First Church of Christ Scientist
266 North Terrace, Adelaide

Whitehouse Bros, Brisbane, 1957
Addition 1989 George Stephens, Adelaide
2 manuals, 13 speaking stops, 7 couplers, electro-pneumatic action

First Church of Christ Scientist, Adelaide
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (March 2009)]

Historical and Technical Documentation by David Shield
© OHTA 2009, 2017 (last updated September 2017)

The First Church of Christ Scientist literally stands on Congregational foundations.  Apart from the fact that the denomination’s founder Mary Baker Eddy was born into a Congregational family, the current building is sited on what was originally intended to be a new church for the Independents worshipping in Hindmarsh Square.  Building work actually began but stopped owing to a legal challenge.  The unfinished building remained derelict for some years before the First Church of Christ Scientist, who had been occupying premises in Wakefield Street, purchased it in 1939.  It was 1953 before they were able to begin building operations on a structure far less expensive than the original design.1

The Congregational Church, Hindmarsh Square (c.1870)
opened in 1862 and sold to the ABC in 1928
[Photograph: State Library of South Australia (B-71558)]

The story of the building is quite tragic in its own way.  It would appear that after the pastorate of J.T. Huston in 1913, the Hindmarsh Square Congregational Church was without settlement for a time.  In that year, a young Tasmanian, Paul Joseph, had completed his studies at Parkin Theological College and succeeded the Revd Percy Watson at the Hindmarsh Church where he stayed till 1915.  At some point he received a call to the Hindmarsh Square Church where he seems to have stayed for a few months and then rejected the call.2  However, by March 1916, we find he has not only accepted the call but also paid off a loan on the Hindmarsh Square Building of £1232 from the Congregational Chapel Building Society of SA (Inc), acquired ownership of the title deeds, raised a loan from the National Bank, advanced a grandiose scheme to build a Temple on North Terrace, and is about to build on his own.3

The City Temple proposed by Paul Joseph in 1915
[Photograph: The Mail (Sat 25 March 1916), p. 19.]

Joseph’s actions resulted from the belief that more people could be attracted to the Hindmarsh Square church if it were relocated to North Terrace.  The media indicated the intention was “to inaugurate a new mission in Adelaide on quite modern, independent, and popular lines”, and added, “the experiment will be watched with the greatest interest.”  Though no details are known there is evidence that Joseph approached W.L. Roberts to provide a pipe organ for the edifice and a contract had actually been let.4

The architect was Mr C.W. Rutt FAAIA, President of the SA Institute of Architects, and the contractors Messrs J. King & Son Hindmarsh.

  It is unclear exactly when building commenced.  Cameron suggests building began “on 6 March 1916 but stopped in June of that year”.5  The Daily News of 9 March indicated the scheme was to be launched immediately and take eight and a half months to completion.6  In the final analysis it is of little consequence.  The walls were raised a few feet and preparations made to lay the foundation stone on 24 June when building operations ceased.7

Apparently Joseph was able to act in the way he did because he had been deluded into believing he was to receive a legacy from a Tasmanian uncle.  The Bank investigated the claim and, finding it wanting, took legal action.

This led to the double tragedy.  In the first place, at the tender age of 28, having wife and child, Paul Hamilton Morris Joseph, resigned as pastor of the church, severed his connection with the Congregational Union and enlisted in the AIF on 29 August 1916.8  Two years later, on 3 May, he was posted missing, believed killed.9

On the other hand, the congregation had no building or minister.  The protracted legal case went all the way to the Privy Council in London, and the result was not favourable for the church.  Although compromise was reached there were still difficulties.  Services ceased and the Hindmarsh Square building was sold to the ABC in 1928.  The temple remained unfinished.

The building site lay derelict for some 36 years before being purchased by the First Church of Christ Scientist in 1939.  Meeting informally in Adelaide since 1909, the church had grown and progressively used various halls in the city.  The current building was designed by Mr L. Laybourne Smith and opened for the first service on Sunday 20 January 1957.  Coincidentally this was the same day as the last service for the Scots Church in Flinders street, with its large Fincham & Hobday instrument, before the congregation transferred to Chalmers Church, on the corner of Pulteney Street and North Terrace.10

First Church of Christ Scientist, Adelaide,
opened in January 1957
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (March 2009)]

The building itself cost £75,000 and was designed to hold 360 with a Sunday School in the basement capable of holding 300.  A marble porch and foyer 70 feet long formed an impressive entrance to the new church.  A reading room had a separate entrance from “Tavistock” Street, renamed Frome Road.

The Advertiser reporter waxed quite lyrical in describing the features of the new church.  Sponge rubber seats, concealed lighting, sound proof walls, air conditioning and a fully equipped nursery were all mentioned.  The bright colour scheme including a vivid blue ceiling in the porch and stepped primrose ceiling in the main church with its blue-covered theatre style seats was all noted.  There was a public address system.  The North Terrace façade was still incomplete, being attractively faced with white marble.11

With declining congregation numbers, the decision was made to move to smaller premises, and the building was placed on the market early in 2017.12

The Whitehouse organ in the First Church of Christ Scientist, Adelaide
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (March 2009)]

This organ is the only instrument in South Australia built by the Brisbane organbuilders Whitehouse Bros.  As described in the Sunday Mail of 19 January 1957, it contained 641 pipes and cost £4,200.13  It was made of Queensland maple and had imported metal pipes.  The organ was enlarged in 1989 by George Stephens of Adelaide with the addition of a Fifteenth 2ft to the Great, although there was preparation (at the console only) also for a Mixture II. .  The instrument is centrally located at the front of the building and is covered by grillwork.

The Whitehouse nameplate on the organ
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (March 2009)]

The Whitehouse firm secured contracts to build or rebuild organs for Christian Scientist churches throughout the country.  After rebuilding the large three-manual Dodd organ at First Church of Christ Scientist, Darlinghurst, NSW in 1937, they built new organs for the same denomination not only in Brisbane (1940), but also in Chatswood, NSW (two-manuals, 1941-42), Perth, WA (three-manuals, 1953) and Adelaide, SA (two-manuals, 1957), as well as overhauling the three-manual Willis at First Church of Christ Scientist in Melbourne in 1953.  All of these instruments used electro-pneumatic action.  The strong association with Christian Science churches may have come through prominent Brisbane organist Miss Margery Horn, who was a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Brisbane, and played the organ there regularly.14

Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Suabe Flute
Great Octave
Swell to Great Sub
Swell to Great
Swell to Great Super

Violin Diapason
Liebl. Gedact
Voix Celeste
Swell Super Octave

Bass Flute
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal




[1989 - prepared at the console only]




Compass: 61/30
3 thumb pistons to Great
3 thumb pistons to Swell
Full organ by thumb piston
Reversible toe piston for Great to Pedal
Balanced swell pedal
Detached stopkey console.15

Console details of the 1957 Whitehouse organ,
enlarged in 1989 by George Stephens, Adelaide
[Photographs by Trevor Bunning (March 2009)]


1 J. R. Digance, Congregationalism in SA 1837-1962 (Hindmarsh Square Congregational Church), p.185.

2  Advertiser, 15 January 1916, p.19, column 2; ibid,. 9 March 1916, p. 6, column 5.

3  Congregational Year Book for 1917 (Congregational Union and Home Mission of SA (Inc)), p.32; Congregational Chapel Building Society of SA (Inc) Report for the year ended March 31 [1916]; Advertiser, 9 March 1916; ibid., 21 June 1916, p. 5, column 7.

4  W.L. Roberts order book, p 85a, no further details.  Roberts also had a newspaper copy of the building façade in his possession and an undated newspaper article indicating the contract had been let, 50 yea[rs ago] from Advertiser, 29 March 1916 (presumably dated 29 March 1966).

5  J. Cameron, In Stow’s Footsteps (1987), p.120.

6  Advertiser, 9 March 1916, p. 6, column 5.

7  Digance, op. cit., p.182.

8  Ibid.; Congregational Union and Home Mission of SA (Inc) Year Book for 1917, p.28.  The Revd Paul Joseph has resigned his connection with our ministry and Union; Australian Military Records Series no B2455, service no. 3451.

9  Digance, op. cit., p.182.

10  Advertiser, 21 January 1957, p.5.

11  Advertiser, 19 January 1957, p.4 article.

12 Personal communication to David Shield from Ruth Klose (organist), April 2017.

13  Sunday Mail, 19 January 1957 “From the Churches” no page.

14  Personal communication to David Shield from Geoffrey Cox, April 2009.

15 Specification noted by David Shield, March 2009; annotation regarding Mixture II provided by Ian Wardle, September 2017.