Robert Hope-Jones

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Robert Hope-Jones
Hope-Jones 16 ft open wood pipes prior to removal from All Saints' Church, Upper Norwood

Robert Hope-Jones (9 February 1859 — 13 September 1914) is considered to be the inventor of the theatre organ in the early 20th century. He thought that a pipe organ should be able to imitate the instruments of an orchestra, and that the console should be detachable from the organ.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jones was born in Hooton, The Wirral, Cheshire, England to William and Agnes Hope-Jones. His younger brother was the horologist Frank Hope-Jones. After a private education at Birkenhead School he was apprenticed to Laird's Shipbuilders in Birkenhead. He then moved on to work for a telephone company and by 1890 had set himself up in business to build electric organs.[2]


Among his innovations in the field of organ design were improvements to electro-pneumatic action and the invention of such stops as the Diaphone and the modern Tibia Clausa with its strong 8′ flute tone. The Tibia eventually became a staple of theatre organs. The thunderous 32′ Diaphone was less successful, but made an impression on audiences of the era.

Hope-Jones organs were also noted for such innovations as stoptabs instead of drawknobs and very high wind pressures of 10″ – 50″ to imitate orchestral instruments. He used expression liberally, sometimes enclosing the entire organ behind thick swell shades for great expressive power. He also used a system of unification which multiplied considerably the number of stops relative to the number of ranks.[3]

He built 246 organs between 1887 and 1911 and his company employed 112 workers at its peak.[4] Hope-Jones eventually merged his organ building operations with Wurlitzer in 1914.


Later in 1914 Robert Hope-Jones ended his life, aged 55, by suicide in Rochester, New York, frustrated by his new association with the Wurlitzer company.[3]


Few Hope-Jones organs have survived to the present time. Probably the largest and most complete example in the UK is the partially restored 1901 organ at Battersea Old Town Hall, now the home of Battersea Arts Centre. The organ at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, built by Hope-Jones in 1908, has most of its original Hope-Jones ranks still intact and playable, although it has been vastly enlarged since then.[5] Another fully preserved Hope Jones organ is his opus 2 at the First Universalist Church in Rochester, New York, which has been described as sounding "weighty and lush", with large-scaled 8′ stops.[3] The Anglican Cathedral of St John The Baptist, St John's, Newfoundland is home to the only Robert Hope-Jones organ ever installed in Canada (built in 1904). The organ was rebuilt by Casavant in 1927, however many original components remain.

All Saints' Church, Upper Norwood, had an interesting example of a three manual Hope-Jones organ within a parish church setting, complete with diaphones and Wurlitzer-style console; it was hoped that it might be restored at some point in the future but the organ has now been dismantled. However, the historic Hope-Jones 16 ft open wood rank complete with chest from All Saints' Church was moved in February 2011 to West Ashling Chapel belonging to The Clock Trust, where it is on public display with many other Hope-Jones pipes from this organ.

There is also part of the great organ in Worcester Cathedral in the UK. In recent work only one Hope-Jones rank of pipes Viol d'Orchestre has been retained. As long ago as the early 1970s the diaphones were disconnected/removed and the solo division (Tuba Mirabilis. Tuba Sonora -revoices? and orchestral oboe were removed).[clarification needed] Built in front of a Saxon window, there have been divisions with the Victorian Society about the historical importance of the organ as opposed to the accessibility of the window.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Biography at American Theatre Organ Society website
  2. ^ "The Other Hope-Jones". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  3. ^ a b c "Jonathan Ortloff, "A Robert Hope-Jones Organ in Rochester", 'Resonance, p. 15" (PDF). Eastman School of Music. Spring 2005. 
  4. ^ David H. Fox, Robert Hope-Jones. Richmond, Virginia: Organ Historical Society
  5. ^ "Gordon Turk at the Robert Hope-Jones organ". Sacred Classics. 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-11.

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