About Organ

 

The Walker Report
Rutt organ at All Saints’ Church, Higham Park

Further to my recent visit, I was glad of the opportunity to see this historically interesting instrument.

The organ is attributed to R. Spurden Rutt, a comparatively local (Leyton-based) Company who enjoyed – at one time an international reputation.

Robert Spurden Rutt was apprenticed to Alfred Kirkland, based at that time in North London, thereby inheriting traditions that reach back indefinitely through the British industry. Rutt was established in business on his own account from around 1899 and his firm incorporated in 1930. Major new Instruments were built for the Wesley chapel, City Road, the church of St. Magnus, London Bridge, and the City Temple. A number of instruments were exported to Australia and to Jamaica following an earthquake in the early part of the last century. The old Bevington organ at St. Martin in the Fields was rebuilt (replaced altogether by Walker in 1990). A well maintained example of a ‘middle period’ Rutt can be seen at St. Cyprian’s church, Clarence Gate.

R.Spurden Rutt & Co. was acquired by JW Walker & Sons following Rutt’s retirement in 1959. A great part of the Rutt legacy is in the form of extension work – based on a now unfashionable system whereby several speaking stops are derived from a single rank of pipes – but until this style became popular in the 1950s and 1960s the instruments were designed around conventional technologies; first with mechanical, later pneumatic and, ultimately, electro-pneumatic actions, even then with traditional slider and bar soundboards.

Through accidents of timing the firm was established in the declining years of the classical English tradition and a number of the most ambitious instruments were made in the musically rather dark period of the 1930s it is possible that the firm does not at present enjoy the reputation it deserves.

The organ at All Saints’, Higham Park is recorded (National Pipe Organ Register, based on information provided in 1994) as having been built in 1910. Although the address is given as Selwyn Avenue, this is clearly from the specification given the instrument that stands at the present All Saints, Church Avenue.

If the organ has been moved – in whole or in part – from an earlier church in Selwyn Avenue, this seems likely to have occurred before 1978, when the older building was demolished. An inscription on the lower panelling refers to restoration work carried out in 1941; this does not refer to the organ having been moved or acquired from elsewhere, so the instrument was almost certainly in the present All Saints’ by then.

However, there is a possibility that the organ was not entirely new even in 1910 and that it incorporated part of an earlier instrument. It is certainly possible that the oak enclosure around the lower part of the organ post-dates the original instrument. The construction has little architectural relationship with the simple arrangement of front pipes above, but it is slightly deeper than the case front proper, allowing space for pneumatic front pipe actions to be fitted outside the line of the front pipes. This encourages one to think that the organ as presently configured evolved from a smaller instrument with mechanical key action. If so, the reconstruction with pneumatic action would have been typical of the early 1900s and the introduction of pneumatic Octave and Sub-octave couplers (the stop controls for these are sited in the upstand, above the Swell keys, rather than with the drawstops in the angled jambs) would have been a popular addition. The Swell to Great unison coupler is mechanical and positioned in the treble end stop jamb.

The first and only surviving records we have – as detailed in the attached scans from the Order Book for 1961- relate to a general overhaul of the organ as it exists.

On a point of detail, the earlier ‘trigger’ Swell pedal has been replaced with a balanced mechanism at some point, possibly before the 1961 works.

The organ as it stands is an unusual survivor from Rutt’s earlier period. Given its proximity to the original manufacturers’ workshops, this specific organ might be considered to have an enhanced historic importance. Certainly, restored to playing order, it would make a decent liturgical instrument and be adaptable to a good part of the repertoire.

It is worth noting that an equivalent new organ – i.e. with 10 speaking stops – would cost approximately £170,000.00 net at current prices. Perhaps it is therefore possible to think of either restoration or of reconstruction, merging some modern technologies with what exists, both as viable alternatives to replacement.

These considerations are important because, if it is intended that repairs should be the subject of grants from organisations whose interest is purely in conservation of historic artefacts, some form of restoration is probably the only way to proceed.

Otherwise - and if practical considerations are felt to override historic ones - it might be more realistic to convert the key actions to electric primary system. This would make the instrument less susceptible to derrangement by modern heating regimes and would allow MIDI interface to be incorporated, so that the organ could be played from other keyboard instruments - or vice versa - and used in conjunction with record / playback / notation software via a laptop computer.

We would be equally pleased to embark on either project, if so instructed. I have attached a brief description of the work required and note of the price in each case.

I hope that this helps; do please call to discuss. Yours sincerely,

Sabastian Meakin (Director) 

 

 THE ALL SAINTS ORGAN - A HISTORY
To get the ball rolling towards restoration and the revival of our church organ, it was first necessary to get to the bottom of exactly what it was, who made it and if it was of any special significance in the world of organs.
 
After quite a lot of research, consultation and ferreting through archives the story of the All Saints organ emerged. We hope you will enjoy learning about the organ and those involved in its construction.  
 
It turns out the organ was built in 1910 by a local company – R. Spurden Rutt – which was based in Leyton. At one time, the firm had an international reputation in organ construction. The eponymous head of the company, Robert Spurden Rutt, was born not too far away at Purleigh Hall, near Morland in Essex. His father was a warden at the parish church there and his mother played the church organ. Perhaps this inspired his love of the instrument.
(From Grace's Guide to British Industrial History)
 
The organ at All Saints, Highams Park, is recorded (in the National Pipe Organ Register, based on information provided in 1994) as having been built in 1910. Although the address in the records is given as Selwyn Avenue, this is clearly – from the specification given – the instrument that stands at the present All Saints Church in Church Avenue.
 
If the organ was moved – in whole or in part – from an earlier church in Selwyn Avenue, this seems likely to have occurred before 1978, when the older building was demolished. An inscription on the lower panelling on the organ refers to restoration work carried out in 1941; this does not refer to the organ having been moved or acquired from elsewhere, so the instrument was almost certainly in the present church by then.
 
Some more about the man in charge of the firm that built the organ: Rutt officially entered the organ-building world when he was apprenticed for four years to Alfred Kirkland, who was based at that time in north London. Working there, Rutt absorbed the traditions that stretch back through British organ-building industry.
 

 
Rutt established his own business from around 1899. The firm prospered and, in 1911, he was awarded the Gold Medal at the Crystal Palace Festival of Empire Exhibition. In 1930, his firm became a limited company and, by the outbreak of World War II, he had built nearly one hundred instruments.
 
Among his major commissions were new instruments for the Wesley Chapel in City Road, the Church of St Magnus at London Bridge and the City Temple on Holborn Viaduct. A number of instruments were exported to Australia and, following an earthquake in the early part of the last century, to Jamaica to replace organs that were lost. A well-maintained example of a ‘middle period’ Rutt can be seen at St Cyprian’s Church, Clarence Gate.
 
In 1959, R. Spurden Rutt & Company was acquired by another firm, J.W. Walker & Sons, following Rutt’s retirement. 
 
Now for a technical bit: a great part of the Rutt legacy is in the form of extension work – based on a now unfashionable system whereby several speaking stops are derived from a single rank of pipes. However, until this style became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, the instruments were designed around conventional technologies, originally with mechanical, then pneumatic and ultimately electro-pneumatic actions, even then with traditional slider and bar soundboards.
 
 
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