Jump to content
Mander Organs
MusingMuso

John Compton

Recommended Posts

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

 

 

 

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. Unfortunately, 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

 

If you type 'Compton%' on the NPOR builder's search, you get more entries - nearly 300 - including Holy Trinity, Hull and Ilkley, but not Pudsey. You must, therefore, be right in suggesting that the list is incomplete, although this may be something to do with how the search engine works. The NPOR list gives seven entries for Norfolk, but three of them are electronics. This leaves Morley St. Botolph (2 rank Miniatura), Freethorpe Methodist (3 rank Miniatura), Great Yarmouth PC and Great Yarmouth Methodist Central Hall. The latter was one of two with electronic basses (the other was Church House, Westminster, which was blitzed shortly after completion) and is now at the Mechanical Instrument Museum at Cotton, Suffolk, along with a rather nice Wurlitzer). Suffolk only gets three mentions, St. Mary's, Bury, Levington (which I don't know) and Stowmarket PC (an early rebuild, since replaced). There are also the aforesaid ex-Yarmouth Methodist organ and a 3-rank Miniatura at Mildenhall RC, acquired by an amateur from elsewhere, installed in a decent old case and finished by Holmes & Swift.

 

North of Skipton - aren't you being just a little unfair to Carlisle, Newcastle, St. Bees, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Durham?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Suffolk only gets three mentions, St. Mary's, Bury, Levington (which I don't know) and Stowmarket PC (an early rebuild, since replaced).

 

I was organist at Levington for a year or two in the mid 1990s. The Compton had gone by that stage, replaced with a rather nice 2 manual instrument by Peter Bumstead - I believe the photogaph on NPOR shows this later instrument, although there are no further details.

JJK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah yes! That produces a better result, thank-you.

 

What is interesting from this list, is the fact that most of the major jobs were re-builds rather than entirely new organs, and as such, that must have been much more complicated than making new instruments (such as cinema installations) with a lot of standardised components.

 

My observation about going true north from where I live, is the sheer scale of countryside and a lack of actual places. Going true north in a line, the next port of call is not Hexham or Stirling, but the village of Redmire (N Yorks) and then Aberdeen. (I checked on Google Earth and realised I had got it wrong).

 

So if the list on NPOR produces 300 or so results, (I'll have to break it down a bit), but includes quite a lot of cinema jobs, then we're probably looking at 250 church/concert hall organs, IN ADDITION to a known 261 cinema organs; bringing the possible total to over 500 pipe instruments, plus all the electronic organs Compton made.....a fairly staggering output in something like 30 years based at the former August Gern works and at North Acton; especially when their war-effort work on RADAR is added to the equation as well as the slow decline in the latter years.

 

In fact, at peak, I'm beginning to wonder if they weren't churning out a whole organ a week at the Acton works, plus the electronics and ongoing research and development work.

 

That's quite a major industry, which if it were replicated to-day, would probably amount to a £15,000,000 pa turnover during their best years. No wonder they sub-contracted!

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
-------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

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

 

Hi

 

It looks like you'[ve uncovered a bug in the "Builder" search section - entering "The John Compton Organ Co Ltd" does find Ilkley (and around half a dozen other locations). I suspect that either this is down to the lack of a BOA link for Compton at these locations - or the computer looking just for "Compton". I will pass this on the the person who maintains the software for NPOR and see if it can be sorted in due course.

 

With ref to NPOR, there are relatively few Compton theatre organs listed (yet!!!) - and also, I suspect that many of the smaller jobs - especially the Minatura range - are missing because people sometimes think that they're too small to be of interest. There are also gaps in listings of organs in free churches and in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. Please, if you have any info for NPOR, send it to the office, and it will get dealt with (it may take a while though - we do have a rather large backlog!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi

 

It looks like you'[ve uncovered a bug in the "Builder" search section - entering "The John Compton Organ Co Ltd" does find Ilkley (and around half a dozen other locations). I suspect that either this is down to the lack of a BOA link for Compton at these locations - or the computer looking just for "Compton". I will pass this on the the person who maintains the software for NPOR and see if it can be sorted in due course.

