ilkley possibly better than most, I can vouch for the fact that the new and old blend wonderfully. A smallish church with a 53 speaking stop organ, would normally be a recipe for something totally over-bearing, but it is just loud enough and contains voices of great subtlety. It is also one of the few non-concert or cathedral organs to include the 32ft Polyphone, and it's only a short 11 mile hop to go and investigate. Additionally, the Ilkley organ has the most exquisite English oak twin-cases, carved by the fanous "mouseman" Robert Thompson of Kilburn. The church furnishings and organ cases are worth a trip on their own.

 

 

http://www.ilkleypc.co.uk/index.php?page=organ

 

Diverting slightly, I recall sitting in a nice cafe in Settle, North Yorkshire, where all the dining furniture was by the "mouseman," and with a pen and a piece of paper, I priced up the modern-day value of it new. I recall spluttering in disbelief, when the furniture turned out to be worth more than the builidng!!!!

 

Of course, the compton legacy continued after the company folded, but in the southern hemisphere. However, that's something I have still to investigate fully.

 

The decline of the company has a certain irony, for they were on the cusp of something remarkable, in that they had made enormous strides in electrone design. At the time of the opening of the Festival Hall, a Compton electronic was installed, and it was considered so good by some, including the Rector of St Bride's, Fleet Street, that the original proposal was to have one installed at that particular church. Fortunately, good sense prevailed, and possibly the finest pure Compton organ ever built now graces this lovely Wren church. That was, of course, post John Compton, who was not around to see or hear it.

 

Strangely enough, the work of Compton is not really the problem at the moment, The main problem surrounds those early years, when he entered into partnership with others, before going solo. Perhaps we will never know all the influences which shaped his remarkable experiments in tonal synthesis, but it is worth having a stab at it until I know that the secrets died with him.

 

What I can say by way of anecdote, is that even in those early years, he had hopped onto a remarkable bus in the company of other "technocrats," and what they achieved together was remarkable, if currently deeply unfashionable.

 

I suspect that beneath the introvert eccentricity of John Compton, there dwelt an intellectual tiger with a voracious appetite.

 

MM

 

Reading Ian Bell's account of Compton in the BIOS journal some years back, one gets the impression that Downside was exceptionally fine (which I think it is), but later new jobs failed to match it. I don't know - I think St. Luke's, Chelsea is an excellent and confident statement of Compton principles (although a former organist, Charles Cleall, once described it to me as 'almost a monster'). Would it, I wonder, be considered as superior to, the equal of or inferior to St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington, which contained quite a lot of earlier pipe-work? I was always mightily impressed by the early (1927) Compton at All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, Belfast, which managed an incredible amount with only six or seven ranks. The big one on the other side of the city, St. Mark's, Dundela, was less convincing, partly because someone later donated a four-manual console and the existing pipe-work was stretched to provide a rather nondescript Choir Organ, but mostly because the Great and Bombarde mixtures lacked punch. The Swell Cymbale, from the Viola rank, was excellent, though, and the Trumpet rank outstanding. I find Compton three-rank Swells (Harmonic Flute, Viola, Trumpet) can be remarkably good, and the firm's voicing is always impeccable. I never got round to the other big Comptons in Ireland, but I'm told that Mullingar was very fine but needed some real mixtures to perfect it. I was surprised that Walkers' got the job of restoring it - no offence to them, but it didn't seem up their street at all at the time. I believe the 2-rank Miniatura+Fagotto sanctuary division was replaced by an electronic equivalent at the same time. A student friend said Tuam RC Cathedral was pretty good (by comparison, when I played at the CofI Cathedral in Tuam in 1992, it had been neglected for so long that the lock on the console door had seized up).

 

The confidence, quality and artistry of Compton's conceptions added up to a very worthy entity. No one else seemed to manage it so well. There is a Spurden Rutt of similar size to All Souls, Belfast in St. Peter's, Colchester and it simply doesn't cut the mustard - a real shocker! I wonder how the Rushworth for South Norwood Methodist Church (now at Holy Spirit, Southsea) would compare with the similarly schemed Compton at St. Osmund's, Parkstone?

 

I've been acquainted with some very nice Miniaturas over the years. Very versatile, very musical, and some of them were running on their original electrics after fifty years and only just beginning to show the need for serious attention.

 

The Fairfield Hall electrone, which followed the one in the RFH, was acquired by a buyer in St. John's Wood, where I tried it some thirty years ago. It was, for its age, a fine piece of work. I think at the time, a lot of organ builders were considering whether a convincing electronic organ could be made. Guess who wrote this in 1947:

 

"....as and when we can produce an electronic instrument as good as a pipe organ we will do so, but at the moment it woud cost some 5,000 pounds to develop a successful prototype and I cannot afford it."

 

I think the only other builder to produce his own electronic organ was Davies of Northampton - using a system originally evolved by Maurice Forsyth Grant!

 

One Compton man who set up on his own was Grinstead of Kilkenny. His magnum opus was the over-ambitious 4-manual organ at Limerick (Church of Ireland) Cathedral. Local pressure was to have the biggest organ in Ireland - it is also the only one with three swell-boxes. It has a number of Compton features but is really too big, both as an instrument for that building and as a task for Grinstead (if he had had the know-how of the Compton staff behind him, the result might have been different), and has been a burden for a long time. Grinstead's rebuild at Killaloe Cathedral was a nice little job - Compton-style detached console by the Dean's stall so the Dean at the time could act as his own organist.

