London's Iconic Music Store 

Rose Morris Always With Pleasure 1920 to 1970, Part 2

A New Association

 


The leaping stag, symbol of Grampian Holdings Limited

 


A modern John Grey folk Banjo (Note the Head-

Master plastic head – impervious to climatic changes.)


In August 1960, the shares of Rose, Morris & Co., Ltd were acquired by Grampian Holdings Limited, a Scottish based holding company with interests in a wide range of commercial and industrial activities (not previously, including musical merchandise).  Leslie Rose decided to retire at that time: leaving the company after  more than forty years devotion to its well-being and the welfare of its staff, he has since engaged in charitable work although, unfortunately, his health has been sometimes not of the best.  Stanley Rose remained with the company, at first as Chairman and subsequently in the capacity of consultant.


With this, the first break from direction of the business by its founders, it was natural that fears should be expressed. Both within and outside Rose, Morris, that the policies and methods of the company might change.  

Here was a mammoth holding company, with no experience of the musical instrument trade (which has, as even its friends will agree, some peculiarities!), in control of an old-established family business which had built its reputation on a friendly, personal relationship with its suppliers and its customers: would RM now become yet another machine-like organisation, impersonal, rigid, unfriendly?  

Happily, the parent company in its wisdom did not interfere with the conduct of the business.  While its resources and experience proved valuable to Rose, Morris on many occasions since the acquisition, the association has proved to be a happy one in other respects, too: the directors and staff have been permitted to get on with the jobs they know so well, and the outcome has been a new Rose, Morris & Co., Ltd so closely akin to the original that the traditions and methods of the firm have been retained, almost intact.


A picture taken in December, 1963, at the retirement party

given for Mrs Freeman and Joe Platt.

From left to right: Roy Morris, Clara Freeman,

Stanley Rose, William Woolf, Leslie Rose,

Joseph Platt, Maurice Woolf.

 

On March 28th, 1963, Stanley Rose took the Chair at a Board Meeting for the last time.  While remaining a director, he handed over the Chair to William Woolf.  The new Chairman took the opportunity to express to Mr Rose the company's thanks and admiration for his past chairmanship, paying tribute to his assiduous attention to his duties even at times when he was not in the best of health.  On December 31st 1963, Mrs Freeman, Company Secretary, for 43 years, retired from the service of the company, the position of Secretary passing to Mr Nathan.


A New Home

At this time concern was felt at RM's situation regarding premises: 79-85 Paul Street was proving inadequate for the growth of the business, and it was decided to seek larger and better accommodation. There had been a return of the fantastic demand for drums and guitars, the latter now for more expensive and elaborate instruments, with electric guitars to the forefront.  With its own augmented manufacture and its exclusive agencies the company had remained in its enviable position, and was busily coping with peak-level sales at home and overseas.  

Stanley Rose, having dealt with the early stages of the search for new premises, retired as a Director at the end of March 1964, remaining at the disposal of the company as a consultant until March 1965.  

In May, 1964, Derek Morris and Michael Berman were appointed directors, Maurice Woolf and Roy Morris undertaking jointly the duties of managing directors.  An increasing amount of travelling overseas had fallen upon the directors; on Roy Morris in connection with supplies from foreign factories and on the Woolf brothers in visiting customers abroad.  Overseas sales journeys were to increase in scope and frequency in later years, and an increasing proportion of this work was subsequently to be undertaken by Derek Morris.

After a long and disheartening search a new site for the activities of Rose, Morris & Co., Ltd was found in North West London, in the form of a building of some 50,000 sq ft, previously a wallpaper 

factory.  It was an empty shell, but would be capable of adaptation to reshape it exactly to the company's needs.  The building work would be expensive, but the outcome would provide ideal operating conditions.  The premises were acquired in July 1964, and an army of builders and decorators, engineers and plumbers was released upon it.  Here, at 32-34 Gordon House Road, London, N.W.5, was set up the new home of Rose, Morris & Co., Ltd.  In keeping with the new image it was decided that for the future the full title of the company would be abbreviated for other than formal purposes to the more simple form: ROSE-MORRIS

 

 

An aerial view of the Gordon House Road building.  

