The Battle of the Organs

In February 1683, the treasurers of the two Societies of the Temple commissioned an organ from each of the two leading organ builders of the time, Bernhard Smith (1630-1708) and Renatus Harris (1652-1708). The organs were to be installed in the halls of the Middle and Inner Temple, to enable them to be played and judged. Smith was annoyed to discover that Harris was also invited to compete for the contract; he was under the impression that the job had already been offered to him. Smith petitioned the treasurers and won permission to erect his instrument in the church instead of in one of the halls. It was set on a screen which divided the round from the quire. This advantage was short-lived as Harris sought and obtained approval to place his organ at the opposite end of the church, to the south side of the communion table. It is thought that both organs were completed by May 1684.

Harris and Smith engaged the finest organists to show off their respective instruments and were put to great expense as the competition intensified and each instrument became more elaborate.