Temple Church Organ & Organists

The Temple Church has been fortunate to have had many fine organs and organists to enhance its music and worship. The present organ was installed in the church by its builder, Harrison & Harrison Ltd, in 1954 and can be heard in recital most Wednesdays during term and on recordings. The case, behind which is the four manual organ complete with three 32-ft stops, is modelled on drawings of the Temple’s Father Smith organ of 1688. The organ is being restored by its makers from August 2011 - Easter 2013.

The earliest mention of an organ in the Temple Church appears in an inventory made by the Sheriffs of London in 1307 which mentions that there were In the Great Church ‘Two pairs of organs and in the quire a book for the organs and two cushions for the chanter's chairs.’

Great Reeds & Solo Tuba looking back towards the Church Great Organ pipework (ARL Sampson)

In 1683, the Treasurers of the two Societies of the Temple commissioned an organ from each of the leading organ builders of the day, Bernhard Smith and Rentaus Harris. Both instruments were installed in the church and the finest organists of the day were commissioned to demonstrate them. However, the ‘Battle of the Organs’ continued until 1688 when a decision in favour of Smith was reached. This organ was installed on a screen separating the Round from the Chancel and would have been the instrument the famous blind organist, John Stanley, would have known. It was rebuilt many times by different organ builders and survived until it was destroyed by enemy action in May 1941.

The present organ was donated to the Temple in 1954 by Lord Glentanar who had commissioned the instrument in 1924 for the ballroom in Glen Tanar House, near Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. It incorporates many of Arthur Harrison’s tonal characteristics and included the builders latest electro-pneumatic action (except for the manual to pedal couplers) and a player mechanism.

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© James Vivian, 2011

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