by Vicky Shepherd

 One weekend in October last year we used our supermarket points to enjoy an extended weekend near Winchester. The run there over the North Downs, across The Weald and over the South Downs in the morning sun and against a blue sky was just wonderful, scene after scene of beautiful Autumn colours. As a surprise I was taken to Jane Austen’s House at Chawton. It had been a happy home and there was much to see and read. Jane wrote her books by hand on a very small table against a window. I had the thrill of playing an 1810 square piano similar to one played by Jane. Fortunately there was a book of music so I enjoyed “and lost” myself for a good twenty minutes. It only makes a quiet sound, and the curator showed me its “inside” workings, it was strung like a grand piano.

   We joined a Eucharist and Baptism Service at Winchester Cathedral followed by a very welcome tour noting the tomb of Bishop of Winchester, the father-in-law of the founder of the Mothers’ Union, Mary Sumner, and the tomb and memorial chaise of St. Swithin!

   I had a wonderful day on Thursday 18th September. Thanks to a friend, I was given the opportunity to play the organ in the Livery Hall of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors in the City of London. First I met The Beadle and was given a guided tour of this wonderful building by the Deputy Clerk. There has been a Guildhall on this site since 1300 although this was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666; the present building rose from the ashes of The Blitz after The War. There are fine panelled rooms, a great Library, several smaller meeting rooms all beautifully furnished and kept, a modern kitchen in the Mediaeval Kitchen Room — the team of cooks were busy preparing for a banquet, it looked and smelt delicious — and of course The Livery Hall with the organ. The organ originally came to Merchant Taylors from another London Church and was an original Renatus Harris organ of 1722. It was the last one built by him as he died in 1724. Some of the original Renatus Harris pipes were included when it was installed. Stephen Dykes Bower designed the magnificent case and it was rebuilt and installed by Manders who still look after it. Dr. John Dykes Bower gave the inaugural concert on 30th June 1966.

Vicky Shepherd playing the 1810 square piano

1810 square piano similar to one played by Jane Austen

   The present organist is a Music Master at Merchant Taylors School. It was a delightful instrument to play, two keyboards and a pedal board. It has 19 speaking pipes and the sounds were wonderful in the Hall. I played for ninety minutes and the workers who passed through said how pleasant it was. I had taken many of the pieces I enjoy playing at my Ospringe church and played all I had taken. The organ is a little bigger and grander than the Ospringe Organ and is on a gallery at the far end of the Hall. I felt very privileged to have this experience.

   This Renatus Harris organ was originally in St. Dionis Backchurch, the Christopher Wren Church rebuilt after The Great Fire, and which stood in Fenchurch Street, west of Lime Street until 1879 when it was finally demolished. The organ then moved to the Church of St. Mark, East Street, Walworth Road and then to the then Darenth Training College at Dartford, becoming unplayable during World War II. There had been a slight rebuild by Gray and Davison in 1868 before its “moves” and further rebuilds in 1881 by Eustace Ingram after a strong snow storm damaged the organ. A further work was carried out by Henry Gunther in 1924, until finally Mr. Mander did his fine rebuilding job in 1966.

   The 1966 specification is :-

 Renatus Harris 1722 - Mander 1966

 Great Organ

Open Diapason (Harris from lower C up) 8ft.
Chimney Flute (Harris except for 5 pipes lower C to lower E) 8 ft.
Principal (Harris from T.G. up) 4ft.
Nason Flute 4ft.
Twelfth (Harris except for top octave) 22/3ft.
Fifteenth (Harris except for top octave) 2ft.
Tierce (Harris lowest two octaves only) 13/5ft.
Fourniture III 19-22-26
Swell to Great coupler 

Swell Organ

Stopped diapason (Harris except for five pipes, lower C# to lower F) 8ft.

Principal (Harris except for the three lowest pipes) 4ft.

Flute 4ft.

Fifteenth (Harris except for bottom octave) 2ft.

Larigot (Harris except for top 18 pipes) 11/3ft.

Sharp mixture III 22-26-29

Trumpet 8ft.


Pedal Organ

Subbass (Gray and Davison) 16ft.

Principal 8ft.

Gemshorn 4ft.

Fagott 16ft

Great to Pedal and Swell to Pedal

The manual pipe work is on 2 inch wind pressure.

The manual compass is CC to g

The Pedal pipe work is on 23/4 inch wind pressure

The Pedal compass is CCC to F


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