St Mary's Dominican Convent

Bishop & Son 1883, 2m., 10 sp. st., mechanical

Historical and Technical Documentation by Pastór de Lasala
© OHTA 2005 (last updated October 2005)


Plans were produced on 27 August 1883 for extensive additions to the convent by Maitland architect J.W. Pender; it is likely that these included the chapel.  Interestingly, the builder was Henry Noad and one might question a relationship with the 20th century Sydney organbuilder S.T. Noad.  John Wiltshire Pender (1833-1917) was Scottish born and trained in Inverness before his arrival in Australia in 1855 seeking gold.  His was the leading architectural practice in the Hunter Valley with 1028 projects documented before his retirement in 1908, these also including plans produced on 15 September 1894 for remodelling of the front of the convent in Albert Street to three storeys. [1]


The former Dominican convent chapel, now part of a St Mary’s High School and also a base of an active Polish community, houses an exceptional instrument by Bishop & Son of 1883.  Examples of this organbuilder’s work in New South Wales are limited to this solitary instrument.  In Rushworth’s Historic Organs, we are told that Bishop exported a two manual instrument to St Benedict’s Catholic Church, Broadway, and a very small single manual instrument to St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Parramatta. [2]   Neither instrument survives today, nor are their whereabouts known.  If New South Wales has a scarcity of Bishop organs, Tasmania has a wealth of them, mainly remarkable single manual instruments in original and restored condition.  (A number of these were visited during the 2002 Conference; their details, complete with photos can be seen on the OHTA website).

© PdL 2005

A rather curious feature of the gallery is the presence of a wire mesh starting at waist level.  Its purpose may have been to prevent visitors to the loft from falling over the rail or, perhaps in more fancifully, a screen to conceal the identity of the girls singing in the choir!


The case pipes, comprising three flats of Open Diapason pipes in a 7-9-7 formation, have been gold sprayed. Nevertheless, the outline of some floral diapering patterns can be discerned around some of the pipe mouths. Each flat is separated by a vertical pillar, with a transom rail extending across the entire front.  The impost features a crenellated upper section.


The console has a keycover which folds to create the back of a music desk. All the natural keys have tropic pinning designed to prevent the ivory from lifting in extremely warm temperatures: there are four pins in a square formation on the key head and a further two pins on the key back, one in front of the other.  The original brass nameplate “Bishop & Son / 250 Marylebone Road / London N.W.” is affixed above the swell manual and to the centre. [3] The key cheeks are rounded and the stop head are of turned rosewood with gothic lettering, these latter two features identical to stop heads found on Forster & Andrews organs.  The presence of a Clarabella stop and composition pedals is significant in that Bishop was the inventor of these.

© PdL 2005

It is to the credit of Peter Jewkes and his team that this rare instrument - the sole surviving Bishop organ in New South Wales – has been kept in working order.  Hopefully one day, the custodians of this organ might consent to have it sympathetically restored.


The organ retains most original features, although hand-blowing has been removed, the bellows cut down from double to single rise, tuning slides fitted to open metal pipes and the stenciled façade pipes have been painted over. [4]



Bishop & Son 1883 (2/10 mechanical)

Open Diapason

Open Diapason
Lieblich Gedackt
Harmonic Flute


8 ft
8 ft
8 ft
4 ft
2 ft

8 ft
8 ft
4 ft
8 ft

16 ft


Swell to Great

Great to Pedals

Swell to Pedals


Mechanical action

Compass 56/30

Straight, flat pedalboard

Two composition pedals to the Great

Hitch-down swell pedal


No of pipes = 498

Pitch a1 = 440 Hz at 180 C

Wind pressure =  73mm (2 ⅞”)  


© PdL 2005




© PdL 2005





Builder’s plate, St Mary’s Dominican Convent, Maitland

(drawing by Graeme Rushworth)





Bishop & Son, London, 1883

St Mary’s Dominican Convent, Maitland

 (drawing by Graeme Rushworth)


[1] Barry Maitland.  The Pender index: a guide to the architectural work of the Pender practice of Maitland, N.S.W.  Newcastle, NSW: Faculty of Architecture, Building and Design, University of Newcastle, 1999, 17, 39.


[2] Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales  Hale & Iremonger, 1988, 222-223.


[3] Noted by Pastor de Lasala, January 2004


[4] John Stiller, “St Mary’s Dominican Convent Maitland NSW – Detailed Documentation of Pipe Organ built by Bishop & Son 1885”.  Organ Historical Trust of Australia, 29 May 1981 and 6 June 1983.