All Saints' Anglican Church,
85 Ocean Street, Woollahra
Forster & Andrews (1882) (3/30 mechanical with Barker lever)
The organist of All Saints', Mr Ray Holland, wrote this report, "The Organ in All Saints' Woollahra" on the organ's restoration for the Sydney Organ Journal April/May 1989 pp41-47:
The organ in All Saints' Woollahra is one of three 3-manual instruments built by Messrs Forster and Andrews of Hull, England between 1881 and 1884 for buildings designed by Edmund Blacket. The first was for the University of Sydney (1881), the second, All Saints' Woollahra (1882) and then S. Saviour's Anglican Cathedral, Goulburn (1884). Several smaller instruments were imported from this firm but the cost associated with their superior workmanship seems to have mitigated against larger numbers coming to this country.
The flrst stage of All Saints' Church was opened on January 8, 1876, free of debt at a cost of about five thousand three hundred pounds. Tenders were called for the completion of the building in 1880 which was finished late in 1882. The ladies of the parish made themselves responsible for the to provision of an organ and from the minutes of the Easter meeting of 11 April 1882 we read:
''the incumbent reported on behalf of the Organ Fund Committee that a contract had been entered into for the making of the Organ according to a specification for 1050 pounds, and up to the present 670 pounds had been promised, he suggested that a further sum of 200 pounds should be spent on additional pipes, which sum would make the organ more complete.1 The meeting considered the additional outlay unnecessary- but when the instrument left Hull on 13 September the same year those additional pipes came with it! The final cost of me instrument was 1250 pounds with a further 250 pounds being paid for freight and installation".
There is some confusion about who was responsible for the specification of the instrument. In his book "A Blind Musician Looks Back", Alfred Hollins writes that his teacher, E. J. Hopkins, organist of the Temple Church London, told him that he had been asked to draw up the specification of an organ for All Saints' Woollahra, Sydney NSW and to certify the instrument before it left this country. 2
On the other hand, a contemporary account states that the organ had been built "...from specifications prepared by the late organist of All Saints', Mr Thomas Sharp".3
Thomas Sharp's association with All Saints' was brief and, by all accounts, stormy. His previous posts had included St. John's Launceston, St. James', King Street and St. Philip's Church Hill. He was appointed organist of All Saints' from May 24 1881 subject to conflrmation by the end of three months. The appointment was confirmed on 3 August. By May 19 1882,
"it we resolved that Mr Sharp be asked to send in his resignation, his services to terminate at the end of June. Resolved that Miss Gray be requested to accept the post of Organist post of Organist".
In the event Miss Gray declined and Mr Sharp's services were retained. He eventually resigned at the end of the year and Mr Henry Hughes was appointed as his successor.4
For my part I prefer to believe that the specification was indeed drawn up by Hopkins and at Sharp's contribution consisted of the provision of a Gedacktflote 4ft on the Swell in lieu of the Gemshorn 4ft on the Choir as originally planned and the consequent elimination of the Choir to Great coupler.5
From entries in the parish accounts relating to payments to the tuner and the organ blower it seems that the instrument was probably used for the first time on 3 or 10 February 1883 but its first public airing was delayed until after Easter when a Choral Festival was held on Saturday 7 April. The Cathedral (St Andrew's) organist, Montague Younger and Professor Hughes shared the playing on this occasion.6 Choral festivals of this kind involving massed choirs were to become a feature of All Saints' musical life for many years to come.
The organ was erected and looked after for a few years by the Layton brothers, former employees of Forster and Andrews who erected the instrument. By 1901 it was in the care of Charles Richardson who reported damage by rats. At the Easter Vestry Meeting in 1904, the organist, Mr R. G. Moon alluded to the state of the organ pipes and bellows. Richardson quoted 135 pounds for cleaning and repairs and essential work costing 80 pounds was carried out the following year.
Electricity was connected to the church in 1914 and the organ received its first electric blower in 1916 at a cost of 89 pounds 15s 6d. The blower was installed in a 'power house' erected about five metres away from the church building with bricks and labour supplied by Mr Ernest Scott.
About this time it became apparent that major repairs would be necessary and tenders were received from Richardson, Leggo, Rendall and H. A. Hunter. Eventually it was decided to accept Richardson's tender of 81 pounds 10s; made up of "Item No. 1 35 pds, Item No. 2 25pds, Item No. 3 15 pds and ltem No. 4 6 pds 10s".7 Richardson's letter does not survive so one may only speculate as to the nature of the work. In a report on the state of the organ in 1943, S. T. Noad comments that "little has been done to these soundboards except on one occasion about 30 years ago when the organ was cleaned...".8
Noad was employed by Richardson in 19179, so we may be sure that one of the items involved work on the soundboards and another was probably general cleaning. It seems that the Tremulant to the Swell was added at this time, controlled by a rocking tablet placed to the left of the keys and releathering of the Barker lever motors would have certainly been necessary about this time for the organ was now 35 years old. The contract provided for the work to be completed within two months of commencement with a penalty of 2 pounds per week for each week or part thereof exceeding that and the organ was not to be out of use for more than two Sundays under a penalty of 10 pounds for each Sunday over the two Sundays. Apparently the conditions of the contract were fulfilled because Mr Richardson was granted a bonus of 5 pounds on completion and to organist, Mr Beale, was paid 10 pounds for his services in overseeing the work.10
Twenty years later the organ was again showing signs of wear. At the time of the church's Diamond Jubilee in 1936 the "Sydney Morning Herald" reported, "the organ is tonally one of the best in Sydney but it is 54 years old and needs rebuilding".11 Fortunately, lack of finance prevented this from happening.
By 1943 the organ was really in a bad way. S. T. Noad gave a comprehensive report to the parish on request and the possibility of 'modernising' the instrument was apparently canvassed. Mr Noad said:
''this of course cannot be done until the war is over, because materials are unobtainable just now, nor can I possibly submit anything in the nature of an estimate, which largely depends on the nature of the alterations, and cost of materials etc ruling when the work is done, but would suggest that approximately 1,000 pounds more or less might be an amount needed. The reconditioning of the soundboards, bellows and pipes would have to be done even if the organ were modernised, the action, of course would be replaced."12 Noad quoted for the restoration of the three manual soundboards, complete releathering of the bellows, restoration of the action, cleaning and repairing of pipes and regulating at a total cost of 445 pounds, indicating that the most urgent attention was needed for the soundboards, especially the Swell, then, the action, pipes and bellows.
While be parish pondered ways of coping with this expenditure in the closing years of the war and afterwards, fate took a hand. On 13 Septemer 1946, 64 years to the day when it left Hull, the organ was nearly destroyed by fire which began in the oak shingle roof. The whole roof of the nave was destroyed and most of that in the north aisle. The organ had been quickly covered with tarpaulins which saved it from destruction but it suffered badly from water, steam and smoke.13
The organ was dismantled by Noad and apart from cleaning and the repairs outlined in his letter of 1943, the following changes seemed to have occurred at this time; cutting back of the double rise bellows to single rise, screwing up of the split relief pallets to the Swell, provision of a new blower situated just outside the vestry door and substitution of vinyl cloth for leather below the grooves of the manual soundboards. No work was done on the Pedal soundboard at this time and it seems that many parts which should have been replaced, for example, leather buttons, had to be re-used because of lack of supplies at the time.
A further cleaning was carried out by S.T. Noad in 1970, the Barker lever motors were recovered and the pedals refaced. Tuning slides were fitted to most of the open metal flue pipes. The reed pipes gave Noad trouble. He suggested that all of the manual reed pipes should be replaced with second hand pipes at an additional cost of $1563.00.14 The problem, it seemed, lay in the fact that the reed blocks were badly corroded. Stan Sargent who was organist of All Saints' at the time was rightly concerned that the proposed substitutions would be out of character with the rest of the instrument and negotiations were completed with Fincham of Melbourne to make new reed blocks, wedges and tongues, and new boots and sockets into which would fit the resonators of the lowest 1 1/2 octaves of each rank.15 The cost of this work was similar to that of Noad's original substitutions.
When I came to the instrument in 1980 there was severe deterioration of the primary reservoir and a concertina type connection between the secondary reservoir and a wind trunk to the Swell organ, the action was badly worn with original leather buttons stripping with monotonous regularity. In 1982 the primary reservoir was restored to its original double-rise construction and a new blower installed within the organ chamber, the concertina connection releathered and some patching done to the concussion bellows. The starter motors and shallots for the bottom octave of the Pedal Trombone were also releathered at this time, the work being done by Roger Pogson.
The present restoration by Pitchford & Garside is exactly that. This organ is believed to be the largest example of Forster and Andrews work in substantially original condition anywhere in the world. The work has involved complete dismantling and the first thorough overhaul of the whole organ in its 107 year history. Amongst other things, it has involved complete rebushing of the keys and replacement of thousands of leather buttons and felt washers. The pedal soundboard has been out of its position for the flrst time ever, the secondary reservoir has been restored to double rise and the Richardson tremulant deleted. At the time of writing tonal regulation is well under way, the brilliant chorus work influenced by Edmund Schultz is sounding splendid as are the flute stops for which Forster and Andrews were so famous16 and we await the reeds, all of which are constructed with open shallots in the French style to crown the Great and Swell divisions.
All this has been carried out in the exemplary manner which we have come to expect from this and the other NSW firms who specialise in restorations and it has been applauded by overseas experts from England and Germany. The restoration is, I believe, the most extensive of a mechanical action organ anywhere in Australia to date and with proper care, should serve the church well for many years to come. The organ will be rededicated by Bishop John Reid at a Service on Sunday afternoon 30 April, 1989 at 2.30 pm. This will be followed by afternoon tea and a recital by David Drury at 4.30 pm.
Forster & Andrews (1882) (3/30 mechanical with Barker lever)
The specification is:
Voix Celestes TC
Corno di Bassetto
Swell to Great
Swell to Octave
Swell to Suboctave
Swell to Choir
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
3 composition pedals to Swell
4 composition pedals to Great
Great to Pedal reversible pedal
Barker Lever to Great
Three photos above: Trevor Bunning April 2010
© PdL 2006
- Parish records
- A. Hollins, A Blind Musician Looks Back, p116
- Australian Churchman, 12th April, 1883
- Parish records
- Forster and Andrews Order Books
- Sydney Morning Herald, 11th April, 1883
- Parish records
- S.T. Noad letter to the Rev. G.A. Conolly, 2 August, 1943
- G. Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales, p.176
- Parish records
- G. Hemphill, 1876-1976 All Saints' Woollahra
- S.T. Noad, op. cit.
- Hemphill, op. cit.
- S.T. Noad, letter to S.T. Sargent, 13th April, 1970
- G. Fincham, letter to S.T. Sargent, 8th February, 1971
- L. Elvin, "Forster and Andrews, Organ Builders" The Organ, April 1966, p.171
Click here for the
Chamber organ Anon c.1863,
restored Mark Fisher 1995 (1/4 mechanical)