Organ History

The Worthing Wurlitzer began its life in the Troxy Theatre, Stepney, where it opened in 1933 with Bobby Pagan as the organist. In the early 60’s the organ console was removed and new pipe work was founded from the Metropole Victoria. David Pawlyn and the ‘Theatre Organ Preservation Society’ installed the organ in Buckingham town hall and boasted the first ever organ transplant. Sadly the organ only played for a few years when the hall became water damaged.

In 1977 Jim Buckland and the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust rescued the organ from the hall. Four years of painstaking work and significant investment followed, before the Wurlitzer was first heard in the Assembly Hall on the 24th May 1981. The opening concert was given by George Blackmore, Ernest Broadbent and, opening the same instrument for the second time in his career, Bobby Pagan.

In 1988 the BBC Playhouse (ex. Empress Ballroom Wurlitzer) was acquired. It was intended the Playhouse instrument would remain and play as one and the existing console would be enlarged to play both organs. However this never happened and the Playhouse organ was broken up and used to enlarge the current organ. Other ranks were also purchased, notably the ‘Style D’ Trumpet from the original George Wright studio organ.

International experts such as Lyn Larsen, Walt Strony, Ron Rhode, Hector Olivera and Simon Gledhill all contributed to the revised specification and console layout. So significant were the console modifications that a completely new stop rail had to be a constructed, using electric stop key actions and 264 stop keys. The design, based on the ‘Fox Special Wurlitzers’ took two years and some £8,000 to complete.

The new 22 rank organ reopened on the 23rd February 1997 with Nigel Ogden, Iain Flitcroft, Robin Richmond and Simon Gledhill at the console. The organ is used for a full range of events from regular monthly concerts to ballroom dancing and civic functions.

The Wurlitzer is prepared for a 23rd Rank, this being an Oboe Horn, and it is hoped this will be added in the not to distant future and making a welcome addition to the specification.

in 2016 Jim Buckland stood down as chairman of the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust at the age of 97. Since then Simon Field is at the helm with a team of volunteers who help prepare the Wurlitzer for every concert.