St Peter's Anglican Church

Torrens Square, Glenelg

Built by Fincham & Hobday 1888, enlarged by J.E. Dodd 1899, 1902
Restored by George Stephens 1983, 1987, 2000
2 manuals, 20 speaking stops, 5 couplers, tubular-pneumatic action


St Peter's Anglican Church: exterior from the west
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (11 October 2013)]


Historical and Technical Documentation by David Shield
© OHTA 2013 (last updated September 2013)

The organ in St Peter's Anglican Church Glenelg, holds a unique position in the history of South Australian organbuilding. It is both the first to have been built entirely using tubular-pneumatic action and the last to show the influence of Arthur Hobday. Hobday was negotiating his return to Melbourne in 1888. Although the firm of Fincham & Hobday remained till purchased by Dodd in 1894, no completely new instruments were constructed in the interim.

The township of Glenelg was acquired by ballot for £65 in the name of William Finke in 1839. Development focussed on the area around Adelaide Road, the current Anzac Highway. The town plan proposed a central square in which the church was to be erected. At the request of the proprietors, Governor Gawler's wife had named the church St Peter's and the square Torrens Square. Colonel Light had suggested a pier be built and with the building of this jetty, Glenelg was expected to become the Port of Adelaide.1 Progress was slow for the following two decades. By 1852 there were two churches in the original township of Glenelg that for the Independents and the first Anglican church of St Peter.

The first church was built in 1852, designed by Edmund Wright and built by Henry Moseley.2 In 1881 it was announced that the old church was to be demolished. The replacement, again to the design of Wright, was to be built in sections commencing with nave and chancel the dimensions being published in the daily press:

The style of the new building will be Early English. The portion at present to be built will consist of nave, 46 feet x 35 feet; chancel, 24 feet x 21; vestry, 12 feet x 10; organ and choir gallery, 12 feet x 10; porch, 8 ft 6 in. x 4 ft 6 in. For the walls only this portion will cost £569, and when complete the nave will be 50 feet by 46 feet, and the porch 10 feet by 10 feet, with a tower above the latter standing at the north-eastern corner of the church, the main portion of the work will be of stone and brick, with freestone and cement dressings. The architects are Messrs. Wright & Reed.3

Tenders were called in 1881, the new portion being consecrated in May 1883. At this point the nave was 91' x 46' plus a chancel of 25' x 21'. The tower still is not complete.

Music was provided by a harmonium until the 1880s when the new organ was provided by Fincham & Hobday.

St Peter's Anglican Church: chancel from the nave showing the two organ cases
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (11 October 2013)]

The specification of the organ was prepared by Cecil J. Sharp. Usually associated with the folk song movement of which he was so prominent in his later career, Sharp briefly played an influential role in the musical life of Adelaide as a conductor. Born in 1859, he had studied at Cambridge and arrived in 1883. He became associate to the chief justice and instituted the Adelaide College of Music with Reimann; aided Governor Robinson with the appointment of Joshua Ives, first Professor of Music and City Organist, was choir conductor at St Oswald's Parkside and Assistant Organist at St Peter's Cathedral, and a lawyer as well as St Peter's Cathedral organist during the absence of Arthur Boult overseas in 1888. He returned to England shortly after failing to get the position of conductor at the Cathedral.4

Although we know what was built in 1888 we do not know the full tonal specification as outlined by Sharp. We do know that a Choir Organ was prepared for, as was provision for additional stops throughout.5

The church had hoped the organ would be opened on 18 December. However Dodd, as was later to be often the case, was not ready, blaming sickness among the men and the failure of ivories to arrive. Hobday returned from Melbourne early in December and wrote to the wardens that they were working overtime to complete the organ, which was finally first used on Sunday 20 January 1889.6

The organ has the distinction of being the first instrument locally built and completed on the pneumatic system. It incorporates sliderless windchests, a few of which were made by the firm and only two examples are known to survive, here and at the Uniting Church, Carngham, Victoria.

The organists have been E. Harold Davies 1888 to 1890, when he returned to England for further study. He was followed by F.G. Bennett (1890-1892), J.H. Fray (1892 1893) and W.B. Hills (1893-1929).

