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The Snetzler Organ 1757

The Minute Books give an account of how the Office Bearers of the Lodge commissioned Mr. Johan Snetzler, the foremost London organ builder, whose workshops Handel visited, to produce an estimate for a new chamber instrument to furnish their Masonic Chapel of St. John, which had been completed and dedicated on December 18th 1736. 


Negotiations began in June 1754, when Snetzler was in Edinburgh. During his visit to the lodge he submitted a suggested sum of £65 – £70. An agreement of acceptance was finally reached on 2nd October 1754. The project was successfully completed and, after some delays, the organ was transported by sea to Leith and thence by cart to the Canongate, where it arrived on 6th July 1757. It was finally set up, as it stands today, on 4th August 1757. The total cost was £70.


The original specification was for a single instrument, of 4½ octaves with the characteristic Snetzler reversed black and white, narrower keys and had 6 stops. These are SESQUIALTRA (2 ranks), CORNET (2 ranks) FLUTE, PRINCIPAL, STOPPED DIAPASON AND OPEN DIAPASON.


A SALICIONAL and VOX CELESTE were added, with a swell box, in 1912 – 14. The original shifting movement for reducing to diapasons and flute remains, as do the metal foot pedal and hand blowing lever. The organ was completely renovated in 1976 by Messrs. Rushworth and Dreaper Ltd. as part of the events marking the Tercentenary of the formal Chartering of the Lodge in December 1677 and today is in essentially the same condition, with original pipes, mechanism and case as when it was installed.


The Chapel was extensively refurbished and restored between 1976 – 1977 and the oldest purpose-built Lodge room in the world built, erected and used continuously for Masonic purposes, is a fitting setting for a recital of pieces by Jeremiah Clarke, Henry Purcell, Gorge Frederick Handel and John Stanley selected by the Organist to display the full range of the instrument. 


A cassette tape is available of this recital played on the Snetzler Organ in the Lodge Room by Dr Dennis Townhill, now sadly deceased, former Organist and Master of the Choristers, St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. The Lodge is in the process of reproducing this recital on CD for future sales through the Lodge Giftshop.

In recent times ownership of the Building at St John Street and some of its artefacts, such as the Organ, was transferred to The Royal Order of Scotland.

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