The Burtey Fen Wurlitzer

Above: The Wurlitzer in its new home at The Burtey Fen Collection

 

The Wurlitzer has rather a complex history, and in fact is made up of two organs. The console is from The Regent, Ipswich, whilst the majority is from The Gaumont, Exeter. Both organs had identical consoles, and so the organ is generally referred to as being from The Gaumont, Exeter.

The following notes were compiled by Clifford S Manning.

In June 1928 Walter Pearce of King Street, London, WC2, the Wurlitzer European agent announced that he had a contract in hand for Les Gobelins Restaurant, Regent Street, London.

This Restaurant was on the Corner of Regent Street and Haddon Street adjoining the New Gallery cinema.
In fact the freehold was owned by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres because it was included in the purchase of the New Gallery by PCT in 1920.  In 1928 the restaurant proprietor was stated to be Mr F Nello.

Wurlitzer No.2042 a "Special Style 165" of 2 manuals 6 units was despatched from the Wurlitzer factory at North Tonawanda, USA, on 26 March 1929. It appears to have been installed in Les Gobelins and playing by June 1929.


For some reason the Restaurant closed very soon after the organ was installed. The Wurlitzer was removed from the Restaurant across the roof of the New Gallery block to the Georgian Room of the PCT Library in Vigo Street, where it was used for training and practice by PCT/GB organists. Hubert Selby, who used the organ for practice when he joined GB and was based in London, said the Wurlitzer in the Georgian Room and the Wurlitzer in the New Gallery although in separate buildings were in fact only a few yards apart. The Wurlitzer remained at Vigo Street until early 1932 when it was removed to the Gaumont, Exeter, then under construction.

 

GAUMONT PALACE, Exeter:
Opened Whit Monday 16 May 1932; FREDRIC BAYCO at Wurlitzer for opening week only.
DOUGLAS WALKER (aged 20- Billed "Wonder Boy Organist") first resident, until about September 1933.
EDWARD HAROLD from September 1933 to September 1934. (See Cinema Organ, Summer 1990, No.165 for photo of Edward Harold probably taken at Regent, Swindon, where he was resident 1934-37, and enquiry about him {page 29). Watch "Off the Spike" for my reply, if printed.)
KENNETH ARTHUR from September 1934 until about 1936. He broadcast the organ in the West Regional programme.
HAROLD BALAAM succeeded Kenneth Arthur and gave two broadcasts in 1937 from Exeter. Nothing known of any other organists at Exeter.

An illuminated surround was added to the console in the mid-1930s.

The Gaumont was damaged by bombs on 4 May 1942; the Console was destroyed but the pipework etc was saved. The cinema reopened on 24 May 1943.

It was reported in 1962 that the Wurlitzer had been removed by John Hayter for installation in a cinema at Crewkerne, Somerset, with the Console from the Tivoli, London. This project was abandoned in 1963.

In 1964 it was said that John Hayter hoped to rebuild the Wurlitzer in a house at Teignmouth, Devon but in 1968 it was reported that Kaye Gilbert of Yeovil had purchased the organ with the console from Regent, Ipswich. text

 

REGENT, IPSWICH (A PCT Theatre):
Wurlltzer No.2068 a 'Special Style 165" of 2 manuals 6units was despatched from North Tonawanda on 16 September 1929.
Regent opened on 4 November 1929. FRANK NEWMAN at the Wurlitzer; and he remained as resident until December 1930 with JOHN BENNETT as his assistant.
Frank Newman was succeeded by an organist named HAYWARD -one source says FRANK HAYWARD, another source says REGINALD HAYWARD.
HARRY FARMER appearing as "ANDREAS" was resident from October 1931 for 3 years.
H LISTER WALLWORTH was resident for about 18 months, c1934-36.
SIDNEY LAMBERT is also said to have played at Ipswich, but nothing is known of him.
HAROLD FLATMAN was resident during the war and until about 1946 or 1947.
The Wurlitzer was removed in 1961 by George Barlow who used the main chamber (Diapason, Salicional, Trumpet) in a church in Essex. The Flute and a 3-rank chest with blower and percussions went to a residence organ, and the Tibia and Vox Humana pipework to another residence. Kaye Gilbert had the console.
The REGENT was later renamed GAUMONT. In 1987 it became the ODEON when the Odeon, Ipswich, became a Top Rank Club. An illuminated surround was added to the Console in the mid 1930s

 

Recent History
In 1991 the Wurlitzer organ was purchased by Rob and Trish Chapman for installation in a small concert room at their business - Tom Thumb Nursery in Spalding.

The original 6 ranks were augmented by the addition of a Celeste, Kinura and Brass Trumpet, imported from the USA. An upright player piano was also installed. The organ was meticulously restored and installed in a purpose built chamber by Chris Booth of Spalding.

Between 1991 and 1994 the organ was used for public concerts at Tom Thumb Nursery, but sadly the organ fell into disuse, and from 1994 to 2002 was virtually unused. For a number of years the organ had been advertised for sale, and due to the closure of the Nursery, and an impeding sale of the property, the organ had to be removed. Rob Chapman agreed to sell the organ to The Burtey Fen Collection, and its removal began during the last week of July 2002. By 1st August all parts were safely removed and in storage at The Burtey Fen Collection. Installation began almost immediately, and the organ is now in full operation.

The opening concert was given on 31st December 2003 by International Theatre Organist Simon Gledhill. A packed audience enjoyed a wide variety of music by Richard Rogers, and the organ was on its best behaviour throughout the concert! Future concerts will feature both the Compton and Wurlitzer pipe organs.

 

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