Whiteley Organ 1922

Photo: Cathedral archives

By the mid 1920's, the Hill organ's action was becoming unreliable and the organ was claimed to be too small for the building. A new organ was sought and installed in 1930.

Ernest G. Meers, who was a patron and promoter of the work of the English organ builder J.W.Whiteley of Chester, ordered an organ of 46 stops with three manuals and pedals as a gift for his local Town Hall in Guildford, Surrey. Because of unacceptable conditions he imposed on the Town Hall, the organ was not installed and was put up for sale. The organ took five years to build with just two men working on it, and contained some pipe work from one of Meers' house organs.

"At the factory of Mr John W.Whiteley (whose reputation as a voicer of organ pipes is so well known), there is now practically completed a GRAND ORGAN with many interesting features".

An advertisement for "A Wonderful Organ for Disposal" appeared in The Organ in 1922. The advertisement included the above specification and a description of the organ. It said: "The value of the organ is probably £10,000 or £12,000, but a much lower figure than this will be accepted. The whole of the reeds, except the fourteen lowest notes of the 32 ft pedal reed, are of spotted metal, in many cases extra thick and heavy. Most of the other pipe work is of heavy spotted metal.

Eventually the organ was sold to St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney and shipped out in 1929. Upon its arrival Whiteley employed T.C.Edwards to help with the organ's erection which proved to be a difficult task, taking over one year to complete. A new organ loft was constructed opposite the Hill organ which extended out to the central columns. A spiral staircase was provided for access to the console which was located in the loft in front of the organ. The organ was opened by the Organist and Master of the Choristers, Thomas Beckett on Sunday, 12th October, 1930. The noted English organ authority, Dr W.L.Sumner, played the organ in England, describing the voicing as "superb" and the soft strings as being "gorgeous".

The specification was as follows:

Notes on the Great Organ:

5 composition buttons and corresponding pedal studs.

The "build-up" and "balance" of this organ has received the greatest attention. The trumpet (only on 7 in. wind) blends well with the rest, and the remarkable sesquialtera has been adopted instead of a clarion, and is much more effective.

Notes on the Swell Organ:

6 composition buttons and corresponding pedal studs. Tremulant by rocking tablet in key jamb. 2 tablets controlling swell to pedal and swell to great.

The diapason phonon is simply a "flood of sound" and is entirely satisfactory, whether in combination or in solo work. Most of the pipes are of special heavy metal. The refined brilliance of the full swell is remarkable. The swell box is of somewhat unusual construction, and very large, allowing plenty of room to walk about in. The shutters are 3 in. in thickness, giving a gradual crescendo very grand indeed.

Notes on the Solo and Choir Organ:

6 composition buttons. Tremulant by rocking tablet in key jamb.

The chief feature of this organ is the violin stop of two ranks to CC, which in its violin and violoncello effects goes about as far as can ever be expected out of an organ pipe. The horn diapason and clarionet are of special heavy metal. The tuba of spotted metal is on 20 in. wind. The whole of this organ is enclosed in a large swell box, also of somewhat unusual construction, and the shutters are 3 in. thick.

Notes on the Pedal Organ:

Pedal-board Wesley-Willis pattern, radiating and slightly concave.

The 32 ft. contra bourdon is of large scale; the three lowest pipes each speak to two notes; the result is perfect, and entirely satisfactory. The great bass speaks down to the bottom note as quickly as a small treble pipe, and in its promptness of speech reminds one of a bass drum. The violon (13 in. scale) has had unusual care bestowed upon it, and is very beautiful and refined, having quite the bite and hum of a double bass. The 32 ft. contra trombone is the best the writer of this description has ever heard; the scale is 19 in. or 20 in., and except for the fourteen bottom notes, which are of thick zinc, is of spotted metal, and not an extension of another stop.

There are 19 couplers, operated by rocking tablets above the swell keys and there are 3 kick pedals, double-acting:

(1) Great to Pedal, on & off (2) Pedal Ophicleide on & off (3) Solo Tuba on & off

There is a combination piston under each manual, on which any combination may be arranged.

The pitch is 518 Hz at 60° F."