 

With ref to NPOR, there are relatively few Compton theatre organs listed (yet!!!) - and also, I suspect that many of the smaller jobs - especially the Minatura range - are missing because people sometimes think that they're too small to be of interest. There are also gaps in listings of organs in free churches and in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. Please, if you have any info for NPOR, send it to the office, and it will get dealt with (it may take a while though - we do have a rather large backlog!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Hi

 

The mystery is solved - NPOR builder search - like all computer searches, has to be given the exact information. A search for %Compton% will bring up the whole list - Compton% will - logically - ignore the entries that start "John Compton ..."

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi

 

The mystery is solved - NPOR builder search - like all computer searches, has to be given the exact information. A search for %Compton% will bring up the whole list - Compton% will - logically - ignore the entries that start "John Compton ..."

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

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

 

 

Thanks Tony. I think David Drinknell had worked out the same and suggested this as an option.

 

To keep abreast of my research, I came across one or two interesting factoids; one of which has yet to be confirmed at source.

 

Factoid 1) Compton Polyphones came in THREE types. CCCC versions, EEEE version and, the version I'd never heard of, in which one pipe plays two notes.

 

Factoid 2) I stumbled across an interesting statement. "Hill, Norman & Beard, who supplied pipework to Compton....etc"

 

 

Factoid 3) John Compton supplied mixture pipework to Walter Holtkamp in America.

 

 

Intriguing and intriguering..........

 

I'm sitting on a small mountain of such information.

 

MM

Share this post


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

 

 

Thanks Tony. I think David Drinknell had worked out the same and suggested this as an option.

 

To keep abreast of my research, I came across one or two interesting factoids; one of which has yet to be confirmed at source.

 

Factoid 1) Compton Polyphones came in THREE types. CCCC versions, EEEE version and, the version I'd never heard of, in which one pipe plays two notes.

 

Factoid 2) I stumbled across an interesting statement. "Hill, Norman & Beard, who supplied pipework to Compton....etc"

 

 

Factoid 3) John Compton supplied mixture pipework to Walter Holtkamp in America.

 

 

Intriguing and intriguering..........

 

I'm sitting on a small mountain of such information.

 

MM

 

Around 10 or so years ago, maybe more, I had some involvement in the rebuilding of the Compton unit/extension organ, formerly at Oxted, Surrey, and now in the Methodist church at Hessle near Hull which replaced a clapped-out Wyvern analogue and which in turn had replaced the original Abbot & Smith. It contained a rank of flues on the pedal division which you refer to in "Factoid 2". They each had an electrically-operated device at the top of the pipe which allowed the corresponding sharp to be played from - e.g. C-C-sharp, D-D-sharp etc., etc.

 

In an earlier posting you refer to Holy Trinity, Hull as having extension. Whilst it has duplexing in some instances, it is a straight organ.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If it's of any interest MM, in the compilation of facts you are gathering about Compton, when I had a chat with Alistair Rushworth some years ago I remember him saying that one, possibly a couple of former Compton men, took off for Canada after the company folded to work for Casavant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Around 10 or so years ago, maybe more, I had some involvement in the rebuilding of the Compton unit/extension organ, formerly at Oxted, Surrey, and now in the Methodist church at Hessle near Hull which replaced a clapped-out Wyvern analogue and which in turn had replaced the original Abbot & Smith. It contained a rank of flues on the pedal division which you refer to in "Factoid 2". They each had an electrically-operated device at the top of the pipe which allowed the corresponding sharp to be played from - e.g. C-C-sharp, D-D-sharp etc., etc.

 

In an earlier posting you refer to Holy Trinity, Hull as having extension. Whilst it has duplexing in some instances, it is a straight organ.

 

Sorry, but I was only going on what the late Peter Goodman had said to me re Holy Trinity. My only experience within the two cases was some tuning on the Solo and Swell. There is clearly extension elsewhere according to NPOR.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, but I was only going on what the late Peter Goodman had said to me re Holy Trinity. My only experience within the two cases was some tuning on the Solo and Swell. There is clearly extension elsewhere according to NPOR.

 

 

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

 

I'm sure you don't have to apologise. It can get quite complicated with Compton, as I'm sure you will appreciate. However, the organ at Trinity was certainly a large one to start with, and the extension ranks are relatively few. As you will know, the City Hall instrument has a pedal division of some 33 stops, (including 5 or 6 percussions which had Bairstow in an apoplectic state), but almost all the flues are entirely straight. (20 + ranks of them!)

 

The information about the two-note polyhone pipes is interesting.

 

With regard to empliyees going to other companies, I am grateful for the Casavant connection. Another former employee ended up in Australia.....Lawrence I think, was his name....I have the details somewhere. He continued to build fine examples of extension organs, which are highly regarded down under.

