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History

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The first mention of Cousans was listed in the directory of Lincoln in 1877 as J R Cousans Pianoforte and Musical instrument sellers, 31 Croft Street, Lincoln. The original spelling of Cousins was changed by JR after a disagreement within the family, and wanting to be his own man changed the spelling to Cousans.
(Pictured: JR Cousans) 

JR had originally trained as a wheelwright and went onto train at J.Harston organbuilders of Newark. The first notable work came in 1879 with the re-build of the 2 manual 1854 Forster and Andrews organ in Conningsby Church. The business continued to grow with new organs at Grainthorpe Parish Church, Caister Parish Church, and Canwick Parish Church, the organ of which was overhauled by Cousans in 1997 and is still giving excellent service. 

1885 saw a move to larger premises at 16 Friars Lane Lincoln, and at that time J.R was building a reputation not only for good craftsmanship, and good business sense, but also to his friendly manner to all he met. 

In the late 1880s as his sons Reginald Arthur and Louis Bertrum left school they were taken into the business.

Queen Victoria's golden jubilee was in 1887 and Lincoln put on an exhibition to commemorate the celebration. Cousans were awarded the contract to build an organ for this event. The organ featured pneumatic action which had been patented by W.J Ledwood of Derbyshire. This seems to have been a success as they used this patent under license and went onto build a new 3 manual organ at Fakenham Church Norfolk, using the same action. Despite J.R suffering a serious illness during the building of the Fakenham organ, he recovered and went on to secure another important contract for the rebuild of the Hill Organ at the Mechanics Hall, Nottingham.

The firm continued to grow in the late 1880's gaining tuning contracts throughout the East Midlands. During this period the firm developed a sliderless soundboard, interchangeable combination action and general crescendo mechanism. Two organs with this action were built for Mansfield Road Baptist Church Nottingham, and Mount Tabor Methodist Chruch Long Eaton.

Cousans reputation continued to grow, especially for flue pipe voicing and they always used spotted metal pipework which was made and voiced in their own factory.

During the building of the Father Willis organ in Lincoln Cathedral in 1897 Cousans were asked to build a new two manual organ which was situated on the screen. When the Willis organ was installed, the Cousans job went to St Andrews Pro Cathedral Dunfries. This organ had L.B Cousans patent action number 5725 which included electro-magnetic spot control action, with the rest of the action pneumatic.

The Lincoln and Peterborough Third Oritorio Festival was held at Lincoln Cathedral in June 1896. The organ was built by Cousans with the second job being built by the firm for the same festival in 1899. The second organ eventually found its way to the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Cricklewood, and was bought by Rushworth and Dreaper when the church closed.

At the turn of the century Cousans had grown into a very busy and innovate company, and at that time they embarked upon several new projects, one of which was the "Premier" range of organs. This was an improved design of the "Positive" organ by Thomas Casson. The other innovation was to design and build the first electric blowers using fans in series known was the "Kinetic" blower.

The Premier range was an instant success finding homes in Scotland, Ireland and overseas as well as many at home. In the years prior to and after the Second World War, the design of the Premier was constantly improved with additions made possible such as full compass keyboards and pedal boards, and improvements to the pipe specifications. These models were particularly popular in smaller churches because of their small dimensions but big sound.

Organ blowers of today are taken for granted, but before the turn of the 19th Century church had to rely of either hydraulic engines or muscle power to supply the wind.

Experiments have been made by a number of engineers around this time using fans to blow organs, and in April 1902 R A and L.B Cousans built a prototype blower for which they took out a patent.

At that time the Newland Congregational Church in Lincoln, which housed a three manual Jardine, had been experiencing problems with their hydraulic engine. Cousans submitted an estimate for replacing this with a new fan blower. This was duly installed in 1902 for a trial period and proved a huge success. In 1903 the Deacons agreed to purchase the blower, giving access to the company to demonstrate the blower to potential customers. 

The blower was named the "Kinetic" and a company was formed to build these blowers from the organ works in Cathedral Street in Lincoln. Large numbers of blowers were produced, and in 1903 Hugh Swanton of Stepney joined L.B Cousans and the company was named The Kinetic Swanton Company. 

