LOCAL HISTORY & COMPANY DETAILS
Mechanical Music - A Local Tradition since 1816.......
The Bristol / Bath area is famous for many historical trades such as architecture, ship building and its aircraft industry. However, it is often forgotten that our locality has a long tradition of musical instrument manufacturing.
The first organ builder to have his works in Bristol was Robert Tanton, establishing his business in 1660. So followed a succession of organ builders, including manufacturers and hirers of barrel organs and pianos etc, dealers and shops selling all kinds of instruments, both mechanical and manual players.
By the middle of the 18th century, the area could boast such famous firms as Elizabeth Chew, the Bristol Harpsichord makers, and Brice Seede Organ Builders. As the music industry grew, apprentices to these firms started their own businesses like John Smith of Bath and Bristol who trained with Seede and was succeeded by his son, Richard Smith, who in turn was succeeded by Joseph Monday.
One of the areas closely linked to the music industry was Castle Street in Bristol, which at one time could boast music box sales, pipe organ dealers & manufacturers and other musical instrument shops.
.By circa 1805 the famous cabinet making family of Hicks had turned their attention to the building of musical instruments and are credited as inventing and building the very first street barrel piano in Bristol around this date. So by 1816 the firm of Joseph Hicks was well established as a leading supplier of barrel street pianos and organs. The Hicks pattern of street piano was so popular that other firms copied the design, including the German builders in the Black Forest area.
Following the success of the Hicks street piano, Hicks style pianos continued to be built in Bristol by his ex apprentices. At this point the firms of Henry Distin and Taylors were established and continued the tradition, although Henry Distin emigrated to America, leaving Taylors the English market.
Not only were pipe and string instruments popular, also reed playing organs were sought after. Bristol was not to be left behind in this field, with George B Briffett establishing his reed organ manufacturing business in Hulbert Street circa 1883, producing fine quality reed organs.
By 1909 the mechanical music businesses were well established in the area and it was in this year that Arthur Oram was to found the Bristol Showmans Stores in Bedminster which went on to become sole agent for the Paris firm of fair organ builders, C H Marenghi & Cie. Today this historic name can still be seen as the brand name on some of the products and organ music supplied by Dean Organs the last remaining Bristol family business still repairing and building fairground organs.
There is a long tradition in the Dean family in joinery, woodworking, carpentry, and cabinet making. Each member of the family taking pride in becoming Master Craftsmen of their trade. John Dean established himself as wheelwright and cabinet maker circa 1818 in Bridport, it was Johns grandson, Thomas Walter Dean who moved the family and their business to Bedminster in Bristol, following his marriage in 1899 to the daughter of a local dealer, William Wyatt. Walter Deans son Edwin, moved his business to Whitchurch in 1939 and so established the present site where our retail shop and workshop is today.
Under the direction of Edwin Deans son, Michael, the family turned its attention to the building of new traditional style fairground and street organs. It was at this time that the name of Dean Organ Builders was born. The family are responsible for a number of innovations taken as standard today, such as the introduction of the 20 keyless book playing organ and the 52 keyless book playing organ. Over the years the business has acquired a large archive of historic organ information and built up the equipment and tools needed for this unique trade with some of the tools coming from old firms.
One firm who for historic reasons should be mentioned is Pasquale & Co, Highgate, London, established 1860. Following the death of Richard Chenley who was sole proprietor, Dean Organ Builders Purchased the remaining instruments and records.
Mike and Pat Dean were joined by son Richard in the early 1980s having already trained as a production engineer. Richard then went on to do a three year apprenticeship under his father Micheal, becoming a partner in the business in 1989. In this year Michaels younger son Nicholas also joined the firm. The company has produced a large number of new organs which can been seen all over the country at steam fairs etc, Following Mike and Pat Deans retirement from the business in the late 1990s, the organ building business continued in the hands of their sons, who added extra scope to the business by opening the retail music shop,"The Music Box Shop", which was established to sell high quality new music boxes and musical jewellery boxes together with all kinds of musical instruments such as acoustic and electric guitars, violins, banjos and musical accessories. The shop stocks general musical instruments and Swiss music boxes by Reuge and Jobin as well as our own range of musical jewellery boxes.
In 2006 Nicholas Dean decided to leave the company and today the business continues in the hands of Richard and Sue Dean. Richard still continues with the organ building and has a full order book, as he is now one of the few trained and experienced mechanical organ builders left in this country.
Sue is the manager of "The Music Box Shop", with her friendly and helpful staff they are always on hand to offer advice on your music box or musical instrument purchase and to ensure that your order arrives promptly if purchased by mail order, or if you are visiting the retail shop that your visit is a pleasant one.
In January of 2006 Richard and Sue opened a music tuition office for keyboard and piano which has complimented the services that the company offers, so whatever aspect of music you are interested in, whether it be mechanical organs, music boxes, or electric guitar you can be sure whether you purchase a Dean made product or an externally sourced product, that the same care and pride has been used to manufacture or source it as is expected of a traditional firm.
"Dean Organ Builders, keeping The Tradition of Mechanical Music alive".