Subsections


Imperial Organ and Piano Co. (1899-1965)

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The Imperial Organ and Piano Co. Ltd. succeeded the Collins Organ and Piano Co. in 1902 when C.H. Collins retired. They were at 45-50 Ellingford Road and Mare Street, Hackney from 1903-21 and also at Perren Street off Ryland Road, London 1934-50 and 45 King's Road, Camden Town in 1925. The directors were H.J. Cullum, F.J. Best (of Cullum and Co. and Cullum and Best) and H.E. Green who was the manager. The initial business was so good that in 1902 some instruments were actually exported to America.

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The firm moved to Perren Street, Rylands Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 in Feb'1919 following a fire which destroyed the Mare Street premises and resulted in a cost of £10,000. They also had the premises at 45 King's Road, Camden Town c.1930.

The company was known for building very elaborate, high quality instruments which were often quite expensive compared to other contemporary manufacturers. The firm built a full line of upright and baby grand pianos, as well as a variety of organs for both home and church use. They built two manual reed organs, as well as two manual and pedal reed organs. During the 1930s, Imperial built a limited number of instruments called the ``Pianorgan'', a piano and reed organ combined in one instrument. None of these are currently known to have survived

F.J. Best noted in [date?] that the organ business in London was declining but that they were still holding their own.

The Imperial Organ and Piano Co. were active for a long period, but were finally struck off the register of businesses in 1974. They built a number of important and substantial instruments which are now rather rare. Some of their model range is shown with illustrations from the 1958 catalogue in Robert Gellerman's database as follows.

1M instruments, e-Bay *0313 and *9344

These are examples of the New Model Church Organ.

0313 is a nice looking instrument which found its way to Jacksonville, Florida, and was for sale on e-Bay in Jan'2010. It is said to have been made in 1906 and was originally sold by William Thompson and Son, 7-19 Govan Road, Glasgow.

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9344 is a similar 1M4:4 still in Gloucestershire in the UK and was for sale July 2012. It was said to be in excellent condition. I was told by the seller that it has the following 15 stops: Bass coupler, Bourdon 16', Gamba 8', Principal 4', Viola 4', Diapason 8', Dolce 8', Vox Humana, Dulciana 8', Melodia 8',Voix Celeste 8', Oboe 8', Flute 4' Clarinet 16', Treble Coupler.

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Thornton Church

There is another almost identical one in Thornton churcn [location?] [Church Web site?].

Sally Course's 1M, 1943

Sally Course contacted me in September 2008 to say that she was restoring a reed organ. The instrument was made by the Imperial Organ and Piano Co. Ltd., London, one manual, nine stops and three banks of reeds. It has two knee levers but one is a dummy. We were surprised to discover that the reeds had been moved from their proper cells. We took a random selection of reeds and checked the pitch against the names and found that they were correct for modern day pitch of A 440. The two top reeds of each of the three sets had been moved to the bottom and all the others moved up two places so the instrument would always play one tone lower than concert pitch.

After some discussion I have come to the conclusion that the suggestion in your last paragraph may be the solution to our mystery. The harmonium was owned by RAF Cranwell during the forties and it may be that the keyboard player was required to play from the band parts in Bb but he couldn't transpose at sight.

This is a late instrument dating from 1943 and complete with Air Ministry stamp on stop plate. Owing to a house move after partial restoration it was for sale on e-Bay in Jan'2009.

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e-Bay *2320

This is a similar instrument to Sally's and I had some correspondence with the vendor in Oct'2012.

Its specification seems to be Bass Coupler, Double Diapason 16', Principal 8', Viola 4', Forte, Vox Humana, Dolce 8', Open Diapason 8', Treble Coupler.

It was located in a church in central London and was used for a 2011 recording of the Tonus Peregrinus album Jerusalem-Yerushalayim.

