The Fair Organ Preservation Society Discussion Forum

Tracing Master Organ Builder
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Author:  F Morton [ Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Tracing Master Organ Builder


I’m hoping someone might be able to please point me in the right direction - the archive people at Sheffield recommended your site.

I’m enquiring into my great-grandfather who was a Master Organ Builder and made steam fair organs.

He was named William Fright, born 1869 in the district of Chorlton, Lancashire.

He was living at various addresses in Manchester & Salford.

At some point after 1911 he changes the family name to Wright, because by 1939 he’s William Wright, listed as Master Organ Builder.

He died 1957 in Bury aged 88 and was listed as ‘William Wright otherwise known as William Fright’.

I don’t have any information about the firm in Manchester that he used to work for, except it possibly was in Collyhurst, bottom of Rochdale Road?

I’m very interested in finding out about his work as an organ builder for the fairs, and if possible about the firm he worked for. Also if he would have been an apprentice and how he became a “Master Organ Builder” if there really was such a thing. Is there still such a body?

I also know he used to be in the Masons, but I didn’t know where to start with that!

Any help anyone could provide would be very gratefully received.

Thanks very much


Author:  Rob Barker [ Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tracing Master Organ Builder

Hello Fran,

Wright & Holmes were famous organ builders in Manchester along with Ben Varetto, who ran a similar company. They both specialised in barrel organs, even at the time when book playing instruments were popular.

I wish you good luck in your research.

Rob Barker.

Author:  Rob Barker [ Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tracing Master Organ Builder

Online articles mentioning Wright & Holmes here;,34,0,0,1,0

But the most decent coverage of their history, including a lovely drawing of their tune changing mechanism & details of their revolutionary retro-conversions of book organs to barrel, is in the book 'The Fairground Organ' by Eric Cockayne. You may find an old copy in your local library but it has been republished by the St Alban's organ theatre.

The address for the works given in the book is Forest Street, Rochdale road, Manchester.


Author:  George Houghton [ Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tracing Master Organ Builder

Hi Fran.
Just a snippet of information regarding Wright and Holmes that may be of interest .
There is a Gavioli Trumpet Barrel organ still in the Manchester area that was supplied by Wright and Holmes to the Cheethams of Pickmere circa 1935.
It is still operating on the original Barrel.
A new member of this Forum is aquainted with the Organ and its history so maybe he will read this and be able to give you some info on Wright and Holmes.

Author:  gavioli84 [ Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tracing Master Organ Builder

Hi Fran
I hope that the following may be of some interest.
The firm of Wright and Holmes Brothers were organ builders and repairers, based in Forest Street, Rochdale Road, Manchester.They did general lorgan maintenance and repairs and specialised in the pinning of organ barrels for showmen. They also perfected the autochange device, which enabled each tune to be played three times, before moving on to the next, thus making the operation of the organ fully automatic, without need of the keyframe operator required on a cardboard book playing instrument.
The company closed c1950, due no doubt to a combination of old age and lack of work. The last major customers were the Silcock family who carried on using organs much longer than the other showmen and prefered barrel organs as they did not need and operator.Some of their organs had been converted by W and H, from cardboard to barrel, but when the company closed they were converted back to cardboard by Chiappas of London, as no-one wanted to produce new barrels.
The 84 key Gavioli trumpet barrel organ we have had been sent to Forset Street by a showman to have a new barrel and other repairs, but he was unwilling to pay the bill of £17.10s, and it was in the way, as it had to be moved when organs came in and out of the workshop. My Grandfather (somewhat against the current trend) wanted an organ to fit on the centre of the speedway ride we operated at Pickmere Lake. W and H were pleased to give the organ away, to save them burning it. They did make on the deal as it was returned to have an autochange fitted.
I have not perfected the tecnique of scanning and sending photos by e.mail, but if you can send me your address via the forum or direct to or better still direct to 07831 453036 I can forward pictures and further info
Kind regards Michael Houlden Gavioli 84

Author:  F Morton [ Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tracing Master Organ Builder

Thank you so much everybody that's fantastic - really amazing info.

gavioli84 I will definately email you our address and that would be brilliant if you have more info.
Have to travel to Hertfordshire in December so might be able to look up the St Albans Organ Theatre also!

Thanks again everyone much appreciated

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