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This company grew rapidly and in 1906 larger premises were taken in waterside Lincoln, also around that time, the Kinetic Company of America was formed. Hugh Swanton severed his connections with the company in 1909 and started his own company, The Rotasphere Company of Belvedere Road, Lambeth London. The Kinetic Company continued to make blowers during the First World War together with other engineering work to help the war effort. Increasing competition meant that orders for blowers started to dwindle and Kinetic was eventually sold to Sturtevant Engineering Company of London. However R.A Cousans continued to develop blowers and the Cousans turbine was made using a circular metal case in much the same way as blowers look today.


Other sizes and models were introduced, and after 1933 all models were known as the "K.C" blower. 


On the organ building side, the 1920's proved to be lean years for the company, and had it not been for R.A Cousans working long hours for little pay, the firm may have well gone under. In 1924 J.W Tye, who was the nephew of R,A Cousans, joined the company and in 1930 they had developed a reliable electro mechanical action which incorporated adjustable pistons and double touch cancelling. J.W Tye always used a system of bowden cables and pulleys to work the swell shutters rather than swell engines as he felt it gave the organist much better control.


In 1934 Cousans secured the contract to build a new chamber organ for Mr Albert Dean of Eccles, and in the following years contracts were secured for the reconstruction of the organ at the college of St Nicholas Chislehust, which became the Royal School of Church Music, also a new instrument was built of St Giles church Lincoln.  

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At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Cousans factory was turned over completely for the war effort, with many different items being made including ambulance boxes, headlamp shades, many different small engineering items and even gun sights. 
(Pictured: Cousans Organs pipemaking in the factory circa 1930s)


After the war it was decided to continue with the engineering side of the business and this was to prove very useful during lean periods on the organ building side.


Organbuilding was slow to recover in the post war years, with money for projects and materials in short supply.

In 1949 the business was made into a limited company, under the name Cousans (Lincoln) Ltd, and around that time J.A Robinson from Harrison and Harrison joined the board of directors.

Business started to build from the early 1950's with the rebuild of the organ at All Saints Church Grimsby, and new organs at Christchurch Northsheilds, St Christopher's Church Sneinton Nottingham, St Faiths Church Lincoln, St Chads Church Middlesbrough, Holy Trinity Bramley Surrey, St Marks Church Sheffield, Beaconsfield parish Church, Nottingham University Building and Ecclesfield Parish Church to name just a few.

The late 60's were the busiest years the company had known, and the factory was working flat out to cope with demand, however in the early 70's the firm was faced with an uncertain future as Lincoln city council had placed a compulsory purchase order on their factory on Brayford Wharf, which was to be demolished and a new theatre built.

Despite these problems, the factory continued to be busy building new organs for St Alkmund Church Duffield and Derby Cathedral Retro Choir.


In 1975 the company made a decision to move to a new factory on Moorland Way in Lincoln and at that time J.W Tye decided to retire leaving the running of the business to J.A Robinson. The firm continued to secure contracts employing around 10 men and at one point the order book was so full that customers were asked to wait around 2-3 years before a starting date could be given.
(Pictured staff in 1975: Michael Willey, Peter Townsend, Julian Paul, Brian Hill.  Seated J.A Robinson & J.W Tye. Can you help identify any others?)

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J A Robinson died suddenly in 1978 after which the company went through several hands including J.W Walker and Nicholson and Company.


The business was relocated to Leicestershire after being purchased by Ian Carter in 1996, who had originally trained with the company in 1976. Ian had also previously worked for Rushworth and Dreaper as their Midlands Area Manager.

Since relocating to Leicestershire, the company has grown, carrying out rebuilds and restorations, notably St Nicholas Church Kenilworth Warwickshire, RAF Cranwell Lincolnshire, Earlsdon Methodist Church Coventry, Wrangle Parish Church Boston Lincolnshire, St Marys Catholic Church Worksop Nottinghamshire, All Saints Church Collingham Nottinghamshire, St Andrews Church Epworth Lincolnshire, South Elkington Church Lincolnshire, Thornton Parish Church Leicestershire, Grays United Reformed Church Essex, Upton Parish Church Nottinghamshire and many more.

Since 1996, Cousans has grown with the purchase of the businesses of Kenneth Canter, Robert Baker and Chalmers and Hyde, and we currently tune and maintain over 400 organs and harmoniums.