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Pipe Top, e-Bay *1844

This rather unusual instrument with a pipe top appeared for sale in Hindhead, Apr'2013. It was originally supplied by Moon and Sons of Plymouth. The specification is Bass Coupler, Bourdon 16', Principal 4', Violetta 2', Diapason, ?, ?, ?, Melodia, Flute 4', Clarinet 16', Treble Coupler.

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Ex. UCL late 1M e-Bay *0102

This small instrument was advertised in Dec'2014. It is said to have been used at University College London by a choir. It is a late model with plain case, oval sound vents and mouse proof treadles. The stop labels may have been moved, but currently read as follows Bass Coupler, Double Diapason 16', Principal 4', Viola 4', Forte, Vox Humana, Dolce 8', Open Diapason 8', Treble Coupler.

[photo to follow]

Leicester University

There is also one in the catalogue of the Leicester University Department of Music collection of musical instruments. It is accession number SW941 and said to be a 10 stop harmonium sold by John Roberts' Mozart Music Warehouse.

1M4:5 All Saints' Ixworth Thorpe

In Apr'2012 I was contacted by Sue Medcalf who was preparing records of the contents of the church at Ixworth Thorpe near Bury St. Edmunds. The reed organ was at RAF Honington until replaced during a re-fit when it was given to All Saints Church. It was overhauled in 2002-3.

The former parish church of Ixworth Thorpe is now a chapel of ease in the joint parish of Ixworth and Ixworth Thorpe.

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In this idyllic setting is a 1M suction instrument by the Imperial Organ and Piano Co. Ltd. The following text is taken from Sue's description of this instrument.

Case: The stained wooden case has a plain shelf (d. 16.5cm) with a partial raised front lip above a moulded cornice with plain front panels beneath. Between the panels the front is open, forming a storage space, the sides of which extend forwards into angled blocks to support the music desk. This has an arched top and is attached by, and hinges on, two screws, one each side, screwed into a small block of wood attached to the under-side of the top shelf. The lower edge of the music desk has a front ledge (d. 3cm) with a rounded lip.

Beneath is the flat top of the harmonium, forming a small shelf which has scalloped corners with a moulded front edge, the central part being recessed for the width of the music desk. The plain lid of the keyboard lifts up and slides back inside, under this shelf. The lid has a metal lock which would engage with a hole in the impost below the keyboard. The row of seventeen stops, with the maker's name on either side, is set in a wooden panel above the keyboard, beneath which are two elongated, round-ended sound apertures covered from behind with a faded blue fabric. Below is a moulded wooden cornice.

The lower part of the harmonium is slightly set back, with two plain panels, each recessed within a plain frame. Centrally there is a similar panel but of half-height, with two knee-paddles above and two extending foot-pedals covered in a faded green-grey corded fabric below. The console unit is supported at each front corner by two turned pillars standing on a shaped base block. The rear pillar has a moulded top which engages with the front panel of the harmonium.

The sides are surmounted by a flat top with a moulded edge and consist of a plain panel set into the supporting frame, the top and bottom being slightly shallower. The sides step down at each end of the keyboard into a decorated panel incised with a square with a leaf in each corner, and containing a circle with foliate decoration, enclosing five concentric rings. There are possibly four small castors.

Stops: All seventeen stops and shanks are slightly angled upwards and are of black-painted wood with green felt collars, the labels being of bone [celluloid] with black painted Gothic caps as follows: Bass Coupler, Double Diapason 8', Echo 8', Principal 4', Piano 4', Perfection 2', Sub Bass 16', Forte, Vox Humana, Dulcet 8', Cremona 8', Celeste 8', Cello 16', Clarionet 8', Flute 4', Double Melodia 8', Treble Coupler

Keyboard: 61 notes, F to f, keys of white plastic and black painted wood.

Dimensions: H 55-1/2'' xW 43'' xD 24''.

Unusually, rather than the Double Diapason and Double Melodia being 16' stops I guess they have broad reeds, but this is to be confirmed.

