Kingsway Hadleigh Organ Unearthed

Ray Palmer of Southend-on-Sea and Eric Brown of Leigh-on-Sea both sent us a cutting from the Southend Observer of April 7 proclaiming "We've found the Kingsway organ!"

In response to a letter from Eric to the paper suggesting that the organ might be at a local farm, the Observer followed this up with a full report.

The organ, a Compton 3/6 and Melotone, consisted of tuba, trumpet, diapason, flute, tibia and string and was opened at the Kingsway Cinema Hadleigh by Peggy Weber in 1936. Jack Banbury was resident just after the war and again from 1953 to 1956 when the theatre was his base for ABC. It was probably last played in public in 1960, when Celeste Baga accompanied variety there for a week.

The Compton was removed in 1970, just before the demolition of the Kingsway for the building of a supermarket, and installed in the recreation hall of Dalys House, part of Rochford Hospital. The first public concert was given there on 29 April 1984 by Peggy Weber and John Chapman, but with the closing of the hospital in the late 1980s the Compton was advertised for sale. The grandsons of the original owner of the Kingsway, Mrs Stanton Rolls, took an interest and the organ was offered to the Plaza Centre at Southchurch (former cinema) and a couple of high schools, all of whom declined it.

In 1994, David Stanley and Gerald Usher rescued the organ from Rochford, transported it to the Red Brick Barn owned by farmer Charles Tabor where the work of restoration began in 1996.

The restoration was led by Gerald Usher, music teacher and composer and former Director of Music for Southend ,and later Essex. The barn has been converted for the purpose and is large enough to seat over 100. The organ is now played regularly, is well looked after and enjoys constant controlled temperature and humidity.

The report was accompanied by colour pictures of Gerald Usher and Charles Tabor at the console and Gerald demonstrating the restored percussion unit.

Many thanks to Eric and Ray, who says he approached Southend Council to provide a home for the organ when the Cliffs Pavilion was being refurbished and was met with the response: "All very nice but who's going to pay for it!"

"When the finishing touches are completed and the organ is tried and tested", says Ray, "perhaps we can look forward to a regular seres of concerts to replace those greatly missed at the State Grays".

Transcribed by Denis Walker from an article in the June 2000 edition of the Cinema Organ Society Newsletter