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1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report June 2011


from Steve Kaesler

Update on the Hill & Son organ restoration project in the Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, SA.
June 2011

We are pleased to report that all of the key action for the 1877 Hill & Son organ in the Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, SA, has now been installed and adjusted by George Stephens. The three manual tracker action includes sub-octave, unison and super-octave swell couplers to the great, working through the barker lever machine, direct mechanical swell to choir coupler, and manual to pedal couplers for all divisions. The action has been constructed new by George in Hill & Son style, apart from the extant Hill & Son roller boards directly under the manual chests. Many of the threaded wire ends (including fancy wire arrangements for the couplers), felt washers, and leather buttons, etc, were manufactured and placed with the help of expertise from within the Friends of the Hill & Son Grand Organ group in Tanunda. The completed key action is a significant milestone for the Hill & Son project, and was rightly celebrated recently with the chinking of wine glass rims in true Barossa style!

The pedal tracker action is mostly constructed but awaiting final installation shortly. The pedal Open Diapason 32’ action will transfer from the main pedal trackers via new roller boards and squares currently under construction.

The chunky metal stop action roller boards to the swell division have been completed by Irwin Beitz of Tanunda, using steel materials donated by the Ahrens Engineering Group of Shea-Oak Log, SA. We appreciate the tremendous on going in-kind support from both of these parties. Wooden connecting rods will be constructed next to connect all of these together.

Local cabinet maker and craftsman David Nitschke of Marananga is in the process of constructing a new bench to Hill & Son design. The organ benches at Goulburn, NSW. and St Mary’s Tottenham, London, UK. are being used as base models.

Cone tuning will be restored to pipe work where possible, as is the case with the great Principal 4’ which now sits on the chest for the purpose of testing the Barker Lever machine action. It has a sweet singing tone. George Stephens has transported his voicing machine to the Barossa ready for final voicing of all other pipe work later this year.

We have enjoyed visits to the Barossa Hill & Son project by many interstate organists and OHTA members and your visit is also warmly welcomed at any time.

We greatly appreciate the support of hundreds of like minded people, both OHTA members and other Australian and overseas folk, who have enabled OHTA to achieve the success demonstrated to date with this significant organ restoration. If you would like to assist further, please contact the OHTA Chairman, John Maidment or Steve Kaesler for information

Community concert of the first two working stops (Choir Flutes 8 & 4), December 2009

Candle light concert with the Hill & Son organ backdrop

Barker Lever wind control and bellows

Connecting the Barker lever to the Great

George Stephens rounding out pipework

Installing restored Swell louvres and mechanism

Key action coming together

Manual to Pedal stickers and trackers

New comination action pedal

New concussion bellows to Great and Choir C# trunking

New Manual to Pedal rollerboard and backfalls

New Pedal rollerboards and action

New stop action trundles for all divisions

New Swell stop action rollerboard

New Swell stop action squares and pivot beam

New Swell stop action squares and pivot beam in place

New Swell stop action squares and pivot beam

Restored stop knob and assembly

Swell coupling action

Photos supplied by Steve Kaesler (June 2011)




1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report August 2011


Progress report August 2011 from OHTA chairman John Maidment

Work is now advancing very well with the Hill & Son organ located at the Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, SA. An inspection in August this year revealed that all of the manual and pedal key actions are now complete and linked between the console and windchests. The reconstructed barker lever is fully functional and operates with considerable vigour. The reconstruction of the coupling actions and pedal actions represents enormous skill on the part of organbuilder George Stephens. The latter is divided on either side of the organ and has some intricate twists; it all works admirably. The evidence for the placement of much of this work has come from slots in the floor plate for dovetail joints. The metal components have been made by Irwin Beitz, of Tanunda, to an extraordinary degree of precision. The Choir wooden Lieblich Gedact 8ft and the metal Lieblich Flute 4ft are in position, together with the Great Principal 4ft and have all the engaging hallmarks of Hill & Son sound. All of the facade pipes are now playable too. The wooden Double Open Diapason 32ft may also be sounded and has a wonderful sense of gravity. The rackboards, where altered in 1970, have been replaced in solid pine.

