St Philip's Catholic Church

Junction Road, Blackburn North

Built by Alfred Fuller 1897
Installed at Methodist Church, Mackenzie Street, Bendigo 1900
Installed at 'Brightwell', Heathcote, residence of
Howard & Margaret Terrill 1999 Wakeley Pipe Organs
Installed present location 2012 Wakeley Pipe Organs
2 manuals, 9 speaking stops, 3 couplers, mechanical action

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the exterior
[photograph by Chris Lim (7 October 2016)]

Historical and Technical Documentation by John Maidment
© OHTA, 2013 (last updated April 2017)

The history of St Philip's Church dates back to 1963 while the first local committee was elected in 1964. A church and school were erected shortly afterwards.1 The present church building was dedicated on 4 June 1989. The architects were Graeme Law & Associates Pty Ltd.2 It is a building showing great care and competence in its design, with a lofty nave, and its roof supported on substantial trusses, brick walls, terracotta tiled roofs and eaves of individual character. It reflects the tradition of brick and tile manufacture in the Tunstall area nearby.  The interior of the building was refurbished in 2016 with especial attention to the sanctuary and reredos, and upgrading the floor surfaces, thus improving the acoustic.

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the organ viewed from the nave
[photograph by John Maidment (1 February 2013)]

The organ was built in 1897 by Alfred Fuller, of Kew. A card found in the swell windchest had the inscription 'Alfred Fuller and Son / 29/9/97 Kew / Melbourne'.3 In the dismantling process it was evident that the great soundboard and pipework were much older than the swell soundboard, pipework, console and action. Investigations revealed that Fuller traded in a pipe organ and installed a new one at St John's Anglican Church, Heidelberg that was opened on 8 January 1896. The Great soundboard is most likely from the earlier organ at Heidelberg. George Fincham described this organ in 1879 as a single manual instrument with four stops: Open Diapason metal 44 pipes, Stopped Diapason wood 56 pipes, Principal 4 56 pipes, Fifteenth 2 56 pipes, enclosed in mahogany case with gilt speaking pipes in front.4 The origins of this instrument date back to a three-cylinder rotating barrel organ installed in the church in 1852 and rebuilt by Fincham in 1873 who installed a keyboard with action and extra pipes.5

The minutes of the Mackenzie Street Methodist Church of 15 August 1900 state:

"That we obtain the Pipe Organ offered by A. Fuller, if he will take the £150 and alter the Cornopean stop to some other, say Gamba or Keraulophon. N.B. This is to be erected in the Church complete for the amount stated."6

As an historical aside, the minutes of 20 January 1901 state: "That the Organ Blower be paid 6/6d per quarter."

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the organ
[photograph by John Maidment (1 February 2013)]

To the older nucleus, Fuller extended the case laterally and provided two five-pipe towers at floor level. Additional case posts and a distinctive frieze of Gothic arches above the console were supplied, the latter closed by a folding lid. The lateral towers are very much a signature of his work and three other examples may be found in the organs he built for St Mary's Catholic Church, Echuca 1890 (now at St John's Catholic Church, Heidelberg), St John's Anglican Church, Heidelberg 1896 (rebuilt and altered in the 1960s) and Scots Presbyterian Church, Fremantle 1897 – these were also typical of the work of the English organbuilder G.M. Holdich with whom Fuller worked in England. The action, console, wind system and swell box are Fuller's work. A characteristic feature of his work is the two wind indicators enclosed within glass panels, one at the console and a second at the rear of the organ, for the blower.

This was the last organ to come from Fuller's Kew workshop before he retired from organbuilding and went into real estate with his son. He died on 10 June 1923 and left an estate valued at £15,154/6/11, a very considerable sum for the time.7

The organ was installed at the Mackenzie Street Uniting Church in Bendigo in October 1900 and used continuously until the church closed its doors in 1997. The instrument was removed from the church building in March 1999 by Wakeley Pipe Organs and moved to 'Brightwell', Heathcote, the residence of Howard and Margaret Terrill. At this time, the restoration work carried out by Wakeley Pipe Organs Pty Ltd, of Lilydale, Victoria (in accordance with the OHTA Pipe Organ Conservation & Maintenance Guide) involved the repairing of the great soundboard and the cabinet work; the pipework was attended to and regulated where necessary.

Late in 2012 the organ was moved to St Philip's Church by Wakeley Pipe Organs Pty Ltd and placed on a wooden platform at the rear. In 2013, a new blower was installed together with a new Cornopean 8 to the Swell, reinstating the stop removed in 1900 and situated where there had been a tenor C Dulciana.8

A citation from the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) reads:

"A two-manual organ of nine speaking stops built by Alfred Fuller, of Kew, believed to date from the end of Fuller's organbuilding career about 1900. The instrument retains its original action, console and pipework and is a rare intact example of its builder's work and of note for its diminutive size."

Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Swell to Great

Viol da Gamba
Suabe Flute

Great to Pedals
Swell to Pedals




gvd bass

(added later)


Compass: 56/30
Lever swell pedal
2 composition pedals to Great
Mechanical key and stop action
Attached drawknob console
Hand blowing
Wind indicators set in glass boxes at console and at rear8

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the console
[photograph by John Maidment (10 March 2008)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: wind indicator
[photograph by John Maidment (10 March 2008)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: stop action
[photograph by John Maidment (10 March 2008)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: interior looking towards the altar
[photograph by John Maidment (1 February 2013)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the refurbished interior
[photograph by Chris Lim (7 October 2016)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: interior viewed from the Fuller organ
[photograph by Chris Lim (7 October 2016)]

St Philip's Catholic Church, Blackburn North: the console and stop jambs
[photographs by Trevor Bunning (September 2017)]


1 The Apostle, Parish of St Thomas the Apostle, Blackburn, vol. 9, no. 1 (February 1965), pp.1-2

2 Plaque inside church entrance

3 Inscription noted by Ian Wakeley

4 George Fincham & Sons letter books 3/98, to the Revd Rockfort Forlong

5 E.N. Matthews, "Old Barrel Organ", The Age, 31 July 1965

6 Noted by Howard Terrill

7 See: "Alfred Fuller", OHTA News, vol.31, no.3 (July 2007), p.3

8 Specification noted John Maidment 1966, 2008, 2013