Hills was extremely keen to advance the organ and began to do so in stages on his own account. In 1899 he collected £40 for the provision of a Trumpet stop added to the Great. As a result the parishioners felt the organ chamber needed extension. At the same time they decided the chancel, choir and priest's vestries were also not large enough. The chancel was to be deepened 12 feet. The alterations to the organ chamber provided for two arches, looking north and west respectively allowing the "face" pipes to be displayed, and the arch of the organ chamber was decorated with an illuminated scroll with the words "Te Deum Laudamus".7 In order to give better musical effect to the work of organ and organist, the chamber was deepened 4 ft. and raised 4ft, and the whole was to be surmounted with a gabled roof.8

By 1911 the bellows leather was in a poor state and needed replacement. Dodd expected the work would take a fortnight, the church being without the organ for one Sunday only. He quoted the sum of "Eighteen pounds thirteen shillings and fourpence, inclusive of carriage to and from the Works."9

In 1913 Hills intended to redress the incomplete specification. At Dodd's suggestion it was intended to add a Choir manual of 3 stops; an Aeoline 8ft, Muted Celestes 8ft TC II rank and Cremona 8ft. It was to be enclosed in a swell box operated by a balanced pedal. A Trombone was to be added to the Pedal and the Major Bass increased in scale by the addition of one pipe. A full "Cathedral" scale Bourdon was to be added to the Great as was a super coupler. Costings were supplied.10

Along with this was a recommendation to replace the existing hydraulic engine. Dodd regarded it as wholly unfit to supply the necessary quantity of wind required.11 It would seem that Hills was sceptical about this change and Dodd sought reassurance as to the reliability of supply of electricity on a Sunday from the Adelaide Electric Supply Company.12 Even after the electric motor was added in April 1914 Hills was expressing concern about its noise. Apart from the Great Super Octave, the other changes failed to materialize.

Funds were sought.13 Anticipating progress, Dodd ordered the Trombone from C.H. Fisher but had to cancel the order soon after because all the work did not eventuate. The blower only was supplied.14

In 1915 Hills was hankering for another reed on the Swell Organ. He sought a quotation from Dodd to replace the 2' harmonic Gemshorn with a Cremona. Dodd quoted £27 5s with credit of £5 if he retained the removed stop.15 Again there was to be no action.

The current stencilling of the display pipes is not original. There is no mention of their appearance at the time of opening and we can only guess at how they looked. They may have been plain or perhaps gold. Hobday preferred "quiet colour illuminating fronts" regarding the Christ Church organ in North Adelaide "neither good in tone or colour it is indeed spoilt from want of taste".16 With the opening of the arches they became visible. In July 1905 Eustace had given Hills a verbal quotation of £6 for silvering the pipes on both fronts of the organ. Hills obviously thought the amount too high and sought alternatives. In formalizing his offer Eustace gave a higher amount. He recommended Balfour, who advertised as a house painter and decorator, and did the majority of the firm's work, warning Hills that if he used another decorator, he should impress upon him the need for care in handling the pipes. Eustace himself would charge £1 for removing them.17 Hills obviously had further thoughts as to the finish of the casework and display pipes. In October Eustace Dodd wrote again, quoting £5-5-6 for making and fixing six finials with crockets and staining them to match the case. To stain the case walnut and dull polish same would be £4-18-6. To the previous price for silvering the pipes he added a further £2/10/- for gilding the lips and outlining them with a thin band of colour, suggesting signal red as most useful.18 Some of this work was obviously done but exactly when and by whom is not known. The new stencilling was undertaken with care to be faithful to the style of the period.19

St Peter's Anglican Church: chancel organ case
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

The organ was to remain unchanged until 1982. Consistent with the times, electrification of the organ's action was considered in 1958. Finance not being available the work was shelved. In early 1981 a report was commissioned from Dr David Forward and organbuilder George Stephens as to the future management of the organ. Several recommendations were made. These included the replacement of the open wood flute 8 on the Swell, with the exception of the bottom octave not original, consideration of a Mixture II or III to the Great, retention but replacement with three notches, of the original hitch bar to the swell, that the wind prsessure be returned to 4½ inches and voicing be restored and the blower be replaced and located internally.20

St Peter's Anglican Church: console
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

Most of the recommendations have been implemented. A new blower has been supplied. A Mixture III was added to the Great in 1983 and the Gedact 8 restored on the Swell. A Mixture II was added to the Swell in 1987 and a Twelfth to the Great in 2000. All the work was undertaken by George Stephens. Perhaps the most important recommendation was that the original organ be preserved unaltered and replaced by a new instrument should it be found to be inadequate in the future.