The work that remains includes the following:


· Completion of all the stop actions, including placing the drawstops at the console (the original 1875 knobs and engraved discs survive); part of the swell stop actions are in place and manufacture of the metal and wooden components is largely finished ;
· Construction of the composition pedal actions;
· Construction of the lever swell pedal and holding mechanism, which will be based upon designs kindly supplied by William Drake, the renowned UK organbuilder;
· Construction of a new bench in Hill & Son style;
· Regulation of the key and stop actions;
· Insertion of the remaining pipework, including repatriation of the larger wooden pedal stops to their original positions before the alteration in pitch of 1939. It has been possible to restore cone tuning to the Great Principal 4ft and it is hoped that this will be possible for most of the remaining metal pipework.


It is difficult to give a precise date for when the instrument will be tonally and mechanically complete, but present indications are that this will happen next year, 2012. While this has been a very long project, we can report that the overall quality and level of authenticity achieved is of the highest order and that the instrument will certainly be one of Australia's finest.


New pedal actions on organ floor

New manual coupling actions behind console

New conveyancing to façade pipes, new rackboards to Great Organ and cone tuned Principal 4 in place

New manual action runs and two of the new concussion bellows

New Swell octave and sub-octave couplers

New Pedal action runs

New manual actions – side view




1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report June 2012

Restoration of the Hill & Son organ is now proceeding towards completion of the reconstruction of the mechanism, which is likely to take place shortly. The mechanical key actions were completed and fully installed some time back, but current work is involved with the stop and composition actions. All of the manual and pedal stop actions are largely complete and awaiting connection to the drawstops at the console. Iron squares, square beams and wooden trace rods and trundles have been newly constructed for this work, some of which exhibits considerable ingenuity in its layout, such as the connection of the stop actions for the two pedal windchests placed on either side of the instrument. The components have all been manufactured and we are most fortunate to retain all of the original Hill & Son engraved drawstop labels, which will be inserted into the original Hill & Son drawstops very shortly, thus completing the console. A new facsimile Hill & Son brass nameplate has also been manufactured and will be inserted into a recess above the console while a new organ bench, following Hill & Son models, has been made in Australian hardwood by David Nitschke.

The major work taking place at the moment is the reconstruction of the composition pedal action. The original combinations were documented in a contemporary newspaper article in the South Australian Register for 7 September 1877, p.5 and these will be set on the nine composition pedals that are provided (four for the Great, three for the Swell and two for the Pedal). This work also involves the manufacture of massive iron rollers and assembly in hardwood frames, with the combinations thrown on and off via wooden blocks mounted on trace rods and actuated by metal fans.

The reconstruction work continues to be supervised by experienced South Australian organbuilder George Stephens, assisted by Steve Kaesler and Irwin Beitz, who has expertly manufactured all of the metal components, and David Nitschke, who has made up many of the wooden components. Members of the Friends of the Hill & Son organ have also assisted in various ways.

We are hopeful that the mechanism will be fully complete in weeks. It will then require careful adjustment to ensure that the key and stop actions work precisely. At present, three ranks on the Great Organ have been inserted (Double Open Diapason 16, Open Diapason no 1 8, Principal 4), two ranks on the Choir Organ (Lieblich Gedact 8 and Lieblich Flute 4) and three of the stops on the Pedal Organ (Double Open Diapason 32, Open Diapason 16 and Bourdon 16). These all sound with all of the splendid characteristics of the Hill firm's work at the period, with engaging character, ideally suited to the acoustic of the hall.

Work that will remain to be done includes some adjustments to the windchests, voicing of the facsimile replacement ranks, regulation of the eight reed stops, construction of an offnote block and conveyances for the bass of the Choir Cone Gamba 8, linking of the mechanism for the lever swell pedal, and overall fine regulation of the action and pipework and final tuning. At a later stage, and after the instrument has been opened, the redecoration of the pipes in the lateral flats and towers placed in the organ case will need to be undertaken, the urns and lyres places as case finials will need reconstruction (the originals were removed and placed on the current 1990 J.W. Walker & Sons organ at Adelaide Town Hall), and new wooden facsimile ranks made for the Choir Flageolet 2 and Pedal Violoncello 8. We are also missing 28 trebles pipes of the Choir Cone Gamba 8 which have been located in an organ in Melbourne, but have so far had no success in arranging for their repatriation.