This picture gives a good idea of the size of the

premises: the single-storey area houses the factory;

The L-shaped three-storey building contains the

warehouse and offices.


The frontage of 32-34 Gordon House Road, NW5.

The extent of the premises is not apparent from the street.

 


A double horn from the R.M. range.

 


The move from Paul Street was planned in stages and carried out like a military operation - though we did discover later that a gentleman leaning on a lamppost watching operations for several days was one of our own factory staff!  Careful planning, with due attention to detail, paid dividends, for the move of the factory in October and the transfer of offices and warehouse in January 1965, were accomplished without major snags.  

The factory was now all set out on one huge, level floor, and it became possible to employ modern methods of handling and transportation, previously impossible.  The warehouse, packing and despatch areas were set out with special regard to flow-handling of merchandise.  Three loading-bays (two under cover) equipped with cranes to deal with large export packages, were provided, and an additional lift installed.  

Despite the modern trend towards open-plan offices the disadvantages of this system were realised, and a suite of twenty separate offices was built, each more or less soundproof.  This enabled the offices to be allocated on a departmental basis, a worthwhile exercise that has resulted in comfortable, efficient operation without the frictions and annoyances that result so often from the use of large, shared areas.  

A comprehensive telephone system, with pneumatic tubes for conveyance of documents, have reduced the need for much to-and-fro movement of the clerical staff.

 


A popular model from the 'Gem' range of Organs.

 

The Paul Street premises were taken by a sister company within the Grampian Group.

Early in 1965, Anthony Victor ('Tony') Morris (son of Roy, grandson of the original A. V. Morris') joined R.M., at first in the sales office.  In the following year he became a representative of the company.

The peak popularity of the electric guitar brought a call for amplification equipment, (which was demanded also for voice amplification, together with microphones and control gear).  The Rose, Morris of old had steered clear of electrical apparatus, but the new Rose-Morris had no such inhibitions, and the importation of some popular American-built amplifiers began.

Electronic organs were also imported, but in small quantities: at that time R-M lacked the specialised 'know-how', and the market was small and ill-defined.  Amplifiers from British manufacturers were then handled, with a fair degree of success, but performers were never entirely satisfied - the 'sound' wasn't right: yet nobody seemed able to define exactly what was needed.  

One of the company's customers, himself a musician, feeling the need and sensing the nature of the requirements, being unable to obtain anywhere the equipment required, set about designing and making it.  The sound was right: the answer had been found.  The customer was, of course, Jim Marshall - and from his small beginnings as a manufacturer grew the considerable industry now producing the famous Marshall Amplifiers, renowned all over the world.

 

Jim Marshall knew what was wanted, and produced it. His sales experience, particularly of wholesaling and exporting, did not extend to a marketing exercise of the magnitude necessary to exploit his product.  A friendly agreement was negotiated with Rose-Morris, whereby R-M would enjoy worldwide sole sale and would undertake the promotion and distribution of the output of the Marshall factory.  How well this arrangement succeeded may be judged from the unique popularity of Marshall Amplification throughout the civilised world - and in some uncivilised areas as well!  In its history R-M has negotiated a number of similar friendly arrangements with manufacturers, and it is a subject of some pride that the outcome has been to mutual benefit, with willing and amicable co-operation on both sides.  

 


Drums awaiting packaging.



Assembly shop.

 

Part of the woodworking mill.Parts of the Gordon House premises:

 

Top left: the office corridor (popularly known as

'Ward 10').

 

Strings section of the warehouse.

 


Military Division

 

The Military Division produces Maces to standard patterns or special designs.  The mace

illustrated was produced for the United States Forces.


The Mil Div Crest.