 

 

St. George's, Stockport was not improved, IMHO, by being rebuilt and de-Comptonised. Like Hull City Hall, the original organ was a Forster and Andrews, and I reckon that, generally, their workmanship was excellent but their tone unexciting.

 

An idle thought - Compton theatre organs had more imaginative schemes than Wurlitzers, but the latter had a sexier sound. If you substitute a wooden Tibia for the usual metal Compton one, would you then have the best of both worlds?

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St. George's, Stockport was not improved, IMHO, by being rebuilt and de-Comptonised.

A most gracious and tactful understatement IMHO!!

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Reading Ian Bell's account of Compton in the BIOS journal some years back, one gets the impression that Downside was exceptionally fine -which I think it is.....

 

It being just over the hill from here I had long wanted to play it and actually managed to get a considerable time there some years back. There are some very fine points tonally but also one or two rather weird corners (synthetics and some of the mixtures) - I also found many of the plena strangely unexciting. Also, part from the Tuba in its own little box much of the rest had a slightly non directional feel about it. It would be interesting to hear Derby, Wakefield etc. to compare - though - three years at Southampton University provided the opportunity to savour the big Compton in the Guildhall there. I never touched the theatre console but have fond memories of the other including the brilliant Robin Bowman playing the continuo (and one suspects much more) part for Messiah on a very clear set of 8', 4', and 2'.

 

A

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... I wonder how the Rushworth for South Norwood Methodist Church (now at Holy Spirit, Southsea) would compare with the similarly schemed Compton at St. Osmund's, Parkstone? ...

 

Saint Osmund's (latterly Saint Gregory the Great - or is it Saint Stephen, now?) has been mentioned here on another thread recently. Suffice it to say that it is now little more than a large pile of junk. The last time I tried to play it, much of it was either 'off', seriously out of tune or worked only intermittently.

 

I did play the large Compton at Saint Luke's, Chelsea for a service some years ago. At the time it appeared to be a fine example of its type. It was not difficult to choose registrations which sounded convincing - and straight. I am not sure in what state it is currently.

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John Compton was certainly hands-on during the rebuilding and enlargement of Holy Trinity, Hull, circa 1937/38. But Hull City Hall, the rebuilding and enlargement

of the war damaged 1911 Forster & Andrews in 1950/51, was entirely under the direction of the equally talented Jimmy Taylor. At that time John Compton was a sick man and the John Compton Organ Company was under the control of JT.

 

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

 

Thank you for this information, which is the sort of thing I need in the absence of company records and such. Jimmy Taylor was indeed enormously talented, as the organ at St Bride's, Fleet Street demonstrates.

 

In fact, John Compton must have 75 years old at the time; though he did live on to the ripe old age of 91.

 

What else do we know of Jimmy Taylor, because his input was absolutely vital so far as I can work out?

 

He was taking out patents even in the early years of Compton, but as his name didn't appear on the company logo, we tend to forget about him.

 

Perhaps the company should have been styled The Compton & Taylor Organ Company.

 

MM

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

 

 

I think you may be wrong, and I'll tell you why.

 

 

 

MM

 

Hi

 

I didn't say "impossible" - I said difficult - which it is. Pieceing together bits of information relying on secondary sources or memories is fraught with problems - I know, I did it once! (For a church history). I hope someone can find the time and energy to write the definitive book about Compton - it's long overdue.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

I didn't say "impossible" - I said difficult - which it is. Pieceing together bits of information relying on secondary sources or memories is fraught with problems - I know, I did it once! (For a church history). I hope someone can find the time and energy to write the definitive book about Compton - it's long overdue.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

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

 

 

Quite right Tony, if the object oif the exercise is to create a sort of running diary of events and instruments. This exactly why I am contemplating the alternative path, because understanding the science and technology of what clearly lies behind the Compton philosophy, is far more important. It is also what probably made Compton (a) musically significant (b ) successful ( c)unique and (d) the best in the world in creating a particular type of instrument.

 

Other considerations include (a) the use of modern materials at the time. (such as the extensive use of Bakelite mouldings and plastics), (b ) Standardised components and production methods ( c) well engineered switch components (d) the use of electronics and pipes in combination (e) The filing of patents which have wider applications outside organ-building (f) the deep significance of their electro-acoustic experiments and applications.

 

The more I read and gather and harvest, the more I see a relatively modern parallel.

 

When I lived in Kensignton, on the flight path to Heathrow, I would sometimes look up and wonder if WW3 had started without my knowing. Relief, when it turned out to be Concorde; a concept far removed from commercial sense, the status quo, environmental considerations and everyday practicality.

 

They built Concorde because they could build Concorde, and I feel a bit the same way about Compton organs, in all their various guises.

 

I can't somehow get away from the feeling that the Compton team were a bit like excited schoolboys in the laboratory; discovering this and that, and then wondering what to do with it.

