St Monica's Catholic Church

Whitehall Street, Footscray

Built by Robert Mackenzie 1870s (on stylistic evidence) for unknown location,
possibly the Unitarian Church, East Melbourne
Installed after 1900 present location on west gallery
Restored George Fincham & Sons c.1977
Casework altered by Michel Alcouffe
1 manual, 7 speaking stops, 1 coupler, mechanical action

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: the exterior
[photograph by Simon Colvin (November 2011)]

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

The first section of St Monica's Church was opened on 3 May 1874, designed by the architect T.A. Kelly, recently arrived from Ireland. The building was completed in 1885 through the erection of the western section of the nave, designed by Tappin, Gilbert & Dennehy.1 The church is constructed of bluestone in the Decorated Gothic style and consists of a lofty nave of five bays and a sanctuary.

On stylistic grounds, the organ may be attributed to Robert Mackenzie, who arrived in Melbourne in late 1871 to erect the Hill & Son organ in Melbourne Town Hall. It closely resembles in its appearance and construction the organ now at St George's Anglican Church, Flemington which appears to be the organ he built for Christ Church Anglican Church, Castlemaine in 1875. The Footscray organ may be one of two small organs built by Mackenzie for the Unitarian Church, East Melbourne and Holy Trinity Church, Ararat that are documented in a published pamphlet he issued2, held by the Adelaide City Council Archives, most likely the former, which was replaced in 1887 by a larger organ built by Alfred Fuller. Both instruments have the key desk supported on wooden brackets, with a folding lid. Each instrument also has the façade pipes arranged in a level single row from 4ft upwards and the case posts terminated by turned finials.

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: the organ located in the west gallery
[photograph by John Maidment (1966)]

It was placed in St Monica's Church around 1903 as the church is known to have been raising funds for a new organ about that time3. It was placed in the west gallery, to one side of the window. By 1966, both the casework and façade pipes had been covered in white paint but the organ otherwise had survived intact.

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: the organ relocated in the sanctuary
[photograph by John Maidment (c.1977)]

Around 1977, with the reorganization of the church interior, the instrument was restored by George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd. The organ received a full mechanical overhaul and the white paint was removed from the casework and façade pipes, the latter of which were stripped and burnished. The organ was centrally placed beneath the east window.

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: the organ following the case modifications
[photograph by Simon Colvin (November 2011)]

More recently, some cosmetic changes were carried out to the casework. While these were well-intentioned, to prevent the ingress of dirt from the window behind, they have severely compromised the appearance of the organ. The transom rail has been moved upwards and a second one installed beneath and the casework has received an all-too-obvious roof as well. Given the rarity of this instrument, one of only two examples of Robert Mackenzie's work that remain in a condition close to original, this is highly regrettable.

Open Diapason 8ft
Stopped Diapason [bass] 8ft
Stop'd Diapason [treble] 8ft
Dulciana 8ft
Principal 4ft
Flute 4ft
Fifteenth 2ft
Manual to Pedal

Bourdon 16ft



(pipework unenclosed)

12 pipes

Compass: 56/25
Mechanical key & stop action
2 composition pedals4

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: the organ viewed from the rear gallery
[photograph by Simon Colvin (November 2011)]

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: console detail
[photograph by Simon Colvin (November 2011)]

St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray: side profile of console
[photograph by Simon Colvin (November 2011)]

1 The Argus, 4 May 1874, p.4; The Independent (Footscray), 12 December 1885, p.2

2 Mackenzie pamphlet reproduced in OHTA News, vol 23, no 2 (April 1999), pp.10-12 (original in the collection of the Adelaide City Council Archives)

3 The Independent (Footscray), 9 May 1903, 5 September 1903

4 Specification noted by John Maidment 1966