Chronology

The organ has undergone many changes, in terms of repairs and replacement, as well as its location and use. By 1452 the original College Chapel was furnished with two modest organs, one ‘great’ and one small. Until the mid-16th century their purpose was not to accompany the choir so much as to respond in solo to the Choir. Now it is a central part of the College's liturgical and musical life.

29 Sep 1441 Foundation stone of original chapel was laid, between the Old Court and the site of the current Chapel. Eventually two organs were in use in this chapel.
25 July 1446 The foundation stone of the present Chapel was laid on the feast of St James, by the King. The original chapel remained in use.
1451 Records show that organs were repaired in 1451 and throughout the following decade.
1452 Chapel equipped with books of chant and polyphony, as well as a pair of organs.
1507-8 New organ by Thomas Brown, £48
1515 Completion of stonework of the current King’s College Chapel
1537 Both organs moved to the new (present) Chapel when the original College Chapel collapsed. Around this time, the organ was used to substitute for music that which might otherwise be sung. It did not provide musical accompaniment to the Choir.
1564 Queen Elizabeth visited the Chapel and heard a Te Deum ‘solemnly sung in Prick Song … the organs playing’.
1570 Provost Goad sold the great organ.
1602 and 1604 College visitor rules on the 1570 sale.
1606 John Tomkins appointed the first Organist and Master of the Choristers
c.1607-11 John Smythson plan of the Chapel shows the organ placed at ground level in the Choir.
1613 or 1630 Organ probably moved from the East End to the top of the screen in anticipation of the royal visits of 1613 or 1632.
c. 1650 Dallam organ sold except for inner case, obeying a Parliamentary Ordinance.
1661 Chair organ by Lancelot Pease installed on the screenin addition to the great organ, for £200
1673-7 A ‘loftier organ’ built by Thomas Thamar, probably a new organ in the old great organ case atop the screen
1688 New organ by Rene Harris, £350.
1803-5 John Avery reconstructed and enlarged the organ, incorporating the first pedal pipes
1859 William Hill and Son enlarged the organ, more than doubled the case depth, preserved the ancient appearance of the front and added angels to the case
1888 Organ redesigned including tubular-pneumatic action and water power
1933-4 Organ thoroughly overhauled by Harrison and Harrison, following consultation with Boris Ord (Organist).
1950 Minor changes, including the addition of a Pedal Fifteenth and Mixture
1968 Major overhaul including re-leathering, the replacement of the ‘great’ power motors, and addition of six new stops.
1992 Essential repairs
2003 Essential repairs, including replacement of the pedal board, leak repairs and pipework
2009 Harrison & Harrison reconditioning of the front pipes, some internal pipework and the console.

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