A unique 1920s cinema organ owned by a Surrey man that has helped raise thousands for charities after being rescued and professionally rebuilt is to be sold by Surrey auctioneer Ewbank’s.
One of the most imposing objects Ewbank’s have ever offered, it will headline a two-day sale of music, sporting, film, TV and entertainment memorabilia on Thursday and Friday December 3-4.
The Rutt electric ‘Organestra’ built by R. Spurden Rutt & Co in 1927, is expected to fetch £20,000-40,000.
One of only three electric cinema organs built at the Rutt works in Leyton, London, it is the only survivor in original condition, the other two having been combined during restoration to make a single instrument now in St Albans’ Organ Museum.
It was installed in the Super Kinema in Walton Street, Oxford, now the Phoenix Piciturehouse owned by Cineworld, in the era prior to ‘talking pictures’ but fell into disuse after only two years and was mothballed in about 1937. The small organ chamber containing pipes, and the mechanical drums, cymbals, xylophone, steamboat whistle, glockenspiel and chimes was sealed and the console at which the organist sits was boxed and stored beneath the stage.
It was removed in 1962 and subsequently acquired by Peter Webb, 67, a Guildford contract caterer, who collects antique mechanical music machines. He installed it in a restored barn at his home. At the time Mr Webb provided the catering for Guildford Cathedral. Specialists from a company of organ restorers were working there and he arranged to give them board and lodging in return for their expertise and, in their own time in the evenings, they restored the Organestra to working order.
Mr Webb, who does not play himself, also fitted switchable electronics so that the instrument plays automatically and in the 25 years he has owned it, it has delighted guests to private functions and charitable events that have raised thousand of pounds for good causes.
“The organ has given me and my visitors enormous pleasure over the 25 years I have owned it,” Mr Webb said, “but it is time for someone else to have the privilege. We are hosting fewer events than before and the instrument is one that needs to be played. If it is not used, it goes out of tune and it deserves to be heard more than at present.
“Cinema organs produce a unique sound and I know Ewbank’s will find a new owner for it to treasure as much as I have.”
A number of other grand survivors from 1930s cinemas will also be offered in the sale on behalf of other owners. Most imposing is a large metal and glass architectural feature with a central amber glass section depicting an Art Deco fountain, removed from the foyer and box office area of the Leyton Baths, London. It is estimated at £350-450.
The famous swimming pool doubled as a theatre and cinema with a large permanent stage at one end, while the entire pool area could be boarded over for dancing or seating. Its interior was fitted with spectacular Art Deco fixtures and fittings. In the Sixties the Beatles, Gene Vincent, the Small Faces, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones all appeared there. The building was demolished in 1992.
An Art Deco fountain mirror and a foyer poster display frame with opening door, both from the foyer of the Ritz Cinema, Southend, are estimated respectively at £500-800 and £150-250 and an octagonal wall clock, glass front , the face etched ‘Gaumont’, from the Gaumont Lewisham, is estimated at £200-400.
A large two-tier metal and glass pendant ceiling light fitting with pink glass panels in a fountain motif, from the Embassy, Chesham, is estimated at £500-800 and a “Queue Here” board, circa 1934, from the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, a venue used by United Artists for their film premieres including James Bond’s Thunderball in 1965, is estimated at £200-400.
In the Fifties, by which time cinema organs were long gone, a thrupenny bit (less then 2p) bought admission to Saturday matinees where children of all ages thrilled to the adventures of Robby and other sci-fi robots and heroes of Space travel. Toy manufacturers, particularly those in Japan, responded quickly and soon toy shop shelves were filled with the latest tinplate and plastic marvels of other worlds imagination.
A sale of antique toys at Ewbank’s on Wednesday December 9 is a must for Christmas present hunters seeking something different including Robby the Robot from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet. Made in the same year by Nomura, one of the biggest and most prolific of all post-war Japanese toy makers, it walks, its dome lights, pistons move up and down and its antenna turns, all powered by batteries – which were never included! The boxed toy is estimated at £400-600.
Pick of a single-owner collection, Robbie is accompanied by Dux Astroman, an early classic plastic battery-operated remote control robot made in West Germany in about 1960, which also walks, bends over, opens and closes its arms, while its chest and head glow in the dark. It is estimated at £400-600.
Also by Masudaya is Planet Explorer, one of their tinplate battery-operated spaceships with a non-fall action courtesy of a metal rocker in the base that detects edges and alters the direction of travel. In mint and boxed condition, it is estimated at £100-150, while Robot With Spark, a 1962 toy by Yoneya of Japan has paddle feet and a spark in a window in its body created by an internal flint mechanism. It is estimated at £60-100.
The auction will also feature a selection of fine wines and spirits, including:
• A bottle of Hine Family Reserve Grande Champagne Cognac, the bottle numbered 823, with original box and booklet. )Estimate: £300-500)
• Two Bottles of 1983 Moet Chandon Dom Perignon Brut Champagne, (£200-300)
• A bottle of Glen Moray ’93 Scots Whiskey blended by MacDonald and Muir, Leith Scotland (£150-200)
• A bottle of 1950 Chateau Latour Premier Grand Cru Classé (£100-200)