cnr Northgate Street & Bellevue Place, Unley Park
B 1952 J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ
Works. 2m, 15spst, 7c, el.pn. Gt:220.127.116.11.2.8. Sw: 18.104.22.168.4.8. Ped: 16.16.8.
From the 2009 OHTA Conference Book, David Shield writes:
At the turn of the 20th century there was a move by the Baptists to establish new churches in the growing suburbs. The village of Unley had been separated from Mitcham and declared a corporate town in 1871. A block of land was first offered in Malvern but rejected in favour of Northgate Street. Although it would have been more prominent on Unley Road, the Revd S. Fairey, who had been at Glen Osmond and Knightsbridge, suggested the dust of a main road to be a deterrent. The current church complex has grown from the original building, now the hall to the east, to the interconnected structures of today. Music had always been a prominent feature of Baptist worship at Unley Park, though not permitted through communion. Initially a reed organ was hired until finances permitted the acquisition of the pipe organ.
In July 1903, C.H. Goode, (later Sir Charles), laid the foundation stone for the first church and three months later J.T. Miller formally opened it. By March 1914, the congregation had outgrown the facility and it was proposed to construct a new church, the architects being Messrs William and Good. Without exceeding a £1000 liability it was to be an octagonal building accommodating up to 450 people and designed such that a gallery could be added if needed. In October 1917 a contract was signed with T. Lewis & Son; Lady Goode laid the foundation stone on 8 December and in June the following year, having exceeded the liability limitations, it was complete.1
With the new church building, enquiries were made for the installation of a pipe organ but the size of the building debt delayed any such possibility. In March 1924 the choir was authorised to open a pipe organ fund and, by September 1926, £260 had been raised.2 An offer of a pipe organ for £500 plus installation costs was made in 1929 but regarded as too expensive. A further offer was made in 1932 for an instrument of £550 but the church finances remained in straitened circumstances. In fact, it is interesting to note that during the depression the church borrowed money from the pipe organ fund and repaid it later at 5% interest.3
An arsonist attacked the Malvern Methodist and Unley Park Baptist Churches early in 1947. At Malvern, damage was done to the Sunday School buildings where there was severe damage including the loss of a piano. At Unley Park, the fire was started in the sanctuary. Quickly noticed, it was promptly extinguished with minor damage supposedly to the pipe organ. The media reported damage being confined to the rear wall of the church and passageway connecting the vestries. A cleaning cupboard was destroyed.4
The Revd Ernest H. Watson, himself a competent organist, occupied the pulpit at Unley Park from 1936 to 1947. With the end of World War II, a Peace Memorial Thanksgiving Fund was begun during 1946 with the organ, youth work and church heating in mind. Specifications for the organ were quickly finalised. Thoughts of a second hand instrument from Victoria were entertained but rejected in favour of a new instrument. Before resigning in December 1947, to accept a call to Aberdeen Street Baptist Church, Geelong, Watson submitted specifications to Gunstar Organ Works for a two-manual and pedal electric action pipe organ of 774 pipes at a cost of £2620.5
This was a period of transition for the firm. The War had led to shortages of organ work, labour and materials. The Gunstar Organ Works, created in 1935 as a result of disagreements with Josiah Dodd, merged back to form the firm of J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works. Though built by Gunstar in 1946, the organ at Clarence Park Methodist Church, opened in September 1947, was hailed as the first instrument of the new firm.6
The contract for the organ at Unley Park was not signed till March 1950. Late in 1952, the Revd E.H. Watson was invited to make a special trip from Geelong to open the organ, free of debt, on 5 October.7
The casework, with three towers and six flats, and banding on the upper parts of the pipes, is an elaborate example for the period and harkens back to the designs of J.E. Dodd, earlier in the 20th century.
J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works 1952
2 manuals, 15 speaking stops, electric action
Swell to Great Sub
Swell to Great
Swell to Great Super
Swell Sub Octave
Swell Super Octave
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Detached stopkey console
3 thumb pistons to Great (duplicated by toe pistons)
3 thumb pistons to Swell (duplicated by toe pistons)
1 additional toe piston (Full organ)
balanced swell pedal
1 Badger L., Celebrate 100 Unley Park Baptist Church 1903-2003, Hyde Park Press, 2003, pp.21-22
2 Unley Park Baptist Church Inc Northgate St 1903-1963 Diamond Jubilee celebrations 21st – 28th July 1963; Badger op.cit., p.76 says permission was given in 1923
3 Ibid. Note further research is needed to verify the provenance of the organs offered prior to the current instrument.
4 Advertiser Monday 3 February 1947; Badger op.cit., p.36 refers to the pipe organ damage but is clearly in error. The accompanying photograph shows a reed organ
5 Diamond Jubilee op.cit., specifications were completed in March 1947 though the contract was not signed until March 1950.
6 Advertiser, 22 September 1947, 5.3, South Australian Methodist 19 September 1947, 3.2
7 Badger, op.cit., p.39; the 1953 date given on p.77 is a typographical error
Photos: Trevor Bunning (March 2009)