1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report February 2009

(with October 2010 update by Steven Kaesler below)

from John Maidment


Restoration of the Great, Swell and Pedal slider windchests has now been completed. The work has been carried out by Wakeley Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, Bayswater, Victoria. The manual windchests have had new marine ply tables fitted in place of the badly cracked, poorly repaired and unsalvageable originals. Marine ply facings have also been fitted to the bottoms of the manual upperboards. Badly damaged sliders have been replaced in laminated mahogany. New pallets boxes and faceboards have been constructed in pencil cedar while new brass pulldown strips and phosphor bronze pulldowns have been fitted. Pallets have been converted back to the original split operation in the bass.

The work has involved the filling of thousands of vertical and horizontal bleed holes from the chests inserted to obviate the appalling ‘runnings’ that affected their operation.

Tonal changes made in 1970 also involved the serious alteration of some of the upperboards to accommodate tonal changes, particularly in the Choir Organ and these are in the process of being reversed.

It is hoped that the final set of windchests – for the Choir Organ – will be complete in May 2009.

The above work will ensure that the pipework receives a full supply of wind and speaks as Hill & Son intended. The windchests will also offer an optimum level of stability which was never possible in the instrument’s original location.

The restoration of the manual chests has been assisted by a generous grant from The Ian Potter Foundation.


While around 85% of the Hill & Son pipework survives, several ranks have been discarded while others were transposed or cut down in 1970. The following work has been completed by Tim N B Gilley, craftsman organ pipe maker, Bayswater, Victoria:

• Reconstruction of the Great Organ Open Diapason no 2 8ft from middle f# upwards

• Reconstruction of the Great Twelfth 3ft – new pipes throughout

• Restoration of the Choir Cone Gamba 8ft and conversion back to original speaking length (the treble pipes from middle F# upwards are still missing but have been located elsewhere)

• Restoration of the Choir Gemshorn 4ft and conversion back to original speaking length with new treble pipes from middle f# upwards

• Restoration of the Swell Pierced Gamba 8ft and conversion back to original speaking length

Reconstruction of the missing Choir Dulciana and Voix Céleste 8ft, both from Tenor C, is to follow shortly. The scales of these stops will be based upon those from a contemporary Hill & Son organ that was placed in St Barnabas’ Anglican Church, Broadway, NSW before its destruction by fire. The OHTA documentations of the Broadway and Goulburn Hill & Son organs carried out by by John Stiller many years ago have provided a valuable reference point when determining the scales of the missing Tanunda Hill & Son pipework.

Reconstruction of the pipework has been assisted by a generous grant from the Annie Danks Trust.

A second-hand Hill & Son Flautina 2ft has been donated to the project by Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd, Sydney. Discovered in an organ in Sydney, these had come from an 1884 Hill & Son organ (job number 1892) built for St Mary’s Church, Kingsworthy, UK. It is hoped that this can be used to replace the missing Choir Flageolet 2ft. A Hill & Son Pedal Violoncello from 1891 is also on offer from a dismantled organ in Sydney. This could be used to replace the original which was destroyed in 1970. Funds for the acquisition of the latter stop would have to be raised.

Work taking place in the Barossa Regional Gallery

George Stephens, the South Australian organ builder responsible for the overall organ restoration, has recently completed the following work:

• Installation of parts of the mechanical action for the Pedal Organ

• Placement of the reconstructed Barker lever action

• Construction and installation of the main reservoir wind regulation mechanism

• Construction and installation of new internal support structures for the back of the cantilevered Swell Bourdon rank top boards and the Swell passage boards.

Work in the near future will include installation of the Great Chests. This will then allow installation of the restored swell box on top of the previously installed Swell Chests and installation of the central pediment and returns of the casework.

Construction and installation of glass viewing walls around the sections of the organ beneath the stage floor has also been completed. This unique facility allows everyday visual access from within the basement room to many parts of the organ not normally seen, especially the Barker Lever machine and much of the organs action.

Fund raising continues to secure finance for the organ’s completion as soon as possible. Donations are still most welcome. Major aspects of the project yet to be completed include the assembly of the key and stop actions, manufacture and installation of wind trunks, installation of pipework, regulation of actions and pipework and completion of the case and façade pipe decoration.

Installation of the restored Swell Organ slider chests at the top of the organ

Great Organ slider chests stripped for restoration

Great Organ slider chests showing filled exterior holes and restored split pallets

Underside of Great Organ slider windchests showing canvas placed across the note channels

Restoration of Great Organ slider chests complete February 2009

Restored pallet box, pallets, pulldown wires February 2009

Restored mahogany upperboards February 2009

Choir Organ windchests stripped and with template affixed for drilling holes in the new marine ply table

Construction of the glass screens

Framework for the glass screens

View from above the stage roof into the interior of the organ

Cut down Choir Organ Gemshorn 4ft from 1970 – before lengthening

Choir Organ Gemshorn 4ft restored to full length

Swell Organ Pierced Gamba 8ft restored to full length – this had been converted to a Twelfth in 1970

Zinc bass of Choir Organ Cone Gamba 8ft restored to full length – this had been converted to a Quint 5-1/3 in 1970

Swell Pierced Gamba, Choir Cone Gamba, Choir Gemshorn – restored pipework

New Great Organ Twelfth 3ft – the original Hill pipes had been removed in 1885 and converted to a Harmonic Piccolo

New trebles from Middle F# of the Great Organ Open Diapason no 2 8ft – the originals had been discarded in 1970



Photos: JRM (Feb 2009)

October 2010 update by Steven Kaesler

In the past six months since the Sydney Conference, the Tanunda Hill & Son organ restoration has progressed at a good pace. The work performed during this time includes:


Images showing the recently completed conveyancing constructed by Tim Gilley, connecting the Great Double, #1 & #2 Open Diapason bottom notes to their respective façade pipes. Also shown are the new rack boards constructed by George Stephens, to repatriate the Great Double Open Diapason and the Open Diapason #1 to their rightful position after being displaced a foreign Mounted Cornet in 1970. The Open Diapason #2 is now also able to return home to the Great chest after its exile to the pedal department.


Organ Historical Trust
of Australia citation:

"A three manual organ, originally of 37 speaking stops built by the noted London firm of Hill & Son for the Adelaide Town Hall where it was opened in 1877. One of three organs built by the firm for Australian town halls, it remains the oldest concert organ on the Australian mainland and is notable for its impressive casework, with carved details, its generous tonal scheme and outstanding sound."

Project Patrons:

Emeritus Professor David Galliver AM Ashleigh Tobin, Principal Organist St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide, Former Adelaide Town Hall Organist Brian Hurn OAM, Mayor of The Barossa Jane Lomax Smith, Lord Mayor of Adelaide Neil Andrew MP, Federal member for Wakefield Ivan Venning MP, State member for Schubert Luise Krips John Radzevicius Peter & Margaret Lehmann Don Brown

Project Coordinators:

Steven Kaesler, David Shield

Consultancy Committee:

John Maidment OAM, John Stiller, Ray Holland

Supported by:

The Barossa Council Tanunda Soldiers Memorial Hall Committee

Photos of the hall and
organ restoration work in progress

Stop layout

August 2013 progress report
June 2011 progress report
February 2009 progress report
April 2008 progress report

December 2006 progress report

March 2006 progress report
October 2004 progress report

Sponsorship information