Breaking: Famous organ builder goes bust

Breaking: Famous organ builder goes bust


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2020

Mander Organs, which rebuilt the great instruments at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall (pictured) has gone into bankruptcy.
Here’s the official notice:
Mander Organs Ltd profoundly regrets to announce that, owing to cashflow difficulties and the inability to secure sufficient work, the company has ceased trading as of Monday 27.vii.2020. The management and staff would like to express their gratitude to our clients and friends for the loyalty and support they have given over the years, and particularly in the last few difficult months. Our affairs have been placed in the hands of an independent insolvency practitioner, Insolve Plus Ltd, to whom all enquiries should be addressed.”
John Pike Mander explains:
It is with great sadness that I have to confirm the closing of Mander Organs and its bankruptcy. You will not have difficulty in anticipating my own sadness, annoyance and great disappointment.
When I gave the firm to the workforce in the form of an Employee Ownership Trust on the 1st of November 2018, it had a year’s worth of work (one contract was signed shortly after the handover) and £93k of cash in the bank. One would have thought that would be an adequate basis for the firm to launch to new heights. It was well equipped with some machinery not found elsewhere in the UK and I think I can say it had a halfway decent reputation. It also had an intelligent workforce, both regarding their work in the company and their individual outside interests.
But, 15 months later, the money in the bank was spent and they asked for (and got) a £15k loan from me to tide them over. Unfortunately, it was not enough. I don’t really know what went wrong, but it looks as it it may have something to do with eyes and balls, but I really don’t know.
I thought I had set up the ideal form for the future of the family firm, by establishing a different form of family. I offer my apologies to all our past clients. I offer my heartfelt condolences to my erstwhile colleagues. I hope you all find useful and enjoyable employment elsewhere. I also hope that once the understandable anger has subsided, you will remember the sometimes tough, but also enjoyable and rewarding times we have had together. On my side there were many, which I miss in retirement and now will miss so much more. There is little more I can say, but I feel a great deal more.


  • Micaelo Cassetti says:

    This really is a tragedy, and a huge loss to organ building both in Britain and worldwide.

    • John Webber says:

      Hugely sad and I am very grateful for the work done and the high standards set by the firm over many years. Many others will feel the same.

  • R. Brite says:

    Could someone explain what he means by “something to do with eyes and balls”, please?

    • R. Brite says:

      Oh, never mind. I knew it would come to me right after I posted the query. And yes, I am mentally 12 years old.

    • Peter Smith says:

      As in taking your eye off the ball?

    • Peter says:

      Yes indeed, and you might add to that ” I don’t really know what went wrong” as well ! This is like saying, “sorry, my hand slipped during surgery and the patient died, but I don’t know why my hand slipped.”

  • sb says:


  • MatteoB says:

    Would the current situation also have something to do with it: bread and butter jobs like tuning drying up? No matter it is deeply sad 🙁

  • David Snyder, Lumierist says:

    I’m saddened beyond description but yet,, thankful that in my 18 years working with Virgil Fox I was present to, hear, the greatest organist and possibly one of the worlds greatest pipe organs, created by Mander both master and instrument together proclaiming the message of Jesus they were sent to give us. Thank you Mander, YOU built that organ and your inspired craftsmen made that day possible for me,,and the world. Your organs will become a legend like Virgil Fox, and will never be forgotten, not even for a moment. Be proud of your accomplishment and take heart by remembering those words, “To everything there is a season”

  • Philip Scriven says:

    The news of the demise of Mander organs came as a huge surprise and sadness to us at Cranleigh School. It was only 10 years ago that we were the very fortunate recipients of a magnificent new organ, thanks to the generosity of an old Cranleighan benefactor, Hamish Ogston. Hamish and his brother, the late Bruce Ogston, looked at a number of firms for the project, but it was a private gathering listening to Carlo Curley playing the Royal Albert Hall organ, which Manders had recently rebuilt, which finally persuaded them that Manders was the company to go for. Our instrument is obviously much smaller than the RAH one, but with just 31 speaking stops, it is still a remarkably versatile and colourful instrument. Although it is classically voiced, it is able to do justice to the repertoire of many different periods and styles, and is an excellent teaching instrument with a sensitive mechanical action. The Mander organ has also enabled us to build a thriving outreach programme, which has attracted many school children, both from the locality and further afield, who may not otherwise have been able to play, hear and enjoy such a fine musical instrument.