Heritage100

Chamber Organ

Chamber organ

...probably the oldest chamber organ in Britain still in playing order.

This chamber organ is a beautifully made Elizabethan small wooden pipe organ. It dates from either 1592 or 1602, and is probably the oldest chamber organ in Britain still in playing order.

According to tradition, the organ once belonged to Princess Elizabeth, King Charles I’s daughter. It does appear that the organ was probably kept at Carisbrooke Castle for many years prior to 1872, and Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, and Governor of the Isle of Wight (1896-1944) expressed a desire for it to come back there.

 In 1937 the people of the Isle of Wight paid for, and gave the organ to Princess Beatrice for her 80th birthday. She used Carisbrooke Castle as her summer residence, and the organ was kept there, where it can still be seen today.

The organ is generally thought to be Flemish in origin, and its first owner is thought to be John Graham, Earl of Montrose.

Quick Facts

  • Made by E. Hoffheimer
  • Made in probably 1602 (or possibly 1592)
  • Made in Flanders (Flemish)
  • Made of wood and leather
  • Dimensions Height 176.5cm, Width 113.5cm, Depth 55.3cm
  • Accession number NETCC: 1985.5444

Facts

  • The organ has three stops – stopped, diapason, flute and regal. It is one of the few instruments in this country still kept on the meantone scale.
  • The organ is intricately carved, and the monogram of the Earl of Montrose decorates the doors of the pipe chest, and alternate keys (the other keys featuring carved faces).
  • Three shields at the top of the instrument carry an inscription in Flemish from Psalm 150: ‘Praise the Lord with stringed instrument and organ’.

Did you know?

There is dispute as to whether the organ is actually 16th or 17th century. Was it built in 1592 or 1602?

At Fishmonger’s Hall (where it was exhibited in 1904) it was catalogued as having been built in 1592, supposedly based on a wooden label affixed to it bearing that date. However, this date was rejected by Mr Head who restored it. He maintained it was made in 1602, which is the date now carved on the front of the instrument.

Gallery

Chamber organ pipes

Fact Sheets

Things to Do

  • Visit Carisbrooke Castle Museum to see the organ on display and listen to a recording of it being played.

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