THE BATTLE OF THE ORGANS

Another conflict took place in the 17th century.   After the Great Fire of London in 1666 the church, though undamaged, was refurbished by Sir Christopher Wren, and an organ was introduced into the church for the first time.  Unfortunately, the two Inns of Court could not agree which organ to install. One society wanted to have an instrument built by Father Smith while the other preferred an organ by Renatus Harris. To demonstrate the qualities of the two ‘trial’ instruments, many organists played on them.

Such was the heat and the inconclusiveness of the debate that eventually it was decided the choice should be made by the Lord Chancellor, Judge Jeffreys.  The notorious judge chose the Father Smith instrument. His decision was astute:  Father Smith was favoured by Middle Temple;  Judge Jeffreys was a member of Inner.  Honour was satisfied. This organ was used in the church until the Second World War, when it was destroyed in the fire raid that gutted the building.

For the best part of a century, from 1729 to 1814, each of the Inns appointed their own organist. The church therefore had two of them, each playing on alternate Sundays!  One of those appointed by the Inner Temple was the blind John Stanley, organist 1734-1786, who was also Master of the King’s Band under George III. He wrote much music for the organ, some of which is still played today.