Former Church of Christ

100 Grote Street, Adelaide

(Church closed; currently used as a restaurant)

            Johann Wolff, Adelaide, 1880, for the Wesleyan Church, Norwood
Installed in the Church of Christ, Norwood, 1912, J.E. Dodd, Adelaide
Installed in the Church of Christ, Hindmarsh, 1958, L.S. Waters
Installed in present location 1991-94
2 manuals, 14 speaking stops, 2 couplers, mechanical action (pneumatic on pedals)


The Church of Christ, Grote Street, Adelaide, c.1926

Old (c.1856) and new (1926) buildings, side by side

 [Photograph: State Library of South Australia (B3402)]


Historical and Technical Documentation by David Shield
© OHTA 1994, 2016 (last updated November 2016)1


The Church of Christ in Grote Street, which is no longer in use as a church, was opened on Saturday 24 April 1926, replacing an earlier building dating from 1856 which stood alongside it for some years afterwards.  The new building was designed by architect Howard Calley in Tudor Gothic style, and built of Tapley Hill bluestone, Murray Bridge freestone and special colour-blend bricks.2 

The J.W. Wolff organ of 1880 in its present location

[Photograph by David Shield (c.1994)]


The organ, which is located in the gallery of the building, is the last commercially built instrument by a local craftsman, Johann Wilhelm Wolff, and was acquired in 1880 by the Norwood Wesleyan Church, Adelaide.  The Trustees at Norwood began negotiations with Wolff for the provision of an organ in June 1880.3  It is not surprising that Wolff was chosen; he had already built at least 21 instruments in South Australia.  Of the eight instruments placed in Methodist churches to 1880, four had been by Wolff.4

The 1880 Wolff organ at the Church of Christ, Norwood
[Photograph supplied by David Shield]

Born in 1818, Wolff was a native of Lehe in Germany.  After his father's death in 1830, it is surmised that the family returned to the maternal home from whence Wolff received his apprenticeship training.  He emigrated to Australia in the Pauline in December 1849, settling first in Hackney, and applying for citizenship at the earliest opportunity in 1851.  A cabinet maker, he purchased land in Wakefield Street, near Chancery Lane, in 1854.  In April 1863, mention is made in the local press of an organ built by Wolff for Mr E. Corlett.5  Several small instruments follow, one chamber organ winning a gold medal at the 1867 Grand General Exhibition of the South Australian Agricultural and Horticultural Society. The latter is now believed to be the organ previously owned by the late Pro Hart, put up for auction and acquired by an artist, Marcus Champ. OHTA purchased the instrument in June 2011.6 From 1872 to 1880 Wolff made twelve larger two-manual instruments, retiring from organbuilding and returning to Germany in 1881.  On his return to Adelaide he moved to live in Oxford Terrace, Unley.  His occupation was listed as piano tuner.  He died in 1894.7 

Facsimile J.W. Wolff nameplate, prepared by Roger Jones
from a photograph of the nameplate at St Luke's Anglican Church, Whitmore Square, Adelaide
[Photograph supplied by David Shield]

As early as October 1880 it was announced in the press that a new organ had been ordered for the Norwood Wesleyan Church which would cost £350, towards which £100 had been raised.8  In size and design it was similar to Wolff's instruments at Tynte Street Baptist, North Adelaide (1876), St George's, Gawler (1877) and St Luke's, Whitmore Square (1879).  The front of the organ was 9'6" wide and 16'6" in height, and the specification, as reported in The Register (16 December 1880), was as follows:




open diapason
clarabella (stop diapason bass)
wald flute

viola de gamba
stop diapason
viol principal


swell to great
great to pedal



16ft tone
8ft tone



56 notes
56 notes
56 notes
44 notes
56 notes
56 notes
56 notes

56 notes
56 notes
44 notes
44 notes
44 notes

24 notes
24 notes

2 composition pedals
bellows of double action.9

Particular attention was drawn to the display pipes, which had been imported from England,10 and the nature of the case:

The design of the front is novel and we think quite unique, the whole of the upper part consisting of two octaves of pipes which appear to have no apparent support.  Opinions will probably differ as to the elegance or appropriateness of this unusual display of pipes;11

The front pipes are decorated . . . The only fault that is apparent to the ordinary observer is that the case is exceedingly plain, and might with advantage be made more ornamental.12

A grand concert, expected to be a brilliant success, church services, and a tea meeting were planned for the advent of the new organ.13

The organ was formally opened by the performance of selections from Handel's Messiah on Wednesday 15 December.  The choir consisted of between 40 and 50 singers and was conducted by James Kendall with J.B. Chinner at the organ.14 

In 1900, Mr E.A.A. Dunn became organist and alterations to the organ were carried out under his direction at a cost of £27.2.2.  The exact nature of these changes is unknown.  Two gas lights were connected to the organ in 1901.15

Efforts to dispose of the instrument began around 1911 when a new instrument by Dodd was proposed for the Norwood Wesleyan Church. The organ was dismantled and re-erected in the Gawler Place Organ Works, preparatory to an auction, which was advertised for 28 August at 3pm after a 30-minute recital.16  On arrival at the Norwood Church of Christ in 1912, it was described as follows:

Our organ, which is a very fine instrument, was used for the first time, and there was but one opinion regarding it, and that is, that it will prove a great acquisition to our service.17

The Church of Christ, Hindmarsh
[Photograph supplied by David Shield]

Following the closure of the Norwood church in 1956, the organ was sold to the Hindmarsh Church of Christ in 1957.18  It was at this point that major changes were made to its appearance.  The late Mr L.S. Waters was contracted to move and maintain the organ, more than £430 being spent on repairs.19

The Pedal action was changed from tracker to pneumatic, and the pedal pipes were placed against the back wall.  The combination pedals were removed. The original double-rise bellows and hand pumping mechanism were discarded and replaced with a single-rise system.  The Victorian tracery on the façade pipes was painted cream, with gold mouths.  The organ was placed against the wall and the treble side of the case was discarded or cut for use on the extended bass side.  The whole of the original case was covered with cream board and the keyboard surrounds were painted blue.  The finials were removed.

The 1880 Wolff organ at the Church of Christ, Hindmarsh
[Photograph by Michael Cant (undated)]

Console of the organ, including upper music rest (since removed)
and standard Dodd stop knobs, probably fitted at the Church of Christ, Norwood
[Photograph by David Shield (undated)]

Numbers at the Hindmarsh church declined until services ceased there on 25 June 1989.  The organ remained in the church for several years, until it was accepted by the Grote-Street Church of Christ as a gift from Hindmarsh in 1991.  Members of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, assisted by congregation members, dismantled and moved the organ to storage at Grote Street over two weekends in May 1991. The organ was initially installed in January 1992, and a new blower was supplied by George Stephens in July.   The casework was then reconstructed by Winnit & Company, a local firm, finishing their part in October, and the organ was considered playable by April 1993.20  The opening recital on the instrument at Grote Street took place on Sunday 6 February 1994 at 1.30pm.

The organ at Grote Street, showing the reconstructed casework
[Photograph by David Shield, c.1994]

This church has since closed and is currently used for commercial purposes as a restaurant.  The notable 1880 organ by Johann Wilhelm Wolff remains in situ. Of the 21 instruments built by this nineteenth-century South Australian pioneer, this is the last and largest to remain substantially in original condition.

Great pipework, split on either side of the swell box
from back to front: Fifteenth, Twelfth, Flute, Principal,
Claribel, Dulciana and Open Diapason (façade)
[Photographs by David Shield, c.1994]

Action (not original Wolff) and bellows
[Photograph by David Shield, c.1994]

Pedal Bourdon 16ft and Violin 8ft pipes,
originally forming the back of the organ,
but moved to provide access for tuning the Swell
[Photograph by David Shield, c.1994]


1 Most of the documentation that appears here was first published as: David Shield, 'The Instrument of Music: A History of the Pipe Organ at Grote Street Church of Christ,' OHTA News, vol. 18, no. 2 (April 1994), pp. 9-19.

2 The Register (24 April 1926), p. 18.  See also: Church of Christ, Grote Street, Adelaide, centenary September 8th-12th, 1946 : souvenir [Adelaide: The Church, 1946].

3 The Methodist Journal (31 December 1880), p. 7.1.

4 Tynte Street Baptist organ was stated as being the fifteenth built by Wolff (The Register, 16 May 1876), p. 5.6.  Organs built by Wolff in Methodist Churches were Port Wallaroo (1864), Magill (1873), Draper Memorial (1874) and Port Adelaide (1880).

5 Bruce Lindsay, 'Cri-de-Coeur on Behalf of an Historic Organ,' OHTA News, vol. 18, no. 2 (April 1994), pp. 7-8, and photograph on p. 15.

6 This instrument in now located in the basement at the Barossa Regional Gallery, Tanunda, where it is awaiting restoration.

7 Original research D. Shield.  See also: Bruce Naylor, 'Organ Building in South Australia' (Adelaide University, unpubl. Thesis, M.Mus 1971), ch 4. 'J.W. Wolff, the pioneer'.

8 The Christian Colonist (8 October 1880), p. 5.2.

9 The Register (16 December 1880), p. 5.2.

10 The Methodist Journal (31 December 1880), p. 7.1.

11 The Register (16 December 1880), p. 5.2.

12 Express and Telegraph (16 December 1880), p. 3.2.

13 The Methodist Journal (10 December 1880), p. 7.1; (17 December 1880), p. 6.2. advt.

14 Chinner was organist of Pirie Street Church from 1869 to 1902.   'Souvenir Programme, Opening of New Pipe Organ Pirie Street Methodist Church' (16 and 19 February 1930).

15 Norwood Wesleyan Methodist Trustee Minutes.  Mortlock Library S.R.G. 4/150/11, vol. 1, p.33; vol. 2, p. 31 (20/3/1901). 

16 The Register (24 August 1912), p. 20.1; Dodd letters 1909-1913 to F. Johnson auctioneer (28 August 1912), p. 827.

17 The Australian Christian (26 September 1912), p. 682, col. 1&2; (10 October 1912), p. 711, col. 1&2.

18 Church of Christ Hindmarsh Minutes (12 August 1957), resn 18, 15 September 1957.

19 Church of Christ Hindmarsh Minutes (12 May 1958), resn 10.

20 The reconstructed "spiral finials" are an error, as they should have been four-sided, planed flat to a point.