 

I'm still absolutely intrigued by the possible H,N & B connection, and even more intrigued by the Compton supply of Mixture ranks to one of the American greats, Walter Holtkamp.

 

It occured to me yesterday, that all this shredding away of the outer-wrapper, to reveal the contents, simply wouldn't have been possible before the computer age, but so quick and efficient is the internet, I constantly find things in the most unexpected of places.

 

Of course, putting meat back on the skeleton is going to be much more difficult....and creative. Without company records, and only anecdotal information, any semblance to chronology really has to be abandoned, which is how people tend to write about things past as a kind of structure and discipline. That's why it has to be a creative undertaking, but at least the patents shine a little light on the development and chronology.

 

I wonder, did Compton switch entirely to war-effort work during WWII?

 

Does anyone know?

 

The reason I ask comes from a statement I read, which includes the line "........after the war in 1947, Compton resumed building organs."

 

If they were only involved in war-work connected with electrical equipment (?) and RADAR, it makes the output of the firm even more impressive in London, because it would reduce actual organ production time to about 20-25 years.

 

MM

Share this post


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

 

I'm sure you don't have to apologise. It can get quite complicated with Compton, as I'm sure you will appreciate. However, the organ at Trinity was certainly a large one to start with, and the extension ranks are relatively few. As you will know, the City Hall instrument has a pedal division of some 33 stops, (including 5 or 6 percussions which had Bairstow in an apoplectic state), but almost all the flues are entirely straight. (20 + ranks of them!)

 

The information about the two-note polyhone pipes is interesting.

 

With regard to empliyees going to other companies, I am grateful for the Casavant connection. Another former employee ended up in Australia.....Lawrence I think, was his name....I have the details somewhere. He continued to build fine examples of extension organs, which are highly regarded down under.

 

I'm still absolutely intrigued by the possible H,N & B connection, and even more intrigued by the Compton supply of Mixture ranks to one of the American greats, Walter Holtkamp.

 

It occured to me yesterday, that all this shredding away of the outer-wrapper, to reveal the contents, simply wouldn't have been possible before the computer age, but so quick and efficient is the internet, I constantly find things in the most unexpected of places.

 

Of course, putting meat back on the skeleton is going to be much more difficult....and creative. Without company records, and only anecdotal information, any semblance to chronology really has to be abandoned, which is how people tend to write about things past as a kind of structure and discipline. That's why it has to be a creative undertaking, but at least the patents shine a little light on the development and chronology.

 

I wonder, did Compton switch entirely to war-effort work during WWII?

 

Does anyone know?

 

The reason I ask comes from a statement I read, which includes the line "........after the war in 1947, Compton resumed building organs."

 

If they were only involved in war-work connected with electrical equipment (?) and RADAR, it makes the output of the firm even more impressive in London, because it would reduce actual organ production time to about 20-25 years.

 

MM

 

In one of my earlier postings I believe I remember mentioning a lengthy telephone chat I had with the wife of Frank Hancock. A lovely interesting lady who had been with the company since around 1936 and where she met and later married Frank. She gave me the distinct impression that much of Compton's work was given over to the war effort and that any organ work was largely tuning and maintenance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In one of my earlier postings I believe I remember mentioning a lengthy telephone chat I had with the wife of Frank Hancock. A lovely interesting lady who had been with the company since around 1936 and where she met and later married Frank. She gave me the distinct impression that much of Compton's work was given over to the war effort and that any organ work was largely tuning and maintenance.

 

 

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

 

 

Excellent.....I now have that from three different sources, which seems to confirm it.

 

 

Could it be, that at peak in the 15 years between 1930 and 1945, they could have been churning out just under an organ per week, plus all the electronic instruments?

 

Other than Wurlitzer and perhaps Moller in America, did any other company ever come close to that sort of production level, I wonder?

 

To put it amusingly into perspective, it may well be that in the time it took Muller to build the organ at Haarlem, (7 years),

John Compton could have built 300. :blink:

 

No wonder it was a big factory compared to others.

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amazing that of all the great organ builders this country has turned out (and Compton is certainly amongst them) it is Compton who seems to have commanded the greatest amount of attention.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Amazing that of all the great organ builders this country has turned out (and Compton is certainly amongst them) it is Compton who seems to have commanded the greatest amount of attention.

