Founded in 1795, James Chapman Bishop’s first workshops were at York buildings in Saint Marylebone. He soon became well established and took on the premises of 250 Marylebone Road.
JC Bishop quickly built a reputation and became widely known as a master organ builder whose attention to detail and expert knowledge, combined with ingenuity and craftsmanship, produced some of the finest English organs of the nineteenth century.
He insisted from the start of his career that his house used only the finest materials and best quality resources in its manufactory and that this rule was not compromised for expedience or financial economy. He was also responsible for inventing some of the features that we take for granted in organ building today, namely the anti-concussion valve to provide steady wind, the Clarabella stop and the composition pedals to name but a few.
Charles Augustus Bishop and George Speechley Bishop were JC Bishop’s sons, both of whom were trained as organ builders and followed in their father’s footsteps running the firm alongside him. Charles was more involved in the running of the firm, taking on many of the responsibilities at the workshops while his father was travelling on firm’s business. After his father’s death in 1854, the care of the firm fell largely into Charles’ hands, indeed he was responsible for the partnerships with Starr and Richardson. George decided to spend less time at the workshops and gave his time only as needed.
Charles Kenwick Kenelm Bishop was Charles Augustus’ son, and was put to task in the firm at every opportunity from a young age; he was much loved by all the men and became an excellently skilled young organ builder. CKK was a man of great vision who sadly became ill at a young age and so did not fulfil his dreams and potential. However, in his time at the heart of the firm the young Charles was able to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps showing innovation and attention to detail. The firm saw a new era of ingenuity and creativity during CKK’s time with the registration of many new patents and improvement of techniques and practices, a remarkable achievement in such a small span of time.
Edward Hadlow Suggate was an organ builder at Bishop and Son during Charles KK Bishop’s time. As young Charles became too ill to administrate the firm, E Hadlow Suggate saw the need for certainty in its future and was able to raise the money necessary to purchase the business and its assets. Mr Suggate was subsequently able to take over the entire management of the firm but was keen to keep Charles involved as much as possible. Indeed, Charles was constantly present in the workshop, both in the offices and at the bench. When CKK Bishop died, Mr Suggate insisted upon ensuring financial support for his widow and family.
During Edward Hadlow Suggate’s time as Principal of the firm, Bishop and Son saw some of the most dramatic changes in organ building. He was to oversee its progress through the end of the nineteenth century and its journey through the beginning of the twentieth; this is by many considered to be one of the most important periods of our industry’s history. In his time Mr Suggate was responsible for the purchasing of a new, large works as the firm expanded to Ipswich, and he completely re-tooled twice!
Mr Suggate was keen to maintain the firm’s tradition of best quality whatever the cost and was equally as keen to advance as far as possible the techniques and output of the firm. After the loss during the Great War of his son Eric Suggate, a gifted young man and a brilliant engineer who was responsible for the firm’s electric and hydraulic blowing achievements up to the war, Mr Suggate worked closely with his works manager, Mr “Harry” Holt, to develop any area of the trade possible, and in the 1920s Bishop and Son was responsible for many achievements in developing and introducing electric actions and transmissions, the design and operation of which are still remarkable today. The techniques developed by them were not used by some other firms until decades later and are still in use today, the late RA Williams (Stero) basing much of his electrical equipment on our designs.
Mr Suggate took a keen interest in the building and finishing of every organ the firm worked on and would attend to the finishing himself. This attentiveness produced some of the most musical instruments of the period and was passed on to Mr Suggate’s daughter. Hilda Mary Suggate ran the firm after her father’s death. She was a shrewd businesswoman like her father before her and shared his compassion for the staff as well as the work they carried out. In the last half a century, Bishop and Son has continued to develop the technology and design of instruments with care and pride. It follows closely in the traditions of predecessors while looking forward to the future with continued research and development of work – within its workshops can be seen equipment and tooling that has been here for over 200 years together with new machinery and tooling. This helps it to stay at the leading edge of the market for good quality British organ building.