Introduction to the DBOB

© The British Institute of Organ Studies2005 (BIOS)


This Directory aims to list every organ builder who ever worked in the British Isles, from the earliest times to the middle of the twentieth century. It is not a piece of research per se but rather a tool for researchers. Thus the information given is basic - names, dates, locations, addresses, cross references - with a list of sources from which the information is derived.

This first edition is undoubtedly incomplete; it will need correcting and expanding. It is hoped that those who use this work will supply information that may be used to correct and amplify a second edition.

The compiler has used the work of Andrew Freeman as a starting point - in particular, two (of many) subdivisions of his work: the Records of British Organ Builders, published in two parts and a card index written on the backs of church bazaar and concert tickets from 1925-26. This material, and much else of Andrew Freeman’s, has been deposited in the British Organ Archive by Bernard Edmonds. The latter has considerably extended the scope of Freeman’s work with research of his own - much of it published in the pages of The Organ, Musical Opinion, The Organ Club Journal, BIOS Journal and BIOS Reporter, etc. –and this has been made available to the compiler. These two scholars have laid the foundation of this Directory. Their work spans the whole of the 20th century. It is fitting, therefore, that their names should be attached to it.

Several other sources have been consulted by the compiler; many of these are themselves dependent on the work of Freeman and Edmonds (not always with proper acknowledgement). A list of sources is given in Appendix A. An attempt has been made to search Trades Directories in a systematic way. This has proved to be a much greater task than was originally envisaged: Kelly’s for instance, the most prolific producer of such Directories, published 4,899 volumes under 284 titles between 1850 and 1950! The compiler has searched about 2,000 directories, from the 1770s to 1950, from many different publishers. Many searches of the Census have been undertaken in order to provide basic information where it was lacking, or where there was uncertainty. These searches often reveal the existence of organ builders otherwise not known. The Census entries are given in Appendix B. The published volumes of Abridgements of British Patents have been searched for organ references. A summary of these is given in Appendix C.

The compiler is indebted to several researchers who have supplied information. In particular, Paul Tindall has made available his widespread searches of published sources, a list of which is included in the index of source material in Appendix A. Phil and Pam Fluke, curators of the Victorian Reed Organ Museum, have supplied copious information on reed organ builders. Herbert Norman has provided a comprehensive list of those who worked for Hill, Norman & Beard, together with much background information. Barbara Owen in the USA and John Maidment in Australia have produced much valuable information on British organ builders seemingly no longer available in Britain. Many other people have supplied information; they are credited in the references to the relevant entries.

The compilation of this Directory has been subsidised by a grant from The Arts Council of England, making possible a much more comprehensive survey than could otherwise have been contemplated - at least in the short term. Dr. Michael Sayers, Information Technology Officer of the British Institute of Organ Studies, and Paul Houghton, Manager of the National Pipe Organ Register, provided the computing facilities which have considerably lightened the labour, and they have made the DBOB available on Internet through the NPOR (


May 2000

Key to Directory

This publication consists of a directory divided into two parts – firms and persons – and appendices giving transcriptions of Census returns, alphabetical and chronological lists of patents, and a list of sources. Volume One contains the appendices and other administrative material, together with Part One of the Directory - firms listed alphabetically. Volumes Two and Three contain Part Two of the directory - persons listed alphabetically.

General The letters ‘F’ and ‘P’ signify ‘firm’ and ‘person’.

Firm Firms that are entirely in the name of one person, with no significant change of title, are listed under Persons. Those listed under Firms have histories in which the titles have changed at least once.

Person Individuals involved in some branch of organ building, including reed organ building, with cross references to Firms where appropriate. Variant spellings are given separate entries with cross references. Incorrect spellings that appear in the sources are also given separate entries with appropriate cross references.

Trade The commonest trade is, obviously, ‘organ builder’, signified by the abbreviation ‘ob’. Other trades include ‘pipe maker’, ‘tuner’, ‘patentee’, etc.

Principal Location Most usually the main centre of organ building activity of the person or firm is given. Occasionally this may extend to two or more locations.

Born/Died Approximate dates of birth, indicated by the letter ‘c’ after the date, are often derived from Census returns giving age rather than date of birth.

Established The date of the establishment of a firm sometimes refers to its predecessor.

Floruit The known active date(s) of the firm or person. The earliest date may predate the establishment of the organ builder’s firm, reflecting that he was at work in another firm before setting up his own business - as would be the normal course of events. As the information is based on evidence in the sources the floruit period given may be considerably shorter than it was in reality. Dates followed by the letter ‘D’ are those of trade directories and may, therefore, refer to information gathered the previous year.

Addresses These are frequently business addresses. Purely personal addresses are signified by the abbreviation ‘res’ (residence). When more than one address is given in a single source, those other than the main or first address are signified by the word ‘additional’. Occasionally there appears to be conflicting information about addresses, for example from different sources, in which case an address may be signified ‘alternative’. Dates followed by the letter ‘D’ are those of trade directories and may, therefore, refer to information gathered the previous year.

Titles These are the styles of firms’ titles as used officially - i.e. on letterheads, in publicity, in Directories, etc., with dates.

Sources These are references giving the sources of the information used in the entry. The intention is to provide researchers with starting points to be checked. No information is given in the Directory without a specific documentary reference. A few of Andrew Freeman’s references are not sourced but have been included, listed, for example, as ‘AF card - no ref’. Several different sources may ultimately lead back to a single source. The task of rationalising the sources is a large one that has yet to be tackled.


Notice to Researchers

Please supply information correcting errors and omissions.

It is essential that any information supplied is backed by a source. Please give the authorship, title, date, page number, etc., as appropriate.

Information about those involved in the making of pipe organs should be addressed to:

	The Editor DBOB
	British Organ Archive
	Archives Department
	Central Library
	Birmingham B3 3HQ

Information about those involved in the making of reed organs should be addressed to:

	The Curators
	Victorian Reed Organ Museum
	6 Albert Terrace
	Shipley BD18 4PS