Author Topic: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.  (Read 3495 times)

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Janner

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John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« on: April 20, 2012, 08:02:42 AM »
I have already posted this request on another forum but am also trying here, just in case it may reach a little further.

Does anyone know anything about John H. Cowin & Co. of Liverpool please? I can find no real information on the internet so suspect that they no longer exist. If not, were they taken over by another firm, or did they just disappear?

My reason for asking is that I am trying to trace the origins of an organ which they sold to a church in what is now Merseyside, back in the 1950s. The instrument was not built by them but rather supplied as "Second hand, fully reconditioned." I know the original builder; my interest now is in where it was installed originally, before Cowin sold it on.

I am wondering if their records may have survived somewhere, even if the firm is no longer around.

Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.

AnOrganCornucopia

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 08:15:13 AM »
As far as I'm aware Cowin is no longer around. Those who have claimed to me to know his work suggest that this is a good thing. I'm trying to find a record somewhere to quote in this respect but have thus far drawn a blank. Maybe Barrie Davis could comment?
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 10:24:47 AM by AnOrganCornucopia »

revtonynewnham

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2012, 09:44:44 AM »
Hi

I assume you've looked on NPOR for an entry for the current location.

Every Blessing

Tony

Barrie Davis

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2012, 07:46:57 PM »
Hi

I have heard of this firm but know nothing about them.

Barrie

Janner

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2012, 08:40:47 AM »
Thanks to those who have replied so far.

Tony, yes, I have had a look on the NPOR. The present church, i.e. the organ’s present home, is listed but has no pipe organ record against it. It originally had a Hammond which, interestingly, was sold to a dealer for £680, over £200 more than the cost of the pipe organ which replaced it. This was in 1959. This church is now vacated by the Anglicans and may possibly change denominations, so no information is easily available directly from that source.

My information so far has come from church correspondence with Cowin at the time, copied from documents held at the Chester Records Office. He apparently offered the church a choice of two second hand pipe organs which he seems to have had in stock, but unfortunately does not say where either of them came from.

A search for “Cowin%” on the NPOR brought up thirty entries, twenty eight of which refer to this firm. In one or two cases they refer to “Cowin & Son,” which may be correct, but could also of course quite easily be a simple misunderstanding or error on someone’s part. Several of the records refer to organs moved from elsewhere, so it seems this was a significant part of the business. The latest date referred to was, I think, 1981.

There may be a couple of other avenues I can try, but in the meantime, any further ideas or information would be gratefully received.

Thanks,

J.

revtonynewnham

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2012, 10:09:35 AM »
Hi

First, could you let NPOR have details of the organ & church, so we can sort out a survey.

Secondly, I looked for Cowin on DBOB, and there's no entry, so I would guess that the firm didn't start in business until after 1950 (the cut-off date for DBOB at present).  It's possible they may have been around in a small way prior to that date.

The church records may provide an answer as to the origin of the organ - or maybe, if you're lucky, Cowin's records are in an archive somewhere - it might be worth at least asking the Liverpool archives if they have anything.

Every Blessing

Tony

Janner

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2012, 07:27:30 AM »
Thanks Tony.

I will look into sending the details to the NPOR when I have had a chance to check them for accuracy. At the moment some of the information I have is contradictory.

J.

revtonynewnham

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2012, 10:46:38 AM »
Hi J

Nothing new about contradictory info!  You should see some of the things we get at NPOR to try and sort out.

Every Blessing

Tony

MDR

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2017, 10:00:54 PM »
Hi - I may be able to help you here.  John H Cowin ('Bert', from his middle name) was based in Lark Lane, Liverpool.  He had been with Willis but then struck out on his own in the late 1950's.  His nephew, Keith Edwards (also an organ builder) was alive until, I think, last year.  Bert Cowin did a lot of cut-price work around Liverpool and North Wales, which was never good, but did receive a slightly undeserved bad press.  Keith had worked for his uncle Bert and once told me that his mission was to keep pipe organs in churches which would otherwise have moved over to electronics, hence the cut-price nature of the jobs.  One of his trade marks was that of using round, illuminated stop-heads, to control the couplers on his standard 2-man consoles.  These used 16v MES bulbs which, ultimately, became almost impossible to obtain.  The result was that there was a choice; 24V bulbs which could hardly be seen or 12V bulbs which then overheated and set fire to the fronts; hence the multitude of stories about Cowin consoles getting on fire! His largest works were Chorley St George, which was a combination of two redundant organs, and Blackburn Cathedral, which was an electrification of the Cavaille-Coll already there.  He died some time in the mid 1960's and the firm passed to one of his employees, Jim Cundle, before ceasing trading altogether.  He didn't ever build anything original; all his work involved second-hand pipework and much was simply electrification of old tracker instruments.  He had little regard for tonal integrity and would add incongruous pipework to existing instruments, but they generally worked, provided they received enough TLC to keep them going.  If anyone wishes to email me, I can send them an article I wrote for the Liverpool Organists' Association Newsletter on his work.  Most was incredibly Heath-Robinson in construction but was an essay in ingenuity, if nothing else!

David Drinkell

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Re: John H. Cowin & Co., Liverpool.
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2017, 09:54:49 PM »
Another large organ worked on by Cowin was the enormous (fourth largest in England when built) four-manual (possibly five)  Kirtland & Jardine commissioned by J.B. Joule (a rich amateur organist (probably related to the brewing family) in 1856 for St. Peter, Manchester, which found its way to St. Bride's, Old Trafford, where it was installed by George Benson.  Cowin rebuilt it in 1962 as a two-manual with 40 speaking stops and one of his illuminated consoles. When the church was demolished in 1991, the organ was taken into stock by Jardine, who in 2010 were aiming to rebuild it  in St. Catherine's Priory Church, Lincoln.  This information is gleaned from NPOR, but there is no mention therein of whether the Lincoln installation took place.  Joule's organ was a very interesting beast and worth checking out on NPOR.

 


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