About Our Company
F.H. Browne & Sons - Building Organs since 1871
F.H. Browne employs 10 people, managed by Stephen Bayley (Managing Director), Yvette Bayley (Company Secretary) and Michael Keays (Director). Our staff includes skilled craftsmen in cabinet making, organ case design, mechanical, pneumatic and electric organ action, leatherwork, tuning and voicing. We run an organ apprentice scheme, ensuring the current skills are passed onto the next generation, so that the organ heritage can continue to be supported and maintained well into the future.
Our workshop is in Ash, near Canterbury, where we have been since 1983. We have recently gained planning permission to build a purpose-built workshop nearby, in East Stourmouth; we eagerly anticipate moving here in 2018-19.
Whilst many of our customers are located in London and Southern and Home counties of England, we welcome the opportunity to consider organ restoration projects elsewhere.
Frederick Henry Browne was born in Canterbury in 1849 and was apprentice to William Hobday, a well-established Organ Builder and Music Seller of Canterbury. At the youthful age of 22 he set up his own business building and restoring organs from a disused chapel in Nelson Street, Deal. At this period there was a great expansion in church building, not least among the non-conformists. The business quickly grew and so did his family. An 1891 census shows him to have six children and two servants, and by this time he had acquired the business of his former master.
During the first 35 years of his business a great number of organs were built for churches and chapels not only in this country but places as diverse as Egypt and Canada. Several of Mr. Browne's sons joined him in the business which also included a general music shop selling sheet music, pianos, American organs and other musical instruments.
Pianos bearing the name "F.H Browne" are occasionally found today. Mr. Browne was also well known for arranging celebrity concerts in the town. He was no mean player himself, often joining in the concerts and giving recitals elsewhere.
In 1906 the premises in Deal were sold and the company moved to Canterbury. By this time Frederick's eldest son, William was managing the business but Frederick himself continued to take an active part until his death in 1933. Sadly, William passed away six months after his father.
The company continued to trade with assistance from various members of the "Browne" family but largely through the efforts of Mr. Alfred Willey, who had joined the company as an apprentice prior to the First World War. It was he who ensured that the company continued to provide services during the Second World War.
After the war the company was re-formed as F H Browne & Sons (Organ Builders) Ltd. with Mr. Willey as Managing Director. He was joined by Mr. Harry Fagg, a long standing employee of the company, and several members of staff took shares in the new company. This period saw a great expansion in the use of electric action and the development of organs using the extension principle. Willey and Fagg presided over a period of sound and steady activity, guiding the fortunes of the company together for over 35 years. Sadly, both died within a month of one another in 1982.Following this a new partnership was established by Roger Greensted, who had joined the company as an apprentice in 1963, together with Reginald Cobb, another long standing employee, and Gordon Chapman, a well-known local organist. In 1983 the company moved premises to Ash where we are pleased to occupy The Old School which itself was built in 1871, the same year in which Mr. Browne set up his original business. Roger Greensted left the company in 2013.
Stephen Bayley, a former apprentice of F H Browne and sometime employee of Mander Organs, has now taken over as Managing Director. His wife Mrs Yvette Bayley has joined him as Director. As a new chapter in our History begins we look to build and restore Organs with the highest quality of workmanship and materials.
We are proud of our history and do our best to uphold the aims and ideals of our founder. We continue the traditional work of tuning and servicing instruments, having some 600 organs in our care.