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The Story of Aeolian Pipe Organ Op. 1458
Installed in the Music Room of Paul Morris in Exeter, Devon, UK.

Part One:

Commissioned in 1919 by Walter H. Langshaw of New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA, - 1458 cost $27,900 or about £6000. With tax and import duty had the organ come to England, in today's money this would be about two and a half million pounds. The organ was made in Garwood, New Jersey and erected in May 1920.

Mr Langshaw had emigrated from England at an early age and through hard work and no doubt some good fortune, he worked his way from shop floor to manager of the Dartmouth Manufacturing Corporation. Known locally as “the miracle man” because of his uncanny ability to predict the direction of the stock market, he died in 1959 at the age of 88.

Mr. Langshaw was a keen amateur organist, and was no doubt encouraged to indulge his taste in specification when the stop list was decided upon. Although nowhere near the largest organ the Aeolian Company made (the Dupont organ of 146 ranks in Longwood Gardens was their biggest) it was considerably larger than their most common jobs of two manuals and nine ranks. 1458 has 3 manuals and currently 27 ranks playing. A three rank Echo division was prepared for but never installed. The full specification would have had 2020 pipes. Originally the organ spoke into the main entrance hall from three large tone exits and two smaller lunettes. The results must have been stunning.

By 1966 the organ had made its way to the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in New Bedford and seems never to have been very satisfactory. The church authorities, headed by Ernest Scholze, commissioned the advice of Henri Lahaise & Son at this time, and were advised that the organ was in need of “extensive repairs” which could cost in the region of $18,000, and further noted that “even in fine condition, you would still have an organ that does not avail itself to [sic] church music” It seems likely that not much work was done on the organ, and various “field repairs” and patching up were done throughout the next twenty years by anyone who could be persuaded to have a go.

In June 1987 the church must have given up on this organ, because it was removed by Jim Russell for a restoration project that did not take place. It was stored in his New Hampton home for the next 14 years until it came to my attention via Dave Kerr as a posting on the MMD. I bought it in December 2001, when Paul Collenette and myself embarked on one of the craziest and best adventures of my life so far.

© Paul Morris 2009