It was in 1912 that one of the standard orgue de chœur models of the firm Mutin Cavaillé-Coll (the name Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s firm adopted on his death in 1899, when his foreman Charles Mutin assumed the reins) was installed in the lofty west gallery of the Abbey Church. The monks of Solesmes had sung accompanied by a smaller instrument of the same firm in the temporary church of Appuldurcombe from 1903 until 1912 while their brethren at Farnborough Abbey had had an instrument of the same firm installed in 1905.
As built, the organ has the following stop list, with two soundboards of 86 notes each, including sections of the Pedale on each chest:
Bourdon – 16
Montre – 8
Bourdon – 8
Salicional (enclosed) – 8
Flûte Harmonique (enclosed) – 8
Prestant – 4
Diapason – 8
Cor de Nuit – 8
Viole de Gambe – 8
Vox Céleste – 8
Flûte Octaviante – 4
Plein Jeu – III
Basson – 16
Trompette Harmonique – 8
Basson Hautbois – 8
Contrabasse (stopped, with helpers) – 16
Soubasse (fr. G.O. Bourdon 16) – 16
Bass Ouverte (fr. G.O. Flûte H. 8) – 8
Bourdon (fr. Récit Cor de Nuit) – 8
Trombone (fr. Récit Basson) – 16
Tirasse Grand Orgue
Récit to Grand Orgue
Récit to Grand Orgue, Octaves Graves
In 1963 Noel Mander carried out a major rebuild, removing the tracker action, the Barker pneumatic-lever machine and the mechanical stop action, electrifying the mechanism and fitting a new console, with Anglicised stop names and seven stops prepared for though never installed. The Swell reeds were stored on top of the swell-box and replacements fitted.
In 1995 Matthew Copley carried out much work in an attempt to move back towards the original (which including reinstating the 1912 reeds), yet by 2006 the organ ceased to be reliable enough to work, so was taken out of commission. At the same time there was a plan to build a far larger organ incorporating the existing instrument, with a detached console in the monks’ stalls. Materials were gathered and stored, but the plan was eventually abandoned.
By 2014, it became clear a restoration had to be undertaken. This was entrusted to Andrew Cooper, organ-builder on the Isle of Wight, after a report and a consultation led by Adrian Mumford and Hamish Dustagheer under the oversight of Paul Hale, accredited member of the Association of Independent Organ Advisers. The main decisions included:
- restoration of the pipe work, especially the altered Flûte Octaviante and the never satisfactory Plein-Jeu
- keeping the electro-pneumatic action with a new control system
- restoration of the original console
- review of the blowers and wind supply.
The restored organ was solemnly blessed by Abbot Xavier Perrin on Saturday 29th July 2017. The inaugural recital was given by Maestro Hamish Dustagheer, then Maestro di Cappella at St John’s Co-Cathedral, Malta.
Organ recitals series have taken place in 2017, 2018, 2019 (the 2020 edition had to be cancelled) with organists coming from England, France and the USA.