The Missing Donated Organ

The Missing Donated Organ

Attempts to track the fate of a pipe organ which stood on what is now Moseley School's west wing library balcony have, until now, proved fruitless.

New evidence suggests that the organ, which was probably built when the building first opened in 1857, as a college to train non-conformist ministers, survived in situ until after the building became a school in 1923. Some Moseley Secondary School pupils, as the school was then known, recalled working the bellows. By 1938 it had fallen into disuse and no one can recall its fate. Some reports date the organ as 1866, nine years after the building first opened. However the shape of the balcony suggests it was designed with an organ in mind. Perhaps an earlier organ was brought from the college’s original home in Spring Hill, Hockey.

Recent research has now shed some light on the mystery. By 1938 the organ was described as “almost unrecognisable as a musical instrument”. With the involvement of Alderman Byng Kenrick, Chairman of the Education Committee, who was a cousin to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, it was offered to Rea Street Senior Boys' School in Deritend. However unable to afford the cost of removal and repair, the Rea Street staff took it upon themselves to have the old organ delivered by a lorry, and, with the help of their boys, restored it.

On 31st May 1938 the Rea Street pupils christened the newly refurbished organ with a singing concert at the school. Parents and scholars attended its inauguration and Byng Kenrick was chairman at the ceremony.

Sadly just three year later, in 1941, Rea Street School was damaged during the blitz and closed, with the organ being one of the casualties.

However all was not lost, and the organ passed into the hands of Tinkers Farm Boys' School, Northfield. Tinkers Farm was a technical school with 500 boys and its stated aims were summed up in the words of Aristotle...

“We do not train boys to learning by force, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that we may the be better able to discover the peculiar bent of each.”

So part of their school day was devoted to practical hobbies included railway engineering and signalling, weaving, surveying, gardening and model shipbuilding. It would appear that rebuilding the organ became another project.

Twenty years earlier one firm had quoted £200 as the estimated cost of repair; the work was now carried out by volunteers at a cost of just £27 and on 17th December 1941 it was formally brought back into use at a gathering at which, yet again, Alderman Byng Kenrick presided.

Sadly the last recorded sighting of the organ was in April 1961 when a disgruntled 15 year old former student caused £200 of malicious damage by smashing the organ’s plugs, stops and pipes. The boy was placed on probation for 12 months and ordered to pay £15 in compensation.

As part of the educational reforms and the introduction of the comprehensive system, Tinkers Farm Boys' School become Northfield Comprehensive School in 1969, and with the passing of the post-war baby boom the council looked to close and consolidate numbers into larger secondary schools. So in July 1986, at which time there remained just one year group on site, Northfield Comprehensive School closed. The building itself was crumbling with cracks running from floor to roof and a general air of disrepair abounded and of the organ… there is no record. Perhaps it found a new home, a school, church or private collector?