John Maidment
19 June 2012

Swell stop action levers and trundles (Steve Kaesler April 2012)

New organ bench in Hill & Son style (Steve Kaesler April 2012)

New Hill & Son nameplate (Trophyman Echuca March 2012)

Reconstructed Great stop trundles (John Maidment June 2012)

Reconstructed swell stop actions, wind trunks, concussion bellows and
32ft Double Open Diapason C side (John Maidment June 2012)

Reconstructed stop action behind right hand jamb (John Maidment June 2012)

Swell Bourdon 16 placed on windchest at rear of swell box (John Maidment June 2012)

Great windchest with treble pipes of Double Open Diapason 16, Open Diapason no 1 8 and
Principal 4 placed on windchest (John Maidment June 2012)


1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report January 2013

Eight ranks of reeds on the Tanunda Hill & Son organ are being restored by John Gray of The South Island Organ Company Ltd, in Timaru, New Zealand. John Gray trained in England with Hill, Norman & Beard and inherited there the art of reed voicing that had been handed down through the firm from the days of Thomas Hill, when our Hill & Son organ was built.

George Stephens returned to work on the instrument at the end of January to work on the adjustments to the swell chests. Similar work on the Great and Choir chests will follow.

All of the action work on the organ is now complete apart from the last of the linkages to the recessed bottom 12 notes of the Pedal Double Open Diapason 32' basses and the trigger swell pedal. Final connection of the pedal composition fans, installation of the complex pedal chest stop action and construction of all balance weights to the swell stop action (to balance the weight of the long vertical wooden action rods) has most recently been completed. Altogether, this has been a mammoth task taking many years but it has been carried out to the highest standard by George Stephens assisted by Irwin Beitz, with the Friends of the Hill & Son Grand Organ. The last of the stop action components to be installed are the connection of the stop knobs through the console case, which will be finalised once the slides have been placed in position.

Many months of work has recently completed the construction and installation of three levels of personal access, walkways and ladders behind the organ to safely and conveniently access the various sections of the organ for maintenance. Ladders and walkways to the key bench level, choir / great and swell chest levels (the swell being over eight metres above the base of the organ) have been completed. Additional passage boards over the Barker lever machine and behind the choir sound chest have also been constructed to aid ease of access though out the instrument. We appreciate the contribution of our corporate sponsors, Ahrens Engineering, to achieve this goal.

The Friends of the Hill & Son Grand Organ successfully arranged a St Nicholas Day concert at the Barossa Regional Gallery on the night of Thursday 6 December. It was a most wonderful event with various items and combinations of piano, cello, flute, clarinet, men's choir, trumpet and of course the Hill organ (8 & 4 flues on Choir, 8 & 4 Diapasons on Great, 16 & 16 on Pedal – probably the last time the organ is to be heard prior to the opening concert. An enthusiastic crowd of 250 persons packed the ground floor of the hall with $1,200 raised in aid the H&SGO restoration fund. The ongoing energies and success of this Barossa-based group deserves every encouragement as they continue to champion organ music within the community, especially at the BRG with their namesake, the Hill & Son Grand Organ.

Other work to be completed in coming months includes:

Construction of the hand blowing lever mechanism , including installation of the already prepared metal components and brass pivot system etc.

Construction of stop action to activate the bottom 12 notes of the 32' Double Open Diapason from the main chest stop action already installed.

Construction of swell hitch pedal and connection to existing linkages.

Adjustments to the windchests and regulation of the action.

Voicing and regulation of the flue pipework by George Stephens (including voicing of the new replacement ranks that went missing in 1970).

Final work to be completed, but perhaps not necessarily by the conference date includes:

Construction of replica Hill Pedal Violoncello 8' & Choir Flageolet 2' wooden ranks that went missing in 1970.

Construction of four replica carved urn finials and two carved lyre finials by David Nitschke.

