The Sherlock -Manning Company was founded in 1902 by J. Frank Sherlock and Wilbur Manning in my home town of London, Ontario. They had both left the Doherty organ company in Clinton, which they later purchased, along with several other Canadian companies, including Karn of Woodstock. Within two years their 50 or 60 employees were turning out about 100 organs each month from a factory by the railway at the corner of Elm St. and Pine St.. By 1910, they made pianos too and carried on for several decades still building pianos well after 1950 when they stopped producing organs. It is one of the longest lived and certainly most recent of the organ makers in this country. Its history is well known, and its products can be found around the world, for example these (very like mine) are in South Africa and New Zealand.
I found my Sherlock-Manning organ advertized on Kijiji in 2014. See the ad photo below.
Since it was living only a couple of kilometres from my current home, I couldn’t resist. It cost more to move it, than to buy it. Its pedigree is well established. Called a “chapel organ,” it was made in 1907 and sold by T. C. Brown, on Princess St, Kingston, to the little limestone church on rural Unity Road, Glenburnie. (The church is now a private home.) when the church replaced it with an electric organ, the woman organist who had played it for many years saved it by moving it to the family cottage. Later, her granddaughter brought it to her own home–a farm just across the road from the original church! It was living in her finished basement, when she sold it to me.
My Sherlock Manning has 61 keys, four full sets or banks of reeds (two upper; two lower, in both front and back) and two half banks at the back. They are brought into action by the 19 stops, 2 knee swells, a vox humana, and a sub-bass.
It needed very little work. The wooden decoration needed a bit of repair–one of the little balls and dowels on the back had to be replaced, and one lamp holder is wobbly and could do with a new turned base — maybe my friends at Da Costa millworks, who have helped with the melodeon, can make one for me.
Again the fabric was in terrible shape or missing. Unlike my other organs it has a decorative wooden back (perhaps because the organist faced the congregation or the choir). Inside the back was a swath of frail, torn and dirty fabric in a pink flowery print, hiding a strong wire screen to keep out mice. But the print did not go at all well with the semi-modern design. The other three panels with grill work in front had no fabric at all. With plain red fabric in all the right spots, it looked much happier.
In fact the cabinet design seems somewhat confused and incoherent: the little “ball’ theme along the back and top with 2 big, carved “bocce” balls on each side, does not seem to match the lean, modern-looking horizontal openings for sound. But it must have been popular, as examples of this style of case abound (see here and here).
The only musical problems are that one note, E below middle C, duplicates a note two octaves above and that the very top note on the set activated by the Clarionet stop is F# instead of F. In both cases, it is as if the reed had needed replacing and the wrong one was sent. The first problem is bothersome only on runs or scales–when suddenly a higher note repeats instead of smoothly descending or ascending. The second problem can be avoided by using other stops when a top F is needed.
It took me a while to determine what and where all the stops exerted their effects on the various mutes: each set of reeds had treble and base mutes, and some of the stops opened them just part way, others fully.
The 19 stops with original labels are (from bass to treble): Bass Coupler, Hautbois, Viola, Harp Aeoline, Violina, Diapason, Dulcet, Sub Bass, Diapason Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Piccolo, Dulciana, Melodia, Clarinet, Celeste, Flute d’Amour Flute, Treble Coupler.
Removing the panel below the keys and a large mute operated by the Forte stop allowed for allowed easy visualization of the mutes in front and their upper and lower sets of reeds. It was more complicated to see things in back (more below).
The base reeds are two octaves F to E. The treble reeds are 3 octaves F to F. In the front, as per the photo above, the stops operate the mutes as follows:
Upper left (bass) Viola stop
Lower left (bass) Hautbois stop; and Harp Aeoline stop partly open
Upper right (treble): Celeste stop
Lower right (treble) Flute stop; and Flute d’Amour partly open
Bonus!! Just under the lowest bass keys, you can see that the organ was “signed” by “McC” on 5 November 1907. Perhaps with the 1911 Census, I will be able to learn who was McC, as I did for Richard Dales maker of my Uxbridge organ.
Inside the back, it is numbered (4876), labeled with a Warranty for seven years bearing the same date and stamped with the retail seller (T.C. Brown, Kingston).
Some of the reeds were silent, but most were easily cleaned and brought back to life, by pulling them out and removing specks of dirt. I devised a new reed puller, using the rim of a 3 inch nail hammered deep into a wooden block as a handle. It works better than a bent hanger wire. The trick is to pull gently and straight. But some reeds could not be budged (eg. lowest G on Melodia set). One silent reed (Piccolo B flat’) had neat a hole drilled beside the tongue, like a harmonium reed; blocking that drilled hole did not help.
The inside was dirty– as usual. To get at the back reeds the vox humana and sub-bass had to be removed (see their positions on photo above).
The vox humana sits on top of the posterior half reed bank (Piccolo). It is activated by its stop through a metal lever attached to a leather fastener. For more on vox humana, see my Bell organ page.
Once removed, the sub-bass was fun to take apart to discover the operation of its private wind chest. It has an octave of 13 reeds C to C that sound with the action of the keys, beginning one octave below middle C and ending two octaves below, although the notes produced by these reeds are much lower — a deep growling sound.
A large horizontal wooden panel or big mute (opened by the Diapason Forte stop) had to be pulled open to reveal the upper and lower banks of reeds with their separate mutes. There was a bit of damage to one of the upper reed cells at the back (mouse? water? human?). The mute below it looks chewed up, either from the original damage or clumsy attempts to repair the cell above.
In the photo above, taken from the back, you can also see the wooden mutes and their hinges that are raised and lowered by the stops in front.
Upper left (treble): Clarionet stop
Lower left (treble): Melodia stop; Dulciana stop, partly opens
Upper right (bass): Violina stop
Lower right (bass): Diapason stop; Dulcet stop, partly opens
Strangely the set of reeds opened with the Violina stop are high and the same pitch as the reeds opened with Melodia and Dulciana in the treble.
When closed, the mutes silence (and hide) the reeds. Behind you can see the pitman rods each travelling from a key down to a pallet (not visible) inside the wind chest under the reeds.
One lower mute hinge pin was missing and had been repaired with wire. It works, so I have left it alone. It won’t last. What’s more that end of the mute doesn’t close very well–and even with all the stops closed there is always a low bass sound with keys G up to C in the lowest octave.
Comparing the biggest sub-bass reed (a very low C) with the smallest treble reed (F”) displays their huge differences.
I have not had to open the wind chest, or deal with the bellows or the pedals. This organ is fun to play because it has many different voices and it booms impressively with its sub-bass. It has been the least trouble of all my organs so far–possibly because it is the youngest.