Five things you may not know about the Willis Organ

Ever wondered why we have an organ in the Long Library? Where did it come from? And how long has it been there? Amelia Robinson, Social Media Apprentice, reveals all…

Are you from around here?

Believe it or not, the organ that we have in the Long Library today was not the original organ. In 1888 the 8th Duke of Marlborough ordered a 28 stop of three manual organs to be built in Yorkshire. Due to reasons we’re not aware of this didn’t happen. A few months later the Duke contacted Henry Willis, a well-known organ maker of the time, to draw up plans for a new four manual organ. This is the one that is on display today.

 

Have you ever wondered what the inscription on the organ means and where it came from?

‘In memory of happy days and as a tribute to this glorious home, we have thy voice to speak within these walls in years to come when ours are still.’ This inscription was written by the 8th Duke of Marlborough and was found on a scrap piece of paper shortly after his death. The Duke only lived to enjoy the organ for one year before his death in 1892.

Time for a change

The Willis Organ was not always positioned at the end of the room like it is today. It was originally placed in the bow window in the center of the Long Library. It was moved shortly after in 1902.

 

War time Britain

The organ has been through a lot over its lifetime. During the First World War the Long Library served as a hospital and the organ was used as entertainment for the troops. During the Second World War the room was used as a school dormitory for Malvern College, with house prayers read every evening.

And did the boys behave?

The boys from Malvern College who stayed during the Second World War were very respectful of their surroundings, or so we thought! Around 20 years ago the 11th Duke of Marlborough received an anonymous letter which contained three of the smallest pipes. It turned out that one of the boys had crept into the organ loft and taken these pipes while they were staying in the room. The letter said; 'It was my husband's dying wish to return these to you.' The original pipes are now back where they should be.