Robert Hope-JonesRobert Hope-Jones (1859-1914), Father of The Theatre Organ









wurlitzerandlenrawleClick here to hear Len Rawle play the Isle of Mann Wurlitzer Organ

The Isle of Man Wurlitzer Organ has an interesting history and has been installed in several locations since being built at the Wurlitzer Factory at Tonawanda, N.Y. and its arrival in England in 1929.  Originally, the Organ was to be installed at the Marlborough Cinema Holloway, but once it arrived, it was deemed too small for this cinema and was installed instead at the smaller City Cinema Leicester where it remained until 1957 when it was removed and put into storage.

The Organ was later purchased to replace the Walsall Wurlitzer Organ, which had been the first Wurlitzer Theatre Organ exported to Britain (2 Manuals, 6 Ranks) in 1925 for installation at the Picture House Walsall and later installed at Dormston House, Sedgely, Staffs. 

Once installed at Dormston House, the organ soon became well-known to listeners of The Organist Entertains on BBC Radio 2 with Brian Sharp playing it.

Click here to hear Brian Sharp playing The Wurlitzer Organ

In 1989, the Organ was sold to the Government of the Isle of Mann (in Manx, the island is known as Ellan Vanninand installed at Summerland where it remained until 2004 when the venue closed.   Following this, the organ was fully restored by Mr. Len Rawle and installed in the Villa Marina complex on the island.

Isle of Man CollageThe Isle of Mann: known for its symbol, tail-less cats and TT Races amongst other things


I received the following comment from Mr. Len Rawle regarding The Isle of Man Wurlitzer Organ:

The IOM installation in the Summerland Leisure Centre sadly was not satisfactory, as the chambers were in a position where they could not be heard by the organist!  I was called in to advise on whether the organ was worth saving ……… since they were planning to demolish Summerland!

Originally the Organ consisted of 2 Manuals and 8 Ranks, but the organist, Brian Sharp, had a third keyboard and an English-made English Horn Rank added to the Organ together with various additional electronic sounds such as a String Bass, Tympani and Orchestral Violins.

The authorities of The Isle of Man were very keen on preservation and I was delighted when they agreed with me that the organ should be put back to its original specification and overall appearance.  I did however decide to review the possibility of keeping the added Rank once I had the chance of hearing it in its new home.

It took seven years to decide on, and eventually completely rebuild its new home, the Villa Marina Arcade in Douglas. My specification for the Organ chambers and the new performance area were all accepted and we have ended up with one of the most attractive settings for local theatre organ concerts in the UK.  The acoustics are excellent and there is room for up to two hundred people to be seated in the audience area.  In addition, the illuminated pipework can be viewed through large glass panels and the Organ is now housed in a temperature-controlled environment, which of course, greatly assists stable tuning.

The English Horn has been re-voiced as a Trumpet and this fits in much better with the original 8 Ranks.    The two-manual Console has been extensively refurbished and returned, as closely as possible, to its original French-style and natural wood finish with gold gilding.

It is an installation of which I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity of restoring and saving.  I continue to maintain it on a 6-monthly basis.    In addition to its fortnightly use by The Friends of the IOM Wurlitzer, the Organ is used during a number of major concert opportunities each year.

Len Rawle


Click here to watch John Leeming’s video, A Wurlitzer at the Troxy!



I would also like to thank Mr. Len Rawle M.B.E. for allowing his communication to appear here.


  1. Don Watson

    I was very interested in your well researched and informative piece about Granada Theatres and their association with theatre organs. Granadas were always my favourite cinemas!

    I knew the Century, Cheam Village very well and can confirm that you are correct in saying that it was not equipped with an organ. The cinema was small and rather intimate, seating 1000 people. The interior was totally different from the Granada style and I was never convinced that it was built as a Granada cinema. It was, I think, the first Granada to bear the Century name.

    Best wishes

    Don Watson

  2. Alan Ashton

    Re the photo of Doreen Chadwick seated at un-identified Compton, it is (was) fact the Regal /Odeon Sunderland taken in 1981. I was present and took shots in colour. Congratulations on your web pages. Quality and presentation is of the highest standard.