 

MM

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It being just over the hill from here I had long wanted to play it and actually managed to get a considerable time there some years back. There are some very fine points tonally but also one or two rather weird corners (synthetics and some of the mixtures) - I also found many of the plena strangely unexciting. Also, part from the Tuba in its own little box much of the rest had a slightly non directional feel about it. It would be interesting to hear Derby, Wakefield etc. to compare - though - three years at Southampton University provided the opportunity to savour the big Compton in the Guildhall there. I never touched the theatre console but have fond memories of the other including the brilliant Robin Bowman playing the continuo (and one suspects much more) part for Messiah on a very clear set of 8', 4', and 2'.

 

A

 

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

 

 

You go right to the heart of how Compton built and voiced organs; possibly without realising it.

 

It starts to make sense when you look at additive synthesis in electronic organs, where pure sine waves are combined to create a complex waveform.

 

By stifling the natural harmonics of organ pipes, and then replacing them with mutation ranks and derived compound registers, you are doing the same thing with organ-pipes to a coniderable degree, but with the added beneifts of real transients and chorus ensemble.

 

The downside of this, (no pun intended), is a slightly flat, slightly unnatural chorus sound; which of course it is....deliberately so.

 

Make no mistake, there was real genius behind this, but in terms of the classical organ, it was miles away from anything even his contemporaries did.

 

As someone once said to me, Compton's middle name should have been "Wayward" rather than "Hayward," but there's no denying that his ideas actually worked in practice.

 

MM

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

 

Thank you for this information, which is the sort of thing I need in the absence of company records and such. Jimmy Taylor was indeed enormously talented, as the organ at St Bride's, Fleet Street demonstrates.

 

In fact, John Compton must have 75 years old at the time; though he did live on to the ripe old age of 91.

 

What else do we know of Jimmy Taylor, because his input was absolutely vital so far as I can work out?

 

He was taking out patents even in the early years of Compton, but as his name didn't appear on the company logo, we tend to forget about him.

 

Perhaps the company should have been styled The Compton & Taylor Organ Company.

 

MM

 

Sorry to correct your undoubted knowledge, MM, but John Compton actually died in 1957 which would have made him 81. As I understand it he took considerable interest (although not actively) in the work at Hull City Hall when he was around 76.

 

PS. I knew Jimmy Taylor also died in the 1950's but at the time of posting the above, but could not remember the exact year. In fact it was only a year later than Compton and (by today's standards) at the young age of 66. I have often reflected that had Jimmy Taylor lived at least into his 70's then perhaps the company would not have suffered the collapse that it did. Although I was in my last year at school when the Hull project was coming to its glorious fruition, I felt privileged to have met and spoken to him many times when the work was taking place. Indeed, were it not for my late father, through my interest and contact with him I was all set to become an apprentice with the company with organ lessons thrown in as well.

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

 

 

Since April, this subject seems to have died a death, which is a pity.

 

I have an absolute mass of information concerning John Compton and those around him, which has continued to grow and grow, with some astonishing revelations and unexpected links.

 

I've even started to get my head around some of the electronic and electrical aspects of Compton's work; especially the latter.

 

Of course, any Compton story would be incomplete without reference to Robert Hope-Jones, and even there, I stumble across some fascinating material.

 

Some may despise his tonal ideas, but a paper written by Don Hyde of the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust sheds some interesting light on the quality of Hope-Jones actions. It seems that a certain Mr Royce wound the solenoid magnets for him in Manchester, and the same gentleman teamed up with a certain Mr Rolls in due course. That further hints at a link between Joules and Hope-Jones, and possibly with his organ fanatic brother in Manchester.

 

However, perhaps the most extraordinary discovery was finding that Compton had been associated with organs in cinemas LONG before the advent of the cinema organ proper........but this must remain on the back burner until I have verified it.

 

Another fascinating link was his association with Lloyd of Nottingham, who had really gone down the Hope-Jones/Orchestral path. What an abrupt change of style Compton must have met with when compared with the German-style of Brindley & Foster, in Sheffield.

 

Quite a lot of what Compton did, how he thought and how he excelled in a particular way, are beginning to fall into place, and it is infinitely fascinating. More importantly, it is becoming more factual than speculative.

 

MM

Wasn't there an ex-Willis reed voicer at H-J called Franklin Lloyd ? My memory is not reliable (hopeless?) these days.

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It [Downside] being just over the hill from here I had long wanted to play it and actually managed to get a considerable time there some years back. There are some very fine points tonally but also one or two rather weird corners (synthetics and some of the mixtures) - I also found many of the plena strangely unexciting. Also, apart from the Tuba in its own little box much of the rest had a slightly non directional feel about it. It would be interesting to hear Derby, Wakefield etc. to compare - though - three years at Southampton University provided the opportunity to savour the big Compton in the Guildhall there. I never touched the theatre console but have fond memories of the other including the brilliant Robin Bowman playing the continuo (and one suspects much more) part for Messiah on a very clear set of 8', 4', and 2'.

 

A

 

Now that you mention it, your 'non-directional' comment is perceptive. It does sound rather that way from the console, but I had never attached any significance to it - possibly because with that pipe-less case, it doesn't strike one as the sort of organ that would chime at you like, say, King's does. I think that, in the church, it doesn't sound any less focussed than most other transept organs. I once sat near the back of the nave on a Sunday morning with a full congregation and it sounded very impressive.

