St John's Uniting Church
Cnr Yeo and Barry Streets, Neutral Bay

C. Richardson, 1912, restored PDG Jewkes, 1993 (2/10 mechanical and tubular-pneumatic)

Click here for the St John's Uniting Church website

The organ's consultant, Dr Kelvin Hastie wrote this report in the Sydney Organ Journal, December 1993/January 1994, pp15-17:

Charles Richardson was the most prominent organ builder operating in New South Wales between 1885 and 1920: a full account of his life and work can be found in Graeme Rushworth's "Historic Organs of New South Wales" commencing on page 122. Richardson, at his best, produced robust organs conceived with artistic unity in such aspects of the craft as tonal design and voicing, mechanical solidity and impressive casework. It is a tragedy that some of the best examples of his work have been lost owing to ignorance and neglect. A partial explanation of the situation is given below:

Late in the nineteenth-century and early in the twentieth, there was a general turn away from the development of upperwork in organ design; this movement was manifest on a global scale as organists clamoured for unison registers of varying tone colours - the so-called klangfarbe concept. Quite a number of excellent, but small romantic organs (by Cavaillé-Coll and Merklin, to cite French examples) do not have principal choruses at all. This period, quite understandably, brought about the neo-classical counter culture which sought to modify, or even eradicate organs of romantic origin, particularly those of more extreme tonal design. What was forgotten, however, was the large amount of literature available for the romantic organ, even for small organs such as the 1912 Charles Richardson instrument at Neutral Bay.

Early in 1991 the Uniting Church in Neutral Bay invited the author to act as an adviser for a proposed restoration of the organ, the aim being initially to secure a dollar-for-dollar grant from the Heritage Assistance Program of the Department of Planning. A statement of significance was prepared, quotations were updated and new ones sought, and some time was spent ensuring that the application was properly prepared. It must be made clear that successful funding outcomes depend on the provision of complete and accurate information and the statement of clear conservation goals.

Following the provision of a grant for up to $25,000 in July, 1992 ($2,000 covering the 1992/93 financial year; $23,000 for 1993/94), the church awarded the contract to Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd. The work commenced in January 1993 and was successfully completed in August. It comprised the following features:

1. The provision of a new blower in a silencing box, directly under the organ, together with the fitting of appropriate trunking;

2. The checking and resealing of all wind conveyances in the organ: the bellows, which had been releathered in recent times, was not the subject of work;

3. The full restoration of all soundboards and windchests using hot animal glue sealants to fill cracks, and also using best-quality leather and swansdown (as in the original) where seals were needed. The rackboards, upperboards, tables, and sliders were thoroughly cleaned, planed as necessary, and carefully refitted with sliders lubricated with graphite;

4. The full restoration of the mechanical actions to the manuals and couplers, and of the pneumatic systems operating stops, pistons and pedals. New wires were supplied as needed with new bushing and buttons fitted throughout. All pneumatics were releathered and reset for optimum operation. The action, in its entirety, was then set up and adjusted for prompt responsiveness, with special attention given to uniformity of attack aad operation with minimal friction. The action was not left too slack since this encourages premature wear;

5. All pipework was cleaned and repaired, the only major reconstruction work was the extensive repair of a number of wooden pins, damaged by water. Cone tuning, as it pre-existed for the Gemshorn 4 ft. stop, was retained. Great care was exercised to maintain the original voicing characteristics in the pipework although considerable work was undertaken to re-regulate the organ for evenness of tone throughout each stop. Peter Jewkes discovered that several ranks were made of odd combinations of older pipes, and that other ranks were, at some stage, altered in their speech characteristics. Some of be tonal work carried out may be summarised as follows:

a) Extensive work on the Great Dulciana 8 ft to eliminate, as far as possible, unevenness of tone and irregular speech in some notes;

b) Extensive work on the Great Stop Diapason 8 ft, Flute 4 ft. and Swell Lieblich Gedact 8 ft.; in places these ranks contained an assortment of second-hand material and a number of pipes were in transposed positions. These stops, which have always produced sounds of great character, retain a number of idiosyncrasies but now speak with renewed freshness and greater uniformity;

c) The Swell Gamba 8 ft, which appears to have been loudened at some stage, was softened and the slow speech of some notes was regulated to match others in the compass;

d) The Open Diapason 8ft., Violin Diapason 8ft., Gemshorn 4Ft. and Oboe 8ft. were repaired with 'off-speech' pipes re-regulated. These ranks were in good condition and required less tonal work. An interesting feature of the Swell Violin Diapason is the use of open wood pipes for the bass

e) Extensive work was required on be rather 'boomy' Bourdon 16 ft which, again, used a number of older pipes (of varying scales) in its compass;

6. The console was thoroughly refurbished; all extraneous light fittings and switches were removed and all timber surfaces were repolished. The pedalboard, manual keys and stop domes were cleaned and made fresh. Switches were relocated to the side away from the organ and tasteful lighting was installed. The front pipes (covered in gold paint several decades ago) were restencilled by Gardner signs of Manly Vale, using the original patterns lying under the gold. Computer equipment was used to cut the stencils for each of the front pipes. The restored appearance of the casework (with its unusual Werkprinzip layout) is most imposing and the colours of the front pipes match the colour of the two windows behind the instrument.The stencilled patterns are typical of Richardson, with a cream and pale green base overlaid with maroon-coloured feet and banding; gold leaf is used for the pipe mouths, the lower banding and for the fleur-de-lis and rosette motifs.

Peter Jewkes and his team (and special mention ought to be made of Rodney Ford and David Morrison who carried out much of the mechanical work) deserve high praise for the quality of their work and for their uncompromising attention to fine detail. Using materials and workmanship of the best quality, they have successfully preserved an unusual, but valuable, example of pre-World War I organbuilding. The instrument may not have the ringing choruses of an earlier period, but the church is delighted with the functions it performs and players will delight in the wealth of romantic organ music and transcriptions it successfully manages.

C. Richardson, 1912, restored PDG Jewkes, 1993 (2/10 mechanical and tubular-pneumatic)

Open Diapason
Stop Diapason

Violin Diapason
Lieblich Gedact
Gamba TC


Swell to Great
Great to Pedals
Swell to Pedals








Compass 58/30
Action: Mechanical to manuals; tubular-pneumatic to stops, pistons and pedal
Three pistons to Great and Swell

Number of pipes: 540
Windpressure: 3-1/4"
Pitch" a1 = 445Hz at 20&Mac251;C

P = ranks made by Palmer of London
* 12 bass notes from Lieblich Gedact


Correspondence from Peter Jewkes, August, 1993.
John Stiller, St John's Uniting Church, Neutral Bay - Documentation of Pipe Organ built by Charles Richardson, 1912 (OHTA, 1985).

© PdL 2006