Completion of the case and pipe façade decoration.

Steve Kaesler
January 2013


Console, showing composition pedals in place and two of the Great drawstops inserted

Key, stop and composition actions viewed from behind console

Choir stop actions

Swell composition actions

Photos: Steve Kaesler (Feb 2013)

1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report August 2013

Restoration of the 1877 Hill & Son organ for the Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, South Australia is now in its final phases and the instrument in its near-complete state will be first heard publicly at the OHTA conference in South Australia at the start of October 2013. The results of the restoration are outstanding in every way and it sets new international benchmarks for the authentic conservation of a 19th century English organ. All of the parts have been reconstructed upon Hill & Son models to the highest degree of fidelity, the work carried out by George Stephens and others.




Work recently completed includes:



Work currently being undertaken includes:



Work yet to be undertaken includes:

Completion of the following ranks:


The entire action of the organ is now essentially complete apart from some minor refinements and adjustments and includes complete reconstruction to Hill & Son patterns, incorporating a new Barker lever action that actuates the Great Organ. This incorporates a large amount of metal-work, all manufactured to the highest standard by Irwin Beitz.



Two wooden ranks, removed in 1970, remain to be reconstructed. These are the Pedal Violoncello 8ft fitted with diagonal beards (which can be copied from an identical rank at Sydney Town Hall) and the Choir Flageolet 2ft, which is very unusually of wood. Donations for the construction of these ranks would be welcomed.

Current state of the organ

Redecoration of the casework and façade pipes was completed on 1 August.

22 speaking stops (out of a total of 37) are inserted and playable, having been voiced, regulated and tuned by George Stephens.

Four speaking stops are shortly to be voiced, regulated and inserted: the three Mixtures and the Choir Voix Celeste (total of nine ranks).

All of the key actions are playable, including the coupling actions that include unison, octave and sub-octave couplers from the Swell to the Great.

All of the stop actions are fully functional.

The lever swell pedal is linked up and actuates the swell shutters, arranged horizontally in double banks at the front of the large dovecote swell box placed high in the centre of the organ.

The different levels of the organ are now accessible by a steel ladder and platforms at the rear of the organ which link upwards from the base of the organ to the level of the keydesk, the Great and Choir Organs and at the highest level to the Swell Organ. The organ is around 12 metres high.

The reconstructed hand blowing is now functional to the main reservoir but the linkages to the Barker lever (heavy-pressure) reservoir are yet to be completed.








Report by John Maidment and Steve Kaesler 1 August 2013

1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report October 2013


The Hill & Son organ was heard at two concerts during the OHTA annual conference held in South Australia on 3 and 4 October. The Friday evening concert attracted a capacity audience of 350 people and included works played on the organ and with the choir Voices in the Wilderness, a baritone soloist and a trumpeter. At this stage, 25 out of the 37 speaking stops were playable and the overall brilliance and quality of the sound received high praise from the capacity audience.

Work recently completed includes:

The reconstructed combination action showing the felted wooden blocks that actuate the stops (Steve Kaesler October 2013)

The C side of the Great Organ windchest showing the restored pipework, the Full Mixture and Sharp Mixture shown to the right (Steve Kaesler October 2013)

The reconstructed metal conveyancing to the bass of the Cone Gamba – note the job number 1564 painted on to the pipes (Steve Kaesler October 2013)


The brass bell that indicates that hand blowing should start (Steve Kaesler October 2013)

Work currently being undertaken includes:

Work yet to be undertaken includes:

Current state of the organ

25 speaking stops (out of a total of 37) are inserted and playable, having been voiced, regulated and tuned by George Stephens. All of the action work (key and stop actions) are fully complete.

Report by John Maidment and Steve Kaesler 23 October 2013



1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report April 2014

The Hill & Son organ is now very close to completion and it is anticipated that it will be finished within the next few weeks after a restoration period of around 15 years.

The following work has been completed over the past few months:

Completion of remediation work on the Great C and C# windchests to ensure that they are wind-tight and that the slides operate freely. New slides have been fitted that are not subject to variations in temperature and humidity and felt seals have been affixed to the tables and upperboards to obviate any possible leakage.

Repositioning of the heavy-pressure Barker lever reservoir and feeders to provide a more efficient leverage system for their operation. The manual pumping lever is located adjacent to the larger lever for the main reservoir at the right rear of the organ.

Installation of five of the eight reed ranks. These were restored by John Gray, of the South Island Organ Company Ltd, in Timaru, NZ, who is an expert in the restoration of Hill pipework. The work involved the removal of harmonic trebles inserted in 1970 and replacement with new natural-length resonators. The bottom C pipes introduced as a result of a lowering of pitch in 1939 have been discarded, so that the pipes now speak at their original pitch, with an overwhelmingly dramatic effect upon their sound. The reeds are being inserted under George Stephens' direction and fitted to the original wooden and wire stays provided by Hill.

Final regulation of the fluework of the Great and Swell divisions.

Acquisition of an 1891 Hill & Son Pedal Violoncello of wood made for the organ at Manly Presbyterian Church, NSW (job number 2094) – this organ was replaced by another instrument in the 1977.

Refilling of the drawstop engraving with black wax and final affixing to the drawstops.

Work yet to be undertaken includes:

Insertion and regulation of the Swell Oboe 8ft, Choir Clarionet 8ft, Pedal Trombone 16ft.

Completion of the construction by George Stephens of a new wooden Flageolet 2ft for the Choir Organ which is a facsimile of an identical rank on the 1890 Hill & Son organ at Sydney Town Hall and placed in the Echo division. This work is well under way.

Insertion of the Violoncello 8ft – the bottom octave, previously painted pink, has been repainted in Hill green/black and a few wooden pipe feet have had to be reconstructed as they had previously been replaced with unsatisfactory material. New rackboards are being constructed to support this rank together with newly turned rack pillars and rack nuts.

Completion of the drawstop engraving through filling with coloured waxes (red and green).

Fitting of roller bridges for the bottom octave of the Double Open Diapason 32ft to improve its speech and sound.

Final adjustment of the Barker lever and action generally.

Adjustment of the concussion bellows to ensure greater wind stability.

Current state of the organ:

32 speaking stops playable out of a total of 37. All mechanisms complete.

Report by John Maidment and Steve Kaesler 2 April 2014

The completed pipework of the Great Organ viewed from the C# side showing the recently inserted Posaune 8ft and Clarion 4ft to the right (Steve Kaesler)

The completed pipework of the Great Organ viewed from above (Steve Kaesler)

The Swell reeds viewed from above the C# side showing from left to right Clarion 4ft, vacant space for Oboe 8ft, Cornopean 8ft, Double Trumpet 16ft (Steve Kaesler)

The Swell reeds viewed through the front of the swell box - shutters temporarily removed (Steve Kaesler)

Restored 1891 Hill & Son Violoncello pipes (Steve Kaesler)



1875 Hill & Son Organ Restoration
Progress Report JULY 2014

The Hill & Son organ is now complete after much more than a decade's work. OHTA pays tribute to the organbuilder George Stephens for his inspired workmanship and attention to detail and the many volunteers who have assisted in achieving an outstanding level of success. This restoration rates as the most significant of any late 19th century English organ undertaken anywhere, with an impeccable level of fidelity to the original style of construction.

Recent work has included the following:

The sound of the organ is extraordinary, with a Great chorus of impressive brilliance and body, reeds of stunning quality and power, and quieter sounds of immense charm.

The organ will be opened on 30 and 31 August.

OHTA also acknowledges the considerable financial support given to the project by charitable trusts, firms and individual donors. This was all achieved without any major government support. Some further funds are required to sign off the project and donations would be greatly welcomed.


Console stop labels

Pedal Trombone boots, resonators and the Violoncello behind

Pedal Trombone (left) Great reeds (right)

Choir Organ complete

Great Organ C side showing basses of reeds and Mixtures; Pedal Organ to right

Swell reeds now complete

Composition pedal actions viewed from below








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

February 2009 progress report

April 2008 progress report

December 2006 progress report

March 2006 progress report

October 2004 progress report

Sponsorship information