 

 

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

 

For a bit of a techie like myself, I don't think it is at all surprising, because it works at so many levels.....electrical, electronic, production engineering, theoretical, practical, moulding technology, craft, voicing, design engineering....maybe even a hint of mass production technique.

 

It is a unique story which requires great care in the telling of, and I make no bones about the fact that I still have a learning curve to complete.

 

MM

Share this post


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

 

I'm sure you don't have to apologise. It can get quite complicated with Compton, as I'm sure you will appreciate. However, the organ at Trinity was certainly a large one to start with, and the extension ranks are relatively few. As you will know, the City Hall instrument has a pedal division of some 33 stops, (including 5 or 6 percussions which had Bairstow in an apoplectic state), but almost all the flues are entirely straight. (20 + ranks of them!)

 

The information about the two-note polyhone pipes is interesting.

 

With regard to empliyees going to other companies, I am grateful for the Casavant connection. Another former employee ended up in Australia.....Lawrence I think, was his name....I have the details somewhere. He continued to build fine examples of extension organs, which are highly regarded down under.

 

I'm still absolutely intrigued by the possible H,N & B connection, and even more intrigued by the Compton supply of Mixture ranks to one of the American greats, Walter Holtkamp.

 

It occured to me yesterday, that all this shredding away of the outer-wrapper, to reveal the contents, simply wouldn't have been possible before the computer age, but so quick and efficient is the internet, I constantly find things in the most unexpected of places.

 

Of course, putting meat back on the skeleton is going to be much more difficult....and creative. Without company records, and only anecdotal information, any semblance to chronology really has to be abandoned, which is how people tend to write about things past as a kind of structure and discipline. That's why it has to be a creative undertaking, but at least the patents shine a little light on the development and chronology.

 

I wonder, did Compton switch entirely to war-effort work during WWII?

 

Does anyone know?

 

The reason I ask comes from a statement I read, which includes the line "........after the war in 1947, Compton resumed building organs."

 

If they were only involved in war-work connected with electrical equipment (?) and RADAR, it makes the output of the firm even more impressive in London, because it would reduce actual organ production time to about 20-25 years.

 

MM

"Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread."

 

I know VERY little about the Holtkamp outfit and less about Compton, but there is a Compton polyphone in the Holtkamp organ at the Episcopal Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio. Walter Holtkamp, Sr. was fond of big pedal cornets of the 32' harmonic series. If any mixtures were sent over to Holtkamp I would wager that it was a pedal 32' harmonics thing. In the late 30s, G Donald Harrison installed a polyphone at the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia AND a four rank cornet of the 32' series. I believe that the polyphone came from Compton. I'm not sure if the pedal cornet was made in South Boston, but I believe it was. The same stop is in the Mormon Tabernacle organ. He always gave Compton the credit for the IDEA. I remember seeing THREE polyphones in a Presbyterian church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I believe that they each were supposed to play four notes. They were not effective, at least in 1971. The single one in Curtis Hall had at least four good notes - G#, A, A# & B - and, on rainy days, the low G. The problem for me was the noise of the valve mechanism. It was obtrusive during soft passages. Finally, there was at least one Compton polyphone in the Aeolian-Skinner rebuild of the old Roosevelt Chicago Auditorium organ that went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. W. H. Barnes who gave the organ to the University, had the old job removed from the Auditorium/Hotel and it was stored in Evanston, Illinois during WWII (cellar of 1st Baptist Church). During the very difficult removal, low F# of the 32' Open Wood was dropped and broken. It and the six larger pipes were sold to a lumber coy. (unblemished timber). When the organ was installed in Bloomington it was with a polyphone (Compton) to play the now missing notes. Tradition holds that after Marcel Dupré played the Liszt "Ad nos" at the dedication, the Pedal trill toward the end of the Fugue so rattled the mechanism that it never sounded it notes properly again.

 

Casavant had their own system for obtaining more than one note from large-scale pedal open woods. I am personally familiar with two organs in Toronto where the 32' flue works superbly AND quietly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread."

