fonds MFOR - Forsyth-Grant Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Forsyth-Grant Archive


  • [1930s]-1997 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.34 cubic metres

17 boxes, 1 roll and 2 compact cassettes.

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Maurice Ivor Forsyth-Grant was born at Ecclesgreig Castle near Montrose on 2 August 1917, the son of Captain Maurice Cecil Forsyth-Grant. He was educated at the Elms School at Colwall in Worcestershire and then at Wellington College, before going on to study electrical engineering at Faraday House Electrical Engineering College.

After graduating he spent a year working as assistant to the Chief Acoustical Engineer at the Gramophone Company (later EMI) and then spent five years with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. In 1946 he began working for International Aeradio, developing communications equipment such as radar, radio beacons and air field control tower systems. In 1951 he was promoted to Chief Engineer. In 1954 he joined the new company Racal Engineering, working as Technical Director there until 1978.

Throughout his life Forsyth-Grant had an abiding interest in organ building. He took organ lessons whilst at Wellington School and became a regular visitor to the John Compton Organ Company whilst studying at Faraday House. It was through his link with Comptons that he met Ted Rippin, who he credited with his ‘real apprenticeship’ in organ building. He soon built his first organ, using secondhand parts, which was installed at St Mark’s Church, Hitchin, in 1939. In the 1950s he designed and built an electric organ which he subsequently sold to developers. He contributed to a number of specialist journals and also travelled widely, making contact with and visiting organ makers in Austria, Germany, Canada and the USA in particular and attending the congress of the International Society of Organbuilders at Strasbourg, London and Hamberg.

In 1959, while still working at Racal, he was contacted by Ted Rippin to ask if he would consider investing in a new organ building firm to be set up by Rippins, John Degens, and Eric Atkins, two more Compton employees. He agreed and in 1960 became the chief investor in Degens and Rippin Ltd, who were based in Glenthorne Road in Hammersmith, London. The firm began by rebuilding old organs but soon moved on to designing and building their own, creating their first entirely new organ at St John the Evangelist Church in Fareham in 1964. In 1963 Forsyth-Grant added his name to the firm, making it Grant, Degens and Rippin Ltd. Then in 1967 Rippins retired from organ building and was replaced by Frank Bradbeer, making it Grant, Degens and Bradbeer Ltd.

The firm built twenty more organs over the next seven years, including the first three-manual mechanical action organ built in the UK and the electric organ in the Jack Lyons Concert Hall at the new University of York. The business relocated to Northampton in 1970 and Forsyth-Grant subsequently became less involved, stepping down as Director in the early 1970s and retiring completely from the firm in 1981. He wrote a history of the company, and of his own lifelong interest in organ building, in 1987, published as ‘Twenty One Years of Organ-Building: The History of Degens and Rippin Ltd; Grant, Degens and Rippin Ltd; and Grant, Degens and Bradbeer Ltd.’

Maurice Forsyth-Grant retired to Wales and died in Rhydspence, Herefordshire, on 3 November 1992.

Archival history

The books, papers and music of Maurice Forsyth-Grant were bequeathed to the University of York Music Library in 1992.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was transferred to the Borthwick Institute in 1993 by the University of York Music Library. Further additions were made to the archive in 1999 and 2018.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Personal papers of Maurice Forsyth-Grant, including correspondence, articles, notes, journals, press cuttings and photographs relating to organ building around the world, 1930s-1980s; papers and photographs concerning his home, Hawthorn Lodge, and the organ rebuilt there by Forsyth-Grant, 1950s-1960s; manuscript and typescript drafts, notes, correspondence concerning his autobiography ‘Twenty-One Years of Organ Building,’ 1980s, together with a copy of the published work, 1987; and magnetic audio tape labelled ‘Huddersfield O.C’, n.d.

Papers of Reverend F. G. Hunter concerning Forsyth-Grant, 1960s-1997, including correspondence; draft and published articles; advertisements; newspaper cuttings, audio recordings and papers relating to Maurice Forsyth Grant Memorial Weekend at the University of York.

Records relating to organ building firm of Degens & Rippin Ltd; Grant, Degens & Rippin Ltd; and Grant, Degens & Bradbeer Ltd, comprising foundation papers, including memorandum of Articles of Association of Degens & Rippin Ltd, 1960, special resolutions, 1962-1964, and company policy, 1967; accounts, 1960-1979; papers of Frank Bradbeer’s secretary, comprising business correspondence arranged alphabetically, 1960s-1970s; papers concerning relocation of firm to Northampton, 1969-1970; advertising materials, 1962-1983; production records, comprising project files for organs restored and built by the firm, including specifications, estimates, correspondence, blueprints, invoices, and photographs, 1957-c.1984, production diagrams by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer, and by other organ building firms, n.d., correspondence, brochures, and price lists by manufacturers of organ components in the UK, Europe and the USA, 1961-1967, and files concerning unsuccessful job tenders, 1961-1979; papers concerning recitals, dedications, and recordings of organs by the firm, 1962-1979; articles concerning organ building around the world, 1948-1974; visitors’ book of Grant, Degens & Bradbeer Ltd, 1964-1972; and other business papers.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English
  • German

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Includes magnetic audio tape. Access to audiovisual material may be restricted due to technical requirements, please contact the Borthwick Institute for further information.

Finding aids

The archive has not yet been catalogued.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Notes area

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 22.02.17.




Accession area