St James' Anglican Church

William Davidson 1877, 1 manual, 8 speaking stops, mechanical

Historical and Technical Documentation by Kelvin Hastie
© OHTA 2005 (last updated October 2005)



St James’ Anglican Church, Morpeth

 (drawing by Graeme Rushworth)



The first church, consisting of a nave and the present tower, was built by Edward Charles Close in 1837-1840 with the chancel and vestry added by Edmund Blacket in 1862.  The nave was destroyed by fire in 1874 and a new nave designed by Horbury Hunt was erected in 1875; therefore only the tower remains of the 1837 structure. [1]

The interior is of note for the lightweight hammerbeam truss roof of the nave, the elaborate traceried Decorated-Gothic east window of five lights and the stone pulpit, corbelled out from the wall, and entered through the chancel wall. This was derived from a medieval exemplar at Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire and might have been constructed on the recommendation of Bishop William Tyrrell, who had been Rector of Beaulieu Parish before his emigration.  The stained glass windows include examples by C.E. Kempe, London, and the Sydney firms of Lyon, Cottier & Co. and Ashwin. [2]

The pipe organ, built by William Davidson in 1877 at a cost of £200, was originally located on the north side of the nave, near the chancel arch. Like virtually all other Davidson organs, the builder manufactured all the metal pipes in his own workshop, together with the chests, action, wooden pipes, casework and bellows. Extensive use was made of Australian red cedar.

The Morpeth organ was moved to the west end of the church in the 1950s, when electric blowing was fitted.  At some time during the early 20th century the spotted metal front pipes were stencilled in a basic manner and new key coverings provided.  Other alterations included altering and converting the bellows to single-rise, the painting of the building frames and bellows, and the fitting of tuning slides to open metal fluework. [3]

Apart from these changes, the organ survives in substantially original condition to this day and staged restoration work was completed by Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd. in 2004,  with generous funding from the NSW Heritage Office supervised by the consultant, Kelvin Hastie.  Included in the work was the repair of heavily-worn console and action components, the replacement of missing stop domes (relettered in a style matching the remainder), the restoration of the bellows to double-rise operation, the provision of a new blower and the repair of the pipework.  New adjustable canisters were made for the top thirty notes of the Stop Diapason, as previous adjustment at the ears only had proven unsatisfactory, with damage a constant problem. [4]   In 2005 it was decided to remove the Davidson façade to storage in a rack beside the organ because the thinness of the original pipes was inhibiting stable speech characteristics: a new set, facsimiles of the old, was fitted by the Jewkes firm.


Peter Jewkes (2007)



William Davidson 1877 (1/8 mechanical)

Open Diapason
Stop Diapason


Manual to Pedal

16 ft.
8 Ft.
8 Ft.
8 Ft.
4 Ft.
4 Ft.
2 Ft.

16 ft.







Mechanical action

Compass 56/30

3 composition pedals

Hitch-down swell lever

Organ fully enclosed, except Open Diapason

No. of pipes = 386

Pitch a1 = 440 Hz

Wind pressure (in 2004) = 52 mm (2”)

+ Bottom 19 pipes in façade, replaced 2005.

Original façade pipes mounted in rack on wall beside organ


© PdL 2005

William Davidson, Sydney, 1877

St James’ Anglican Church, Morpeth

 (drawing by Graeme Rushworth)

Photo TB Oct. 1990 before restoration

Console after restoration

Console before restoration

Bellows after restoration

Before the restoration, through the side of the instrument (note single-rise bellows etc)

Photos above: Peter Jewkes (Sept 2007 and pre-restoration)

[1] Rushworth, Historic Organs, 100.


[2] Peter Reynolds, Lesley Muir and Joy Hughes, John Horbury Hunt: radical architect 1838-1904.  s.l., Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 2002, 67-68.


[3] John Stiller, “Detailed Documentation of Pipe Organ built by William Davidson 1877 – St James’ Anglican Church, Morpeth, NSW”. Organ Historical Trust of Australia, February 1985.  The specification is also from this source.


[4] Kelvin Hastie, “Report on 1877 William Davidson Organ in St James’ Anglican Church, Morpeth”. Plenum: the journal of the Hunter District Organ Music Society, 26/4, December 2004, 31-32.