Whitley College Chapel

Royal Parade, Parkville

Built 1975 by Laurie Pipe Organs Pty Ltd
1 manual, 5 speaking stops, 1 coupler, mechanical action
Sold and installed 2017 by Stewart Organs in St Mark's Anglican Church, Balnarring

Whitley College: exterior view
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

Historical and Technical Documentation by John Maidment
© OHTA, 2017

Whitley College is one of 12 residential colleges of the University of Melbourne. Founded by William Whitley, it was earlier sited in North Melbourne with the foundation stone of the present building in Royal Parade laid on 1 September 1965. The architects were Mockridge, Stahle & Mitchell.1 Built in grey Besser brick, the building is of circular shape with an internal courtyard. The chapel is located on the perimeter of this building and while small in size has a remarkably resonant acoustic.

Whitley College Chapel: chapel and organ
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

The organ was built in 1975 by Laurie Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, of Moorabbin, Vic. The asymmetrical casework was designed by Steve Laurie and includes folding doors and swell shutters on the roof of the case. It is a rare example of a new mechanical action organ built by the firm, which unsuccessfully quoted on building a number of others, such as the chapel of Merton Hall, South Yarra, Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Corpus Christi College, Clayton and St Paul's Church, Henty.2

The organ was used for several concerts during the 1970s for the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord.

Whitley College Chapel: organ
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

The organ is notable for its excellence of construction, and its bright and characterful sound, enhanced by the acoustic. The bass pipes of the Pedal Bourdon have been constructed in a common unit, with shared side walls and the levers for the stop action are exposed on the left-hand side of the case. The organ may be played with the doors closed and there are also swell shutters mounted on the roof of the case. The manual ranks are divided between B and C.

St Diapason
Mixture 19.22




divided wood
[Manual to Pedal coupler]


Compass: 56/30
Mechanical key and stop action
Balanced swell pedal3

The organ was classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) in 2008 as a significant example of a pipe organ of the period:

• It is one of a handful of new mechanical action instruments built by the Laurie firm;
• It is the most successful small organ built in Melbourne with mechanical action during the 1970s period;
• It is an instrument displaying originality in its appearance, fine craftsmanship and an excellent sound;
• It is an early example of a number of new mechanical action organs installed in the 1970s within Melbourne as part of the local organ reform movement.

The College site has now been sold and it may be necessary for this fine small organ to be relocated to a new home.

Whitley College Chapel: console
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

Whitley College Chapel: stop jamb
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

Whitley College Chapel: Pedal Bourdon pipes
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

Whitley College Chapel: stop action levers at left hand side of case
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

Whitley College Chapel: view of organ with the doors closed
[photograph by John Maidment (5 December 2007)]

1 Philip Goad & George Tibbits, Architecture on Campus: a Guide to the University of Melbourne and its Colleges. Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2003, p.74

2 Drawings for some of these are housed at the University of Melbourne Archives

3 Details noted by John Maidment December 2007