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Henry Groves & Son Ltd

☎ 07973 214536

pipe organ builders · nottingham

Our history


The firm of Henry Groves & Son was founded in 1957 by Alvin Henry Groves who had previously worked for the renowned firm of Henry Willis & Sons Ltd. During his time with Willis, Alvin worked on important organs such as Birmingham Town Hall, Blenheim Palace and All Saints, Northampton. A year later Alvin’s long-time friend and colleague at Willis’s, Arthur Bailey, joined the firm as a Partner. Arthur had previously worked for Roger Yates of Nottingham.

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In 1969 the long-established (1894) Nottingham firm of E. Wragg & Son was purchased, comprising a large workshop, staff, and tuning round including the famous four-manual Binns organ at the Albert Hall, Nottingham. Arthur Bailey retired in 1979. At this time the firm moved to new premises, as the old workshop had to be demolished for a council road-widening scheme.


1979‒1990

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The new premises proved to be far more practical and many organs were built and restored. In 1984 a restored organ was exported to the Bahamas. Jonathan M Wallace, Alvin’s grandson, joined the firm in 1985 having left school at the age of 16. Alvin Groves retired from the firm in October 1990 after having spent 45 years in organ building.


1990‒1994

Jonathan’s first task was to carry out the cleaning and overhaul of the Cousans organ at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Nottingham (1990). The work was carried out for Father John Berry, the Roman Catholic Organ Advisor for Nottingham, and from this came further contracts within the Nottingham Diocese. This included the overhaul and enlargement of Father Berry’s own organ at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Eastwood. In 1995 Jonathan was delighted to receive the order to overhaul the three-manual organ at St Barnabas Catholic Cathedral, Nottingham.

In 1991 Jonathan completed the installation of a one-manual organ at Owmby-by-Spital, Lincolnshire following recommendation from Laurence Elvin, Diocesan Organ Adviser for Lincolnshire. Further contracts were carried out within Lincolnshire for Mr Elvin.

Both Alvin Groves and Laurence Elvin had a big influence on Jonathan’s organ-building career and it was a great privilege to have a chapter (Youthful Enterprise) written about the then 22-year-old in Laurence Elvin’s final book, Pipes & Actions.


1994‒1999

In 1994 The Johnson Organ Company of Derby was incorporated and its owner, Mr Paul Johnson, joined the team at Henry Groves & Son.

At this time Jonathan introduced the firm to Mr Rodney Tomkins, Diocesan Organ Adviser to Derbyshire, and since this time numerous contracts have been completed in Derbyshire including three new instruments. These were at St Peter’s, Calow, St Lawrence’s, Whitwell, and St Helen’s, Darley Abbey.

We have been fortunate to have been kept busy over recent years and have been pleased to carry out recent contracts for Paul Hale, Diocesan Organ Adviser for Southwell and Lincolnshire. These include the rebuild and enlargement of the Forster & Andrews organ at All Hallows, Gedling, and a new organ to Mr Hale’s specification at Holy Cross, Epperstone.


2000‒2005

The New Millennium heralded a new start for the firm. The premises at Carlton were sold and a new purpose-built workshop was occupied on July 13th 2001.

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The move proved a great success and within the first three years six three-manual rebuilds were carried out including the 41 speaking stop Abbott & Smith organ at The Priory Church, Deeping St James.

2004 proved to be a year of restorations including the two fine instruments at All Saints, Matlock and St Peter & St Paul, Shelford.


2005‒2011

We have specialised over the years in building new organs with direct electric action on modular sound­boards. Following the success of the Epperstone installation in 1999, we have built twelve further similar instruments, including St Michael’s, Linby (2005), All Saints, Wingerworth (2006), St Edmund’s, Mansfield Woodhouse (2008), and St Giles, Balderton (2010). In 2009 another organ with this design was built for St Michael’s, Halam to the specification of Paul Hale.

Two major rebuilds with complete re-ordering of the internal layouts were completed at St Mary’s, Bulwell 2006 (enlarged to 3 manuals) and St Bartholemew’s, Quorn (2007). The rebuild and enlargement of the 1858 Hill organ at St Oswald’s, Ashbourne was completed in 2011. The organ was re-dedicated on September 24th by the Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury, with the opening recital given by Paul Hale, then Rector Chori of Southwell Minster, on October 30th.


2011‒2016

We have continued to have a busy work schedule and have completed some very interesting and rewarding projects. Our modular direct electric action organs have proved very popular and an ideal solution to retain the pipe organ even when space within the church is at a premium. Two projects have replaced one-manual instruments with larger two-manual organs, in half the space, both creating new vestries below. These were at St Wilfrid’s, Calverton 2012 and more recently at St Mark’s, Newnham, Cambridge in 2015.

Two re-located organs have been installed into two Derbyshire churches, replacing ailing poor quality instruments: English Martyrs Catholic Church, Alvaston in 2013, and St Bartholemew’s, Hognaston in 2015. This option often proves to be more cost-effective and more practical.

Rebuilds and restoration work have always been a mainstay of our business. Our last project of 2015 at St Michael’s, Averham proved to be a challenging and most rewarding example.

After water ingress some 25 years ago, the fine two-manual J J Binns organ of 1901 had lain dormant. Following a generous donation from a private benefactor, the restoration work began in April 2015 and was completed on time for its first service on December 27th 2015. The organ is unique within an English rural church as it is powered by three sources: the original hand blowing, the standard electric blower, and the more unusual water pump with its own separate bellows. The organ sounds magnificent and is certainly the hidden gem of Nottinghamshire.


2017‒2019

We have continued to remain busy and have carried out three large contracts: restoration of the organ in Bishop Street Methodist Church, Leicester, the major rebuild of St Mary’s, Melton Mowbray, and the installation of a three-manual organ at St Mary’s, Maidenhead. This organ was rededicated on June 1st 2018 when the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Theresa May, held the first note.

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2019 sees another exciting year ahead with a variety of work covering major rebuilds, new direct electric actions, mechanical action restoration and pneumatic action restoration.


We are always happy to quote for, and give our professional advice on, rebuilding, restoring, reconfiguring or replacing an existing organ. If you would like to talk about a future project,

Please contact us

page updated  20-05-2019