Town Hall organ
| Is there
a Father Christmas? The tooth fairy is real, isn't she? The Barker
lever was invented by Barker
David Bridgeman-Sutton puts on his sleuth's cap and reports
(updated August 2010)
to the website of the Rieger
in the Christchurch Town Hall,
Musings & Amusings
Charles Spackman Barker
(thanks to Warwick Henshaw)
Charles Spackman Barker (1804-79) an accomplished and innovative craftsman or was he an incompetent, accident-prone organ-builder who
"borrowed" the invention that made his name?
lever appeared just when organs were outgrowing the strength of organists.
T.C. Lewis estimated that a pressure of several pounds was sometimes
needed on each key, while Dr Camidge thought the effort required at
York Minster "enough to paralyse" most men.
lever inserted bellows or motors ~ one to each note ~ into tracker
action to do the hard work of opening the pallet. Figure 2 shows the
general arrangement. All the keys had to do was to move the flap valves
(1 and 2, see fig. B) controlling the flow of wind into and out of
each motor (3). The result was a light and rapid touch, even with
full organ. There is no "feel" between key and pallet, but
then immensely heavy mechanical actions offered little scope for finesse
in this respect.
A detailed description of the action will be found here
builders showed no interest in obtaining licences for its use. Perhaps
they suspected plagiarism by Barker: more probably, to avoid royalty
payments, they decided to do a spot of plagiarising themselves. Barker
departed to Paris, took out a French patent (1839) and negotiated
a licence with Cavaillé-Coll, who employed the lever in a number
of large instruments. For a short time, Barker worked for Cavaillé,
but soon moved to the firm of Dublaine et Callinet.
Barker's lever - thanks to Shoichiro Toyama
(Click image for a larger view)
years followed. Callinet, deranged by worry, took axe and saw to the
Cliquot organ of St Sulpice, which his firm was rebuilding. Care of
the severely damaged organ was then passed to Cavaillé-Coll
and the present renowned instrument incorporating five Barker
machines was the result.
the departure of Callinet and the award of a contract for a new
organ at St Eustache, Paris, poor M. Dublaine's troubles weren't
over. Barker was the culprit this time, his mishap with a lighted
candle destroying the St Eustache instrument when it was only six
months old. The firm survived these disasters only because it was
purchased by a financier, M. Ducroquet, who then appointed Barker
the 1850s and 60s Dublaine et Callinet again flourished as Ducroquet.
Work was steady and gold medals for excellence were awarded at both
the Great Exhibition (London 1851) and the Paris Exhibition four
years later. The French government conferred the title of Chevalier
of Honour on M. Ducroquet, who then retired. Barker worked for a
time with another Paris builder, before going into partnership with
a M. Verschneider. Their enterprise was brought to a sudden end
with the Franco-Prussian war (1870) when their premises were destroyed
by artillery barrage.
St Eustache today
St John's Edinburgh
(thanks to Stephen Todd)
moved to Dublin, where a new organ was wanted for St Mary's Cathedral.
Despite his buying in many components from well-established builders,
the challenge proved too much for the ageing Barker. Hilborne Roosevelt,
the well-known American builder, who was visiting Europe, went to
Dublin to try to sort out the muddle: he left shaking his head.
had been suggested that Barker, never a competent workman himself,
had been fortunate during his years of success in having skilled
foreman and partners. Certainly little of his work has lasted.
In 1835, before anyone had heard of Barker, David Hamilton, had
built an organ for St John's Princes Street, Edinburgh, providing
it with a pneumatic lever of his own invention. Was this the first-ever
application of the principle? He failed to patent his work until
1839, when a model was exhibited in public.
later, Hamilton observed that Barker's mechanism bore a strong resemblance
to his own, earlier one.
it really Hamilton's lever after all?
Bridgeman-Sutton - 2005
FOOTNOTE August 2010
To complete your information on Barker, may I draw your attention on two recent articles:
" Charles Spackman Barker : a reassessment of the earlier years of his career" in BIOS Journal N°33, 2009 (Positif Press, Oxford)
"Apparition et Developpement des Applications de l'Electricité dans l'Orgue au XIXème siècle", with Dr Hemsley- L'Orgue, 2008-II, N° 282, Symetrie (in French....)
(thanks to Philippe d'Anchald (Paris) for this update)
The above, based on Dr Hinton's writing, may not be entirely fair to CS Barker. Nicholas Thistlethwaite The Making of the Victorian Organ devotes some space (pp 352-4) to the question, and provides diagrams and text showing the differences between Hamilton's and Barker's arrangements. Whether Barker developed Hamilton's ideas or if the two achieved similar results independently will probably now never be determined. Hinton knew many of those concerned and may have taken a personal dislike to Barker.
Barker certainly had a commercial success in promoting his scheme, especially in France. Perhaps this compensated for ill-fortune that seemed to dog him; even the bi-centenary of his birth in 1804 was celebrated two years late!!
about Barker and his times will be found in Story of the Electric
Organ by J.W. Hinton
available from www.bardon-enterprises.co.uk
free to email with
questions or feedback
sample of other musings in Views and Reviews: