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The Grand Organ in The Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Gardens at Westminster

 

Henry Jones (1822-1900)The builder of the instrument was Henry Jones of 136 Fulham Road, Brompton. Henry Jones was born in 1822 in Folkestone. He moved to Lambeth in 1835 and undertook a seven year Apprenticeship under Joseph Walker as an Organ Builder.

Right - Henry Jones (1822-1900) 136 Fulham Road, West Brompton. The builder of the Grand Organ in the Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Gardens, Westminster. The Photograph of Henry Jones is "in the public domain". It was found framed beside the organ at Ninfield Parish Church in Sussex and dates from 1872. At that time there was a strike amongst the men in the workshops of the London organ-builders for better pay and conditions. The only exception to this was at Henry Jones' workshop where many of the men had been with him from the beginning and were so well treated that, instead of coming out on strike, they presented him with a silver cup to celebrate his 50th birthday. You can see the cup beside him in the photo.

In 1843 he set up in business on his own account, firstly at 10 Pond Place, Chelsea, and then from 1853 at 136 Fulham Road on the corner of Thistle Grove Lane where he employed 14 men and boys. The organ at the Royal Aquarium was his largest and most prestigious work. It was built under the supervision of Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) and was installed at the rear of the main stage for the opening of the Hall in 1876. The organ was originally designed to have four divisions and a much larger pedal section but was never fully completed. In 1878 the firm were asked to move the instrument from the stage, where it was constantly being masked by scenery, to a position up in the Gallery. The shear size and power of the instrument combined with the vast open acoustics of the glass-roofed Hall must have made for some very spectacular sounds from this organ.

Floor plan of the Westminster Royal Aquarium in 1891.

Above - Floor plan of the Westminster Royal Aquarium in 1891. The organ was positioned at the rear of the main stage from 1876 until 1878 and was then moved up into a gallery (See plane below) - London Metropolitan Archive (Ref: GLC/AR/BR/22/033310.) - Courtesy Chris Kearl - Also visible to the left is a plan of the Imperial Theatre and its stage.

The wind for the organ came from four large bellows placed beneath the instrument which supplied wind at different pressures to different parts of the organ. These bellows were driven by steam power but were placed so that the instrument could be hand-pumped "should any mishap occur among the steam machinery". The Console was made of polished Rosewood, with diagonal draw-stops, overhanging keys, radiating and concave foot pedals and "every modern improvement to bring the whole instrument comfortably within the control of the performer". The spectacular Trumpets were placed on a very high wind-pressure and many of the softer solo Orchestral Reed stops were specially manufactured and voiced for the organ by two of the most eminent firms in Paris. The organ "retained the solidity of the English Open Diapason in all its grandeur on the Great and Bass organs and the German Gamba and Harmonic Stops are remarkable for their bright and clear tones". The organ was obviously in continual use up until the late 1890s giving recitals between shows and accompanying the singers. The Organist in 1891 was Mr. J. Mortimer Dudman.

Plan of the Gallery above the Royal Aquarium in 1891

Above - Plan of the Gallery above the Royal Aquarium in 1891 showing the organ in position at the left hand end. London Metropolitan Archive (Ref: GLC/AR/BR/22/033310.) - Courtesy Chris Kearl

Henry Jones (1822-1900)Henry Jones (shown right) retired from the business in 1889 and left it in the hands of his son, Henry Spain Jones, of 70 Park Walk, Chelsea. The firm of Henry Jones & Sons undoubtedly retained the care of the organ until the Hall was closed in 1903. The firm itself continued until 1942 when the family home in Edith Grove, West Brompton, was bombed killing the remaining members of the family. Nothing is yet known of the fate of the Aquarium organ. When the Hall closed in 1903 it must have been dismantled but whether the instrument was rebuilt somewhere else or just broken up I have yet to find out. I have searched high and low for a photograph or illustration of the organ but to no avail. Details of the fate of the Aquarium Organ can now be seen below. M.L.

(Crufts began at the Royal Aquarium as the Allied Terrier Club Show from 1886-1891 when it moved to the Agricultural Hall in Islington.)

The Specification of the Organ (given below) was published in full in the "Musical Opinion" of 6th July, 1878 and in Henry Jones' Opus List of 1881, both of which are in the British Organ Archive at Birmingham Central Library.

Text Courtesy Chris Kearl (member of the British Institute of Organ Studies 'BIOS') and forms part of a book in progress by Chris about Henry Jones and his instruments. Source material about the organ comes from "Musical Opinion" 1878 and "Henry Jones' Opus List" of 1881. Both of these publications are in the British Organ Archive.

Organ Specification

Great Organ

 

Swell Organ (Enclosed)

 

Double Open Diapason

16

Double Diapason

16

Open Diapason

8

Open Diapason

8

Harmonic Diapason

8

Gamba

8

Gamba

8

Salicional

8

Lieblich Gedact

8

Voix Celeste

8

Octave

4

Lieblich Gedact

8

Harmonic Flute

4

Principal

4

Twelfth

2/

Harmonic Flute

4

Fifteenth

2

Fifteenth

2

Octavine Harmonic

2

Mixture 15.19.22

III

Mixture 15.19.22

III

Contra Fagotto

16

Mixture 26.29

II

Horn

8

Contra Posaune

16

Harmonic Trumpet

8

Posaune

8

Orchestral Oboe

8

Trumpet

8

Clarion

4

Clarion

4

Voix Humaine

8

Spare slide

 

Spare Slide

 

Great Octave.

 

 

 

Swell to Great.

 

 

 

Choir to Great.

 

Choir Organ.

