History of the Compton

 

The Penistone Cinema Organ Trust

Line drawing of the Compton Organ


The Regal Oswestry

Following the closure of the Odeon, Birmingham in 1988 for conversion, the Compton organ was removed by the cinema’s last resident organist, Steve Tovey. Several possible new venues were looked at for the Compton within the Birmingham area. At one point it -was proposed that the Compton would form part of a new entertainment centre in the grounds of Weston Park, the home of Lord Bradford.
The Compton's future  was uncertain and it was thought that this, the sole survivor of the four Paramount organs would meet the same fate as the others and be broken up to supply spare parts. Trevor Harris, a Shropshire Cinema owner, stepped in with an offer to buy the Compton as a complete instrument, Cinema organ enthusiasts all over the country must have given a huge sigh of relief' that the last of
the four Paramount Compton Cinema Organs ever built was to be saved.
The Compton had received very little maintenance work during its time at the Odeon, and so before re-installing it, the new owner had the instrument checked over from top to bottom, From Birmingham, the organ was taken straight to an organ builder's workshop in Lichfield, where the various components were stripped and new leather replaced the original, which had begun showing signs of deterioration. Most of the pipe chests, regulators and percussions were re-leathered with new high quality white leather, while small sections of wear were fitted with new leather corners. Once completed, the Compton was taken to its new home.
  

Granada, Oswestry

The new location for the Compton was the Regal Cinema, Oswestry. This cinema theatre was built to the design of architect, Lionel A. G. Pritchard. The Regal was completed and opened on the 22rid May, 1933. Originally the cinema had a capacity of 1080. 744 cinema-goers could be seated in the Stalls, while the circle held a further 336. In November 1934, the Granada cinema circuit expressed in interest in the Regal, which resulted in a full takeover of the cinema on 6th February 1955. After operating the Regal for one year, Granada closed it for improvements, later re-opening it as the Granada.

The cinema was operated by the Granada chain until 1975 when the company decided to close it. In 1976, Trevor Harris bought the building, and the cinema was reopened on 25th February 1976, once again re-named the Regal. Like most other cinema auditoria, the Regal was converted into a twin screen cinema in 1985, and in 1987, a further screen was added utilising the stage area.
In 1989, work began on the reinstallation of the Compton by several organ builders, including Hawkins of Lichfield, who had undertaken the
refurbishment of many or its original parts. Organ chambers were built in the space under the stage but only two of the four original sets of shutters were used, the sound emerging into the old malls area from the stage front.
 

The auditorium before conversion

The Auditorium before conversion


A Platform Supported the console to the left of the stage, while the Glockenspiel, Xylophone and ' Toy Counter' were positioned on a shelf above one of the exit doors due to the severe lack of space inside the chambers. Because of the position of these units, they did require careful handling by the organist, to avoid deafening tile audience. The installation in the Regal was completed with no alteration to the instrument, apart from the Krummet rank, which was taken out during the removal of the Compton from the Odeon.
The Compton was opened at the Regal on 26th November 1989. Robert Wolfe, the resident Organist from the Thursford Collection in Norfolk, was the organist seated at the console on this eventful occasion. Unfortunately in the winter of 1993, after only four years, the organ had to be temporarily removed, while the three screen Regal was converted into one dual purpose cinema-cabaret club. This conversion left no space under the stage for the pipe chambers and so it was decided to leave organ in storage. A small number of Organ enthusiasts approached Trevor Harris to enquire if they could rebuild the Compton using space to the right of the stage. Following careful measurements, it was found that the organ would fit if the two chambers were built on top of each other, just like they had been originally at Birmingham.

The Regal Compton

 The console proudly displays the name of its new home


After several months of' hard work, the Compton Finally began to sing again, however, the Compton's new lease of life proved to be short lived. Trevor Harris realised that this type of entertainment was becoming unprofitable and announced the closure of the Regal in 1994.  The organ was put up for sale and subsequently the Compton was removed from the Regal during the week beginning 6th June 1994. It took only six days to dismantle the Compton and carefully pack all the pipes away to avoid any damage. This unenviable task could not have been completed in such a short time had it not been for the sterling work done by Pat and Phil Sturman, Brian Chantrey, ‘Jackie' Ellis, Barry Grunill and Kevin Grunill. 
The Regal continued operating as a cinema for only a short period of time after the removal of the Compton. Sadly, after only two weeks, the last film performances were presented at the Regal and the cinema finally closed its doors to the public on 16th June 1994.


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