By Julius de Waal

Twenty-twenty-one sees the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Albert Hall in London and the first performance of its mighty 150 tonne organ, then the largest instrument in the world. Designed and built by Henry Willis at a cost of approximately £8,000 the Hall’s Grand Organ, 70 ft tall and 65 ft wide, was built in just 14 months. The organ’s wind system was powered by two two-cylinder steam beam engines drawn here.

The manufacturer was John Penn & Son of Greenwich. Since 1921, a Royal Albert Hall beam engine has remained care of the Science Museum, London.

A two year restoration of the organ was undertaken from 2002 by Mander Organs of London at a cost of £1.5m. The work saw the pipes restored, and the the reinstatement of high wind-pressures. A further stop was added, and the total number of pipes increased to 9,999. Today the largest of the pipes measures 2 ft 6 in diameter, 42 ft high and weighs almost 1 tonne – the smallest pipe is about as wide as a drinking straw. If laid end to end, the pipes would span approximately nine miles.

MEWS described the organ engines here. Julius based his drawings on that article.

Julius’ drawings for a project to build a model of the original beam engines which were the first blowers for the Albert Hall organ.

Click on drawings to download.

For personal use only.

Although drawings reproduce well on this website, they are even better as saved downloads.

Please contact the editor if you decide to build one of these.

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Editor: David Carpenter