Friday, 28 October 2011

Restoration of an 1811 Flight and Robson chamber organ - beginnings

For more than a hundred years a church in Leicestershire used a small chamber organ to accompany its services. In the 1920s the organ was extended to include a rank of pedal pipes and an additional keyboard stop. Some time later the whole organ was painted in an alarming custard coloured paint which concealed a solid mahogany case.
The retracting keyboard was fixed in place to allow coupling to the pedals and a music desk made of veneered plywood replaced the orginal mahogany panel above the keyboard. Most of the lower case had been removed to allow for provision of larger bellows and all that remains are the two original pilasters with the square holes for the stop shanks. Despite these alterations, all eight of the original small stop knobs have survived and match the surviving pipework (of which more in a later post).

When the organ was removed from the church (not by me) the lower frame containing the bellows and pedal board was discarded as it was heaviliy infested with woodworm.

When I acquired the organ in May 2011 it had been in storage for a few years and had been dismantled. This had been done professionally and all the pipework carefully packed.

I began by looking for any evidence of the origins of the organ in the instrument itself as the history of the organ prior to 1896 was not known. It is not at all unusual for old organs to have no indications of the maker/date. However, in this case the underside of the lowest key lever (and hidden from view unless the key is lifted from the frame) had the following inscriptions in ink: "A D 1811" and "F&R", clearly suggesting that the organ had been made by Flight and Robson in 1811. These two inscriptions are accompanied by more recent lettering in white by an organbuilder active in Leicestershire in the 1960s.

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