During the Second World War, it was acquired by Pat
Collins Jnr for his Amusement Park at Colwyn Bay on the north west Welsh coast. In the 1950s, the
Colwyn Bay site was run by Frank Charlton and, during this period, the organ lay derelict although
the gallopers were sold on to the West Midlands. The organ's history during the following years is
rather sketchy but it lost its drum cases and key frame and acquired protective end panels made
crudely from hardboard. It was travelled in a ride purely as a show-piece as it was not in playing
order. Its front was roughly daubed in yellow paint, with a touch of red and black, but the central
panel painting escaped.
One night in the early 1960s, after the ride had been sheeted up, a smouldering cigarette end
tossed into the organ that evening started a blaze which caused extensive damage. Worst affected
were the reed box and pipe tops, including the brass trombones, whose bells pointed up into the
roof. Water, subsequently poured into the organ to quench the fire, was responsible for reducing to
rust all the screws in the organ and further damage to the main chest and the feeders and two
reservoirs which had not been replaced by a centrifugal blower as has befallen most other organs of
In 1984, the organ was discovered in a scrap yard in Mold and was transported to the London
works of Page & Howard where most of the superficial fire debris was cleaned out. The idea was
that I could restore the instrument in my own time. It remained there for four years, during which
time the organ's front was loaned to Pinewood Studios as a prop for the film Gun Bus. Eventually,
in 1988, it was reluctantly sold to a showman who, whilst transporting the instrument home, was
involved in an accident. The organ trailer was hit from behind by a truck whose driver had fallen
asleep! As the organ was already in a dilapidated state, the only additional damage was to the base
of the case and one snapped crank rod. The organ changed hands again but, during its life in
preservation, no real restoration work was ever carried out - until its present owner took a liking
to the prospect of what could be a historic gem.
When Dean Organs undertook the task, it was quite evident that the organ had never undergone any
major changes in its life. The drums had been transposed, as evidenced by the metal conveyancing
found inside, taking the action wind to the opposite ends. This was often done when the key frame
was turned round to operate in the now familiar position. There would have been no room for the
music with the bass drum beater at that end. Originally the music card would have entered the key
frame and exited through the back of the organ, running in channels, and out at the other end. The
original crank cover had been eroded by the card continuously passing over it.
The only addition that appears ever to have been made was the reed box and its action relay.
This had suffered serious damage in the fire and has not survived to the present day; only
photographs remain. The double-row of steel reeds (about 80 in all) were actuated by a system of
levers, each operated by double puffs. The box was complete with a pressure reducing reservoir.
The Gavioli is of extreme historical significance to the preservation movement of this country
as it is the only G4 organ imported into this country to work on the fairground which has survived
to the present day without ever being converted to the Marenghi's Violin Baritone scale. It still
has its original crank and double feeders and twin reservoirs. Operating on a wind pressure of
8¼ inches wg, under its original springs, the organ has a more than adequate supply of wind.
The main action chest, which was in a seriously dilapidated condition, would more economically
have been discarded and replaced by new but the decision was made to restore it and most other
action parts. Thus the majority of the organ's action and pipes are original. Some pipes still bear
scars of the disastrous fire.
The only new complete rank of pipes in the organ are the bass 'box' reeds at the back. The
originals had been lost since leaving London. All other pipes have been painstakingly restored to
the extent of retaining some of the original violin freins, inscribed 'Systeme Gavioli'. The
violins had been supplied from the scrap-yard in a black rubbish sack. They had literally fallen
apart and it took many hours to piece them all together correctly. During this operation it was
discovered that, unusually, there were three width scales instead of the normal two. The brass
trombones, too, have been faithfully restored.
New drum cases have been made for the organ. These were designed from studying photographs which
existed of this organ and old photographs of similar model Gaviolis. Extensive patterns were
designed and made at Dean Organs so that Woody White, woodcarver, could copy and carve
replacements. The front was decorated by Dean Organs with all sign-writing, flower painting and the
organ's seven figures being decorated by Richard Dean. The central panel depicting horses and
riders was restored by Vicky Postlethwaite. During this restoration, it was discovered that the
panel had been used previously, up the other way, as a painting of a female nude on a beach. During
the organ's restoration its origin, France or Germany, never became obvious. The piccolos and brass
clarinets appear to be French but the reed boots, turned in solid wood, and reed shallots appear
German. The relationship between the German Gavioli works in Waldkirch and the Paris factory has
never been truly established, although it is quite possible that, for the sake of efficiency, parts
were manufactured in one factory for assembly into organs in the other. This could have taken place
in both directions. However, the organ's overall appearance suggests that it was built in Paris,