 

I know VERY little about the Holtkamp outfit and less about Compton, but there is a Compton polyphone in the Holtkamp organ at the Episcopal Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio. Walter Holtkamp, Sr. was fond of big pedal cornets of the 32' harmonic series. If any mixtures were sent over to Holtkamp I would wager that it was a pedal 32' harmonics thing. In the late 30s, G Donald Harrison installed a polyphone at the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia AND a four rank cornet of the 32' series. I believe that the polyphone came from Compton. I'm not sure if the pedal cornet was made in South Boston, but I believe it was. The same stop is in the Mormon Tabernacle organ. He always gave Compton the credit for the IDEA. I remember seeing THREE polyphones in a Presbyterian church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I believe that they each were supposed to play four notes. They were not effective, at least in 1971. The single one in Curtis Hall had at least four good notes - G#, A, A# & B - and, on rainy days, the low G. The problem for me was the noise of the valve mechanism. It was obtrusive during soft passages. Finally, there was at least one Compton polyphone in the Aeolian-Skinner rebuild of the old Roosevelt Chicago Auditorium organ that went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. W. H. Barnes who gave the organ to the University, had the old job removed from the Auditorium/Hotel and it was stored in Evanston, Illinois during WWII (cellar of 1st Baptist Church). During the very difficult removal, low F# of the 32' Open Wood was dropped and broken. It and the six larger pipes were sold to a lumber coy. (unblemished timber). When the organ was installed in Bloomington it was with a polyphone (Compton) to play the now missing notes. Tradition holds that after Marcel Dupré played the Liszt "Ad nos" at the dedication, the Pedal trill toward the end of the Fugue so rattled the mechanism that it never sounded it notes properly again.

 

Casavant had their own system for obtaining more than one note from large-scale pedal open woods. I am personally familiar with two organs in Toronto where the 32' flue works superbly AND quietly.

 

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

 

 

How absolutely fascinating and helpful!

 

This makes complete sense, because I was aware of the American conncetion with the "idea" of a 32ft Harmonics, which as you say, appears in various organs in America. What I didn't realise was a similar connection with the Polyphone, which I suppose should not come as a complete surprise.

 

I have to confess that when it comes to Mixtures as a part of the manual choruses, I somehow doubted that Walter Holtkamp needed any help, because the results (even to-day) speak for themselves. The organ at Syracuse University is just wonderful tonally, and were it not for the EP action (electric?) favoured at all times by Holtkamp, I suspect that he had little to learn from the neo-baroque movement. He was an instinctively brilliant tonal-artist, whom I would rate as highly as G Donald-Harrison and Charlie Fisk.

 

Of course, taking a more panoramic view, it does show how there was a fruitful and amiable exchange of ideas to and fro the Atlantic, and similar conncetions are very apprent not only with G Donald Harrison, Skinner and Willis, but with the whole organ-reform thing, which was as much an American quest as it was German. Certainly, Ralph Downes was formulating his tonal ideas in America, long before work commenced on the organ of the Royal Festival Hall, and a whole brace of academics went to Steinkerken in the Elb region of Germany, as our board member Karl Kropft know very well. Indeed, we spent quite some time tracking down a man by the name of Bartle, who had worked for a German/English music publisher.....I think it was Schotts.

 

John Mander, our kind host, knows (I believe) John Brombough, from the time he spent in Germany, so the exchange of ideas has continued ever since.

 

Big the world and the oceans may be, but organ-building is quite a tightly-knit club in many ways.

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a rather nice find on You Tube, with an excellent Trumpet Tune (real trumpet and trumpeter) accompanied by the Compton organ at Downside Abbey.

 

What a superb sound for an extension organ!

 

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Paul Derrett ("Cynic") has done a couple of recordings on Compton organs. Downside Abbey - Benchmarks Records 806831CD and Holy Trinity, Hull - Benchmarks Records 806833CD. Both can be heard on Organlive.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Here's a rather nice find on You Tube, with an excellent Trumpet Tune (real trumpet and trumpeter) accompanied by the Compton organ at Downside Abbey.

 

What a superb sound for an extension organ!

 

 

MM

 

 

Roger Taylor the organbuilder from Burrington in Somerset (ex R & D) was looking after the Downside organ - and most probably still is. 'An expert on all things Compton - he spoke about it on a BIOS conference based in the area some years ago - along with Ian Bell.

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a very small contribution to the Compton thread,my neighbour, who worked for the Gloucester Aircraft Company.recalled meeting John Compton at the works during the war.Sadly she died some years ago so I am unable to ask her for any recollection she had of the man. Incidentally,there is a 7-rank Compton in St Peter's Catholic church in Gloucester recently restored by Nicholson with Dr John Rowntree as adviser. Dom Gregory Murray gave the opening recital.

