A New Church Organ at Chelsea Old Church

The organ plays a crucial part in the life of the church, used every Sunday and frequently during the week for funerals, memorials, baptisms and weddings.

The organ removed in January 2019 was built in 1957, replaced the instrument lost when the church was bombed. Like the church itself, the organs of Chelsea Old Church have a long and interesting history. Most notable amongst these was an organ by the famous builder of the day, Renatus Harris, which is believed to have stood in the church from 1712-1723. The early removal of this instrument (for unknown reasons) prevented its eventual destruction had it remained up until 1941, and parts of it are believed still to be in existence in a church in Devon.

We are delighted that William Drake Limited have completed installation of the new organ, compressed into a 1min 23 sec stop frame video here

It was heard for the first time at Mattins on Sunday 22nd. September 2019.

To see the Dedication and Celebration of The New Pipe Organ programme click here, which took place on 21st November.

Recent Recitals:

DAVID DAVIES (organ) - Wednesday 30th March 2022

We welcome David Davies, one of the most highly regarded organists on the UK, to give this concert on Wednesday. David is a former organist of Exeter Cathedral and now plays at Buckfast Abbey, a short distance from the workshop of William Drake Limited, who built our new organ. The concert is being put on by Art Fund Devon, who are keen to promote the connection between that region and the organs of Chelsea Old Church (which extends back to the eighteenth-century).

David will give a varied and sparkling programme of music from across the centuries including works by composers such as J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Elgar and the programme feature an arrangement of the Fantasy from Bizet's opera Carmen.

CELEBRITY ORGAN CONCERT - January 19th 2020, 7.30pm.


The first full concert on the new organ was given by international virtuoso and rising star of the organ world, Nathan Laube. He showcased all that the new instrument can do in a sparkling programme of works spanning the centuries. For more information about Nathan Laube: http://www.nathanlaube

The well received programme included:

J. S. Bach - Passacaglia in C minor

Mendelssohn (tr. Laube) - Variations Serieuses

and works by Byrd, Bruhns, Guilain, Duruflé and Alain

It was a full house for the concert and during the interval members of the audience took the opportunity to inspect the Church whilst others enjoyed the hospitality in Petyt Hall

THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH ORGAN - Saturday 22 February 2020

In association with Fugue State Films & West Sussex Organists Association

10.00am Presentation from Will Fraser (Fugue State Films) and screening of excerpt from “The History of the English Organ” (DVD)

11.30am Recital: DANIEL MOULT (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)

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THE ORGAN OF CHELSEA OLD CHURCH is an entirely new three-manual and pedal, 33-stop organ built by William Drake Limited of Devon and completed in 2019. Built in the English classical tradition for which the firm has become renowned, it incorporates elements of Victorian organbuilding and Continental influences enabling the instrument to lead worship in the Anglican tradition whilst comfortably playing the organ repertoire. The new case design was inspired by an organ once thought to be in the church in the eighteenth-century.

Joost de Boer has been building organs for over 25 years

History of Organs

The organ now standing in Chelsea Old Church is the sixth known to have done so. An inventory of 1549 recorded ‘a pair of organs' (meaning an instrument with a double case) which would most likely have been removed and destroyed around the time of the English Civil War.

In 1712, the renowned organ-builder Renatus Harris installed a new organ. If it still stood today, this would be a national treasure. This organ seems to have been later removed and found its way to Holsworthy church in Devon where the case survives.

The case believed to be of the former Renatus Harris organ, now in Holsworthy Church, Devon.

Another organ was provided by the builder Richard Bridge in 1743, but this was never granted a faculty and was also removed. This was the subject of a farce, published at the time, The Organ in the Suds.

Finally, in 1818 the Bevington firm provided an organ acquired from a private residence in Covent Garden. This may have contained pipework from an earlier instrument by another famous builder of the eighteenth-century, ‘Father’ Smith. This organ was rebuild a number of times but finally met its end when the church was bombed in the Second World War.

A replacement organ was made, as part of the church's rebuilding, in 1957 by the now defunct firm of Frederick Rothwell & Sons. Further work was carried out by N.P.Mander in the early 1960s.

After sixty years’ solid service, this instrument reached the end of its working life and the parish undertook to acquire a new organ fit to meet all the demands of a busy, modern church whilst enhancing the church’s unique architectural and historical heritage.

A new organ was commissioned from William Drake Limited and installation completed in September 2019. The completely new case design incorporates elements copied from the Renatus Harris organ.