St Peter's Glenelg has a very large collection of windows. The London firm of Heaton Butler and Bayne made the majority. There are also examples of James Powell and Sons of Whitefriars in London and the local firm of Montgomery and Grimbly. The main east window is from the German firm of F.X. Zettler of Munich.21 The church has some excellent pamphlets giving extra information.

Open Dia
Super Octave
Sw to Gt
Swell to Great Super

Dou Dia
Open Dia
Gems Har


Open Dia
Gt to Ped
Sw to Ped




added G. Stephens 2000

added G. Stephens 1983
added J.E. Dodd 1899
added J.E. Dodd 1911

added G. Stephens 1983

added G Stephens 1987
added J.E. Dodd 1902

prepared for at console only, not installed.


Compass 56/30
3 thumb pistons to Great
2 thumb pistons to Swell
Trigger swell pedal
Attached drawstop console
Tubular-pneumatic key and stop action; sliderless windchests for Great and Swell
2 single-rise reservoirs linked by concertina trunking


1 SA Gazette and Colonial Register 18/5/1839 p.4

2 Register 9/9/1899

3 Register 21/1/1881 p.2s

4 John Millard Dunn succeeded Boult. Register 14/9/1891 p.7; Register 14/1/1892 p.4; Recorder (Pt Pirie) 25/8/1943 p.3; Murton Nina A History of The Music Teachers Association of South Australia Inc 1990 p.5

5 The specification may be outlined in letters from Hobday to Fincham numbered 11/236 or 11/232 for October 1888 yet to be transcribed.

6 BAN Index v1 1888 – 1898 Dodd to the Revd Hughes, p.35; Dodd to the Wardens p.36; Advertiser 7/12/1888 p.4; Register 21/1/1889 p.7

7 Register 5/5/1900 p.11

8 Advertiser 27/10/1899 p.7

9 DLB Vol 9 1910-1912 Dodd to Wardens, 4/8/1911 p.603-4

10 DLB Vol8 1909-1914 Dodd to Hills, 13/3/1913 p.130-2; ibid 3/5/1913 pp.159-160

11 ibid 14/3/1913 p.133.

12 DLB vol 7 1909-1913 Dodd to Secretary Adelaide Electric Supply Company,16/8/1913 p.992/3

13 St Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg, Parish notes Sept 1913 p.2

14 There appears to be a discrepancy as to the date for the addition of the Great Super coupler. Notes prepared by Bill Binding in 1970 suggest 1/11/1911 for the coupler to be added at a cost of £5, Dodd quotes £8 in 1913

15 DLB Vol 8 1909-1914 Dodd to Hills, 1/3/1915, p.378

16 F&H Letters 12/64 Hobday to Revd Basil Craig DD, 21 July 1882

17 DLB vol 4 1903-1909 Eustace Dodd to Hills, 5/7/1905 p.366

18 ibid, 10/10/1905 p.398

19 Whitehill T. 'St Peter's Anglican Church, Torrens Square, Glenelg SA' OHTA News vol 8 no2 April 1984 p.26

20 Consultants report St Peter's Glenelg Organ prepared by David Forward BA (Adel) MA Musicology (Flinders) March 1981

21 Donovan P. & J., A Guide to Stained Glass Windows in and about Adelaide, p.64


St Peter's Anglican Church: left hand stop jamb
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

St Peter's Anglican Church: right hand stop jamb
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

St Peter's Anglican Church: Great pipework placed on sliderless windchests
– note the generous spacing
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

St Peter's Anglican Church: pneumatic note action for Great sliderless windchest
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]

St Peter's Anglican Church: upper and lower reservoirs linked by concertina wind trunks
[Photograph by John Maidment (13 June 2012)]