Share this post


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

 

Factoid 1) Compton Polyphones came in THREE types. CCCC versions, EEEE version and, the version I'd never heard of, in which one pipe plays two notes.

 

MM

 

 

Now this is one area where you'll find examination of the theatre organ output very useful. From, I should think, the late 1920s until the outbreak of WWII, just about every Compton theatre organ included this latter type of Polyphone (known in the factory as the Biphonic bass) using just six pipes for the 16' Tibia octave. The earliest version had a pneumatic on the outside of the pipe, which opened a valve over a hole giving the higher of the two notes. Towards the end of 1933 a newer type came into production with the pneumatic inside the pipe, and an extension tube, complete with tuning slide, on the outside. This made fine tuning of the subsidiary note possible.

 

The action was (as one would expect) quite ingenious. For the 'root' note to sound, a perfectly straightforward primary/secondary chest action was used to exhaust the 'cup' motor carrying the pallet. For the subsidiary note there was a second magnet and primary. On the top of the primary valve wire was attached a contact wiper which was pulled onto a contact connected back to the magnet for the 'root' note, so as to open the pallet. From this second action a feed was taken, via a short length of lead tubing, into the bottom corner of the pipe. These pipes have a wooden channel attached to one corner, inside which another tube goes up to the internal pneumatic. The second primary exhausts this tube, thus opening the internal valve into the extension tube.

 

..... at least that's how I think it works. It's a while since I took one apart, so it just might be the other way around! Anyway, you get the drift of it, and there are plenty still around for you to inspect :blink:

 

S

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now this is one area where you'll find examination of the theatre organ output very useful. From, I should think, the late 1920s until the outbreak of WWII, just about every Compton theatre organ included this latter type of Polyphone (known in the factory as the Biphonic bass) using just six pipes for the 16' Tibia octave. The earliest version had a pneumatic on the outside of the pipe, which opened a valve over a hole giving the higher of the two notes. Towards the end of 1933 a newer type came into production with the pneumatic inside the pipe, and an extension tube, complete with tuning slide, on the outside. This made fine tuning of the subsidiary note possible.

 

I remember being told that the HNB 1964 shared bass organ in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading did not have room for the C and C# bottom notes of the Bourdon 16ft so as built contained bottom C and an additional lever arm magnet for C# near the top of the pipe.

 

In recent times an electric action extension practise organ was exhibited at the Early Music Exhibition in Greenwich with a classical case designed by D Graebe (? not sure of spelling) which also had just 6 pipes for the 16ft octave of the Bourdon.

PJW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now this is one area where you'll find examination of the theatre organ output very useful. From, I should think, the late 1920s until the outbreak of WWII, just about every Compton theatre organ included this latter type of Polyphone (known in the factory as the Biphonic bass) using just six pipes for the 16' Tibia octave. The earliest version had a pneumatic on the outside of the pipe, which opened a valve over a hole giving the higher of the two notes. Towards the end of 1933 a newer type came into production with the pneumatic inside the pipe, and an extension tube, complete with tuning slide, on the outside. This made fine tuning of the subsidiary note possible.

 

The action was (as one would expect) quite ingenious. For the 'root' note to sound, a perfectly straightforward primary/secondary chest action was used to exhaust the 'cup' motor carrying the pallet. For the subsidiary note there was a second magnet and primary. On the top of the primary valve wire was attached a contact wiper which was pulled onto a contact connected back to the magnet for the 'root' note, so as to open the pallet. From this second action a feed was taken, via a short length of lead tubing, into the bottom corner of the pipe. These pipes have a wooden channel attached to one corner, inside which another tube goes up to the internal pneumatic. The second primary exhausts this tube, thus opening the internal valve into the extension tube.

 

..... at least that's how I think it works. It's a while since I took one apart, so it just might be the other way around! Anyway, you get the drift of it, and there are plenty still around for you to inspect :blink:

 

S

 

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

 

 

I had to smile ruefully when I read this, because it reminds me about the Royal Engineers during in WWII, who wanted to set out explosive mines on the dirt roads somewhere on the Chinese Pennisula, to prevent enemy movement and action. The problem was, that when the mines were buried, they left a very visible patch in the roads, which could be seen, with the result that the enemy drivers just steered around them. With enormous ingenuity, I think it was the late Sir Michael Bentine, who came up with the idea of making a mock pile of elephant droppings, which they covered the patches with. The enemy drivers thought it fun to drive over them......kerboom!

