This unique 49 keyless fairground organ was designed and built by Thomas Sheffield of Olton near Solihull. The maintenance of church organs was Thomas’ main occupation, the business having been established by his father in the 1920’s.
The construction of the organ was started to provide work during slack periods. Work proceeded intermittently, but by the time Thomas retired the organ was still incomplete.
At this point the organ nearly got dismantled, but the well known mechanical organ restorer, Andrew Whitehead of Luddington near Stratford on Avon, persuaded Thomas to complete the organ. The organ was originally intended to be operated by pinned barrel, but, at the suggestion of Andrew Whitehead, who supplied the keyframe, it was completed as a pneumatically operated “book” playing organ, using the standard 48 keyless scale with one extra register. It was first played in April,1991.
There are 212 pipes in the organ, the longest being 3.5 metres long, with the smallest having a speaking length of 25 millimetres. The eight metal bass trombones were made specially for the organ by Nicholsons of Malvern, who are church organ builders. The longest pipes are mitred several times so they fit in the case.
The organ is entirely operated by wind supplied by a blower. A most unusual feature is the air motor which drives the transport rollers in the keyframe---a system usually found in player pianos.
Although there are only two register controls---Forte (which brings on trombone and piccolo) and Trumpet register, manually operated sliders can be used to cancel the trombone, trumpet, and piccolo ranks. With these ranks silent, the organ will play as a mellow violin/bourdon instrument.
Although the melody bourdons do not have a register control, they can be “locked on” to play solo when low volume is important, or set to play at random. In the latter mode, each time the trumpet register is set a device is advanced which sets the bourdons at various times. The bourdons may be selected at different times each time a book of music is played. A tremulant can be manually set which will operate with the bourdons.
The ornate façade was made and decorated by D.B.Jones of Stratford on Avon. Co-incidentally, my David Leach concert organ, Earl of Warwick, has a façade from the same maker, having spent its’ early years in Warwickshire.
The two seductive female figures were each carved from a single block of lime wood, including the base.
The Bandmaster was supplied by Andrew Whitehead.
Although he remains in good health, with advancing years, Thomas decided that he wanted a smaller organ which would be easier to manage, and on Monday 24th May, 2004, I purchased the organ, with my 31 note Alan Pell hand turned organ passing to Thomas in part exchange.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information.
Melody 22 notes
Accompaniment 12 notes.
Bass 8 notes.
Air Pressure 9 inches Water Gauge.
Bourdons (with chimney)
Piccolo (top twelve notes)
Octave Open Rank