Church of England Diocese of London Little Stanmore

The Handel Organ

The Handel Organ at St Lawrence Little Stanmore

The construction of the organ dates from around 1717, contemporary with the rebuilding of the church by the Duke of Chandos, to whom Handel was Composer in Residence. As such, it is one of the few organs with a genuine claim to have been played by Handel. It has now been established, from examination of markings on the surviving original pipes, that the instrument was almost certainly the work of Gerard Smith, nephew of 'Father' Smith.

The original single-manual instrument was enlarged by Hill in 1847, who added a short-compass Swell; it was reconstructed by Brindley & Foster in 1877 when the modern CC compass was introduced. Further changes were made by Gray & Davison in 1913 and by The John Compton Organ Company in 1949, leaving the instrument with an electropneumatic action and a detached console. Nevertheless, the organ has remained in its original position, now almost unique, at the east end of the church behind the altar, where it forms an integral part of the almost theatrical frescoed interior. Important survivals from the original instrument include not only the original case and gilded front pipes (silent since 1877) but also one stop of diapason pipes and part of the original keyboard.

The New Organ

The oak case was restored and the missing carvings made good; the missing roof was replaced and a new console provided, designed in eighteenth century style. The modern tall case plinth was lowered to bring the height of the case down to reveal that part of the 'trompe l'oeil' painting on the eastern apse which was previously hidden. The case was also set back over one metre to its original position, leaving room for singers and instrumental groups when required

Guided by a report from the British Institute of Organ Studies, a new organ was built, based on the surviving case and pipes. The original keyboard was too worn for re-use and is exhibited separately in the Mausoleum. The instrument replicates the original stop-list for the Great organ, but adds a 16ft Pedal stop and a small Swell organ for flexibility and variety in accompaniment.

The stop-list of the Swell organ is based on the known practice of Gerard Smith and his contemporaries in the early eighteenth century. Pipe scales and voicing treatment are based on the surviving pipes where relevant and on known originals in other historic instruments.

You can download the Organ specification as a Word document at the bottom of this page

The restoration work was undertaken by Martin Goetze & Dominic Gwynn of Welbeck +44 1909 485635


OrganSpec, DOC

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