Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)BOA
TitleBritish Organ Archive
Extentc 671 boxes, 4 planchest drawers, 10 shelves of books, 4 drawers of microfiche
DateEarly 19th century-2023
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DescriptionThe 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 (further details are given in the Handlist of the British Organ Archive, see 'Finding Aids' and 'Document' below):

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, 1916-1975;
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;
Norman and Beard of Norwich, 19th-20th century;
Noterman and Co of London, 1970-1975;
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-2013;
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.
ArrangementUp 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 ConditionsThe collection contains personal information of some living individuals. Access and use of this information is covered by the Cadbury Research Library 'Access to Archives and Manuscripts' declaration. In order to comply with Data Protection regulations, readers must abide by the terms of this declaration which applies to all collections held by the Cadbury Research Library.

Additional conditions apply to some of the papers in the British Organ Archive. Where records relating to living individuals are of a sensitive nature, further access restrictions have been applied to the records in the form of a closure period. Some papers are closed because they are too fragile to serve. Some unprocessed business archives are closed and not currently accessible for research.


Access conditions specific to particular collections in the BOA are indicated in the handlist.
Finding AidsA more detailed listing of the collection, which supplements the information in this overview, is available entitled 'Handlist of the British Organ Archive'. To see an online copy of the Handlist, click on the pdf link in the 'Document' field below; a paper copy of the Handlist is also available in Cadbury Research Library. The Handlist gives the Box number for records in the Archive; when requesting material in the Cadbury Research Library Reading Room, or placing an order for copies, please include the BOA Box number (see 'Access Conditions' above).

A list of the majority of drawings in the archive originating from the firms of William Hill and Son, Norman and Beard and Hill, Norman and Beard which was compiled by Chris Kearl (former BOA Honorary Archivist), is available as a pdf document attached to this catalogue record; the drawings in the list are held in BOA boxes 501-603. A brief listing of the contents of 3 further boxes, 605-607, is also attached (see 'Document' below). Further unlisted drawings of these and other firms are also held in the archive.

For researchers interested in a particular organ, please note that it is not possible to search the Handlist by name of organ. The Handlist is simply an expanded version of the overview given in the 'Description' field above and largely comprises a list of the organ builders whose records are held in the Archive with the type, date and extent of records available. However, as a result of a long-term project to index the records in the Archive undertaken by BIOS volunteers, there is a database available on CD for consultation in the Cadbury Research Library (last updated May 2017). The indexing means that it is sometimes possible to identify which of the records, papers and publications in the Handlist have information relating to a particular organ. The database contains entries for organ locations with cross links to primary source references, secondary source references and over 1,000 illustrations. It is also possible to search through the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR) which is available online through the website of the British Institute of Organ Studies (follow the link in the URL field below).

The book collection deposited with the British Organ Archive includes copies of periodicals published by the British Institute of Organ Studies. Indexes to the BIOS Journal and BIOS Reporter are available online through the BIOS website at
DocumentBOA additional papers of Ralph William Downes received 2023.pdf
BOA Handlist.pdf
BOA drawings in records of Hill & Son; Norman & Beard; Hill, Norman & Beard BOA Boxes 501-603.pdf
BOA drawings from the archives of Hill & Son, Norman & Beard and HNB BOA Boxes 605-607.pdf
Access StatusOpen, but subject to some access restrictions
Administrative HistoryThe 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.'
Custodial HistoryThe British Organ Archive (formerly the English Organ Archive) was established at the Library of the University of Keele in 1974, through Mr Stanley Stewart, then University Librarian, and the late Dr Michael Sayer (the first Honorary Archivist). It was removed to Birmingham Central Library in 1986 and placed under 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 Library. Work to appraise, list and re-box the collection was continued by Chris Kearl, (BOA Honorary Archivist to September 2013), when the collection was transferred to Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham in 2010. The collection is owned by the British Institute of Organ Studies.

Records of Nicholson and Co and Nicholson and Lord, previously housed by the Cadbury Research Library, are now held by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (moved July 2022).

Records of George Osmond and Co. of Taunton (formerly J. E. Minns and Co.), previously housed by the Cadbury Research Library, are now held by Somerset Archive and Local Studies Service (moved March 2023).

Issues of 'The Organ' dating from after 1982 were withdrawn by BIOS in November 2022. Issues of of 'Musical Times' were withdrawn by BIOS in November 2022.
AcquisitionDeposited by the British Institute of Organ Studies in December 2010, with ongoing accruals.
OriginalsThe records of Forster and Andrews are held by Hull History Centre (Hull City Archives: GB 049); the records of Harrison & Harrison are held by Durham County Record Office (GB 032 D/Ha).
CopiesMany of the business archives within the British Organ Archive are also available on microfilm or microfiche and the glass plate negatives in the Andrew Freeman collection and some of the negatives in the Gilbert Benham collection are available on CD. Where such copies exist this is indicated in the Handlist to the British Organ Archive. In the majority of instances, both the original records and the copies are held by Cadbury Research Library; the exceptions to this are the records of Forster and Andrews, of Harrison and Harrison and of Percy Daniel and Co for which Cadbury Research Library holds only micropublished copies, the originals being held elsewhere. Digital copies of all of the glass plates in the British Organ Archive are held by Cadbury Research Library and these are made available for the purpose of research in lieu of the originals.

Some publications may be available on open access websites. 'Dictionary of organs and organists' 1912 amd 1921 available online at the Internet Archive (
Related MaterialDigital copies of glass plate negatives of photographs taken by Rev Andrew Freeman and subsequently photographed by Greg Chandler can be seen through Cadbury Research Library online archive catalogue (enter 'Freeman' as the finding number).
Associated MaterialsRecords of Osmond and Co, previously held by the Cadbury Research Library, are now held by Somerset Archives and Local Studies Service.
Records of Nicholson and Co and Nicholson and Lord, previously held by the Cadbury Research Library, are now held by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, The Hive, Worcester, July 2022 (GB 045).
The National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR) hosts an index to the material in the British Organ Archive, and a Directory of British Organ Builders up to 1950; these can be searched on line at
'Records of Daniel and Co Ltd and Cawston Organs of Clevedon, 1938-2005 are held at Somerset Archives and Local Studies: Somerset Heritage Centre (finding number: A/ELY).
Publication NoteThe 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) 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 online.

A facsimile of the Leffler manuscript was published in 2010: ‘The Leffler manuscript: facsimile edition’, Henry Leffler, Peter Williams and BIOS.


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