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2M St. Martin's, Allerton Mauleverer

St. Martin's church in Allerton Mauleverer, Yorkshire, is in the care of the Churches' Conservation Trust. It has a two manual Imperial reed organ which was photographed by David Webster in July 2014, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/davewebster14/14507331027/in/photostream.

This is a similar instrument to Mark Carter's and the ex. Beaulieu one, but possibly older as it has more ornate front pedestals.

ROS DB entry 1525

ROS-1525 is a 2 manual instrument with key range CC-c'''. It has foot treadles and two knee swells, so no pedals. Stops reading from the left are as follows: Bass Coupler, Diapason 8', Bourdon 16', Principal 4', Gamba 8', Viola 8', Diapason Bass 8', Manual Coupler, Diapason Treble 8', Vox Humana, Voix Celeste 8', Dolce 8', Oboe 8', Dulciana 8', Cello 16' Melodia 8', Treble Coupler. It would be useful to know how these stops are actually arranged. This one is said to have a cherry wood case.

Mark Carter's 2M/6?

Mark Carter sent information about his 2M instrument which has a similar specification and oak case, we can confirm this as follows: Bass Coupler, Principal 8', Bourdon 16', Diapason 8', Gamba 8', Dolce 8', Diapason Bass 8', Manual Coupler, Diapason Treble 8', Vox Humana, Voix Celeste 8', Viola 8', Oboe 8', Melodia 8', Cello 16' Dulciana 4', Treble Coupler.

The lower stops, alternately starting with the Bass Coupler, are for the Great (lower) manual, the upper stops, alternately starting with the Principal, are for the Swell (upper) manual. It also has two knee levers to control swell and full organ and a pipe top.

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This instrument came from a small church near Whitby. It has an external electric blower and measures 73-1/2'' tall, x45-1/2'' wide, x23-1/2'' deep.

The Beaulieu instrument, see below, has a similar specification but a different case.

Beaulieu Imperial 2M/4:5?

This rather special instrument was offered for sale in Dec'2006, and had until then been located in the chapel of historic Bucklers Hard on the Beaulieu river in Hampshire. Its appearance is clearly impressive, and it is in working order. It seems to be a 2M version of the New Church Model.

Its maker is: The Imperial Organ and Piano Co. Ltd, London, and its dimensions are: width 47", height 56", depth 27".

The date of manufacture is uncertain, but it appears to be early twentieth century. During the sale on e-Bay it was stored on the Beaulieu estate of Lord Montagu.

This is a 2 manual instrument with key range CC-c''' and split ranks as in similar American Organs. It has foot treadles and two knee swells. The list of stops was confirmed by the seller as follows.

2x 61-note manuals CC-c''' compass

Upper:                     Lower:
Diapason 8'                Bass Coupler
Principal 4'               Bourdon 16'
Viola 4'                   Gamba 8'
Manual Coupler             Diapason Bass 8'
Vox Humana                 Diapason Treble 8'
Dolce 8'                   Voix Celeste 8'
Dulciana 8'                Oboe 8'
Melodia 8'                 Cello 16'
                           Treble Coupler

2x knee swells
2x treadles

This may be the same instrument as ROS-1525 noted above, but the type of wood noted is different. This one is English oak. It sold for £53.

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2MP/9 e-Bay items *6655 and *7370

The next few very similar instruments which may be examples of the Cloister Organ. Jerry Taylor's is a similar one listed below.

6655 was for sale Aug'2006 and advertised in Faringdon as An electrically powered church or hall organ by The Imperial Organ and Piano Co. of London, of unknown vintage, probably 1900's. Dimensions height 1.42 mtr, width 1.45 mtr, depth (including foot pedal structure) 1.2 mtr. Weight - very heavy. Comes with wooden bench seat.

