Express & Star

Mighty Wurlitzer cinema pipe organ tunes up for Lichfield auction

A rare 1930s Wurlitzer theatre organ is heading for sale in Lichfield.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton with the Wurlitzer in Cannock

Richard Winterton Auctioneers say that not only has the 1936 example of a ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ cinema pipe organ been lovingly restored, it has been played by most of Britain’s top organists to the enjoyment of audiences in a bespoke mini theatre built at its owner’s bungalow in a quiet cul-de-sac in Cannock.

The instrument goes under the hammer at The Lichfield Auction Centre as Lot 1201 in the Antiques & Home Sale on Tuesday, May 21, starting at 9.30am.

Thought to be one of around 20 operational theatre Wurlitzers in the UK today, the console has been resprayed to such a high standard it has been lauded as one of the best-looking cinema organs in the country.

The Mighty Wurlitzer – ‘a living instrument when it’s all up and firing away’.

The present owner saved the instrument from slowly deteriorating in a container in November 2000 when it was transported and craned into a purpose-built 20-seat mini theatre at his home.

During 2001 it was lovingly restored and rebuilt with guidance from Steve Tovey, The Birmingham Odeon’s master cinema organist, and the assistance of The Cinema Organ Society’s Cameron Lloyd.

Most of the UK’s famous organists came to Cannock to play the instrument and recordings were made of their performances.

Musicians included Phil Kelsall, resident organist at Blackpool Tower; Nicholas Martin BEM; the late Dr Arnold Loxam, who gave BBC organ concerts from the 1940s to the 1960s; and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jean Martyn – the Lichfield-born former Cannock teacher played at the mini theatre almost a decade before wowing judges and audiences alike on TV’s BGT.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton said: “What an impressive instrument this is. The console has been resprayed to an amazing standard and the original Wurlitzer sound has been carefully retained.

“It has been guided at £5,000 to £7,000 at auction but such an unusual, beautiful item could fetch far more on the day.”

The auction catalogue can be viewed online via a week before the sale and people can bid online, in the room or by prior arranged telephone bid.

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