Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Thanks to jeremyb's comments on this photo, I've been able to track down the whereabouts of the organ that used to be in the Harringay Coliseum cinema.

It was acquired by Hall Place Museum in Bexley around 1980. I spoke to Hannah Kay, the curator there this morning. It seems that the organ languished in pieces until finally they decided that they'd have to pass it on to another museum. However, they couldn't find a taker and were relieved when a private collector and restorer took an interest. Sadly, he's disappeared from the scene and the organ is still languishing in the museum stores. It's taking up 40 sq. feet and so as you can imagine they're keen to get rid of it. So, if anyone wants an old cinema organ for free, call Hannah.

She warned that if they can't find a taker, at some point it'll have to go. I didn't ask any more about it, but I imagine that means that it'll just have to go, no matter where.

Whilst talking with Hannah, I learned that the reason they had a particular interest in the organ is that it was the first organ to be installed in a cinema in the UK. Shame how it's ended up. Apparently it was last played in 1929.

The organ was offered to Bruce Castle Museum, but, understandably, they felt the project was too big for them. They were however sent a pack of info which I'll chase up with them.

So, in summary the landmark organ that was in the Harringay Coliseum has somehow survived, but it is in mortal danger!

Tags for Forum Posts: Harringay's cinemas

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A few years ago there was a Radio 4 programme all about a place in Poland being the organ repair centre of the world. Something about a UK church linking up with the place to restore the church organ. Nowhere else could (or would) do it. Happy endings all round.
Hornsey Journal has covered this story here
I say.

Have added a grateful thanks to Jeremyb who set me on the right track.

A little more on this here.

Following my 2009 contact with Hall Place Museum (see original post), I was delighted to get the following in my HoLMail this afternoon from newish member Richard Hadingham (and reproduced with Richard's permission). Having picked up the details from this post, Richard has followed up and is determined to rescue the organ.:

Hello Hugh,

I have just spoken with the Curator of Hall Place House, Bexley, regarding the Rest Cartwright cinema organ ex-Coliseum, Harringay, and was delighted, not to mention very relieved, to learn that it is still in existence and (relatively) safely in store there. I was told, however, that the instrument does not fit in with their current collections policy and that they are ultimately looking towards re-housing it, preferably to another Museum.

Perhaps rather rashly I have offered to assist in any way I can, for which they appeared to be very grateful.  I do have a couple of possibilities in mind, so we will have to see what transpires.  I will, of course, keep you informed of any further developments.




P.S.  So far as I can ascertain, Rest Cartwright built four other cinema/theatre organs besides the Coliseum instrument:  The Grand Kinema, Edgware Road, London; Terry's Theatre Cinema, Strand, W.C.; Putney Bridge Cinema and Putney Cinema, Upper Richmond Road.  It is highly unlikely that any of these have survived, thereby making the ex-Coliseum instrument doubly unique, being also the first ever cinema organ to be installed in the UK. 

For those who would like to experience the thrill and drama of a state-of-the-art Wurlitzer cinema organ in a large original super-cinema building, there is an exciting weekend of events happening at the Troxy next month:

Thanks John. I've flagged up those events in a new post. (And thanks to Mick for stirring the pot!)

I am surprised I know nothing of Rest Cartwright and this organ. As a relative of Felix Aprahamian I always thought I was well informed.

My question is this, Is this a cinema organ, or a church organ that ended up in a cinema. They are different things. Was it voiced like a Wurlitzer or Christie? The pipes are very different in these organs. A straight church organ does not work well in the cinema.



Mick Berg.

It would have been a church type instrument. Many early cinemas had straight organs installed before the advent of the cinema (theatre) organ as we know it. The first organ in a cinema that was recognisably theatrical was probably the Compton in the Shepherds Bush Pavilion (1923). The first Wurlitzers began to be shipped over here from the USA in 1924-5, and the first Christie theatre organ dated from 1926. The most recent Wurlitzer to be (re-)installed is the largest ever to be imported into Europe, originally installed in the Trocadero, Elephant and Castle, re-installed as a slightly enlarged instrument in August 2015 in the Troxy, Limehouse.

Hello Mr Leeming. Good to hear from you.

Yes that is the story I heard, that it was a regular church organ pressed into service in the cinema.

I had a connection through my family to Mr Norman of Hill, Norman and Beard, makers of the Christie cinema organs, who had premises on Hornsey High St.  I went there for a job interview but by that time (maybe 1965) business was so minimal that they could not offer me anything.

Mick Berg

Pictures of the Coliseum organ along with other Rest Cartwright ephemera here

I wonder if this organ is still at Hall Place 8 years on?



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