 

With regard to the plena, they struck me as more transparent than one would expect from other builders of the period. The mixture provision was, of course, had no parallel except perhaps Weingarten, and it's noticeable there that the mixtures are not particularly sharp sounding but the whole ensemble is incredibly rich - it's 'there', all around you. Downside has something of the same feel because of the huge number of pitches sounding, but it doesn't achieve the massiveness of, say, Liverpool because there simply aren't that number of pipes singing at the same time. Some of the mixtures are very grave - but not all of them. The plus side of an extension organ the size of Downside is that you have a heck of a lot of registers to play about with, but the minus side is that a lot of combinations may not add up to quite what you expected. In the last analysis, Downside is different - different from its contemporaries and even to some extent from other Comptons. I think it works.

 

My first acquaintance came about when I was a student at Bristol University in 1977. One of my tutors, Kenneth Mobbs, offered to see if he could get me access to the Downside organ because the Director of Music at the School, Roger Bevan, was an old friend. Roger said that the organist was 'a monk' (this was Dom Gregory Murray), who hardly ever played the Compton himself (using instead the little electrone in the Monk's Quire) but wouldn't let anyone else near it either. He therefore arranged with the Abbot to send the organist off to Bath on an errand for the day so that I could have the freedom of the organ. The church and the instrument were a revelation to me, and I am forever grateful to Roger Bevan for his kindness.

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Sorry to correct your undoubted knowledge, MM, but John Compton actually died in 1957 which would have made him 81. As I understand it he took considerable interest (although not actively) in the work at Hull City Hall when he was around 76.

 

PS. I knew Jimmy Taylor also died in the 1950's but at the time of posting the above, but could not remember the exact year. In fact it was only a year later than Compton and (by today's standards) at the young age of 66. I have often reflected that had Jimmy Taylor lived at least into his 70's then perhaps the company would not have suffered the collapse that it did. Although I was in my last year at school when the Hull project was coming to its glorious fruition, I felt privileged to have met and spoken to him many times when the work was taking place. Indeed, were it not for my late father, through my interest and contact with him I was all set to become an apprentice with the company with organ lessons thrown in as well.

 

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

 

 

I told you my maths was rubbish! :lol:

 

81 it was, of course, and my calculator confirms it. (1876 - 1957)

 

MM

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I'm unshamedly digging for information here in the absence of company records and first-hand knowledge.

 

Does anyone know the circumstances of the Compton Organ Co., following the death of Jimmy Taylor?

 

It seems to me that there is a considerable gap between about 1957/8 and the interests of the company being acquired by Rushworth & Dreaper in, I believe, 1964.

 

I shan't presume, but presumably Jimmy Taylor, who clearly kept things going until his own end a year later, but what then transpired and who were the owners/directors thereafter? (Edit: Previous mis-information removed)

Did the Compton concern have financial backers; either in the corporate sense or in the private sense, as was often the case with a number of other organ-builders? (Lewis springs instantly to mind, with the Courage brewing interests).

 

When did Compton build or re-build the last pipe-organ?

 

Did production move entirely over to the electronic side of the business at some point prior to the end of the company?

 

Indeed, did the company go into liquidation, and if so, did the liquidators move in to secure the interests of the company and sell the assets and goodwill to a third party? (Obviusly, in this case, R & D)

 

This is where the absence of records creates a problem, and whilst it is possible to leave these details out or circumnavigate them with a few sweeping generalisations, specific knowledge would be preferable.

 

I am aware of the loss of good staff to other companies, and it is easy to see what an effect this could have on the Compton concern, but there are so many unanswered questions about who was really in charge or holding the purse-strings.

 

Does anyone know anything?

 

MM

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Have you read the Elvin book ? There is a bit there. Of course, they did St. Alban's, Holborn, which may account for its problems. Doubt if JT would have let that slip by. I guess it's safe to say that the relationship about which you hint was NOT common knowledge in the states.

 

Over here, we seem to know only the really nasty bits of H-J's exploits. When he and Carlton Michell were at Austins, I gather that Michell was often purple with rage, having to defer on occasion to H-J's whims. Unfortunately, Michell wrote some rather regretable letters to the Austin Bros. pointing the finger in a way that would not be tolerated today.

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I'm unshamedly digging for information here in the absence of company records and first-hand knowledge.

 

Does anyone know the circumstances of the Compton Organ Co., following the death of Jimmy Taylor?

 

It seems to me that there is a considerable gap between about 1957/8 and the interests of the company being acquired by Rushworth & Dreaper in, I believe, 1964.

 

Does anyone know anything?

 

MM

 

I don't know if this helps, but I had lessons as a teenager in 1961 on what was one of the last, if not the last, of Compton jobs, the rebuilt organ at St Mary's, Osterley (Spring Grove) Middlesex. The nearby instrument at St Mary's, Twickenham was of similar date. Ian Bell worked on both, I believe, as an apprentice, so he may know more.

 

JS

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I'm unshamedly digging for information here in the absence of company records and first-hand knowledge.

 

Does anyone know the circumstances of the Compton Organ Co., following the death of Jimmy Taylor?

