Wild Street Anglican Church
cnr Wild and Holden Streets, Maroubra
(previously known as St Edmund's Anglican Church, Pagewood)
Hill & Son 1882, Pitchford & Garside 1969 (2/17 mechanical and electric)
Historical and Technical Documentation by Kelvin Hastie
© OHTA 2022
This church, known for many years as St Edmund’s Anglican Church, Pagewood, was opened in 1961. The church property is located within the current suburban boundary of Maroubra and is now known as Wild Street Anglican Church. In recent years the interior of the building has been reordered with the congregation seated on chairs facing a platform at the rear of the building.
At the time of the church’s construction an organ chamber was provided on the liturgical north side of the building near the junction of the chancel and nave. It is clear that the intention was to provide an electric action organ housed in the chamber with a detached console located on the floor below.
The present organ was built in 1882 by Hill & Son of London as job number 1811 for the Newtown Congregational Church. With two manuals, 15 speaking stops, 3 couplers and mechanical action throughout, the organ was provided with three composition pedals, a hitch-down swell pedal and a parallel and concave pedalboard based on the “College of Organists” model. The organ was housed in a stained and varnished pitch pine case with diapered façade pipes.1
Original Hill Nameplate (Kelvin Hastie, 2022)
Graeme Rushworth records that the organ was ordered by Hill & Son’s Sydney agent, Alex Rea, who was responsible for the specification. The organ was donated by Josiah Perry and erected by the Layton brothers and opened in a concert on 5 June 1883 in which Rea performed organ works and accompanied a choir gathered from local Congregational churches, conducted by Harry C. Kent.2 The instrument was similar in appearance to the Hill organs of St Luke’s Anglican Church, Concord (1883) and St Andrew’s Scots’ Presbyterian Church, Rose Bay (1884).
The specification, expanded from the shorthand typically used in the Hill order books, would have been:
3 composition pedals3
Demographic change and falling numbers resulted in the closure and sale of the building, which survives as Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 366-78 King Street, Newtown, opposite the junction with Goddard Street. The organ is remembered as an exceptionally fine instrument in a superb acoustical environment; it is a matter for the most profound regret that it was vandalised with virtually all the metal pipes stolen around the time of the building’s sale, Mr Ted Pitchford recalling that several children in Newtown were known to have souvenired the metal pipework.4
The remainder of the instrument was dismantled in 1968, placed in storage and advertised for sale in The Sydney Morning Herald. An expression of interest came from the rector of St Edmund’s Pagewood, The Revd H. Edwards. St Edmund’s had already purchased pipework from a dismantled 1885 E.F. Walcker organ (Opus 459), originally built for Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown and relocated in the early twentieth century to St Thomas’ Anglican Church, Provincial Street, Auburn. 5
The work to remove, store and rebuild the Hill organ was undertaken by E.N. Pitchford and D.S. Garside at a time when the duo was making a transition away from being Sydney agents for Hill, Norman & Beard (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. to forming their own partnership. The Pagewood contract was initially signed with D.R (Roy). Huggins, of Neutral Bay, while the new partnership was being formalised. Huggins was a woodworker who undertook subcontract work for organbuilders, as well as carrying out the relocation of several organs in his own name.6 The transition process had clearly come to end by the completion of the project in April 1969, for a plaque above the organ bears the names of E.N. Pitchford and D.S. Garside.
Pitchford & Garside retained all surviving Hill components (bellows, soundboards, swell enclosure, mechanical key, stop and coupler actions, keyboards, keycheeks, stopknobs, pedalboard, trigger swell pedal and composition pedals), but electrified the pedal action to provide extensions to 8΄ and 4΄. The façade pipe decorations were removed and the pipes repainted in gold.
The Hill & Son specification for the manuals was retained in terms the original pitch scheme, although the new pipes were of different physical design and tone colour. The missing Swell ranks were replaced by those from the stock of 1885 E.F. Walcker pipework already acquired, augmented by a new Trompette 8΄ supplied by Alfred Palmer & Sons of Essex. New Great metal pipework was made and pre-voiced by F.J. Rogers Ltd of Leeds.
An invoice from F.J. Rogers Ltd., of Town Street, Bramley, Leeds, dated 20 November 1968 (see below), shows the number of new Great pipes supplied and details of their construction. It is clear that 15 Hill Open Diapason pipes had survived (these are in the centre flat of the casework), as well as 24 pipes of the original wooden Stopped Diapason. It is also clear that Hill scales and constructional styles were not replicated, nor were wooden pipes provided for those missing from the Stopped Diapason and Wald Flute stops. The Wald Flute was replaced by a rank made in plain metal, being renamed “Nason Flute” during installation.
Although Pitchford & Garside did not attempt a restorative reconstruction as might occur today, their work was remarkably conservative for the period, occurring at a time when electrification and the inclusion of ranks in keeping with the Organ Reform Movement were common.
Invoice from F. J. Rogers (supplied by Winifred Garside, 29 June 2022)
A plaque under the organ chamber indicates that the instrument was dedicated on Sunday 13 April 1969 by The Rt. Rev. G. R. Delbridge, Bishop Co-Adjutor of Sydney. The organ was played for some 40 years by Mr Alan Munday who also directed a robed choir. OHTA Director Hugh Knight also served the church as organist for a short period in the 1970s.
In spite of the fact that the organ is located in a high chancel chamber with part of the casework obscured, the organ sounds particularly fine in the good acoustical environment of the church building. Owing to excellent materials and workmanship of the original instrument and the thoroughness of the rebuilding undertaken by Pitchford & Garside, the organ has given more than 50 years of sterling service, with the only significant subsequent work being the releathering of the bellows.
An annotated specification of the organ is as follows:
Swell to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Mechanical key action; electro-magnetic Pedal action
* Partly surviving Hill pipework
^ Surviving Hill pipework
# Walcker Dolce
+ New Rogers pipework. The Hill had a wooden Wald Flute 4’.
x Walcker Principal. The Hill had a Pierced Gamba 8’
¶ Walcker Fugara. The Hill had a Dulcet 4’
§ Walcker Fifteenth. The Hill had a Flautina 2’
= New Palmer pipework. The Hill had an Oboe 8’7
1. Hill & Son records for organs in Australia and New Zealand - Organ Historical Trust of Australia (provided by Geoffrey Cox for ohta.org.au). Hill Shop Book 2 (=Order Book 4), August 1875-January 1884, page 137. Note that the Hill Estimate and Shop (Order) Books are © copyright British Organ Archive, University of Birmingham.
2. Graeme D. Rushworth, Historic Organs of New South Wales: the instruments, their makers and players 1791-1940. (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger 1988), 273.
3. Hill & Son records, op.cit
4. Personal comment E.N. Pitchford to Kelvin Hastie, December 1979. See also Kelvin Hastie, “Eastern Suburbs Ramble”, Sydney Organ Journal 18/4, August/September 1987: 28-29.
5. Rushworth, op.cit, 333. Further information supplied by Winifred Garside, 29 June 2022.
6. Personal comment Andrew Davidson to Kelvin Hastie, 14 October 2022.
7. John Stiller, “St Edmund’s Anglican Church, Pagewood. Documentation of Pipe Organ Built by Hill & Son 1882”. Organ Historical Trust of Australia, 27 February 1984.
Photos above: Trevor Bunning (October 2022)