The Worthing Wurlitzer

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.

Troxy, Stepney
Console on the move
The organ at Buckingham

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.

Building the Chambers in the hall
Opening concert (Ernest Broadbent, Bobby Pagan & George Blakmore)
Restoring a chest
Phil Kelsall at the console
Restored console on the move
Wurlitzer and the Worthing Symphony Orchestra.

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.

Horace Finch at the Empress Ballroom
Console being dismantled at the playhouse manchester
Regulators in the new chamber

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.

New console construction
New console construction
New console construction

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.

in 2022 The Wurlitzer was enlarged to 23 ranks with the latest and final rank being a Wurlitzer Oboe Horn from the USA

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.