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.

The specification of the replaced organ can be found here: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D06484