The specification is as follows:

2x 61-note manuals
30-note RC pedalboard

Swell:                  Great:
Flute 4'                Principal 4'
Oboe 8'                 Clarionet 8'
Violin 8'               Open Diapason 8'
Gamba 8'                Viola 8'
???                     Double Diapason 16'
                        		   
Couplers:               Pedal:	    	   
Octave                  Bourdon 16' 	   
Swell-Great             Sub Bass 16'       
Great-Pedal             

balanced swell pedal
2x combination pedals
electric blower with switch on console

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7370 was for sale Nov'2009 derelict electric blown 2 manual and pedal reed organ for restoration for home, church or console conversion to Hauptwerk. This instrument needs to be cleared from a house in the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire region - Aylesbury is a local town. David P.

The specification is as follows:

2x 61-note manuals
30-note RC pedalboard

Swell:                  Great:
Flute 4'                Clarionet 8'
Oboe 8'                 Principal 4'
Gamba 8'                Open Diapason 8'
Viola 8'                Dulciana 8'
Vibrato                 Double Diapason 16'
                        		   
Couplers:               Pedal:	    	   
Super Coupler           Bourdon 16' 	   
Swell to Great          Sub Bass 16'       
Great to Pedal             

balanced swell pedal
2x combination pedals
electric blower with switch on console

Sadly the condition looks quite poor - it sold for £31, but we do not know its current status.

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Ruislip Baptist Church 2MP

According to Geoffrey Morgan there was a similar instrument at Ruislip Baptist Church, many years ago. This one, however, had two swell pedals, indicating that there must have been some flexibility in the design and specification.

Thorne St. Margaret Church, near Wellington 2MP

Geoffrey Morgan added a note The Imperial organ for sale on e-Bay is almost identical to the instrument which I bought in 1961, and practised on for many years. Whilst not of the same quality as an Apollo, it was nevertheless a well built organ and was very much easier to set up than the Apollo. I dismantled and re-assembled it several times. It always went together perfectly, with very little adjustment. The console dimensions were non-standard (whatever "standard" means) and I modified the pedals by cutting the sharps down to a minimum length and moving the bar which governs the depth of touch as far away as possible. This made the pedals far more comfortable to play, though one's knees still felt hemmed in by the Great soundboard. This is a drawback of nearly every reed organ - the Apollo being a notable exception.

For a period Geoffrey added extensions to this instrument from an old 2MP Bell reed organ. This included adding an octave coupler to the Great; transposing the Great Clarinet to 2' pitch and transposing the Swell Flute to 2-2/3' pitch. He also added a muting shutter to the Great Diapason so that when the derived Dulciana was drawn, this row of reeds was softened considerably.

The problem with these changes, which were eventually reversed, were of course that the high-pitched reeds became very soft towards the top end, and the touch was heavy when all couplers were drawn. Nevertheless, he said that the effect with the octave couplers drawn, of pitches 16' 8' 4' 2-2/3' 2' 1-1/3' 1' was very rich and interesting.

Eventually he built a small extension pipe organ for home practice and used the Imperial organ as the console - but leaving the reeds intact. It was possible to play both organs together, though he rarely did. The pipes were used far more than the reeds, so eventually a separate console was built for the pipes and the reed organ restored to its original condition and sold to Thorne St. Margaret Church in Somerset around 1970, where it did further service for many years. Geoffrey believes that the organ has now been replaced, but we do not know what happened to it.

Jerry Taylor's 2MP

Jerry Taylor is a retired history teacher of Young Harris, Georgia, USA who has collected about 30 reed organs. His display in The Organ Loft (opened in 2007) shows their evolution from mid-1880 to mid-1900. It is possible to visit by appointment.

Jerry discovered the Reed Organ Society on the Internet and using their resources, he found a 1935 2MP Imperial in Newburgh, New York and purchased it about 1998. He also saved an 1880's Hamilton Vocalion from the wrecking ball in Richmond, Virginia. His instruments have been prefessionally restored.

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Kate Middleton's 2M number 158020

Kate from Penryn sent me information about her 2M Imperial during 2015. This organ was once in a Baptist chapel in Hampshire, it is serial number 158020.

