British Organ Archive

Scope and Content

he British Organ Archive (formerly English Organ Archive) is an extensive collection of records and publications relating to organs and organ builders which has been accumulated under the auspices of the British Institute of Organ Studies (BIOS).

The bulk of the BOA comprises business records of various organ builders, including minutes, estimate books, order books, accounts, contracts, correspondence, employee records and technical drawings. The technical drawings are particularly extensive; they principally arise from the work of Hill, Norman and Beard (including its pre-amalgamation constituents, Hill and Son and Norman and Beard) and from Jardine and Co. The Hill, Norman and Beard drawings relate to about 1,800 locations spanning the period from the 1870s to the 1970s and were retained for reference when an organ was undergoing restoration or rebuilding in later years. Many of the sequences of these business records are incomplete. Records of the following organ builders are held in the Archive; the list below gives the date range of the records:

Bellsham Pipe Organs, [c 1997]-2007;
Bevington and Sons of London, 1905-1931;
Blackett and Howden of Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1902-1916;
Cousans and Co of Lincoln, 1917-1975;
Percy Daniel and Co, 1919-1941 (see 'Copies');
A. E. Davies Ltd of West Drayton, Middlesex, 20th century;
Forster and Andrews, 1844-1951 (see 'Copies');
Grant, Degens & Bradbeer of Northampton, 1960-c 1997;
Gray and Davison of London, 1821-1945;
Griffen and Stroud of Bath, c 1903-2015;
Harrison and Harrison, 1873-1929 (see 'Copies');
Hill, Norman and Beard of London and Lewes, 1916-1973;
Hill, William and Son of London (including Elliot & Hill partnership accounts), 1827-1916;
Hope-Jones and Co of Norwich, c 1889-1901;
Ingram and Co of Hereford
Jardine and Co of Manchester, 1845-1976;
Laycock and Bannister of Yorkshire, 1909-1916;
T. C. Lewis and Co of London, 1865-c 1922;
Liddiatt and Sons of Leonard Stanley (Glos), 1919-1940;
Nicholson and Co Ltd, c 1894-1939;
Norman and Beard of Norwich, 19th-20th century;
Noterman and Co of London, 1970-1975;
Osmond and Co (formerly J. E. Minns) of Taunton, 1890-1934;
Pendlebury Organ Co of Leigh (Lancashire), 1899-1983;
Pipecraft of Norfolk, organ pipe makers, 1967-2004;
Charles Smethurst of Manchester, 1950s-late 20th century;
Wadsworth and Co of Manchester, 1861-1946;
Henry Willis and Co of London, c 1872-1930s;
Roger Yates of Michaelstowe, Bodmin, Cornwall, mid-late 20th century.

In addition to the records of organ builders, there is a small sequence of records of individuals engaged in ancillary activities:
Donald Wright (d 2005), organ consultant and adviser: consultancy papers, late 20th century;
Downes, Ralph William (1904-1993), organ designer, scholar and organist: papers 1860s-1991;
Graebe, David (1937-2016), organ case designer: drawings, c 1982-c 2003

The BOA also includes personal records of antiquaries, scholars, organists and others relating to their interest in organs and organ builders. The material includes photographs, organ specification and other notebooks, scrap albums and research and other papers relating to both UK and continental European organs and organ cases and organ builders. These collections supplement and complement the business archives in the BOA. The records of these individuals are arranged as follows:
Ernest E. Adcock (fl 1913-1944), organ historian: notebooks, albums of cuttings, photograph albums, mid 20th cent;
Gilbert Benham (fl 1920s-50s), organ scholar: glass plate negatives of organ consoles, mid 20th century;
Rev John Henry Burn, clergyman and organ scholar: notebooks and miscellaneous papers, c 1874-1875;
John B. Dalby (1910-1987), organist: 'Memoirs about organs' and miscellaneous papers, mid 20th century;
Rev Bernard Bruce Edmonds (1910-2003): research papers relating to British organ builders, specification notebooks, slides, negatives, correspondence, predominantly mid 20th century;
Rev Andrew Freeman (1876-1947): papers relating to research on organ builders including his 'Records of British Organ builders, published in two parts and a card index compiled during the 1920s, notebooks, journals, photograph albums, correspondence, 20th century;
Willson Bradley Gatward (1856-1947), organist: specification notebooks and scapbook, c 1860-1925;
Michael John Gillingham (1933-1999), organ adviser: consultation papers, photographs and prints, 20th century;
M. G. Hallowes: specification notebook, mid 20th century;
Sidney W. Harvey (fl 1920s), organ scholar: notebooks, cuttings and lantern slides, early-mid 20th century;
Frank Haycraft (fl 1900s-1920s), organ observer: largely specification notebooks, mid 20th century;
Marie Higginbottom: research notes on G. M. Holdich, organ builder, mid 20th century;
Holt family of Cambridge: specification notebooks of D. J. Holt, 1890s-1950s, C. Holt, 1920s-1980s and Edward Holt, 1920s-1980s; Edmund Holt, 'A Compilation of some of Charles Holt's Writings on Organs'; index cards, correspondence
H. D. Hubble (fl early 20th cent): illustrated specification notebooks, 1914-c 1921;
John Hughes (fl 1960s), organ specification notebook, [1959-1980];
Joshua Robert Knott: (fl 1970s-1980s), organ researcher: research papers and publication on Brindley & Foster, late 20th century;
(James) Henry Leffler (1761-1819), organist: specification notebook, early 19th century;
John Gilbert Mills (b 1894), organist: specification notebooks, mid 20th century;
Derek Moore-Hepplestone: notebooks, 20th century;
Canon Arthur Gordon Westwood Paget (1893-1989), Anglican clergyman and pioneer in organ conservation : albums, notebooks and correspondence, 20th century;
Donald Penrose (fl 1920s-1930s), organist: albums of cuttings, early-mid 20th century;
Eduard R. Robbins (d c 1988), architectural designer and draughtsman: postcards, notes, correspondence and research papers including material relating to the organ builder T. C. Lewis, [1890s]-1980;
Michael Sayer (1934-2010), organist and organ historian: collection of papers and cuttings from rare newspapers, late 19th century;
Rev John Hanson Sperling (1825-1894), Anglican clergyman and antiquary: microform copies of note books, mid 19th century;
Frank Spencer Sutcliffe (1929-2016), teacher. organist and choirmaster: organ notebook, c 1971-2009;
G. B. Taylor: specification and other notebooks, mid 20th century;
F. Dennis Walker (fl 1933-1982) of Manchester, organ builder: specification books mainly relating to north-west England, 1933-[1982];
Mary Wilkinson: specification sheets, mid 20th century;
Roy Williamson (b 1937) of Cheltenham, organist and organ scholar: reports, papers and photographs of redundant organs, late 20th century;
David Woodford: specification notebooks, c 1953- c 1965.