 

It seems to me that there is a considerable gap between about 1957/8 and the interests of the company being acquired by Rushworth & Dreaper in, I believe, 1964.

 

I shan't presume, but I would have thought that, in view of the nature of their relationship, (I'm being subtle), John Compton's estate would go to Jimmy Taylor, who clearly kept things going until his own end, but what then transpired and who were the owners/directors thereafter?

 

Did the Compton concern have financial backers; either in the corporate sense or in the private sense, as was often the case with a number of other organ-builders? (Lewis springs instantly to mind, with the Courage brewing interests).

 

When did Compton build or re-build the last pipe-organ?

 

Did production move entirely over to the electronic side of the business at some point prior to the end of the company?

 

Indeed, did the company go into liquidation, and if so, did the liquidators move in to secure the interests of the company and sell the assets and goodwill to a third party? (Obviusly, in this case, R & D)

 

This is where the absence of records creates a problem, and whilst it is possible to leave these details out or circumnavigate them with a few sweeping generalisations, specific knowledge would be preferable.

 

I am aware of the loss of good staff to other companies, and it is easy to see what an effect this could have on the Compton concern, but there are so many unanswered questions about who was really in charge or holding the purse-strings.

 

Does anyone know anything?

 

MM

 

It seems that my recent response to your posting, MM, strangely did not appear on the forum. I can't think why. However I have recently gone through the NPOR listings for Compton, looking at the prodigious amount of work attributed to Compton. The company was certainly very active on organs for cinemas and churches prior to and after the Second World War. Throughout the 1950's and into the 1960's a lot of work is attributable to Compton, but I wonder how accurate the NPOR site is. There are a couple of entries for Compton in the early 1970's and both are electronic. There's even one for 1980, Raleigh Road URC, Richmond, Yorks, but it looks as though it's probably a 1950's unit/extension organ installed from elsewhere by amateurs.

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Does anyone know the circumstances of the Compton Organ Co., following the death of Jimmy Taylor?

 

It seems to me that there is a considerable gap between about 1957/8 and the interests of the company being acquired by Rushworth & Dreaper in, I believe, 1964.

 

I shan't presume, but I would have thought that, in view of the nature of their relationship, (I'm being subtle), John Compton's estate would go to Jimmy Taylor, who clearly kept things going until his own end, but what then transpired and who were the owners/directors thereafter?

 

Did the Compton concern have financial backers; either in the corporate sense or in the private sense, as was often the case with a number of other organ-builders? (Lewis springs instantly to mind, with the Courage brewing interests).

 

When did Compton build or re-build the last pipe-organ?

 

Did production move entirely over to the electronic side of the business at some point prior to the end of the company?

 

Indeed, did the company go into liquidation, and if so, did the liquidators move in to secure the interests of the company and sell the assets and goodwill to a third party? (Obviusly, in this case, R & D)

 

This is where the absence of records creates a problem, and whilst it is possible to leave these details out or circumnavigate them with a few sweeping generalisations, specific knowledge would be preferable.

 

I am aware of the loss of good staff to other companies, and it is easy to see what an effect this could have on the Compton concern, but there are so many unanswered questions about who was really in charge or holding the purse-strings.

 

Does anyone know anything?

 

MM

 

 

Firstly, the 'nature of their relationship' was purely professional, being kindred spirits for many years in terms of the development and building of their organs. Jimmy Taylor was a family man, and his son was certainly still alive a few years ago when the late Ivor Buckingham was in touch with him over his researches. I seem to remember that JT's brother-in-law also worked in the electrical department.

 

Jimmy Taylor died exactly a year after John Compton, at Easter time 1958. Incidentally, in an obituary to John Compton reprinted in the Elvin book, JC's age is given as 83.

 

After Taylor's death the company seemed to lose direction - and certainly lose a lot of experienced staff - and under new management, trading as Compton Organs Ltd, got involved in all sorts of ancilliary manufacturing, some successful (the Strand Lighting consoles), some not so successful (caravan components) which paved the way for the demise of the firm.

 

In 1964 the business and goodwill of the pipe organ department was sold to R & D. They had what records remained, although when Ivor contacted Alastair Rushworth, he (AW) was quite dissmissive over the amount of paperwork they actually had. He is said to have destroyed what was left when the firm closed. However, Rushworths didn't have the tooling, and all of the moulds for bakelite components, some jigs for metalwork, and the pantograph engraving machine with all its plates, ended up with David Pawlyn in Aylesbury. Since his death they have been purchased by the Compton Lodge Trust, and are now in safe keeping at Paul Kirner's workshop in Sapcote, Leicestershire.

 

Compton Organs Ltd. continued producing high-quality electronic organs using the electrostatic disc system until 1970, when that side of the business was sold to Makins. Other breakaways were formed by former staff members, including the Compton Organ Maintenance Company run by Fred Allen and a Mr. Wheeler. There was also a short-lived firm building solid-state electronic church organs under the name of Compton-Edwards.

 

The factory building - or at least the front office block - still exists at the junction of Chase Road and Minerva Road, North Acton.

