|The Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust|
The Heritage Centre Wurlitzer and it's Installation
The Organ - A Brief History
The organ at the Theatre Organ Heritage Centre
was built by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. of North Tonawanda, New York
State, in the United States of America in 1927.
The organ is a Model (or Style) “DA” Wurlitzer of which only
5 were manufactured. It has 2 manuals and 6 ranks of pipes (450 pipes in
The organ also has the percussions that were used for sound
effects when it was used to accompany silent movies.
The organ was originally installed in the Trocadero
Super Cinema on Camden Street in the centre of Liverpool and was opened
October 1927 with organist Sydney Gustard at the console.
The Trocadero was some five years old by then, having opened in
1922, but had been taken over by PCT (Provincial Cinematograph Theatres)
in May 1927.
PCT were keen to modernise the cinema and installed the
It was only the thirteenth Wurlitzer in the country, and the
first in Lancashire
The organ was recorded in
the Trocadero Super Cinema by Sydney Gustard on His Master’s Voice in
1929, on three records, the first (B 3215) being issued in January 1930.
The records created some interest at the time and capture the
charm of the instrument very well.
PCT themselves were taken over by Gaumont in 1929 and
the Trocadero was renovated in 1931, but the organ seems to have been
surplus to requirements by the mid 1930s.
With this in mind, Gaumont had the organ removed in January 1937
and transferred it to their latest development at
Princes Park, also known as Dingle, on the outskirts of Liverpool
The Wurlitzer was installed in the new Gaumont, Dingle,
unaltered and the opening was on 29th
March 1937 with organist William Whittle (of New Victoria, Preston fame)
at the console. It was a small installation for the size of the
building, which had
1500 seats, but seems to have been effective, with the
pipework in one chamber at
the side of the proscenium.
The organ was kept in occasional use after World War
Two, even after the cinema became a bingo hall in 1966.
On closure, the instrument was purchased by Steve Tovey who
subsequently resold it to Blackpool organ dealer and North Pier
organist, Raymond Wallbank, for installation at his shop premises in
Before the project was completed, the Wurlitzer was sold to the
Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust for installation at the Heritage Centre
and Museum, where we hope it will provide enjoyment and entertainment
for many years to come.
Installation at the Heritage Centre
When we first went to see the organ, it was in a terrible state.
It didn’t take us long to realise that a complete and thorough
restoration would be necessary if the organ was ever to play again.
As we opened up the various chests and parts, we were horrified
at the amount of dirt that had accumulated inside—sixty years of
Liverpool soot in fact!
It was decided that the addition of a piano would add
to the organ’s versatility, and as it happened, the Trust had a
suitable one in store at the Blue Coat School, so this was brought to
Peel Green, restored, and now stands on the left of
At a recent concert, the piano was played not only from the organ
but also in duets, with organist and pianist both displaying their
To bring the organ a little up to date, but without
spoiling its historic significance, its original relay stack has been
replaced by a computerised action (the old relay stack is now one of the
Apart from saving space, this makes the organ more flexible in
that each of our organists can now have their own piston settings stored
in the computer’s memory, to be recalled instantly when required.
Furthermore, music can be recorded in the computer’s memory and
then played back at any time through the organ itself.
An organist can entertain us even if he is at the other end of
the country at the time!
So, many hours of painstaking work has resulted in the
delightful little historic Wurlitzer organ you hear today.