British Organ Archive

Scope and Content

The British Organ Archive (formerly English Organ Archive) (BOA) is an archive relating to organs and organ builders and which has been accumulated under the auspices of the British Institue of Organ Studies (BIOS).

The BOA includes a large collection of business records of organ builders which include minutes, estimate books, order books, accounts, contracts, correspondence, employees records and technical drawings. Many of the sequence of these business records are incomplete. A substantial proportion of the BOA comprises technical drawings, principally from Hill, Norman & Beard (including its pre-amalgamation constituents, Hill & Son and Norman & Beard) and from Jardine & Co. The Hill Norman & Beard drawings relate to about 1800 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. Only about half of the main orders are accompanied by drawings.

The records of organ builders in the BOA comprise as follows:

Bellsham Pipe Organs, organ builders: records, 1997-2007; Bevington & Sons of London: organ builders: work book, 1905-31; Blackett & Howden of Newcastle-on-Tyne, organ builders: estimate, order and wage books, 1902-16; Cousans & Co of Lincoln, organ builders: account books, 1917-75; A. E. Davies Ltd of West Drayton, Middlesex: records, 20th cent; Grant, Degens & Bradbeer of Northampton, organ builders: drawings, contract files and other papers, 1960-81; Gray & Davison of London, organ builders: order books, shop books, ledgers, accounts, wage book, tuning registers, metal shop book, wood pipes book, 1821-1945; Griffen & Stroud of Bath, organ builders: order book, summary day book, enquiry book, diary of proprietor, 1913-45; Hill, Norman & Beard of London and Lewes, organ builders: minutes, estimate books, draft specifications, order books, contracts, drawings, 1916-73; William Hill & Son of London, organ builders: letter books, Elliot & Hill partnership accounts, shop books, drawings, 1829-1916; Hope-Jones & Co of Norwich, organ builders: estimate and order books, 1889-1901; Ingram & Co of Hereford, organ builder: letter book, 1920s; Jardine & Co of Manchester, organ builders: order books, accounts, contracts, drawings, 1845-1976; T. C. Lewis & Co of London, organ builders: microfilm copies of order book, shop books, accounts, letter books and opus list, 1883-1919; Liddiatt & Sons of Leonard Stanley (Glos), organ builders: account books 1919-40; Nicholson & Co Ltd, organ builders: correspondence, 1928-39; Norman & Beard of Norwich, organ builders: order books, drawings, pipe scale books, 19th-20th cent ; Noterman & Co of London, organ builders: records, 1970-75; Osmond & Co (formerly J. E. Minns) of Taunton, organ builders: accounts, 1890-1934; Pendlebury Organ Co of Leigh (Lancashire), organ builders: register of organs built, 1899-1993; Pipecraft of Norfolk, organ pipe makers: pipe scale charts, 1967-2004; Charles Smethurst of Manchester, organ builders: correspondence, late 20th cent; Wadsworth & Co of Manchester, organ builders: shop books, accounts, 1861-1946; Henry Willis & Co of London, organ builders: order books, correspondence, accounts and glass slides, 1875-1933; Roger Yates of Michaelstowe, Bodmin, Cornwall, organ builder: drawings, mid-late 20th cent.

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 continetal European organs and organ cases and organ builders. These collections both supplement and complement the business archives in the BOA.

The records of these individuals in the BOA comprise 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 cent; Rev John Henry Burn, clergyman and organ scholar: notebooks, c 1874-75; John B. Dalby (1910-1987), organist: 'Memoirs about organs' and other papers, mid 20th cent; Rev Bernard Bruce Edmonds (1910-2003): research papers relating to British organ builders, specification notebooks, slides, correspondence, mid 20th cent; 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 cent; Willson Bradley Gatward (1856-1947), organist: specification notebooks and scapbook, c 1860-1937; Michael John Gillingham (1933-1999), organ adviser: consultation papers, photographs and prints, 20th cent; M. G. Hallowes: specification notebook, mid 20th cent; Sidney W. Harvey (fl 1920s),organ scholar: notebooks, glass slides and other papers, early-mid 20th cent; Frank Haycraft (fl 1900s-1920s), organ observer: specification notebook, mid 20th cent; Marie Higginbottom: research notes on G. M. Holdich, organ builder, mid 20th cent; Holt family of Cambridge: specification notebooks of D. J. Holt, 1890s-1950s, C. Holt, 1920s-1980s and Edward Holt, 1920s-1980s; Joshua Robert Knott: (fl 1970s-1980s), organ researcher: research papers and publication on Brindley & Foster, late 20th cent; (James) Henry Leffler (1761-1819), organist: specification notebook, early 19th cent; John Gilbert Mills (b 1894), organist: specification notebooks, mid 20th cent Derek Moore-Hepplestone: notebooks, 20th cent; Canon Arthur Gordon Westwood Paget (1893-1989), Anglican clergyman and pioneer in organ conservation : albums, notebooks and correspondence, 20th cent Donald Penrose (fl 1920s-1930s), organist: scrap albums of cuttings, early-mid 20th cent; Eduard R. Robbins (d c 1988), architectural designer and draughtsman: correspondence, postcards, notes and research papers including material relating to the organ builders, T. C. Lewis; Michael Sayer (1934-2010), organist and organ historian: collection of papers and cuttings from rare newspapers, late 19th cent; Harold Thomas Scull (1898-1971), organist: specification notebooks and cathedral notebooks, early 20th cent; Rev John Hanson Sperling (1825-1894), Anglican clergyman and antiquary: microform copies of note books, mid 19th cent; G. B. Taylor: specification and other notebooks, mid 20th cent; F. Dennis Walker (fl 1933-1982) of Manchester, organ builder: specification books mainly relating to north-west England, 1933-82; Michael J. Watcham (fl 1980s) of Maidstone: notes and photographs of organs mainly relating to Kent, late 20th cent; Mary Wilkinson: specification sheets, mid 20th cent; Roy Williamson (b 1937) of Cheltenham, organist and organ scholar: reports, papers and photographs of redundant organs, late 20th cent; David Woodford: specification notebooks, 1948-70; Donald Wright (d 2005), organ consultant and adviser: consultancy papers, late 20th cent.

In addition, the BOA also includes an artificial collection made by BIOS of organ builder folders which have been created during the sorting of the other collections which make up the BOA. This material comprises an alphabetical sequence of largely printed and publicity material produced by or relating to the work of more than 350 organ builders and which include catalogues and opus lists as well as programmes and orders of services.

Finally, the BOA includes books about organs and organ builders, periodicals and a number of unpublished theses. These include complete sets of publications of BIOS including 'BIOS Reporter', a quarterly newsletter for its 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.'


The British Organ Archive, and its handlist, has been organised into two parts: Primary Sources and Secondary Sources. The Pimary Sources comprise the business records of organ builders. The Secondary Sources have been subdivided to include the personal records of researchers, collectors and others relating to organs; the organ builders folders; and the organ related publications.

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: