Frederick Taylor


(OHTA News, volume 43, no 3 (September 2018))

This is the first attempt to construct an opus list for the organs built by the Hawthorn, Vic. organbuilder Frederick Taylor (1861-1938). Some dates have been verified from contemporary newspapers but it is difficult to do so for others in the absence of any surviving business papers or correspondence. It is very sad that only one of these instruments survives in original state; others were seriously altered in the 1950s and 1960s as later organbuilders sought to suppress Taylor’s symphonic style.

1902-03           St Saviour’s Anglican Cathedral, Goulburn, NSW – 3 manuals -rebuilding of Forster & Andrews organ – later electrified
                  Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 6 October 1903, p.2
1903              Presbyterian Church, Ryrie Street, Geelong – 2 manuals – later rebuilt and moved to St David’s Uniting Church, Newtown
1905              Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Tabor – 2 manuals – moved to St Paul’s Anglican Church, Canterbury, NSW
1904-5            St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Hamilton, SA – 2 manuals – enlarged  1910 to 3 manuals and moved 
                  to St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Parkside – tonally altered Kapunda Herald, 6 January 1905, p.3
1906              Presbyterian Church, Kew – 2 manuals –later rebuilt and moved to Uniting Church, 
                  Brunswick and St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Chelsea
1907              Congregational Church, Ballarat – alterations to Fuller organ – moved to St Martk’s Church, Fawkner
1907              Presbyterian Church, Brunswick – 2 manuals –later rebuilt and moved to Uniting Church, 
                  Balwyn and St Anne’s Catholic Church, East Kew
1907              Stow Congregational Church, Adelaide – renovation of Speechly & Ingram organ – later rebuilt and moved
                  The Register, 11 June 1907, p.5
1907-8            Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church, Middle Park – 2 manuals – later rebuilt and enlarged
                  The Advocate, 15 February 1908, p.21
1908              St George’s Presbyterian Church, East St Kilda – enlargement of Lewis organ – later enlarged and rebuilt
                  The Prahran Telegraph, 29 February 1908, p.5
1908              Methodist Church, Camberwell – 2 manuals – later rebuilt & enlarged
1909              St John’s Anglican Church, Port Fairy – 2 manuals – unaltered
1909              Residence of Frederick E. Wilson, St Kilda – 3 manuals – moved to St John’s Anglican Church, Colac and later rebuilt
Circa 1910        Presbyterian Church, North Carlton – 2 manuals - moved to St Barnabas’ Church, Balwyn 1960: rebuilt and broken up
1910              St James’ Anglican Church, Ivanhoe – installation of William Stone organ – later rebuilt
1910              Methodist Church, Maryborough – 2 manuals - moved to Uniting Church, Maryborough – later rebuilt
1910              St Clement’s Anglican Church, Mosman – 3 manuals – later rebuilt and broken up
Circa 1910        Residence of Alfred Larard, Canterbury – 2 manuals – to Baptist Church, Camberwell 1921 (attributed) 
                  – later rebuilt 1940 in new church building
Circa 1910        Presbyterian Church, Flemington – 2 manuals (attributed) – destroyed by fire
Circa 1910        Methodist Church, Denham Street, Hawthorn – 2 manuals – destroyed by fire (improvements 1919)
                  Weekly Times, 19 April 1919, p.51
1911              Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warrayure – 1 manual – later enlarged and rebuilt
1912              Methodist Church, Port Adelaide – 2 manuals - rebuilt and moved to Zion Lutheran Church, Gawler South – later rebuilt
1912              Methodist Church, Ashfield – 2 manuals - moved to Lovat Chapel, Yass – later rebuilt
                  The Methodist, 31 August 1912, p.9
1912              St Michael’s Anglican Church, North Carlton – 3 manuals – completion and installation
1914              Methodist Church, Mt Gambier – 2 manuals – rebuilt and moved to Free Reformed Church, West Albany, WA – later rebuilt
                  The Register, 7 November 1914, p.13 ; The Naracoorte Herald, 13 November 1914, p.1 ; Border Watch, 7 November 1914, p.4
1914              Methodist Church, Armadale – 2 manuals – later rebuilt
1915              Methodist Church, Castlemaine – 2 manuals -rebuilt and moved to Lutheran Church, Hawkesdale – later rebuilt
1917              Presbyterian Church, West Hawthorn – 2 manuals – later rebuilt
                  Hawthorn, Kew, Camberwell Citizen, 16 February 1917, p.2
1918              St Giles Presbyterian Church, Geelong – 2 manuals (incorporating Fincham pipework) 
                  – later rebuilt and moved to St Paul’s Catholic Church, Coburg
                  Geelong Advertiser, 23 March 1918, p.7
1919              Christ Church, Echuca – 2 manuals     (parts from St Giles’ Presbyterian Church, Geelong) – later restored
1920              Congregational Church, Prahran – 2 manuals -rebuild of Nicholson organ – moved to Mentone – later rebuilt
Circa 1920        Baptist Church, Coburg – 2 manuals - rebuilt and altered, moved to Albury – later rebuilt
1921              SS Peter & Paul’s Church, South Melbourne – renovation of Anderson organ - destroyed
                  The Advocate, 27 October 1921, p.25
1923              Presbyterian Church, Hawthorn – 3 manuals – addition of Choir Organ – unaltered
1923              St David’s Calvanistic Methodist Church, Melbourne – 2 manuals – later rebuilt
1925              St John’s Presbyterian Church, Warrnambool – 2 manuals – case by H.H. Kemp – later rebuilt
Circa 1925        Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Carlton – alterations and additions – later rebuilt
1926              Methodist Church, East Malvern – 2 manuals – rebuilt and moved to St John’s Anglican Church, Devonport
1928              Presbyterian Church, Canterbury – 2 manuals, 17 speaking stops – later rebuilt
                  The Herald, 11 February 1928, p.14
1929              Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, Middle Park – rebuilt and enlarged to 3 manuals 
                  – later rebuilt and enlarged to 4 manuals
1929              Baptist Church, Brunswick – 2 manuals - installed Gray & Davison organ from St Pancras, 
                  London acquired through HN&B – later rebuilt
1930              Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warrayure – enlarged to 2 manuals – later rebuilt
1930              St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Manly – 3 manuals – later rebuilt
                  The Herald, 14 January 1931, p.10
1935              St George’s Presbyterian Church, St Kilda – 3 manuals 
                  - rebuilding and enlargement of T.C. Lewis organ – later electrified
1937-38           Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Tabor – 2 manuals, later rebuilt


(OHTA News, volume 44, no 1 (January 2019) ))

In the previous issue of OHTA News, September 2018, we included a list of organs built by Fred Taylor.  We now include some press accounts of his work, derived from the Trove newspaper database:


A very pleasing function took place on Saturday evening at Mr. Pryke’s Imperial Hotel, when  Mr. Fred. Taylor was entertained by the members of the musical profession and admirers and presented with an illuminated address as a token of esteem and regard.  Mr. McConnell occupied the chair, and in presenting the address spoke of the guest’s many excellent qualities, and said that Mr. Taylor’s skill as an organ builder had been fully borne out by the splendid work he had performed in Goulburn. As a musician he was in the front rank, and it was a pleasure to listen to his beautiful playing of the oboe. He further said that he had enjoyed Mr. Taylor’s acquaintance, for it had developed a friendship that would be lasting, and he was only voicing the opinions of his brother musicians in saying that Mr. Taylor had carried out his work in this town in a worthy manner.

The address, which conveyed their highest appreciation, was as follows:

“Dear Sir, – On the eve of your departure from Goulburn, we the musical profession and a few of your admirers, desire to express our admiration of your talents as an organ builder and musician. By your skill and knowledge the organs that adorn our sacred edifices are so improved that the works of the great composers can now be rendered in a masterly manner.  As a musician your delightful playing of the oboe will always remain a pleasant memory to us, and your unfailing courtesy and willingness to assist on all occasions is warmly appreciated.  We trust that you will accept this memento as a token of our friendship and gratitude, and we hope to hear of you attaining the highest summit of fame in this our Austral land.”

(Here follow the signatures.)

Mr. McConnell then asked them to charge their glasses and drink the health of Mr. Taylor, which was responded to with great enthusiasm and with musical honours.  Messrs. W. Jones, Thorman, Fitzgibbons, Brook, and Armstrong endorsed the sentiments expressed by the chairman, and all spoke of the high attainments of Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor on rising to respond was received with great cheering, and he said that he hardly knew how to thank them for their kindness and beautiful address.  It was a pleasure to find that his work had been so appreciated.  He had enjoyed himself thoroughly while in their midst, and had made friends that he would never forget.  If he had pleased them also by his playing of the oboe, then he was more than recompensed by their admiration.  He was surprised at the excellent standard music had attained in Goulburn, and assured them they had talent fit to produce the sublime creations of the greatest composers. When any of them ever visited Melbourne he hoped that they would look him up and thereby enable him to show his gratitude for their many kindnesses during his sojourn in Goulburn. He thanked them sincerely from the bottom of his heart, and assured them that their goodness would always remain bright within his memory.

Several musical items were charmingly rendered by some of those present.  The address was handsomely illuminated and reflected the greatest credit on the executant, Mr. H.S.S. Brook, B.A.

A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated a very enjoyable evening.

Apologies for absence were received from Mr. Percy Hollis and Mr. Robinson.

Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 6 October 1903, p.2

Mr Fred Taylor, organ builder, was born at Mount Macedon and has been established in business since 1900, during which time he has built organs for many churches throughout Australia.  Locally he has designed and manufactured instruments for the Presbyterian Churches of Brunswick and Kew, the Methodist Churches at Camberwell and Armadale, the Carmelite Church, Middle Park, and others in New South Wales and South Australia.  One very fine organ erected by the firm is now doing service in St. Clement’s Church, Mosman and embodies several departures from the usual routine construction; and merits inspection by those interested in church music, on account of the general mechanism and workmanship.  This instrument has required no attention since its installation.  The workshops are in Burwood road, where organs in course of construction may be inspected.  Every process and stage from the casting of the metal plates to the finished instrument are carried out by the staff directly under the personal supervision of Mr. Fred Taylor.

The Herald, 22 December 1913, p.5

The Wonder of An Organ
Mysteries of its Making
By Frank A. Russell

An organ builder is a composite person who Is artlsan, mechanic, architect, musician, and artist all in one.  Naturally this compendium of qualities is rare.  A superstition prevails, especially among English that it only exists within a certain measured distance from the Meridian.

Interested, but not excited, by the controversy as to whether the Town HaII organ could be replaced In Australia, I decided to explore an organ works In Melbourne, and be Initiated into the mysteries of a craft about which so many traditions have grown.  When I entered the dim factory of Fred Taylor, the doyen of Australian organ builders, I was conscious of a pleasant ecclesiastical atmosphere, a nice blend of pine pews, hassocks, of sticky glue, and an aroma which has always … me as being meant by the odour of sanctity.

Mr Taylor’s shop has none of the feel of a modern factory.  In it lingers still the old guild spirit, pride of craftsmanship, for its own sake.  The workmen bear the stamp of pride, here at a bench, working with meticulous exactness is a bearded man, with giant frame and stooped shoulders.  In other … the addition of gaiters … would swear he was an architect at first.  Mr Taylor himself, a short, alert man, over middle age, whose enthusiasm for his craft carried him into excited speech, of which no serious eyes disapprove.

Right in front of me towered a framework 20ft high, not unlike a guillotine in appearance.  It is built of handsome blackwood and one day will be an organ in a Port Fairy church.* What looked like galvanized iron spoutings twisted hither and yon above its stark outline; these pipes which are to make melody.  Such an organ costs about £1460 and takes from six to nine months in building.

The pipes, of metal or wood according to the function they are to have, are fitted into the framework before being “voiced”.  They are then taken down and carried up to the most interesting room in the factory where the soul of the organ is born amid thin wailing sounds, as though the labor were fraught with pain.  In this chamber of mystery, the real craft of the organ builder is shown.  Every pipe has to be given both its pitch and its tone; the quality of the latter is the criterion of the builder’s success. Some idea of the magnitude of the organ maker’s task may be gained from the fact that there are 1098 pipes for the manual alone, and 44 for the pedal.  These pipes vary in thickness from one eighth of an inch in diameter to eight inches.  Each must be given its proper note in such wise that it not only possesses its scale pitch, but also possesses a particular quality of the instrument it is designed to imitate.

One huge fellow looked more like a bath-heater than anything else, a portly aldermanic Falstaff of a pipe, exciting my curiosity.

“Would you like to hear it?” asked Mr Taylor.  He carried it over and fitted it into a socket at the end of a battered keyboard that I took to be the mortal remains of an organ that had perished about the time of Handel; it was the testing instrument.  Mr Taylor made magic with his feet, and put his finger on a yellowed ivory key; immediately the room vibrated to a low, sweet ‘cello note, indescribably thrilling in that workshop.  The builder’s face was lit with pride, and one after another he let me hear a succession of instruments by the simple process of leaning pipes against a whitewashed wall, after socketing them in the organ connection.  Then, with the air of a conjuror, he showed me how it was done.

It is in the care of the teeth that the secret of a fine organ voice is located.  Each pipe is “voiced” by having little teeth cut by a ‘nicking rod’ just below the opening mouth which one can see in the face of the pipes above an organ.  The tools are delicate, and need a master’s hand.  In the big pipes, the teeth are large and bold: in the tiniest pipes you need almost a magnifying glass to see them.  An ingenious device appears in the tiny pipes of reeds by which automatic tuning is secured by means of a thin “tongue,” which opens and closes a valve.  These pipes are all made in the factory.  In the farthest room of all, the metal shop, the process begins.  Pure scrap tin and lead are bought and melted down in a crucible to an alloy.  They are then run on to a long table, pressed, and stamped in two qualities – “plain” and “spotted.”  The difference occasioned by the use of each is seen in the resultant tone qualities.  From the table, the sheets are lifted to the turning machine, where they are turned to the right size.  In Australia, there is no machinery for turning the big 32ft. pipes, nor is there any real need for installing such machinery, as requirements so small can be met by importing.  There are only 12 on an organ.  This apart, everything can be made in Australian workshops by English expert workmen trained in the very factories where we are told organs alone can be built.

In the sweet-smelling wood-turning room, where heaps of fragrant shavings make a pleasant aroma, the big wooden pipes are made.  There are 88 of these and the job calls for cabinet-making skill.

Of the interesting machines such as the “thicknesslng” machines for “thicknessing” brass reed tongues in the metal pipes, and the pressing machine which presses out the tiniest inequalities in the pipe metal, thereby causing the pipes to “speak” freely, there is no space to deal. I came away with a profound respect for men ln whom art is so successfully allied to mechanical exactness must confess, too, to a surprise that a sea voyage of 10,000 miles should have the curious effect of rendering impotent men whose skill was in England unquestioned. There must be ln the air of Australia, I suppose, some vitiating quality which paralyses hands whose skill thus becomes a mere matter of geography. The fifty organs that represent Mr Taylor’s contribution to music in the course of his twenty-three years as an organ builder are, nevertheless, bearing most melodious witness to his skill.

*This was probably the new organ for St John’s Presbyterian Church, Warrnambool

The above document has been transcribed as accurately as possible given the poor quality and illegibility of parts of the original.

The Herald, 21 March 1925, p.15

TAYLOR.  On the 21st August 1938, at his home Zelnor, No 1 Hilda crescent, Hawthorn, Fred the dearly loved husband of Mary E. Taylor, loving father of Marie, Harry, Dorothy and Marjorie (Mrs J.L. Gardner), in his 78th year.

TAYLOR – On the 21st August at his late residence, 1 Hilda crescent, Hawthorn, Fred loving brother of Charlie and Julie and uncle of Fred and Olive. – Thy will be done.

The Argus, 22 August 1938, p.8

  1. FRED TAYLOR, Hilda Crescent, Hawthorn, organ manufacturer, who died on Sunday aged 78, was a solo boy chorister in St. Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, a first oboe player in leading Melbourne orchestras for 45 years, and a founder of the old Hawthorn Orchestral Society, forerunner of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.  He was also a member of Professor Marshall Hall’s orchestra, the Melbourne Orchestral Society, under J.W. Dawson and the University Conservatorium Orchestra.  He is survived by Mrs Taylor and three daughters and a son.  His funeral took place to the Boroondara Cemetery yesterday, when the Rev. Canon L. L. Wenzel, of St. Columb’s, Hawthorn, officiated at the graveside.

The Herald, 23 August 1938, p.8

Frederick Taylor, late of Hilda-crescent, Grace Park, Hawthorn, organ builder, who died on August 21, left by will dated April 13, 1933, real estate valued at £2075 and personal property valued at £1006 to his widow and children.

The Age, 2 November 1938, p.16