 

Former Compton voicer Doug Litchfield is still alive and relatively well, living in Gloucester. He speaks very highly of the company and its family atmosphere. Even in Doug's time (he began his apprenticeship in 1944) John Compton used to come into the factory to experiment with things. Doug very kindly has let me have his indenture papers which bear not only the signatures of John Compton and J.I. Taylor, but also the company's magnificent wax seal!

 

S

 

S

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Firstly, the 'nature of their relationship' was purely professional, being kindred spirits for many years in terms of the development and building of their organs. Jimmy Taylor was a family man, and his son was certainly still alive a few years ago when the late Ivor Buckingham was in touch with him over his researches. I seem to remember that JT's brother-in-law also worked in the electrical department.

 

Jimmy Taylor died exactly a year after John Compton, at Easter time 1958. Incidentally, in an obituary to John Compton reprinted in the Elvin book, JC's age is given as 83.

 

After Taylor's death the company seemed to lose direction - and certainly lose a lot of experienced staff - and under new management, trading as Compton Organs Ltd, got involved in all sorts of ancilliary manufacturing, some successful (the Strand Lighting consoles), some not so successful (caravan components) which paved the way for the demise of the firm.

 

In 1964 the business and goodwill of the pipe organ department was sold to R & D. They had what records remained, although when Ivor contacted Alastair Rushworth, he (AW) was quite dissmissive over the amount of paperwork they actually had. He is said to have destroyed what was left when the firm closed. However, Rushworths didn't have the tooling, and all of the moulds for bakelite components, some jigs for metalwork, and the pantograph engraving machine with all its plates, ended up with David Pawlyn in Aylesbury. Since his death they have been purchased by the Compton Lodge Trust, and are now in safe keeping at Paul Kirner's workshop in Sapcote, Leicestershire.

 

Compton Organs Ltd. continued producing high-quality electronic organs using the electrostatic disc system until 1970, when that side of the business was sold to Makins. Other breakaways were formed by former staff members, including the Compton Organ Maintenance Company run by Fred Allen and a Mr. Wheeler. There was also a short-lived firm building solid-state electronic church organs under the name of Compton-Edwards.

 

The factory building - or at least the front office block - still exists at the junction of Chase Road and Minerva Road, North Acton.

 

Former Compton voicer Doug Litchfield is still alive and relatively well, living in Gloucester. He speaks very highly of the company and its family atmosphere. Even in Doug's time (he began his apprenticeship in 1944) John Compton used to come into the factory to experiment with things. Doug very kindly has let me have his indenture papers which bear not only the signatures of John Compton and J.I. Taylor, but also the company's magnificent wax seal!

 

S

 

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

 

 

Well, I'm glad you've "put me right" concerning the first paragraph; not that I would put it in a script.....Oh God! I did, didn't I? (We tend to forget that the forum is not a private member's club!)

 

More out of curiosity, do you happen to know who was at the helm after the demise of Jimmy Taylor?

 

It probably doesn't matter that much, but I'm curious, as other people may be.

 

I have certainly got details of the lighting-consoles and some photograph references, as well as an equally curious organ operated by a player-piano mechanism. which was installed in a cinema in the earliest days of the Compton establishment. That pre-dates their cinema-organs proper by a very substantial margin, and came as a complete surprise to me!

 

Of course, the "straight" theatre-organ also pre-dates that, but not the unit-organ we associate with Wurlitzer, Compton etc.

 

The electronic history is fairly well documented; not least by yourself, and should not present too many problems.

 

I am grateful for the additional information concerning the Compton Lodge Trust, but had I known how central a figure the late David Pawlyn had been, I might have been tempted to ask many questions when I was in regular contact with him in the London/Ayelsbury area, and when I visited him at home. Hindsight can be grindingly frustrating.

 

With most of the sources now established, the next stage is to get off my backside and start looking at real organs and their components; some of which I believe to be extremely clever and fairly state-of-the-art in their day.

 

If I can ever piece together the wartime RADAR work, that would be a bonus, but at the moment, that is about the last thing on the shopping list of things I need to get hold of.

 

I'm now fairly confident that I have enough material to write something of historic and musical significance, and with a bit more first-hand research, I could probably make a start in the not too distant future.

 

MM

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Didn't Clifford Hawtin take charge after Jimmy Taylor's death?

 

Among ex-Compton men, Gerald Carrington, (St. Olave, Hart Street - a nice job - is one he finished), as well as running 'The Plough' at Great Munden in Hertfordshire, with its Compton theatre organ (alas! now long gone!), did a certain amount of organ work and usually had an ex-theatre job or two in store out the back.

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Didn't Clifford Hawtin take charge after Jimmy Taylor's death?

 

Among ex-Compton men, Gerald Carrington, (St. Olave, Hart Street - a nice job - is one he finished), as well as running 'The Plough' at Great Munden in Hertfordshire, with its Compton theatre organ (alas! now long gone!), did a certain amount of organ work and usually had an ex-theatre job or two in store out the back.

 

 

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

 

 

I went to the Plough, Great Munden, a number of times, but sadly, Gerald Carrington was no longer around. Now. of course, the organ has been bought and removed into storage by some of the COS people; among them Simon Gledhill, so I expect that it will re-surface somewhere at sometime.

 

I take my hat off to them, because if classical organ enthusiasts and organists had demonstrated half the dedication the theatre organ people do, we might not have lost so many very significant instruments.

