The Empire Wurlitzer was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, USA in August 1928 and at the time was the largest Wurlitzer to be installed in Europe and the first European one to have four manuals (keyboards). Although unique outside of the USA, the Empire Wurlitzer was similar in its specification to two other organs which were both installed in New York state - Loew’s State Theatre, Syracuse (January 1928) and Keith-Albee Palace Theatre, Rochester (September 1928).

The original specification of the Empire Wurlitzer can be found here.

Empire Leicester Square Wurlitzer console
Empire Leicester Square Wurlitzer console

During its first few years in the Empire, several changes were made to the console specification of the Wurlitzer at the request of organists including Jesse Crawford. These changes included:

Great 16’ Viole d’Orchestre changed to 16’ Vox Humana

Solo 8’ Violin changed to Marimba Re-it

Solo 4’ Clarion changed to Chrysoglott

Accompaniment 8' Oboe Horn to 8' Kinura

Accompaniment 2nd Touch Xylophone changed to 4’ Main Tibia

8’ Pedal Saxophone changed to 8’ Horn Diapason

Two of the Great 2nd Touches were changed to be Great 8’ Oboe Horn & 8’ Quintadena

Three of the Orchestral 2nd Touch stops were converted to be duplicates of the three Pedal pistons.  These stop-keys were sprung so that they returned to the ‘off’ position.

The stop keys were changed to match the specification changes, but the order of the stops was not altered. Therefore, the substituted stops appear in the incorrect place on the stop rail. The engraving of the substituted stops is also different from the original Wurlitzer engraving on the rest of the stops.

Upon Jesse Crawford's recommendations, further alterations were carried out, where the facility to couple pedal pistons to the accompaniment pistons was added, together with a system that allowed a single piston to activate the pistons of the same number on the other divisions.

Different style engraving can be seen on the Vox Humana stop.
(Photo: Declan Poole)
Different style engraving can be seen on the Vox Humana stop. (Photo: Declan Poole)

The organ received further alterations during its time at Chorleywood. These included the addition of four extra ranks of Wurlitzer pipework which were English Horn, #2 (Style D) Trumpet, Stopped Flute (a damaged Wurlitzer concert flute that Len adapted and converted into a stopped flute by fitting homemade stoppers) & a second Vox Humana.

No alterations were made to the console and therefore these added ranks were playable only from a few rarely used stops that Len converted to play these additions. Most of the stop tabs were not changed either, which resulted in these stops being incorrectly labelled for the ranks they controlled. This was not a problem, as the organ was played mostly by Len, who of course knew what those changes were.

Len Rawle at Chorleywood
Len Rawle at Chorleywood

Initially, the organ will be installed in its new home as the original 20 ranks that were installed at the Empire Leicester Square in 1928. All of Len’s additional ranks are being kept for installation at a future date. The Empire console will not be altered, but it will be possible to access Len's added ranks via the Uniflex organ control system.