    1. Charles Post author

      Alan: Thank you very much for identifying the Compton Organ’s site. I am very grateful for the information. Charles

  3. Ms Hazel Brooks

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through this, thank you. I can confirm that Reginald Dixon did indeed open the Kingston upon Thames Granada Wurlitzer as he told us so himself at the 50th birthday concert of that cinema, I was there! Kingston is my home town and I remember walking past the Granada one day and to my surprise and horror saw a van parked at the stage end of the building with the organ console already loaded. The sale appeared to have happened quite quickly with no notification and I know not where it went or what happened to it, can`t remember the date either and didn`t have a camera on me (damn!). All gone now, swept away with the bus garage and Kinema-as-was in the sites` modernisation.

    Thank you Charles, I honestly thought that the dear old Granada Kingston had gone with the rest of the re-development. It`s quite a few years since I have been in Kingston, but I cut my teeth on the Granada there when I saw and heard George Blackmore on the organ. That was the first of my many concert visits which took me all over the place for quite a few years. Sadly the venues closed down one by one and organs disappeared till eventually I gave it up. I saw many famous organists from yesteryear and I remember that at the anniversary concert at the Gaumont State Kilburn they practically went on bended knees trying to persuade Sydney Torch to attend and play, but he would have none of it. I loved that organ, spinning away as it appeared from the stage. I have just finished reading the pages you mentioned and it was nice to hear a broadcast by Dudley Beaven, I like his playing. I thought after writing my piece it was most probably the “40th” when Reg Dixon was at Kingston again, 1979 sounds about right and that was when I was most active so to speak. Happy days and gone forever.

    I also remember such organists as Ena Baga, Florence De Jong, Doreen Chadwick, Reginald Dixon, Noel Briggs, Bobby Pagan, H Robinson Cleaver, Robin Richmond, David Hamilton, Sydney Gustard, Reginald Porter-Browne, John Mann, Phil Kelsall, Robert Wolfe, George Blackmore…………to name but a few. Doubtless others will tumble into my head from time to time, that`s how it works. Yes I saw and heard a lot of the great old names and only just in time in some cases.

    My dad was born in “The Borough” in South London just up the road from the Elephant and Castle and would often reminisce about Quentin McLean (Mac) at the Trocadero Wurlitzer. He also spoke of William Davis.


  4. Paul Bland

    Great website. However, I’m a little curious as to why you have included my photograph of the former Granada, Rugby a) without asking me and b) wrongly attributing it to Andrew Petcher. I’d be interested to know.



  5. Paul Bland

    Hello Charles, Just noting for the record that your ‘mistake’ was made in good faith as you had been mis-informed by the person claiming that photograph. I’m pleased that it led us to make contact and so enabled me to make a small contribution to this excellent body of work.

  6. ton bezemer

    Great webside, well done
    Shame most of these buildings have gone.
    Luckilly I went to several of the mighty Granada theatres. I´ve always like their fantastic 8 rank Wurlitzers, small in size but what a sound specially at Clapham. In june 1976 we went on our push bike from the north east of Londen to the Granada at Kingston. The organist was Reginald Porter Brown who waited for five minutes to start as we were late as it was a bit further then we thought! We were anounced as the crazy family from Holland who came on their push bikse to the concert. Many other visits followed but then on my bmw motorbike, never came late again.
    Ton Bezemer

  7. Tony Storey

    Hi Charles, great site and so much to explore.

    I am pleased to say that the Wandsworth Road Wurlitzer will be back to playing condition this year (2016) controlling 22 ranks. The next phase is to apply the revised stoplist designed for me by Simon Gledhill. Also installed in the same chambers is the Christie from the Plaza/Granada Rugby. The wind distribution system is shared but otherwise the two instruments are completely independent. The Christie console now has a new music desk close to its original 1930s one except with the word CHRISTIE built in very similar to that at Harworth, who kindly let me measure up and photograph that one as a guide. Once Wandsworth Road is playable Rugby won’t be far behind.
    Regards, Tony Storey


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