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









The Wurlitzer Theatre Organ that was installed at the Paramount/Odeon Theatre Manchester was unique to the U.K.  It is said that it had the sweetest of sounds of all Wurlitzer Organs ever present in Britain.



The Paramount Film Company of America had intended to build some fifty cinemas in the U.K., but for a variety of reasons, built only a few, but included Paramount Cinemas at ManchesterLeeds, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham and London (Tottenham Court Road).   The Paramount Film Company commissioned the architect company of Frank T. Verity & Samuel Beverley, who designed the Plaza Cinema Regent Street, the Criterion Theatre Piccadilly Circus, the Carlton Cinema Haymarket etc., to design their cinemas in the U.K.

Click here to see a video on  Paramount Theatres in the U.K.


The Paramount Theatre Manchester opened in October 1930 and seated 2,920 in stalls, mezzanine and balcony.  The decor of the cinema has been described as sumptuous and was built with a fully equipped stage, a fly tower, a number of dressing rooms, an orchestra pit and a cafe.  A Wurlitzer Theatre Organ was also installed and opened by the organist, Charles D. Smart.

Manchester, Paramount red.The Paramount Theatre Manchester

The Paramount Chain of Cinemas was purchased in November 1939 by Oscar Deutsch, as part of the Odeon Theatres Limited, and was renamed as the Odeon in 1940,

Odeon Theatres were taken over by J. Arthur Rank in 1941 and In 1973, the cinema was twinned, and during this process, the Theatre Organ was removed.

Adverts Collage


Click here to see Part 1 of a video of the Cinema

Part 2 is unavailable in the U.S. (where I live), as a result of Copyright infringement unfortunately and so cannot be included here


The building was refused Listed Buildingstatus in 1999 since it was felt that too many of the original features had been removed.  The cinema closed in 2004 and for a while it was became a church.


The building is scheduled to be demolished and replaced by an office building.



The Paramount Film Company of America originally planned to install a Wurlitzer Publix One Theatre Organ in each of the proposed fifty cinemas.  However  there were only sixteen Wurlitzer Publix One Theatre Organs built in total.  Each had 4-manuals and 20 ranks and had been specified by the organist, Jesse Crawford (1895-1962).


Alabama_Theatre_Wurlitzer_Organ PUBIXThe Wurlitzer Publix One Theatre Organ Console 
installed at the Alhambra Theatre Birmingham, U.S.A.
This Theatre Organ is often referred to as Big Bertha

Click here to learn more about Big Bertha and Click here to hear her being played


Only one Wurlitzer Publix One Theatre Organ was ever exported from the U.S. and this was installed here, at the Paramount Theatre Manchester.  This Theatre Organ had what was described as the sweetest sound and was given the title of The Queen.  This name was most likely given to The Organ by the organist Gerald Shaw.

The distinctive sound of this Theatre Organ came was a result of its Tibia-based sound.  This is opposed to the harsher Reed-based sound of other Theatre Organs, as exemplified by the Compton Theatre Organ of the Odeon Theatre Leicester Square, itself known as The Duchess.


The Queen has 4-manuals and 20-ranks and its pipes were installed in five chambers when it was installed at the Theatre.  The Organ was played by Charles D. Smart at its opening.  Mr. Smart’s son, Harold Smart was well-known as a television Organist and played for programmes such as Double Your Money (1955-1968).

Click here  and here to listen to Charles D. Smart playing The Wurlitzer Theatre Organ

Click here to hear Reginald Dixon play The Wurlitzer Theatre Organ of the Paramount-Odeon Manachester

Hubert Selby playing, Love Everlasting,
at the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ of the Paramount-Odeon Manchester


Gerald Shaw was the Resident Organist at the Paramount-Odeon Theatre Manchester for a number of years.

Concert CollageConcert Programme

Note: Ms Violet Carson (1898-1983), Granada-Television’s Ena Sharples of Coronation Street,
was one of the performers at the concert

The final concert featuring  The Queen at the Odeon Theatre Manchester was given on 8th July, 1973.


Leaving the Odeon red and borderThe Queen Leaving the Odeon Theatre Manchester in 1973

Reproduced from Vox Lancastria

In 1973, when the cinema underwent twinning, the Theatre Organ was removed and donated by the Rank Organisation to the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust (LTOT).  It was then loaned to the City of Manchester and re-installed at the Free Trade Hall, which apparently took four years to achieve and was eventually re-opened to the pubic here in 1977 during a BBC Programme.

The QueenThe Console of The Queen


When the Free Trade Hall closed in 1997 to be converted into a hotel, The Queen was subsequently relocated to the Stockport Town Hall‘s Great Hall where it was re-opened in 1999.

I am very happy to report that, when last I heard, The Queen is currently played regularly at both concerts and dances.


Gerald Shaw (1911-1974) recorded one side of an album entitled A King and A Queen in 1973.  The other side was recorded at Manchester Town Hall by Simon Wright.  This Organ was built by Cavaille-Coll, and had around 60 Speaking Stops, but was in need of major restoration.  The sleeve notes of the album referred to The Wurlitzer Theatre Organas The Queen and the Cavaille-Coll, as The King.


Mr. Len Rawle wrote:

Having had the opportunity of making recordings of THE QUEEN at both the Odeon and the Free Trade Hall Manchester for the LTOT over the years I do appreciate you getting in touch.   However it would be for the LTOT to give you the definitive history of the instrument.  My records were titled Len Goes North & Rawle at the Hall.

It was the Odeon Leicester Square organist Gerald Shaw who named the Compton organ there  THE DUCHESS.   He started a bit of a trend, in fact, when he opened my home installation he christened it THE EMPRESS ….. it was a nice touch however it has mostly become known as THE EMPIRE WURLITZER.   I’m pretty confident that it was dear Gerald who would have offered the title of THE QUEEN to the Paramount/Odeon Manchester Wurlitzer.

The organ had a specification and lush orchestral sound pretty close to that of the famous Empire, Leicester Square in London.    With its two large scale Tibia Clausa ranks of pipes and a large hall to speak into, these ingredients  combine to form the basis of many very warm and rich ensemble sounds.   All three of its locations have produced magnificent musical experiences for organist and audience alike.    The Queen continues to be an exquisite organ to
perform at and we are lucky to have it in its present location within the magnificent acoustical setting of Stockport Town Hall.

I hope this is of interest and you are oh so right to be ‘taken by this organ’.    The LTOT have lavished time, money and effort to keep this large and impressive instrument in full working order for future generations.


Mr. Paul Kirner wrote:

I have played the Wurlitzer at Stockport Town Hall many times for the Monday Lunchtime Shows put on by the LTOT.  I will attach a photo of me at the console.  This is a wonderful organ which would be even better if the chambers were nearer the console.  It always takes me about 15 minutes rehearsal to settle, but by the end of my one hour spot, I’m well away. The sound is gorgeous!


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