Majors Estate

Majors Estate

Clyde, North Carolina

In mid-January 2016, we received a call from the general contractor of a rustic private estate in the mountains of North Carolina saying bluntly, “You need to come uncrate this organ and put it together. It’s from England or Ireland or some such place.”  Too intrigued to turn down the request, we arrived on the estate to find a nearly completed private chapel, with three large crates sitting on the nave floor unopened, preventing installation of pews and flooring.  The largely absent-tee owner of the estate had purchased the organ from an internet posting. No one knew exactly what the crates contained.

As we began unpacking the crates, it became clear that we were looking at a tiny two manual tracker organ. The various organ parts showed signs of having been in a very damp climate for the last century; all the bearing pins in the key action were of steel, and were rusted fast to their cloth bushings. As unpacking continued, the general contractor showed up with a single sheet of crumpled paper, with a photo of the organ and a bit of information about it.

It was built by Bishop and Son, London and Ipswich. Its original home is unknown, but it was moved to an Anglican church in North Wales in 1910.  It was rescued and put in storage by Irish organ builder Stephen Adams about 2010.

An initialed signature in the pallet box with the date of 1899, along with pieces of an 1898 calendar used for shimming the sliders seems to mark its original manufacture date as 1899.

We managed to sort the organ into two piles; those parts in need only of cleaning (the sheep) and those parts requiring complete restoration (the goats).  Ultimately, we completely restored the wind system, the manual key action and the manual pipes, and built new pedal key action, which was completely missing, all in five weeks time. The mahogany chests themselves were in quite good shape, and functioned almost perfectly on the first try once we assembled the organ.  The few minor chest problems were easily resolved onsite.  We also provided a new Laukhuff blower and muffler box, and replaced the utterly rusted steel tuning slides with aluminum.

The owner considers this to be a rustic country chapel, so while it does have electric lighting, it is equipped with neither plumbing nor heat. Needless to say, this made installation in the Appalachian Mountains in February a cold and trying affair, although we were comfortably ensconced in a snug cabin on the estate, equipped with all the modern amenities. This made meals and sleeping more pleasant.  The estate is filled with odd livestock:  14 peacocks roosted around the chapel, and curiously craned their necks to see into the windows as we slowly made progress on the organ. Fainting goats regularly escaped their pens and wandered around the estate; the  resident llamas showed no inclination to spit at us as we drove slowly by them, but in any case it was far too cold to roll down our windows.

The little organ, with its odd stoplist, makes such hymn writers as Baring-Gould, Stainer and Edward Bickersteth sound exactly right.



8 Open Diapason (Metal) 8′ Lieblich Gedeck – stopped metal from tenor g
4 Wald Flute (Wood) 8′ Violin Diapason – Metal from TC; shared wood bass



16 Bourdon Hitch-down swell lever to right
Compass 56/30
Usual three couplers

Posted on

March 12, 2017