St Barnabas' Anglican Church
Hawkesbury Road, Westmead

B. 1964, J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd, Ruislip, Middlesex
2 manuals, 3 ranks plus mixture, extension, electro-magnetic action


Photo: John Hanna, 28 Feb 2010

Photo: John Hanna, 11 Feb 2007




St Barnabas' Anglican Church traces its beginnings back to 1912 when home Sunday School classes were commenced at Westmead. A property at 75 Hawkesbury Road was acquired in 1936 and the hall where the church had previously met was moved to that site. The foundation stone for the current church building was laid on 26 December 1954 and on 6 May 1956 the building was dedicated by Archbishop Mowll.

Music was initially provided by a reed organ which had been used for services for many years, but the new building had been constructed with a gallery in the tower which was intended to accommodate a pipe organ.

Acquiring the organ

On 6 June 1958, "Mr Geo Dickens moved that a committee be formed to consider all available facts relating to various types of organs most suitable for St Barnabas."

The Organ Committee visited a number of churches to hear and assess the respective merits of electronic and pipe organs, and in mid-1958, James P. Eagles submitted a quote to build a pipe organ.

In February 1961, negotiations were commenced with J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd. A new Organ Committee was formed, and in August 1961 George Dickens met with Arthur Jones, Walker's Australian agent. Jones suggested an instrument of the type about to be installed at St Cuthbert's Church, Kogarah.

That organ was a Walker Positif Model C. The Model C belonged to a range of organs constructed on the extension principle which were built to shared templates and made in great numbers in the 1960s and early 1970s.

By the beginning of 1962, plans showing a Model C with detached console had been received from Walker, but the financial commitment involved in the purchase was still a matter of concern.


Photo: Ron Fox, 9 Mar 2008


Undaunted by financial difficulties, the Organ Committee continued to visit churches and audition instruments. The S. T. Noad & Son organ which had recently been installed in the Presbyterian Church at Artarmon impressed the Organ Committee, and on 9 October 1962 it was resolved to proceed with the purchase of a Noad organ.

The purchase required authorisation from the Diocese. This was a matter dealt with by the Archbishop's Organ Advisory Panel, and the Panel's response to the application—which proposed that the console be sited on the northern side of the building with the pipework in the gallery—expressed concerns that had not been anticipated:

The Panel finds that it is unable to approve the application in its present form. The siting of the organ is such that (i) proper coordination and balance between the choir and the organ will be impracticable because of the distance between them, and (ii) extreme temperature variations in the tower caused by the sun coming through the west window may cause the warping and consequent cracking of soundboards. The instrument would also be difficult to keep in tune for the same reason.

Firm in its views as to the appropriateness of the gallery position, the Church Committee referred the Panel's comments to the architect who designed the building and to Walker, Noad and the Australian representative of Firma B. Pels. Walker suggested that the heat issue could be addressed by the erection of a suitable partition, and all the organ builders were in agreement that the distance issue was illusory. Armed with this further ammunition, in July 1963 the Parish Council referred the matter back to the Panel.

Additional delay was then experienced, with both the Parish Council and the Panel unwilling to change their views as to the position of the instrument. In the meantime, the Council's thinking had moved towards the view that a Walker organ would be more suitable, and in March 1964 the Council rescinded the motion to engage S. T. Noad & Son and sought an up-to date quotation from Walker. Shortly afterwards, the Panel indicated that it was prepared to recommend that the organ be placed in the gallery of the church in accordance with the design submitted by Walker, and the Parish Council resolved to seek authorisation for the installation of a Walker Positif Model C organ. On 15 July 1964, an order was placed for the Walker instrument at a cost of £2,861.

The organ was installed by Arthur Jones in November 1964 at a cost of £110.

