Uniting (formerly Methodist) Church

The Avenue, Hurstville

Whitehouse Bros, Brisbane, 1929
2 manuals, 11 speaking stops, 8 couplers, tubular-pneumatic action
Reconditioned with additions 1963 Whitehouse Bros, Brisbane
2 manuals, 13 speaking stops, 8 couplers, tubular-pneumatic action

The Uniting (formerly Methodist) Church, Hurstville
[Photograph by Arthur Lee (October 2011)]


Historical and Technical Documentation by Kelvin Hastie
© OHTA 2008, 2014 (last updated May 2014)1

The foundation stone of the Methodist Church at Hurstville was laid on Saturday 31 October 1903, and the building was opened on 6 February 1904.2 Built to the design of the architect A. Parsons of Bondi, it was to accommodate 300 people:

On Saturday afternoon the Rev. Dr. Lane performed the ceremony of officially opening a new Methodist Church at Hurstville. The structure is of brick, with 16-inch cavity walls and has seating accommodation for 300 people. The design is Gothic, with triple porches. The interior has been finished in polished kauri. A principal roof is diagonally sheeted with T. and G. and B. kauri. The rostrum is of kauri, with moulded and carved panels in the front. A choir gallery is fitted at the angle of the building. Light and ventilation have been kept well in view in the design, and altogether the building, which cost over £1000, will prove a valuable addition to the churches of this suburb. The honorary architect was Mr. A. Parsons, of Bondi, and the builder Mr. S. Gillett, of Marrickville.3

The 1929 Whitehouse Bros organ
[Photograph by Arthur Lee (October 2011)]

The organ was built in 1928-29 by Whitehouse Bros of Brisbane at a cost of £1,100,4 and was opened with a recital given by Arnold Mote on 3 August 1929.5

Initially consisting of 11 stops, the organ was identical to the one supplied to the Methodist Church, Bondi, two years earlier in 1927. Organs with very similar specifications were supplied by Whitehouse Bros for St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Inverell, NSW (1927), the Methodist Church, Toowoomba, QLD (1928), St Paul's Anglican Church, Roma, QLD (1929) and St Paul's Presbyterian Church, Armidale, NSW (1929). Both the Bondi and Hurstville organs were subsequently enlarged by Whitehouse Bros with a prepared-for Great Clarinet 8ft and Swell Celeste 8ft: the additions at Bondi date from 1952 and Hurstville from 1963.6

[Photograph by Arthur Lee (October 2011)]

Console of the 1929 Whitehouse Bros organ
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]


Open Diapason
Stop Diapason
Harmonic Flute

Horn Diapason
Lieblich Gedact
Echo Gamba
Vox Celeste (sic)
Geigan Principal (sic)

Bass Flute

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Swell to Great
Swell Sub to Great
Swell Octave to Great
Swell Octave
Swell Sub-Octave
Great Octave




[prepared for 1929; installed 1963]

[prepared for 1929; installed 1963]


Tubular-pneumatic action
Swell tremulant
Compass 61/30
Balanced Swell pedal
Three pistons for Great
Two pistons for Swell.7

There is nothing unusual about such a scheme, as other Australian builders like Fincham, Roberts, Dodd, Richardson, Edwards and Leggo built similarly to satisfy the smaller end of their market, as did North American firms such as Aeolian, Austin, Estey, Hinners, Kimball, Kilgen and Möller, as well as numerous British firms, including such famous names as Hill, Willis and Norman & Beard.

The interior of the church following redevelopment c.1998
[Photograph: Arthur Lee (October 2011)]

The organ was almost removed as part of a proposed redevelopment of the church interior in 1998. The timber pews, pulpit and choir stalls were removed, but the intervention by the Uniting Church Synod Music Committee and representations to the Hurstville City Council by the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, were among successful measures that saved the organ.8 The organ still occupies its original chamber, but the interior of the church has been reversed so that the organ is now at the back rather than at the front.

Visit to Hurstville Uniting Church
by the Organ Music Society of Sydney, Labour Day, 2011
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]

Stephen Aveling-Rowe demonstrating the organ
(uploaded with parents' permission)
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]

Dr Kelvin Hastie addressing the Organ Music Society
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]

Pneumatic action and bellows of the Whitehouse organ
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]

Whitehouse Bros bellows weight
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]

Plaque commemorating Jean McVey's continuous service as organist since 1947
[Photograph by Trevor Bunning (October 2011)]


1 Part of the material presented here was published first in: Kelvin Hastie, 'Whitehouse in New South Wales: What Survives?' OHTA News, vol. 32, no. 2 (April 2008), p. 15.

2 The Sydney Morning Herald (4 November 1903), p. 6; The Sydney Morning Herald (6 February 1904), p. 7.

3 The Sydney Morning Herald (9 February 1904), p. 3.

4 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1922-1940), p. 362.

5 'Hurstville - New Pipe Organ and Church Enlargement,' The Methodist (17 August 1929), p. 8; cited by Robin Rhys in The Sydney Organ Journal, vol. 35, no. 3 (Winter 2004), pp. 38-39.

6 Kelvin Hastie, 'Change and Decay: Music Making in the Methodist Churches of New South Wales, 1902-77' (PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2003), p. 447.

7 Details noted by Kelvin Hastie, August 1998.

8 Robin Ruys, 'Lofty Ladies XVIII: Jean McVey,' The Sydney Organ Journal, vol. 35, no. 3 (Winter 2004), p. 39.