 

Clifford Hawtin I know about, but I wasn't aware that he may have run things in the latter years. Her certainly wrote a few articles in organ journals from time to time.

 

 

MM

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

 

Clifford Hawtin I know about, but I wasn't aware that he may have run things in the latter years. He certainly wrote a few articles in organ journals from time to time.

 

 

MM

 

 

Ian Bell, in"'Fanfare for an Organ Builder":

 

'I remember....going into the office at Compton's, and saying I was leaving to Clifford Hawtin, the Technical Director - essentially the Managing Director....he said 'Where are you going?' And I said 'To Noel Mander'. 'Oh no - anywhere except to Mander', he said!'

 

There are also a handful of snap-shots in Maurice Grant's "Twenty-One years of Organ Building" of groups at the Second Congress of the International Society of Organbuilders in Strasbourg in 1960. One shows a very jolly gathering comprising Walter Goodey, Jack Davies, Clifford Hawtin, Maurice Forsyth Grant, Barbara Willis and Henry Willis 4; and on the next page there's one of Roger Yates, Clifford Hawtin and Walter Goodey (other pictures include Henry Willis III, Otto Steinmeyer, Ernest White, Alfred Kern and Josef von Glatter-Gotz, so it must have been a fairly high-powered do!).

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Ian Bell, in"'Fanfare for an Organ Builder":

 

'I remember....going into the office at Compton's, and saying I was leaving to Clifford Hawtin, the Technical Director - essentially the Managing Director....he said 'Where are you going?' And I said 'To Noel Mander'. 'Oh no - anywhere except to Mander', he said!'

 

There are also a handful of snap-shots in Maurice Grant's "Twenty-One years of Organ Building" of groups at the Second Congress of the International Society of Organbuilders in Strasbourg in 1960. One shows a very jolly gathering comprising Walter Goodey, Jack Davies, Clifford Hawtin, Maurice Forsyth Grant, Barbara Willis and Henry Willis 4; and on the next page there's one of Roger Yates, Clifford Hawtin and Walter Goodey (other pictures include Henry Willis III, Otto Steinmeyer, Ernest White, Alfred Kern and Josef von Glatter-Gotz, so it must have been a fairly high-powered do!).

 

In fairnes to our hosts I doubt I'm the only one who reads that as a tongue-in-cheek compliment!

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Ian Bell, in"'Fanfare for an Organ Builder":

 

'I remember....going into the office at Compton's, and saying I was leaving to Clifford Hawtin, the Technical Director - essentially the Managing Director....he said 'Where are you going?' And I said 'To Noel Mander'. 'Oh no - anywhere except to Mander', he said!'

 

There are also a handful of snap-shots in Maurice Grant's "Twenty-One years of Organ Building" of groups at the Second Congress of the International Society of Organbuilders in Strasbourg in 1960. One shows a very jolly gathering comprising Walter Goodey, Jack Davies, Clifford Hawtin, Maurice Forsyth Grant, Barbara Willis and Henry Willis 4; and on the next page there's one of Roger Yates, Clifford Hawtin and Walter Goodey (other pictures include Henry Willis III, Otto Steinmeyer, Ernest White, Alfred Kern and Josef von Glatter-Gotz, so it must have been a fairly high-powered do!).

 

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

 

 

Thanks for this David.

 

Scanning through NPOR, it looks to me as if the Compton entry is woefully inadequate, which is a little worrying.

 

I wonder therefore if I could put out a general plea for local information board members may have about any Compton organs of note in their vicinity or which they know of elsewhere. Naturally, it doesn't need to include the bigger jobs such as Downside, Hull, Wolverhampton, Fleet Street (etc). These are well enough known.

 

Also, I had a trawl through Noel Bonavia-Hunt's "The modern British organ," and stumbled across an interesting statement which makes the link between tonal synthesis using organ pipes and electronic means to do the same thing.

 

Great minds think alike! <_<

 

However, he didn't particularly elaborate, but the fact that he made that link is siginificant.

 

A further point of interest is the fact that some of the Compton patents are also found filed among American Patents, as well as others papers to be found in an Electrical Engineering archive.

 

Unfortunately, I am not making a lot of progress with the Radar work, but I shall plod on. Somewhere, there has to be a link between Sir Robert Watson-Watt, Sir Bernard Lovell (organist) and the John Compton works.....I can feel it in my bones.

 

Here is something rather significant, and quite moving:-

 

http://www.webofstories.com/play/17826?o=MS

 

MM

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

 

 

Scanning through NPOR, it looks to me as if the Compton entry is woefully inadequate, which is a little worrying.

 

I wonder therefore if I could put out a general plea for local information board members may have about any Compton organs of note in their vicinity or which they know of elsewhere. Naturally, it doesn't need to include the bigger jobs such as Downside, Hull, Wolverhampton, Fleet Street (etc). These are well enough known.

 

MM

 

I wonder if the total is, in fact, all that big. If you start with Downside, there was only a little over thirty years of Compton pipe organs. I know Compton was working on his own long before this, but I doubt whether his output during that time was particularly large. Taking another firm as a comparison, Miller of Cambridge built organs for about 90 years, and in that time built or rebuilt about 100 instruments. Compton was on a much bigger scale, but nevertheless I think it might be reasonable to expect that the firm's output would not compare with, say, Rushworth's.

