Church of Christ
LaTrobe Terrace, Geelong
B 1858 John Courcelle, London
(soundboard and reservoir inscribed "Hunter & Webb 1858").
Res 1998 Geo Fincham & Sons.
1 manual, 6 speaking stops, pedal pulldowns, tracker action. Man: 126.96.36.199.4.2.
The Church of Christ was begun in 1858 to the design of architects Backhouse & Reynolds. Benjamin Backhouse (1829-1904) began his architectural career in Geelong but later prospered in Sydney, Newcastle and Bathurst. Built as Trinity Church, a Free Church of England, the building was taken over by the Church of Christ in 1907. Constructed in bluestone in an Early-English Gothic style, the building is of interest for the narrow transverse gables of the nave and their thin lancet windows, and the diminutive slate-covered broach spire. The building is registered by Heritage Victoria.
This instrument is one of seven organs known to have been exported to Victoria by the London organbuilder John Courcelle, who was best known as a trade pipemaker. Inside the bellows and slider chest were found the inscription “Hunter & Webb / Organ Builders / London 1858” which dates the organ as the first example of Courcelle’s work in Victoria. It also raises questions about how much of the organ was manufactured by Courcelle and whether he merely made the metal pipework and subcontracted the casework and mechanical parts to Hunter & Webb – Alfred Hunter was a former colleague at James C. Bishop’s firm in London. At Norton Parish Church in Northamptonshire, UK is an identical instrument to the Geelong organ built in 1857 by Hunter & Webb. The composition pedal arrangement, horizontal concussion bellows, grid-shaped pivoted music desk and widely-spaced drawstops all hint at the influence of Bishop (for example the Bishop organ at St Andrew’s Church, Carrick, Tasmania)
Very few changes were made to the organ, apart from the introduction of electric blowing and the substitution of a Gamba 8ft for a Flute 4ft, so it remains in a remarkable state of originality and the oldest pipe organ left in Geelong.
A full restoration took place in 1998 by George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd and one of the final projects undertaken by this distinguished firm before its closure shortly afterwards. The slider windchest was completely overhauled, including the flooding of the note channels with hot animal glue, refitting of sliders and upperboards and recovering of pallets. The roller boards were re-pinned and re-bushed and the composition action overhauled. Several drawstop ivories were carefully re-engraved in the original style and the keyboard recovered in ‘ivorine’ as the originals were worn down to the timber (the originals were carefully removed and retained with the organ). The double-rise reservoir and feeders were re-leathered and the hand blowing is still fully operational.
The elegant casework, consisting of four flats of dummy wooden pipes, enclosed within cusped Gothic compartments and surmounted by a prominent cornice and with a moulded impost, had received several coats of thick varnish which had seriously deteriorated. The case timbers (of deal) were therefore rubbed back, stained and re-polished in matt shellac, allowing the grain to show through. Several components, such as the edges of the console doors and the side panels of the upper edges of the console, had been badly damaged and have been replaced with exact replicas (the originals have been retained). The façade pipes were regilded by Marc Nobel and Christine Holmes in gold leaf and have been finished with dark burgundy mouths.
The pipework was generally in excellent condition and required little work. The metal fluework had been fitted with tuning slides many years ago and these have been retained. The pitch has been very slightly lowered by raising the tuning slides and lowering shades on the metal pipework, all of which is totally reversible.
The work was carried out in accordance with current restoration philosophies by David Fincham and David Hudd.
Stop Diapason Bass
open wood bass
2 composition pedals
Lever swell pedal
Victorian Churches, edited by Miles Lewis. East Melbourne: National Trust of Australia (Victoria), 1991, p.122
Heritage Victoria website:
‘Restorations’, OHTA News, vol 22, no 3 (July, 1998), pp.14-17
Photos: JRM (Nov. 2007)
Norton Parish Church, Northamptonshire, England, taken by Hilary Davidson, is an identical instrument.