Northmead Anglican Church

Thomas Street, Northmead

Built by William Davidson 1870 for St John’s Anglican Church, Ashfield
Installed 1883 St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, Pyrmont
Installed present location 1971 by Arthur Jones
Restoration work by Clive Arkley, Peter Johnston and others
1 manual, 7 speaking stops, 1 coupler, mechanical action

Northmead Anglican Church – exterior (D A R C 12345, Churches Australia website)

Historical and Technical Documentation by Peter Johnston
© OHTA, August 2022 (last upgraded September 2022)

Northmead Anglican Church – organ case after restoration (Peter Johnston [September 2022])

The William Davidson organ, built for St John’s Church, Ashfield, is thought to have been the builder’s opus one and was described as follows:

COLONIAL-MADE ORGAN. -A very fine organ, of colonial manufacture, has just been fitted up in St John’s Church, Ashfield. It is a beautiful-toned instrument, is well finished, and is said to be equal to any English-made organ of similar size in the colony. The following is a description of the organ in question which was built by Mr Davidson, of the South Head Road. Every part of the instrument is of colonial manufacture. It consists of one manual compass CC to G in alto, and an independent pedal organ, compass CCC to F (30 notes). The stops, of which there are seven speaking stops and one coupler, are arranged as follows -Great organ: 1 Stop diapason, 8 feet tone; 2 Open diapason, metal throughout, 8 feet; 3 Dulciana tenor C, 8 feet; 4 Principal, 4 feet, 5 Wald flute, 4 feet, 6 Fifteenth, 2 feet Pedal organ: 7 Bourdon, 16 feet tone, coupler "great to pedals", 2 composition pedals. The wooden portion of the pipes consist of Baltic pine. The metal pipes are made of the best spotted metal, and enclosed in a general swell. The "sound board", case, pedals, &.c, are made of well seasoned cedar, the double octave of the open diapason being used to decorate the front of the instrument.1

Northmead Anglican Church – console (Peter Johnston [May 2022])

It was moved to St Bartholomew's Anglican Church, Pyrmont in 1885. Its specification has remained:


Open Diapason
Lieblich Gedact
Wald Flute


Great to Pedals




Mechanical key and stop action
Compass: 56/30

Arthur Jones was a parishioner at St Luke’s Anglican Church, Northmead (as the church was then known) and lived nearby. An agreement was signed to make the Pyrmont Davidson available as a permanent loan and Arthur dismantled the organ and stored it until the new church was built and opened in 1971. The footprint of the organ was known and provision was made for it in the plans. Unfortunately, the chosen position didn’t have adequate height. Quite a few corners were cut in the installation, which was carried out free of charge, but most of these have been remedied in recent years.

The swell box could not be installed and the two combination pedals were also left out. Only five Open Diapason show pipes could fit under the ceiling. The church bought a new quarter-horsepower B.O.B. blower. The larger Diapason show pipes were placed at floor level on the C# side with a fairly slow pneumatic action. The rest of the space in the front of the organ was covered with a red sheet and the C-side provided with crude plywood panelling. The pneumatic action for the Pedal Organ was unreliable and the lowest 12 pipes spoke into the back wall. The benefit of the free installation was that the pipework, all made by Davidson, was untouched.

Northmead Anglican Church – case after Clive Arkley’s work (photograph by Peter Johnston [September 2015])

In 1980, Clive Arkley (also a parishioner) replaced the pedal action with a simple and effective mechanical action (probably for free). He also made some improvements to the appearance of the organ case by adding some redundant zinc pipes and painting them all a copper colour.

In April, 2016, the two Castle Hill organ volunteers sprung into action to assist me to do a rapid semi-restoration on the Davidson. All the pipes were removed and almost 50 years of dust disappeared. Metal pipes were taken to Mark Fisher’s manufactory where they were cleaned and the tuning reset (and repaired to cylindrical).

Northmead Anglican Church – right hand side of case (photograph by Peter Johnston [May 2022])

Access to the inside of the organ had been almost impossible, so one corner post of the building frame was moved forward a bit. A platform was put in, allowing easy access to every pipe. Modifications were made to the top of the Pedal chests so that the lowest 12 pipes could face forwards.

Mark Fisher donated some cedar panelling from an old vandalised organ that he had dismantled some years earlier. I have a friend who has a cabinetmaking business. He used his huge panel saw to do some surgery (to my specifications), then lent me his biscuit jointer so that I could glue the bits together. The organ now has matching panelling on both sides.

The panel saw was also used to modify a piece of moulding to make a transom rail for the front pipes. I was able to fit seven Open Diapason 8ft pipes symmetrically in the centre of the ‘prospect’ and used 12 of the zinc dummies to complete the new arrangement. I dispensed with the pneumatics for the seven low notes on the C# side. All these bass pipes now have kopex conveyancing. I roughly revealed some of the original decorations on the show pipes, then sprayed them a pale beige colour with green mouths. The work on the organ case was completed in 2016. The double-rise reservoir only has some minor leaks.

The organ was carefully tuned. A relatively small number of pipes needed to be fitted with tuning slides. Some of the Bourdon 16ft pipes had their stoppers re-leathered.

Pipework following restoration viewed from the passage board (photograph by Peter Johnston [May 2022])

The metal pipes are of high-tin % spotted metal. All the manual pipes are well-made.  One of the Bourdon pipes was mounted separately to make room for the platform supports.

For the Open Diapason 8ft, low C and C# are in mitred wood and on the C# end of the soundboard. D to F# are now inside the case, unpainted. G to tenor C# are in the prospect and the rest are in front of the Dulciana.

Northmead Anglican Church – left hand stop jamb (photograph by Peter Johnston [May 2022])

Northmead Anglican Church – right hand stop jamb (photograph by Peter Johnston [May 2022])

Northmead Anglican Church – pipework detail before restoration (photograph by Peter Johnston [May 2022])

1 Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 1870, p.7