 

They were a remarkable generation of brilliant and often devious minds.

 

The more I read about John Compton and those around him, the more I begin to wonder if they weren't like crackpot boffins; forever inventing things for the sheer fun of inventing things, but perhaps I do them an injustice.

 

I know that an electrical engineer of some status, was shown a Compton relay cabinet, which was far more compact than anything which had been made previously. After studying it for some time, he is reputed to have said, "I don't believe what I'm looking at, it is absolutely brilliant."

 

Unfortunately, for someone who is attempting to gather all the information together, I've never been inside a Compton theatre organ; though I have played many. On the other hand, I've helped tune and maintain, (as well as disassemble), Wurlitzer organs, but that doesn't help very much does it?

 

I'm quite looking forward to the moment that I feel the need to go out and see things for myself, and perhaps take photographs.

 

The thought occurs to me, that I have a recorder, from which I can get half a dozen notes quite easily.......ten pipes plus a bit of Compton ingenuity and we've got a whole flute register....at least in single notes.

 

MM

Share this post


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

 

 

I had to smile ruefully when I read this, because it reminds me about the Royal Engineers during in WWII, who wanted to set out explosive mines on the dirt roads somewhere on the Chinese Pennisula, to prevent enemy movement and action. The problem was, that when the mines were buried, they left a very visible patch in the roads, which could be seen, with the result that the enemy drivers just steered around them. With enormous ingenuity, I think it was the late Sir Michael Bentine, who came up with the idea of making a mock pile of elephant droppings, which they covered the patches with. The enemy drivers thought it fun to drive over them......kerboom!

 

They were a remarkable generation of brilliant and often devious minds.

 

The more I read about John Compton and those around him, the more I begin to wonder if they weren't like crackpot boffins; forever inventing things for the sheer fun of inventing things, but perhaps I do them an injustice.

 

I know that an electrical engineer of some status, was shown a Compton relay cabinet, which was far more compact than anything which had been made previously. After studying it for some time, he is reputed to have said, "I don't believe what I'm looking at, it is absolutely brilliant."

 

Unfortunately, for someone who is attempting to gather all the information together, I've never been inside a Compton theatre organ; though I have played many. On the other hand, I've helped tune and maintain, (as well as disassemble), Wurlitzer organs, but that doesn't help very much does it?

 

I'm quite looking forward to the moment that I feel the need to go out and see things for myself, and perhaps take photographs.

 

The thought occurs to me, that I have a recorder, from which I can get half a dozen notes quite easily.......ten pipes plus a bit of Compton ingenuity and we've got a whole flute register....at least in single notes.

 

MM

 

You might like to take a look at this website http://www.pipesinthepeaks.co.uk/ The organ is, I believe, looked after by Cartwright Organ Builders who are based in the Potteries. As the name suggests, the organ is based in the Peak District and I'm sure the owners, they run the adjacent garage, would be obliging if you were to make contact with them. I just called in one day, they had never clapped eyes on me before yet they happily let me have a look.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You might like to take a look at this website http://www.pipesinthepeaks.co.uk/ The organ is, I believe, looked after by Cartwright Organ Builders who are based in the Potteries. As the name suggests, the organ is based in the Peak District and I'm sure the owners, they run the adjacent garage, would be obliging if you were to make contact with them. I just called in one day, they had never clapped eyes on me before yet they happily let me have a look.

 

 

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

 

 

Thanks Barry.

 

The information is fairly pouring in at the moment, and I've even discovered the name of the financial backer, who was a major shareholder of the Compton Company, J Martin White, the liberal Scottish politician born in New York, who made his fortune from the Jute trade. Incredibly, he also gave financial support to Robert Hope-Jones, as well as being the second president of the "Organ Club." He had a Hope-Jones pipe-organ in the family pile in Scotland, I understand.

 

J Martin-White died suddenly in 1928, during his term as President, but whether this had an immediate effect on the Compton company, I cannot say. What I do know, is that this marked the peak of theatre organ output, which virtually came to and end ten years later.

 

For our friends in America, I've also discovered that the organ-builder Walter Holtkamp journeyed to the Compton works in Acton, and thereafter had at least one 32ft Polyphone sent over; possibly for reasons of cost-saving due to the fact that a 12-note extension from American Organ Supply cost $1500, whereas the Compton "Cube" cost only $1200.

 

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

×
×
  • Create New...