 

Compton provided more theatre organs in the UK than anyone else. Did this output compromise his capacity to do church work during this period?

 

There is also the question of economics. I come from East Anglia, and it is interesting to observe the difference between, say, Suffolk and Norfolk when it comes to organs. Norfolk tended to be the domain of rich land-owners and there are a lot of eighteenth and early nineteenth century instruments there, but less from the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. In Suffolk, there were more small, moderately well-to-do farmers, so there are less cast-off chamber organs and more late nineteenth and twentieth century jobs, especially by the cheaper and middle-range builders. There was, it seems clear, more money available in Suffolk than Norfolk (so there are about twenty Casson Positive organs in Suffolk, but about thirty in Norfolk, where money was tighter). In any event, by the time Compton started to make any impact, rural counties such as these simply could not afford new organs. There are therefore very few Comptons in either county (four in each, as far as I know). Leaving aside Norman & Beard, who were well placed and equipped to provide excellent instruments at reasonable prices, few of the other 'big' firms did much in the area. I think this reflects the situation in other rural counties. Therefore, Compton's work will be found mostly in urban areas - perhaps thre was a good trade in Miniaturas in new churches on housing developments (although Spurden Rutt snapped up most of the work on the Becontree Estate in East London).

 

It would indeed be interesting to know of hitherto unrecorded Comptons, but I wonder if there are that many of them around?

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I wonder if the total is, in fact, all that big. If you start with Downside, there was only a little over thirty years of Compton pipe organs. I know Compton was working on his own long before this, but I doubt whether his output during that time was particularly large. Taking another firm as a comparison, Miller of Cambridge built organs for about 90 years, and in that time built or rebuilt about 100 instruments. Compton was on a much bigger scale, but nevertheless I think it might be reasonable to expect that the firm's output would not compare with, say, Rushworth's.

 

Compton provided more theatre organs in the UK than anyone else. Did this output compromise his capacity to do church work during this period?

 

There is also the question of economics. I come from East Anglia, and it is interesting to observe the difference between, say, Suffolk and Norfolk when it comes to organs. Norfolk tended to be the domain of rich land-owners and there are a lot of eighteenth and early nineteenth century instruments there, but less from the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. In Suffolk, there were more small, moderately well-to-do farmers, so there are less cast-off chamber organs and more late nineteenth and twentieth century jobs, especially by the cheaper and middle-range builders. There was, it seems clear, more money available in Suffolk than Norfolk (so there are about twenty Casson Positive organs in Suffolk, but about thirty in Norfolk, where money was tighter). In any event, by the time Compton started to make any impact, rural counties such as these simply could not afford new organs. There are therefore very few Comptons in either county (four in each, as far as I know). Leaving aside Norman & Beard, who were well placed and equipped to provide excellent instruments at reasonable prices, few of the other 'big' firms did much in the area. I think this reflects the situation in other rural counties. Therefore, Compton's work will be found mostly in urban areas - perhaps thre was a good trade in Miniaturas in new churches on housing developments (although Spurden Rutt snapped up most of the work on the Becontree Estate in East London).

 

It would indeed be interesting to know of hitherto unrecorded Comptons, but I wonder if there are that many of them around?

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

An interesting proposition, but I suspect the jury to be out. However, we do know that Compton produced 261 theatre organs in just

20 years or so. (The era lasted from approximately 1923 - 1943, but the war intervened and a lot of skilled people were lost).

 

The factory, by organ-building standards, was huge, and if we accept that it kept busy for maybe 25 of the 30 years, it tends to suggest that there may have been hundreds of church instruments; not all of them large by any means, and some being re-builds of earlier instruments. Unofrtunately, I do not know the full details or have written evidence, but Mr Frank Hare, (and absolute authority on cinema organ matters), of the Theatre Organ Club, once told me that Compton's more or less saved J W Walker from going to the wall, due to the sub-contract work they did for Compton. This suggests pne of two things. Either Compton lost key staff during the war years, or the factory was so busy, they couldn't cope.

 

The problem is largely with the NPOR, which under various places, lists a number of Compton organs, which then do not appear under the Compton name when searched by builder. I hope I'm not doing the search wrong or being unfair.

 

For instance, I know of two locally, at Ilkley (already mentioned) and Pudsey PC, yet they do not appear under "Compton."

 

Another large instrument, (a re-build of an earlier Harrison instrument), was that at St Martin's, Birmingham: again this does not appear when using the Compton name search.

 

Even Trinity, Hull does not appear under the company name: one of their most prestigious jobs

 

I think we may yet discover that the number of church and concert organs is probably at least as great as the theatre organ number, but it may be impossible to list them accurately, unlike the theater organs.

 

I don't think Norfolk or Suffolk are any different from other rural areas. If I drew a line North from where I am sitting, I think that the first organs of any importance after Skipton (N Yorks), would either be Hexham Abbey (100 miles) or Holy Rude, Stirlling (about 200 miles).

 

Compton did some work in Norfork ( Yarmouth) and in Suffolk; the instrument at St Edmunsbury parish church being quite large.

 

 

 

MM

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