Photo: John Hanna, 28 Feb 2010



The organ's specification is as follows:

1. Open Diapason
2. Lieblich Gedeckt
3. Dulciana
4. Principal
5. Twelfth
6. Fifteenth
7. Mixture

8. Open Diapason
9. Lieblich Gedeckt
10. Dulciana
11. Lieblich Flute
12. Dulcet
13. Nazard
14. Flautino

15. Bourdon
16. Bass Flute
17. Octave Flute
18. Fifteenth




(2 octave repeating)



Great to Pedal


Electric action

Concave radiating pedal board

Compass 61/30

Balanced swell pedal
Balanced crescendo pedal

All pipes enclosed except for the 12 pipes providing the bottom octave of no. 15.
Wind pressure 3¼" except for bottom octave of no. 15 (3¾")

Total speaking pipes 282

The ranks are:

A. Open Diapason (61 pipes)

B. Lieblich Gedeckt / Bourdon (85 + 12 = 97 pipes)

C. Dulciana (71 pipes)

D. Mixture III (75 pipes)

The instrument was dedicated by Archdeacon R. G. Fillingham at a special service at 3pm on Sunday 13 December 1964, when a recital was given by Frank Johnstone, organist of St John's, Parramatta.

Photo: John Hanna, 28 Feb 2010



Maintenance and the 2008 overhaul

The Parish Council was keen to ensure that the new organ would be properly maintained. In May 1965, it adopted "the recommendation of Walker & Sons for the tuning of the organ…at a cost of £20.0.0" and the first tuning took place on 11 June 1965. Thereafter, tuning and maintenance visits generally took place twice a year.

For a decade commencing in 1969, the organ was maintained by Roger Pogson. At the time of his first visit, Pogson reported as follows:

It is almost impossible to tune this organ perfectly true due to the shading which results when the tuning door is removed. Even moving one's body 2" one way or the other upsets the pipes for tuning purposes…

The Flute rank of pipes will always go badly out of tune because of the English method of stoppering which is most unsuitable in our climate.

Fortunately, the flute rank has proved more stable than Pogson initially anticipated.

By the early 2000s, it was becoming apparent that more than routine tuning was required. The sound lacked body, the 16ft Bourdons provided poor support, and there were other problems.

In 2007, the organists decided that it was time for them to come to grips with what was happening in the organ loft (hitherto regarded as the domain of the professionals). This revealed several areas of concern. An opinion was then obtained from an expert independent consultant, who identified several specific problems.

These matters led to correspondence with Walker in the UK—and an offer from Walker to overhaul the organ when its team was next in Australia. In January 2008, David Wilson (Walker's tonal director) and Michael Cleaver arrived at Westmead after completing work on the Walker organ of the Adelaide Town Hall, their brief essentially being to restore the Model C to its former glory. To do this, they carried out a general cleaning, a full overhaul, some tonal refinishing where necessary and a tuning. The result was an instrument that has colour, body, bass, brightness and dynamic range that it lacked in the past.

The organ is now maintained by Ian D. Brown & Associates.


David Wilson at work
Photo: Alan Currie, 23 Jan 2008


Musical capacities

At the time of its installation, the organ was referred to as a "magnificent instrument, which has been described as the 'Rolls Royce' of small organs." Many seeing the specification might, however, be led to wonder what sort of result a mere 282 pipes can produce.

In fact, the instrument is surprisingly effective and musical. It sounds much larger than it is. The presence of upperwork, mutations and a 3-rank mixture greatly enhances its capabilities. Provided careful and intelligent attention is given to registration, it can provide considerable variety of sound notwithstanding the limited number of ranks.

The most regrettable feature of the specification is the borrowing of the bass of the Open Diapason and Dulciana ranks from the Lieblich rank in circumstances where the case features 13 large speaking—but non-utilised—display pipes.

Designed as a church organ, the Model C provides substantial and varied accompaniment for singing. It is flexible enough to cope with traditional or modern hymns and contemporary songs. As a solo instrument, it is suited to the romantic repertoire but is equally at home with the music of an earlier era. Indeed, it is a remarkably capable all-rounder.


Photo: Ron Fox, 9 March 2008.



The future

Although the church also makes some use of other instruments, St Barnabas' has no plans to dispense with the organ. Putting it simply, it does its job far too well to be usurped. And it is not only the older members of the congregation who appreciate it: some of our teenagers have also realised the potential of the instrument, and that interest is being encouraged.

But it is not just for its qualities that we esteem the organ: we are also grateful for the privilege of being able to use it in the praise and worship of God.

Praise ye the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;
praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet;
praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance;
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals;
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.

Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 150 (KJV)

Note: The information set out above is a much-condensed version of a detailed history of the organ researched and compiled by Alan Currie (organist) and John Hanna (assistant organist), which will be published in late 2010.