The bellows leak and Kate and her husband have partly dismantled it for restoration. The action also needs work as one might expect. Whilst they have not rebuilt an instrument like this before, they are both practical and Kate's uncle is the piano restorer and harpischord builder Ferguson Hoey.

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ROS DB entries 1679 and 3951 and RFG-6093

Two surviving instruments by the Imperial Co. of London are listed in the ROS DB. These are small folding organs with 49 keys FFF-f'', foot treadles and knee swells. Finished in oak veneered plywood.

They were produced as Styles 1, 2 and 3 up to around 1958.

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Another of these appeared on e-Bay *1356 in Mar'2011.

ROS DB entry 2612

A small flat topped organ with no stops, 61 keys FFF-f''.

YouTube and Others

There must have been quite a few of these 2M instruments made. There is a YouTub video of one here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcDQxYcQUG8.

Bala Date from the Maharasthra region of India noted that he had one. He has learned a lot from studying its construction and is now building his own brand new reed organs, albeit slightly smaller. His company is Bala Organ and Musicals, see ROS Quarterly, Vol.XXXVI, No.1 (2017).

A few other photos of small Imperial instruments are shown separately here.

More pictures.

Register of known reed organs by Imperial.

Because these are very rare instruments, we will list as many as we can.

Size Date Serial Number Comments
2M/6?     ROS-1525
1M     folding, ROS-1679
1M     folding, ROS-3951
1M     folding, RFG-6093
1M     folding, Mansfield, e-Bay *1356 Mar'2011
1M     Florida; e-Bay *0313 Jan'2010
1M     Lydbrook; e-Bay *9344 July 2012
2MP/8     Faringdon; 2006 Scotland
2MP     Ruislip Baptist Church seen many years ago via G.Morgan
2MP     Thorne St. Mary, Wellington seen many years ago via G.Morgan
1M     Leicester University Dept. Music
      Couper, NZ, overhaled by NZ Organ Manufactury in 1999
      Troy, NZ, restored by NZ Organ Manufactury in 2003
2M     for sale by P.Melhuish, Beaulieu, Dec'2006; T
2MP/8     c.1935 Eyers, London; 2008 Scotland
1M     RFG-4185
1M     ROS-2612
2MP     Chapel of Prior Park College, Bath; for sale spring 2007
2MP 1935   Newburgh, New York; 1998 J.Taylor, Georgia
1M 1943   S.Course, North Chailey; for sale on e-Bay *7196 Jan'09
2MP/8     Aylesbury; sold e-Bay *7370 Nov'09
2M   18269 T.Finn, NZ, restored by J.Vallings
2M     Whitby church; 2011 M.Carter, Dorset
2MP/9     Faringdon; e-Bay *6655 Aug'2006
2MP/9     Oxon; e-Bay *7370 Nov'2009
1M/4:5     All Saints' Ixworth Thorpe
2M     St.Martin's Allerton Mauleverer, Yorks seen c.2014
2M   158020 K.Middleton, Penryn
2M     B.Date, Adiware (Maharashtra) India


Styles and Specifications of Imperial Organs

Register of models produced:

Designation Type Date Description
New Model Church 1M 1958  
Festival 1M 1958  
Cloister 2MP 1958  
Service 1M 1958  
Coronation 37 2M 1958  
Folding, Style 1      
Folding, Style 2      
Folding, Style 3      

New Model Church Organ from 1958 is shown in RFG DB number 6094. RFG-6081 is probably an example of this model.

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Festival Organ is shown in RFG DB number 6095. It was electrically blown but had treadles for good measure.

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2MP Cloister Organ from the 1958 catalogue is shown in RFG DB number 6096. It was electrically blown and clearly very much like the 2MP instruments mentioned below.

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Service Organ is shown in RFG DB number 6097. This was probably a budget model for choir practices. Sally Course's (below) is probably an example of this model.

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2M Organ Model Coronation 37 from 1958 is shown in RFG DB number 6098. It has two manuals and treadles but also combination and latch swell pedals.

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Rob Allan
2019-01-03