 

 

 

Open Diapason

8

Pedal or Bass Organ.

 

Dulciana

8

Double Open Diapason

32

Stopped Diapason

8

Great Unison Diapason

16

Octave Keraulophon

4

Gamba

16

Harmonic Flute

4

Bourdon

16

Piccolo

2

Flute

8

Oboe

8

Violoncello

8

Clarionet

8

Trombone

16

Swell to Choir.

 

Clarion

8

 

 

Spare Slide

 

Compass :

 

Swell to Pedals.

 

Manuals - 61 Notes CC-C.

 

Great to Pedals.

 

Pedals - 30 notes CCC to F.

 

Choir to Pedals.

 

 

 

4 compound pedals acting on Great and Bass Organs.

 

Every stop is continued throughout its entire compass without borrowing.

 

4 compound pedals acting on Swell organ

 

 

 

Two Tremulants acting on the Swell by pedal.

 

 

 

 

Above - Specification of the Organ published in full in the "Musical Opinion" of 6th July, 1878 and in Henry Jones' Opus List of 1881, both of which are in the British Organ Archive at Birmingham Central Library. - Courtesy Chris Kearl.

AN ORGAN FOR CENTRAL HALL

By Gerard Brooks 2011

The original intention was probably to use the Aquarium organ for the Great Hall of the new building: In October 1910 a report to the Central Hall Trust by the Rev. F. Luke Wiseman, then Minister of the Birmingham Central Hall and a notable musician in the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, resulted in the formation of a special Committee to address the issue. In October 1911, Mr. Wiseman advised the Trust to dispose of the Aquarium organ and to obtain competing estimates for a new instrument at a cost not exceeding £2,500. The estimates were submitted to Mr. C.W. Perkins, the then notable organist to the Birmingham Corporation and within only three weeks a contract was awarded to William Hill & Sons of London for the building and installation of a new organ with tubular pneumatic action at a cost of £2,367.

THE FATE OF THE AQUARIUM ORGAN

The Central Hall Trust apparently failed to obtain a purchaser for the Aquarium Organ, although records show at least one mention of a possible buyer. In June 1912 it was decided to use parts of this instrument for the Lower Hall (Lecture Hall) of Central Hall. The contract with Henry Speechly & Sons revealed the necessity for the following work to reduce the organ to a smaller three manual tubular-pneumatic instrument:

1. A new console and action; converting all manual soundboards to the tubular pneumatic action and the provision of new pedal chests.
2. Refacing of all slides and upper boards.
3. Re-making the bellows and the supplying new parts.
4. Inspection, repair, cleaning and revoicing of all pipework.
5. Supply of new tongues and springs to all reeds.
6. Supply and installation of a new F/2HP electric motor for the blower together with the necessary switching apparatus.

The total amount spent was £410, far exceeding the trustees suggested outlay of £250. All the remaining parts of the Aquarium organ became the property of Henry Speechly & Sons.

The Lecture Hall Organ built by Henry Speechly & Sons 1912:
Manuals CC – C 61 notes
Pedals CCC - F 30 notes
Tubular-pneumatic action
Wind pressure 3 ½” Action wind pressure 4 ½”

Great

1. Open Diapason no.1 8’ (metal)
2. Open Diapason no.2 8’ (metal)
3. Clarabella 8’ (wood)
4. Principal 8’ (metal)
5. Harmonic Flute 4’ (metal)
6. Trumpet 8’ (spotted metal)

Swell (enclosed)

1. Bourdon 16’ (metal)
2. Open Diapason 8’ (metal)
3. Stopped Diapason 8’ (wood & metal)
4. Salicional 8’ (spotted metal)
5. Voix Celeste (to tenor C) 8’ (spotted metal)
6. Gemshorn 4’ (metal)
7. Fifteenth 2’ (metal)
8. Contra Fagotto 16’ (spotted metal)
9. Horn 8’ (spotted metal)
10. Oboe 8’ (spotted metal)

Choir

1. Dulciana 8’ (metal)
2. Lieblich Gedackt 8’ (wood)
3. Flute 4’ (metal)
4. Piccolo 2’ (wood)
5. Corno di Bassetto 8’ (spotted metal)

Pedal

1. Open Diapason 16’ (wood)
2. Bourdon 16’ (wood) 42 pipes
3. Lieblich Bourdon 16’ (wood)
4. Flute Bass 8’ (wood) from no.2

Couplers & accessories:

Swell to Great
Swell to Choir
Swell octave
Swell Sub Octave
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Three composition pedals to Great and Pedal
Three composition pedals to Swell

It has been suggested that the casework of this small instrument was designed by the architect Luytens. Although limited in upperwork, the instrument apparently served its purpose, and apart from bi-yearly tunings, very little work was done on this organ except for the provision of a new blower in 1936. During World War II, the organ was sheeted over during the occupation by H.M. Forces, and the consequent neglect resulted in the need for a complete overhaul in 1946 at a cost of £197.

The whole premises underwent complete redecoration in the Spring of 1956; by then, the use of the organ was so reduced that the Trust decided to remove it because it was occupying valuable space in halls then frequently used for exhibition purposes. It was taken out by N.P. Mander Ltd., who put it in store until 1960 when it was sold for £700. The organ was finally rebuilt and enlarged and installed in Walcot Parish Church, Bath.

The above text on the fate of the Aquarium Organ was written by Gerard Brooks and kindly sent in for inclusion on this site. Gerard Brooks is currently Director of Music at Central Hall, Westminster, where the Grand Organ is being rebuilt by Harrisons. He is also in the process of rewriting the booklet about the organ, originally penned by Martin Ellis in 1970.

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