St Columb’s Anglican Church
St Columb’s Street, Hawthorn
First organ, see: St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Murwillumbah NSW
Present organ, B 1923 Roberts Ltd; reb 1954 George Fincham & Sons.
2m, 24spst, 7c, elpn. Gt: 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124. Sw: 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.III.8.8. Ped: 184.108.40.206.8.
St Columb’s Church was designed by George Wharton and built 1882-83 in bluestone with freestone dressings in the Decorated Gothic style. The building was completed in 1907 by architects H.W. & F.B. Tompkins, but without the intended tower and spire to the south-west. It remains substantially unaltered and retains many of its original fittings including carved woodwork and stained glass by William Montgomery, Alan Sumner and others.
The first pipe organ was built by William Stone, of St Kilda. It cost £250 and was opened on 23 November 1884. This instrument was placed in a chamber on the left hand side of the temporary chancel and had a case with two outer towers and a central flat very similar to the 1879 Stone organ now at The Avenue Church, Blackburn, Victoria. It was sold in 1923 to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Murwillumbah, NSW where it still remains, following a rebuild by Whitehouse Bros. in 1954.
The present organ was built by Roberts Ltd, of Melbourne and Adelaide, and opened in 1923. It is placed in an organ chamber on the south side of the chancel, with an arch facing into the south transept, both filled with unpainted zinc pipes (those facing the transept are dummy). The blower is placed in an external chamber.
The pipe organ at St Columb’s Church, Hawthorn is significant for the following reasons:
· It retains its original tonal scheme of 1923 with a generous selection of romantic tone colours and Diapason choruses on each manual
· It is the most substantial example of its builder’s work that remains tonally intact
· It exhibits a generous approach to construction and incorporates imported metal pipework of excellent tonal quality
· It is an important example of 1920s indigenous organbuilding
· Most examples of Roberts’ major work have been altered by rebuilding or destroyed
· The casework is distinctive and unusual, with its pointed towers and rare double-tiered flats
· No additions to the initial tonal scheme have been made
· The existence of a very rare double-mouth stopped wooden Doppel Flöte rank placed at the front of the Great windchest for optimum tonal projection. The only other example in Melbourne at the time would have been the example on the 1920 T.W. Magahy organ at the Church of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell, nearby, which possibly inspired its inclusion and provided a model.
· It was designed by noted Melbourne organist A.E.H. Nickson FRCO and clearly emulates the tonal design and character of the 1912 Norman & Beard organ at St Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, where he was organist.
W.L. Roberts built two other major organs for Anglican churches in Melbourne at the time:
1923 St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Brighton (destroyed by fire 1961)
1924 All Saints’ Anglican Church, East St Kilda (rebuilt 1980, with new action, console and wind system, minor tonal changes, some revoicing and additions)
The firm of Roberts Ltd was founded by William Leopold Roberts. Born at Bramley, Leeds in 1882, Roberts was apprenticed to the notable English organbuilder J.J. Binns at his Bramley Organ Works. In 1909 he was engaged by the Adelaide organbuilder J.E. Dodd, starting his own firm around 1915. His work could soon be found in four Australian states: South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The largest new instrument he built was for All Saints’ Anglican Church, East St Kilda (1924). Using imported metal pipework, his instruments were especially admired for their tonal qualities, A.E.H. Nickson commenting that “Mr. Roberts in my opinion having fully justified the confidence placed in him as the leading Organ Builder in our Southern States”. His instruments were also of interest for their varied and distinctive case designs. Roberts retired in 1945 and passed away in Adelaide in August 1971. Sadly, few of his instruments survive intact and generally have not been respected for their fine tonal qualities.
The instrument was rebuilt in 1954 by George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd. At this time the original tubular-pneumatic action was converted to electro-pneumatic and a new detached stopkey console placed on the opposite side of the chancel, replacing the original stopkey console, which was placed within the chancel case. The tonal scheme remained unaltered. The instrument is now in need of considerable renovation.
The instrument is classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).
Open Diapason no 1
Open Diapason no 2
Swell to Great Sub
Swell to Great
Swell to Great Super
Swell Sub Octave
Swell Super Octave
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
The small wooden stopped pipes are those of the Doppel Flote
Photos: John Maidment
Information from the Roberts archive kindly supplied by David Shield, chairman, South Australia committee, Organ Historical Trust of Australia, including Roberts Ltd order list, organ pamphlet, press cuttings and certificate of approval.
Graeme D. Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales: the instruments, their makers and players, 1791-1940. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1988, pp.199-203.
Victorian Churches: their origins, their story & their architecture, edited by Miles Lewis. Melbourne: National Trust of Australia (Victoria), 1991, p.72.