The Wizard Compton


The restoration / installation of the Compton organ is the culmination of four years of intensive work since it was removed from Hornchurch in April 1999.

Almost from the outset, it was decided to make some changes and to update the specification in a way which would make the organ more useable as a concert instrument whilst still retaining the essential character of an early Compton theatre organ.

During its time in the church several low pressure ‘church’ ranks had been added alongside the original pipework. These included duplicate diapason, flute and string ranks and the opportunity was taken to remove these. The original specification had provided both baryphone/krumhorn and clarinet stops which were synthetically derived from specially tuned ‘harmonic’ ranks. These have also been removed and replaced by genuine krumet and clarinet pipes, the clarinet having been sourced from America (actually a Wurlitzer rank.)

However, the Compton style krumet proved impossible to track down, never having been the most common of stops. F. Booth & Sons of Bramley, Leeds were therefore commissioned to make a brand new copy. Incidentally, Booths also carried out the rebuilding and revoicing of the tuba rank including providing replacements for the top seven pipes which were missing and made a replacement for the missing bottom C of the vox humana.

Obviously, these additions necessitated changes to the console layout. The stops were repositioned to cater for all new and future changes including increased unification of some ranks and the provision of an independent solo manual. Originally the top manual was only a coupler and in the church installation was used solely to control the low pressure additions, although oddly, its controlling stop-keys were located inconveniently on the backrail.

Minor changes were also made to the winding of the organ. The diapason was removed from the regulator that it had previously shared with the flute and strings, and was winded independently with its own tremulant. The tibia clausa and tuba ranks received similar treatment allowing much finer regulation of both the pipework and their associated tremulants.

With so many changes to the specification, it was obvious that the old mechanical relays would be unsuitable. They were, in any case, badly worn and the equipment used for manual three appeared to be part of an old GPO telephone exchange!! The same could pretty-much be said of the piston setter mechanism and so a Solid State transmission and capture action has been designed and built by Sonic Services from Thetford in Norfolk.

This system not only drives the entire organ, but does so through a 2-core coaxial cable replacing the large, armoured cable containing hundreds of wires that would have been needed originally. It also produces Midi signals from all three manuals and pedals which are, at the present time, used to drive a pair of Yamaha EMT10 sound modules providing digitally generated piano sounds.

During the course of the restoration, all manual and off-note chests have been re-leathered, together with the percussions and about 90% of the regulators and tremulants. The inclusion of a solid state action means that the organ has undergone a total rewire including the console. Much work has also been done on the console shell with repairs to damaged and missing parts and the construction of a beautiful new music desk.

Text by Gordon Haley