THE THEATRE ORGAN

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

PART TWO: BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS

THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)

-oOo-

PAGE THIRTY-ONE:
THE COMPTON THEATRE ORGAN

SURVIVING CONTINUED

John Compton Collage BlueJohn Compton, Pioneer, Innovator and Organ Builder

-oOo-

THE COMPTON THEATRE ORGAN
OF THE REGAL CINEMA UXBRIDGE

-oOo-

Uxbridge 009 border JLThe Regal/ABC Cinema Uxbridge

Photograph by John Leeming

I have to admit that I only learned recently that the Regal Cinema Uxbridge had not been demolished like so many cinemas of the past. I am very happy to hear that it is still present, albeit with a different use, but since it is now a Listed Building, it is hoped that its decor will not suffer any further change. I was also happy to learn that the Theatre Organ was still present.

-oOo-

When my family moved from London in 1956, we moved to Langley, which was then in the County of Buckinghamshire. Langley was a part of Slough Town, as it was called in those days. I have discussed Slough and Langley in my piece on The Granada Theatre Slough, however perhaps I did not impress upon the reader the my intense feeling of isolation living in this town, which although a mere eighteen miles from London, seemed like being banished to the moon at that time.

Surface of the MoonHow I saw Slough in 1956

Although transportation to London and the surrounding towns was in place, buses did not run with great frequency and fares were expensive for a kid at school and not of an age to work at weekends. Spending any money that had been scrapped together had to be put to good use and could only be spent on something after careful though. Slough Town and environs was an amazingly conservative area in 1956. Although the town was riddled with Teddy Boys, the municipal authorities were in horror of modern trends. The film, Rock around the Clock, had been banned just before I moved there. Thank goodness I had seen it, as it was the last film I saw at the Excelsior Kinema in Bethnal Green before leaving.

Rock_Around_the_Clock

Although Slough Town banned Rock ‘n’ Roll films for a while, the Town of Uxbridge in the County of Middlesex, some eight or nine miles to the North, did not, and luckily, Uxbridge was linked to Langley via the 458 London County Bus Route. As a result, I was able to go to Uxbridge to see several films that were never to be screened in Slough! In addition, during my first trip to Uxbridge, I discovered something truly fantastic (at the time)!

RFAn RF London County Bus that once traveled between Slough and Uxbridge

At the edge of the town, not a hundred yards from the border with the County of Buckinghamshire, I discovered what used to be called a Transport Caf’. This was a place where lorry drivers would stop and eat and drink great mugs of hot strong tea with just a little milk while taking a break from their driving.

Transport Cafe

Here was to be found the very first Jukebox I ever saw in the flesh! And it was filled with all the great tunes of the days that the BBC was still refusing to play and which could only be heard under the bedclothes late at night thanks to the wonderful Radio Luxembourg. Bless those lorry drivers, as they seemed to have an endless supply of coins to feed the Jukebox and their choices filled the air and made that cafe jump!

Jukebox

-oOo-

Despite Uxbridge being an oasis for people like me, it cost money to get there and I was only able to afford the journey, the cinema ticket and drinks at the cafe by pretending to be younger (I was thirteen years old at the time) than I was so I could travel on the bus and get into the cinema at half-price.

I went a number of times to the Regal Cinema Uxbridge although I did not know its correct name. I recall it as the ABC. I remember that the building was set back slightly from the adjacent buildings and that its decor was in colours similar to the ABC Cinemas in Hackney and Mile End. Beyond that, I am ashamed to say I can remember nothing else about the interior. Like most young people, I had little interest or understand of the importance of Cinema Architecture at that time!

Uxbridge_Regal Exterior 1935 TMC bord.The Regal Cinema Uxbridge, 1935

This photograph is from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection

I remember seeing the Rock ‘n’ Roll films, Rock, Rock, Rock and Disc Jockey Jamboree at the cinema. There was supposedly some story associated with each film, but whatever it was, it held little interest for me.

Film Posters Collage

Of much greater significance was the other members of the cast for it was here that I first saw Alan Freed, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Gracie, Carl Perkins, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, Buddy Knox and Chuck Berry perform. I remember finding their performances to be extraordinary. I do recall that Tuesday Weld was in one of these films and that Connie Francis was her singing voice.

I realised later that Count Basie & his Orchestra together with Joe Williams were also in one of the films. I think that this was my introduction to this great group of artists.

Click here to hear Count Basie & his Orchestra

Performers Collage

I recall these films being shown on Television on two consecutive afternoons during the early 1980s. I was eager to see them again and came home from work in good time on both days specifically to watch them. Despite the constant interruptions for advertisements and the ridiculous story lines, the performances given by these great stars who were then young, wild and in their prime proved to be as intense and as exciting as I remembered when I had first seen them thirty years earlier at the Regal Cinema Uxbridge!

Click here to hear my favourite song, thanks to those saxophones, from these films

-oOo-

Uxbridge_Regal Exterior from Programme TMC borderFrom the Opening Souvenir Programme, 1931

This photograph is from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection

The Regal Cinema Uxbridge was built for A.E. Abrahams who owned the Regal Cinema Marble Arch and opened in December 1931 and also consisted of a ballroom and cafe in addition to the cinema. The exterior of the building was set slightly back from the adjacent buildings and was decorated with ceramic tiles and Egyptian motifs.

