Illuminated Compton Console

The Mighty Compton with its Melotone unit was installed in the Mayfair Cinema, Liverpool, UK for its opening in May 1937 with Sydney Gustard at the console. The pipe chambers were behind the screen stretching the width of the stage which resulted in tremendous power for an organ of only six ranks. The console rose on a lift to take its place in front of a gold festoon curtain and was surrounded by an art-glass illuminated jelly-mould. Resident organists included Charles Massey, Ian Hamilton, Lesley Cooper, Norman Scott, Ron Curtis and Frank Gordon. Other well known organists also played the Compton and it was broadcast several times. The Mayfair continued showing films until 1973 when it was converted for bingo and was eventually demolished in 1985 to make way for a supermarket.

The Mayfair Cinema
The Mayfair Cinema, Aigburth Road, Liverpool.
Compton in the Cinema
The Compton in front of the screen curtains.

Removal, Restoration and Rebuilding
When the cinema was being converted into a bingo hall the organ was put up for sale and was bought by a Mr. Hardman who had a nut and bolt business in an old mill in Lancashire. He moved everything to the upper floor of the building and reassembled some parts but didn't complete the job before passing away. The building was unheated and damp and the organ was in a pretty sorry state with everything covered in black mould and metal parts either rusted or oxidised. Some wooden parts fell to bits when touched because they had been saturated with water over the years and there was no glass jelly-mould. However, the blower still worked and the wind chests appeared to be in fairly good condition.

The organ was purchased by Ian Macnaught and taken up to Scotland to be worked on by six men employed on a man-power services programme. With restoration well under way and wind to some of the ranks, ownership passed to the Summerlee Heritage Museum at Coatbridge near Glasgow. This is an ideal place for a cinema organ. It is on a large site with trams, railway engines, factory machinery and all kinds of exhibits from the industrial past - a working museum with live steam and lots of noise! A string celeste was added using the cello rank from the New Victoria, London (making it a 3/7 instrument) and a 16ft extension, ex Town Hall, Wimbledon, was added to the trumpet rank. A jelly-mould was found which was no longer needed in another organ installation and chambers were built to house the pipes with space underneath for the blower, relays and Melotone unit. Another year was spent replacing Tosh motors and magnet armatures, on completely re-leathering, and the restoration of the Melotone. The inaugural concert was held on the 15th May, 1993 with Frank Gordon and Duncan Sinclair (ex Capitol and Astoria, Aberdeen) at the console, Frank no doubt re-living his times at the Mayfair.

Console closeup
Close-up of the console
View in pipe chambers
Some of the strings pipes and the bass drum
Melotone unit
Melotone drive and relays
Melotone Power Amplifier
Original, valved Melotone Power Amplifiers
Melotone horn
Horn of the Melotone unit and cathedral chimes
Me at console
The author "in concert", September 1998

Thanks to Rod Paton of the Scottish Cinema Organ Trust for his help with this page and acknowledgement is made to the souvenir brochure, "The Mighty Compton Cinema Organ".

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Colour pictures 1998 Chas Girdwood. Page design and text 1999 Chas Girdwood.