In addition, the BOA includes artificial collections made by BIOS of 'organ builder folders' and 'organ location folders' which were created by the honorary archivist during the sorting of the other collections which make up the BOA. The organ builder folders comprise an alphabetical sequence of largely printed and publicity material produced by or relating to the work of organ builders and which include catalogues and opus lists as well as programmes and orders of services. The organ location folders comprise miscellaneous correspondence, leaflets, pamphlets, brochures and other printed material relating to individual organs arranged by BOA index number.

Finally, the BOA includes books about organs and organ builders, periodicals, offprints and unpublished theses including 'BIOS Reporter', a quarterly newsletter for BIOS members and the 'BIOS Journal' dating from 1977.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Institute of Organ Studies was founded in Cambridge in July 1976 with the specific aims as follows: 'to promote objective scholarly research into the history of the Organ in all its aspects, and, in particular into the history of the English Organ; to make the primary and secondary sources for the history of the English Organ more easily available to scholars; to work for the preservation and, where necessary, the faithful restoration of historic English organs; to sponsor exchanges between British and Foreign scholars of the Organ which may lead to wider appreciation of the English Organ in other countries, and to a greater understanding of the historic continental and colonial schools of organ building in this country.'


Up until October 2018, the British Organ Archive was arranged in five parts, according to an arrangement established prior to deposit in Cadbury Research Library:
/ business archives of firms, or individual, organ builders
/ personal records of antiquaries, scholars and others relating to their interest in organs and organ builders
/ organ builder folders
/ organ location folders
/ publications relating to organs and organ builders

An additional division was introduced in October 2018, such that the papers are now arranged in six parts, including:
/ records of individuals and businesses engaged in activities ancillary to organ building

Access Information

Some business archives are not currently accessible for research use and these access restrictions are indicated in the handlist: records of Bellsham Pipe Organs; records of Grant, Degens & Bradbeer Ltd

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the British Institute of Organ Studies, December 2010

Other Finding Aids

Please see the full catalogue for further details

Alternative Form Available

Many of the business archives are available on microfilm or microfiche and where copies exist, this is indicated in the handlist to the British Organ Archive

Custodial History

The British Organ Archive (formerly the English Organ Archive) was established at the Library of the University of Keele in 1974, through the good offices of Mr Stanley Stewart, (then University Librarian), and the late Dr Michael Sayer, (the first Hon. Archivist). It was removed to Birmingham Central Library in 1986 and placed under the protection of the Music Department, the head of which, Malcolm Jones, became Archivist. In 1996 the BOA was transferred to the Birmingham City Archives in the Central Libray. In 2010 the BOA was deposited with Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham. The collection is owned by the British Institute of Organ Studies.

Related Material

Business records of other organ builders are held by other archive services and include the records of Forster & Andrews, 1844-1951 held by Hull History Centre of which the BOA holds microfilm copies


The Freeman-Edmonds directory of British organ builders (DBOB) was published in 2002 in three volumes and is also available on disc. This work was begun by the Rev. Andrew Freeman, the work being continued after his death by the Rev. Bernard B. Edmonds and completed under the guidance of David Wickens a former BOA Archivist and organ historian. The DBOB lists every known organ builder within the British Isles since the Middle-ages until about the year 1955 and is the starting place for information about named organ-builders.

The National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR) at the Royal College of Music hosts an index to the material in the British Organ Archive and a Directory of British Organ Builders (up to 1950) and these can be searched on line: