The Free Reed Organ in England

Dr. Robert J. Allan, B.Sc., Ph.D., M.Inst.P.


This is an attempt to bring together information from many sources about the larger free reed instruments built by English (and also Scottish and Welsh) manufacturers following the pioneering experiments of Sir Charles Wheatstone in London in the early years of the 19th Century. The free reed is the most recent innovation in music producing technology, outwith the Saxophone and diverse electronic instruments; the latter also with a fascinating history of English inventions including the Compton theatre organs featuring the Melotone and related devices.

The history of the Victorian growth of the Harmonium and American Organ workshops in London and a few key areas such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, and the influence on the instruments and music created with them, has all but vanished. The social music making implications of this historical industry were however important at the time and we feel that putting this in perspective against the American and European developments is a challenging but worthwhile task.


© R.J. Allan 2003-24 The information collected on this Web site is based on various sources which are cited when possible. All information about reed organs is however potentially inaccurate because most historical records have been lost. My notes are therefore speculative in part but presented in good faith.

Rob Allan