The end of 1967 brought the decision to cater for the specialised needs of military and similar bands.  From early days the company had made and supplied Military drums and other instruments for service and pre-service organisations.  Now it was intended to enter the field in strength: at the end of the year the R-M staff was augmented by the appointment of Roger Linford of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the London Scottish Regiment.  An expert in military matters, his advice and guidance led to the formation, early in 1968, of the Rose-Morris Military Division.  

The 'Mil Div' includes a heraldic studio, with resident artists who produce the decorative emblazonment which forms a feature of so much pageantry, and now has the full-time services of Pipe Major W. Cochrane, formerly with the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the London Scottish.  Now, in addition to the many musical sounds heard within the walls of R-M, the skirl of the pipes is not unknown... as befits a subsidiary of a Scottish company.  

 


'Dulcet' E Tenor Horn.


An example of emblazonment produced by the R-M Heraldic Studio.


One of the prize-winning range of 'Clansman Drums'.

 


A Mellophone from the R.M. range of fine brass instruments.

 


Some of the new generation.

From left to right: Standing - Rex Fleetwood, Roger

Linford, Derek Baxter, Willie Cochrane.

Seated - Stanley Wells, Bernard Ackland, Terry

Searle, Ian Milne.


So, at the eve of the year of its 50th anniversary, ROSE, MORRIS & CO., LTD. stands at the service of the Trade.  The company now has 110 employees, some of whom have been with the firm since the beginning.  The success of the business has resulted in a large part from the loyalty and dedication of its staff, and no review such as this would be complete without paying tribute to that staff, old and new.  

Some of the more elderly have retired, others will be due for a well-earned rest in the next few years: the company's pension scheme will ensure that they are free of financial worry.  Some, unfortunately, have died in the service of the company: the R-M life assurance scheme has taken care of their dependants.  

The company is proud to number among its employees several families, represented by brothers, sons and even grandsons of former members of the staff.  The employment of successive generations is a part of the company's tradition and itself helps to maintain that tradition.  

The younger men and women coming along to take the places of those whose work is nearly done will, it is certain, carry on the company's aim, best expressed in its motto adopted nearly half a century ago:



Always with Pleasure at your Service.


Window on the World

 

One thought that had been in the company's mind for a long time was the desirability of having a retail outlet.  There was no ambition to enter the retail side of the trade on any great scale, but it was felt that a shop window, in London's West End, the centre of the London musical scene, could bring advantages in the way of prestige, evaluation of new products and direct contact with professional musicians.  

Such a store could be a useful showroom for visitors from overseas, who could inspect R-M products in surroundings familiar to them – a retail showroom as an adjunct to the existing trade showroom at Gordon House Road.  

The prospect of the company competing with its own customers was viewed with mixed feelings: in the event, when the retail showrooms opened they were accepted by the retail trade in the area in a most neighbourly manner, and a degree of co-operation emerged that seemed impossible at first thought.  

In October 1967 the Retail Showrooms opened under the management of R. J. Hannaford with a reception at the new premises - a happy event, at which friends, old and new, were present.  Situated at 81-83 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 - midway between Piccadilly Circus and Cambridge Circus, in the heart of London's theatreland, the new showrooms cover two large floors with storage beneath, and the double display windows are, for R-M, truly a window on the world.

By now the electronic organ business had crystallised into two distinct parts - the concert organ (which heading is intended to include instruments suitable for places of worship and for the player demanding an elaborate specification) and the home organ - a more simple range of instruments, some designed to blend with domestic decor, some with portability their essence.

Concert organs were available at the retail showrooms: for the trade generally R-M decided to cater for the large-volume demand, and set about importing and promoting home organs, less elaborate than the larger models and at prices that it was thought would appeal to a wide stratum of the public.  The remarkable success of the 'Gem' range of electronic organs was the outcome.  A separate department was set up at Gordon House Road, equipped and staffed for dealing with organs: here electronic and electrically-blown organs are tested before despatch, and service facilities exist for repairs when necessary and for service advice to retail dealers.

 

The Rose-Morris Showrooms at 81-83 Shaftesbury

Avenue, W.1. – a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus.




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