Uxbridge_Regal Exterior 1931 TMC bord.Note that the adjacent walls advertise the presence of the Ballroom, Cafe and the Cinema

This photograph is from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection

Uxbridge_Regal Foyer TMC borderThe Foyer during the time the Building was Operated by Union Cinemas

This photograph is from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection

The interior of the building was in Art Deco style with the auditorium was lit by concealed fixtures in ceiling troughs. The Proscenium had a Chinese half-moon shape with decorative organ grilles on each side.

Auditorium CollageThe Auditorium and Proscenium

Top Left & Right: photographed by John D. Sharp, Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection; Bottom Left: photograph by John Leeming (1976)

1976 CollageBottom Left: Showing the Compton Theatre Organ present in the Orchestra Pit

Photographs: John Leeming (1976)

-oOo-

Click here to hear Matt Ross play this Theatre Organ (1975)

-oOo-

Seating was arranged in stadium style i.e. the circle being raised at the back of the auditorium and not as an overhang over the rear stalls.

Uxbridge_Regal Auditorium 06 TMC with border red.The Auditorium from the Stage

This photograph is from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection

The Regal Cinema Uxbridge was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1935 and then by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1937 who operated it until November 1977 when it was closed. The building was given Grade II Listing Status at this time, which was increased to Grade II* in November 2000.

It is of interest to note that A.E. Abrahams leased the cinema to Union and several of the conditions of the agreement was that the stage machinery and the Theatre Organ had to be maintained in good order and that the name had to remain, i.e. Regal. Apparently the same requirements were included in the agreement to lease the Regal Cinema Edmonton by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation.

Unfortunately the building remained unused for a number of years, but May 1984 it was converted into a Nightclub. Although a Listed Building, which included the Theatre Organ, the stage and auditorium became separated by a wall that bricked off the stage, which was turned in a Health Club. Sadly the wires connecting the Console to the Organ Chambers were severed, thus rendering the Organ unplayable.

Later in 1993, the owners of the building, now the Discotheque Royale, had the interior painted in dark colours.

The Regal through the Years CollageThe Regal Uxbridge Through the Years

From Left to Right: in 1931, as a Union Cinema (1935), as an EMI Cinema and as the Royale

The photographs showing the Cinema in 1931 and 1935 are from the Cinema Organ Society (COS) Tony Moss Collection and those as an EMI Cinema and as the Royale by John Leeming

-oOo-

To see a collection of photographs of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Regal Cinema/Liquid-Envy Nightclub Uxbridge, click here

-oOo-

The Compton Theatre Organ of the Regal Cinema Uxbridge has 2-manuals and 6-ranks and a French-Syle Console Case and was installed in the centre of the Orchestra Pit at the time of opening of the Cinema.

The restoration of the Organ’s Console of the erstwhile Regal Uxbridge was undertaken in 2006 and completed in April 2007. The building was re-opened as the nightclub, Liquid Envy (part of the Luminar Nightclub Group) with the Console Case being on display.

-oOo-

Old KeysThis photograph appears with permission of Peter Hammond

HWS Asociated LLP, run by Mr. Peter Hammond, was asked to restore the Console of the Organ in 2006 and their work may be followed by clicking here. This they did and their works included recovering all keys, stripping and waxing all woodwork and repairing the bench. The Console looked like new afterwards. However, no provision was made in the specification of works for the restoration of the pipe chamber contents or to reconnect the pipes to the console. Consequently, the Organ still does not play and may never do so again, although the entire instrument could be restored if there was the desire and funds to do so in future. At least the Console is now on show in the nightclub, taking pride of place in front of where the Proscenium used to be.

Liquid CollageBottom Right: The Console on display

This photograph appears with permission of Peter Hammond

HWS Associates LLP also undertook works to the famous Hammersmith Apollo Compton Theatre Organ, returning it to playing condition, as well as the huge Southampton Guildhall Compton and the delightful little Theatre Organ at the former Cameo (Poly) Cinema Upper Regent Street.

HWS Associates LLP ceased trading in 2011 and a new company called Taylor-Hammond Associates Ltd., was started by Mr. Hammond soon afterwards.  This company is currently undertaking more works to the Upper Regent St Compton (the building being transformed into the new Regent St Cinema) and also to the historic Hope-Jones designed Concert Organ at Battersea Arts Centre (formerly the Town Hall).

Regal Uxbridge Peter HammondThe Restored Console Case of The Compton Theatre Organ of the Regal Cinema/Liquid-Envy Nightclub Uxbridge

This photograph appears with permission of Peter Hammond (Taylor-Hammond Associates Ltd.)

-oOo-

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Mr. Ian McIver for providing information and photographs.  I would also like to thank Mr. Stephen Dutfield for allowing the reproduction of some photographs from The Compton List here and for the information provided there.

Very special thanks are given to Mr. John Leeming for allowing his photographs to appear here and also to Mr. Peter Hammond for providing information and photographs of the former Regal Uxbridge.

Very special thanks are given to Mr. Paul Bland for providing photographs, musical interludes and information and without whom this piece would not have been possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *