All Saints' Anglican Church,
Ambrose Street, Hunters Hill
Henry Bevington & Sons 1887 (3/25 mechanical)
© PdL 2006
From SOJ Spring 1998, Winter 1999, Autumn 2003:
All Saints' is set back from the street in a beautiful garden setting. It was designed by the architect John Horbury Hunt and opened in 1888. The narthex and an extra bay were added in 1938. The organ, situated in a chamber on the north side of the chancel, is Opus 1394, and was built in 1887 by Henry Bevington & Sons, costing £810. The specification has remained unchanged making this one of Australia's finest historic organs where the Bevington sound is truly preserved. The organ was completely restored by Pitchford & Garside in 1998. A full report on the restoration written in The Sydney Organ Journal, Spring 1998, pp 33-37 by the consultant, Ray Holland, follows:
The parish church of All Saints' Hunters Hill stands at the corner of Ferry Street and Ambrose Street. The churchwardens reported at the Easter Vestry meeting in 1884 that a suitable site for a church and parsonage had been found and John Horbury Hunt was commissioned very shortly after to design the church building. This was to be the only church by Horbury Hunt in Sydney although he was responsible for the Anglican cathedrals in Newcastle, Armidale and Grafton as well as several country churches. Horbury Hunt's ambitious plan which originally involved a tower on the south side was modified several times during construction and was eventually opened with a temporary west end on 22 April 1888. Completion of the building by the addition of an extra bay in the nave and a narthex had to wait a further flfty years.
The organ by Bevington & Sons of Soho, London was ordered in 1887 and installed in twelve days by Charles Jackson the following year although the tuning contract seems to have been given to Charles Richardson shortly after. It was heard in public performance for the first time on Saturday June 16 of that year when a special choir of fifty voices performed Mendelssohn's Elijah. The Hunters Hill Bevington is the only one of two organs by that firm known to have been brought to New South Wales that still survives. The other, built in 1841 for the first St Mary's Cathedral was destroyed by fire with that building in 1865.
Wlnd problems. Parish records in relation to an organ are relatively complete and it appears that the instrument has not been without its problems. As early as October 1890, be organist B. P. Truman (father of Ernest Trumam, later Sydney City Organist) complained that
the Pneumatic Wind Chest of the Great Organ has been a source of considerable trouble lately, making it a most difficult matter to keep the Organ supplied with wind, and the noise of wind escaping a great noise during the performance of Divine Service.1
He goes on to point out that the derangement of wind considerably affected the tone of the organ and that some pipes of the Great organ were completely dumb. Mr Richardson had quoted £20 to £25 to fix the problem. The "Wind Chest" referred to by Truman was probably a bellows rather than the Great soundboard and the dumb notes almost certainly off-chest pipes in the case.
The original blowing was by hand and the feeder is extant although it has not been replaced in the current restoration. The flrst hydraulic engine was installed in 1892 and replaced ten years later by a 'Christies Patent Water Motor''. There was voluminous correspondence with the Metropolitan Water Board during this period concerning the level of water consumption. To reduce the cost the hydraulic machine would have to be altered so that the organ could be turned off while it was not actually being played and we are told at the same time that the bellows were practically worn out! Necessary alterations to the hydraulic machinery would cost £65.2 There is no record of the work having been done but in 1904 the water pump was replaced by a Crossley gas engine. At first this was installed in the vestry but was so noisy that by March 1906 an exterior shed has been erected to allow for the removal of the engine.3
© PdL 2006
First restoration. The records are silent for the early years of this century but the organ was clearly giving problems by 1927 when S. T. Noad took over the maintenance of the instrument. Noad reported on 30 May 1927 on the condition of the organ and a contract was signed on 5 August 1927 for the supply and fitting of an electric blower, thorough cleaning of the organ and major restoration work which included overhauling the soundboards, rebushing and refelting of the action, overhauling drawstop and combination pedal actions, recovering the keys of Great and Swell with ivory grained celluloid, refacing of the pedals etc. The Swinnerton blower of 2 hp was to be installed in a brick and concete pit under the choir vestry floor,this repladng the gas engine and pumping bellows that had replaced the earlier hydraulic plant. The total cost of thiswork was £164.10.0. and had been completed by March 1929. 4, 5
Bats and borers. When the organ was dismantled a problem that was going to affect the church for some time emerged. The windchest on which the Pedal Bourdon pipes stood (those facing the baptistry) was riddled with borer. Having got rid of an infestation of rats, it was discovered that borer had also affected the rush seating in the church seating which was subsequently replaced. The affected Pedal chest which was of pine was replaced with a new chest made of redwood at this time.6 Borer struck again in 1932 when infestation was found in those sections of the building frame which support the 16' pipe front and in the pneumatic actions controlling those pipes, the latter being replaced with modern mechanism.7 Further examination of the organ also showed some subsidence in the main frame, which on architectural advice was strengthened with steel braces. The organ was placed out of action completely on 29 July, 1934 when heavy rain caused flooding in the pit in which the blower was installed.8
Bellows releathered. In 1927 Noad had recommended against releathering the feeder bellows in the vestry in favour of installing an electric blower. Major work was not done on the main reservoir at that time, but by 1951 releathering became a necessity.9 Noad commented on the difficulty of procuring suitable leather in these post World War II years and it would seem that the double rise bellows was reduced to single rise at this time. In 1959 the Parish Council called for a report on the organ. Noad noted that apart from releathering the bellows no major work had been carried out for over 40 years. He quoted £495 for cleaning, replacement of leather buttons and felts throughout the action, adjustments to stop actions, swell shutters etc, including work on stopped wood and reed pipes, but excluding major work on the soundboards.10 No action seems to have been taken at this time. Further quotations for necessary work were provided in 1974 when Mark Fisher became organist and he performed essential maintenance on the instrument during his years there.
Further deterioration and restoration. The years however continued to take their toll. By 1990 the situadon was becoming serious and quotations were called from several firms over the next few years for a thorough restoration of the instrument. Finally in 1996, a substantial grant over three years was promised by the Heritage Council of New South Wales and the National Trust agreed that the parish's restoration appeal for the building could also be used for the organ. The contract was finally allotted to Pitchford & Garside for a sum of $221,820 and work commenced in May 1997. Restoring an instrumentt of this size is a big job for a small firm. Pitchford & Garside have enlisted the aid of others as noted below in this cooperative effort to restore one of our most important organs. Except where noted below all of be work including final assembly and regulation of be pipework has been done by Stuart Garside or Darrell Pitchford.
© PdL 2006
All Saints' organ has always held an attractions for Sydney organists not only because it is one of the few three manual instruments in Sydney but because of its uniqueness as the only Bevington here. The Bevington firm differed from the other major London builders of the day by adhering largely to older ways especially with regard to tonal ideals. It has been said that the Snetzler tradition was better preserved in their instruments than in those of, for example, Hill. Nevertheless I have always been somewhat disappointed in the sound of this organ in the building. This has been largely due to the locadon of the organ in a chamber on the left of the chancel. Any sound that might emerge from the opening towards the baptistry is blocked by the Pedal Bourdon pipes.
When the organ was dismantled, essential roofing repairs were carried out and the ceiling lined in such a way as to allow better projection of sound into the chancel. At the same time some timber panelling between the top of the stone arch and the roof in front of the organ was removed. This work was done under the supervision of heritage architect Paul Davies, and will hopefully improve be situation somewhat. The walls of the chamber were cleaned down at the same time and an accumulation of electric cabling sorted out and rerouted. Quite apart from tonal egress problems, my experience with Bevington organs in New Zealand and the UK suggested that the Hunters Hill organ was underwinded. Enquiries via the Internet produced some interesting comments especially this one from Stephen Bicknell:
Bevington's reputation was for a rather coarse tone. There it a very strong taste of the jangly quality that distinguishes the work of Snetzler (and is aparent in some Holdich organs. Could it be that Henry Bevington had more connection with Snetzler than merely an adjacent Soho address? The courseness is referred to in a contemporary review of the 1854 3m for St Martin in the Fields and is apparent in the Covent Garden organ. The fluework at Covent Garden is louder than a Gray & Davison or Hill church organ of the same period though not quite as loud as Willis, and a touch more "cornetty" than either. The reeds lack the warmth of Hill, the limpid brilliance of Gray & Davison or the smoother power of Willis. They are what the older Herbert Norman would have called "country church Cornopeans'. The result is unsophisticated perhaps, but very cheerful and jolly. Excellent for French music. In the later Brighton organ the style has hardly changed at all - for an organ built in 1885 the rather bright choruses and reeds are downright old-fashioned. There are certain characteristic voices; Bevington made stopped flutes with soldered tops long after everyone else had gone "Lieblich" (cork stoppers)' they also made Bell Gambas and Bell Diapasons a great deal (fashionable in the 1850s but not much thereafter). Brighton has a full-length open metal 16' on the Great, and audacious quint mixtures on both Great and Swell. The pressure sbould be high enough for the chorus to be straining at the leash just a touch, and so that the reeds are very smart and quick. (1 bet it ends up at 3-1/2'' - I think they may have been attempting to equal the fluework of Willis without knowing exactly how it was done).11
Wind supply. The reservoir has been restored to double rise and the existing Ventus blower retained with a new inlet valve assembly to reduce turbulence. All trunking has been resealed. Prior to dismantling the organ the wind pressure was measured at 3''wg. On reassembly and with all the original weights placed on the reservoir the pressure read 3-3/8", the increase being due to the additional weight of the floating frame. Flue pipes tested at this pressure spoke with a new voice and more closely resembled Bicknell's description. However, reed pipes were really straining at the leash to the point of squarking. A final wind pressure of 3-1/4" has been established at which pressure both flues and reeds seem happy. Another factor which helped to determine this pressure was the dead length of the 16' C of the Great Open Diapason and the dead length of reed resonators. Inceasing the pressure raises the pitch and it was already sharp by modern standards. Concussion bellows an the trunking to Great and Swell have been recovered and the springs reset.
Soundboards and windchests. The soundboards of the Great, Swell and Choir were completely stripped. Amazingly, after 110 years there were no cracks at all in the soundboards, testifying to the quality of the original workmanship. Hot glue was run into the channels and the undersides of the grids cleaned up and recovered with leather. The pallets were recovered with a double thickness of leather. Unusually, the pallets are also seated on leather. Another interesting feature noted was the fact that tables and the undersides of the slides were lubricated with chalk but the tops of the slides and the toeboards were graphited. lnitially this suggested that the graphiting had been done during a previous restoration. However, enquiries overseas revealed that another Bevington c. 1890 recently restored in Jamaica had the same combination of chalk and graphite12, so this combination has been retained at Hunters Hill. The two pedal windchests have also been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished. It had been intended to retain the original pallet springs. However, on reassembling the Swell chest, six of them broke and when the same happened with a spring in the Pedal Open chest it was decided to replace all pallet springs with copies of the originals. Samples of the original have been retained with the instrument. The Great, Swell and Choir soundboards have been restored by Manuel da Costa. Additional support has been provided for the Great, Swell and Pedal Open chests, signs of warping having been evident in the bottom boards while the chests were being restored. The pneumatic off-note chests for the front pipes have been completely overhauled.
Action. All of the action components were very badly worn, some of the trackers to the Pedal Bourdon chest having worn through completely and had been repaired with wire. A1l of the trackers and stickers are of circular cross- section. Damaged ones have been replaced. Also unusual were the support 'pendulums' for the long trackers to the Swell organ, hinged levers underneath with wires passing through the trackers. Additional supports to the same design have been added to the trackers of both Pedal chests to minimise future wear. The iron rollers were sand blasted to clean them and new stainless steel pins supplied. All bushings and buttons in the action have been renewed. The ends of the stickers have been rebound with new wires and new pulldown wires of phosphor bronze substituted for the original iron wires. The stop actions are unusual, being completely of timber. All components have been cleaned prior to reassembly, repaired as necessary and carefully refitted. Similarly, all parts of the composition action and Swell box mechanism have been cleaned, repaired as necessary and refitted with new felt and leather throughout.
© PdL 2006
Pipe work. All metal pipe work, which had retained its cone tuning, has been cleaned and repaired as necessary and a few new pipes made to replace missing ones and some strays that had found their way into the instrnment. The pipe metal has low tin content with relatively high antimony to strengthen it. As a result, the metal has become quite brittle, a few of the pipes being chipped at the top making them very difficult, if not impossible to tune properly. For open metal pipes less than 4 ins in length, the tops of the pipes have been straightened, but not cut, and tuning slides added. Longer pipes retain their cone tuning. Metal pipe repairs were effected by Australian Pipe Organs who also supplied the tuning slides. The stoppers of wooden pipes have been repacked and minor repairs effected. New tuning springs have been supplied for reed pipes and some wedges have been replaced. This work together with some minor repairs, has been entrusted to Steve Laurie.
The Pedal Bourdon required special care. The pipes had been mummified with canvas wrappings from just above the mouths to near the tops of the pipes. It is not unusual to find this treatment near the tops of stopped pipes where it is sometimes found to prevent damage from moving the stoppers. The reason for the full treatment here was uncertain, but believed to be related to earlier borer damage. However, when the wrapping was removed, revealing sufficient of the original diapering pattern to enable its restoration, only one pipe was found to have borer damage, and this minimal. The pipes are being restored without their canvas wrappings and with original pattems re-diapered.
Console and case-work. Decisions regarding the console area were difficult. As noted above, both Swell and Great keys had previously been covered with grained celluloid. The original Ivory keys for the Choir were almost worn through in the centre of the keyboard. The stop dome inserts, also original ivory, were very badly discoloured, many of them being badly cracked or chipped. The lettering, applied by a chemical method which impregnated the ivory and which is no longer properly understood, was worn through, totally absent in some cases. Restoration of the keyboards and stop knobs was entrusted to P & S in England, the keys being covered with ivory resin and the new stop dome inserts made of the same material. These are engraved in the same style as the original and filled with dark brown enamel to imitate the original colour. The casework including the console area has been completely stripped, restained and polished with shellac. The main case is of very beautiful pitch pine and the console area of walnut, the whole providing a luxurious appearance. Staining and polishing was done by Michael and David Bayer.
The front pipes display a Bevington specialty. The diapering is not continuous but there are extensive areas of bare metal. Bevington's had a special casting table to produce the striated effect on these pipes, giving them a unique lustre when viewed from a distance. They have been cleaned up very well and the diapering renewed by Peter Clark.
At the time of writing, tonal finishing has only just commenced. We look forward eagerly to All Saints' tide when the restored organ will once again be heard in its full glory.
Thanks are due to the parish archivist, Margaret Spinks, who supplied copies of relevant documents and to Stuart Garside who has checked the technical information.
1 Letter F. F Truman to Churchwardens October 25 1890.
2 Messenger, August 1900.
3 Hubbard, N., The Sure Foundation, (Hunters Hi11, 1988)
4 Letter S. T. Noad to R. Whitehouse (organist) 30 May, 1927.
5 Contract: Sidney Thomas Noad with Church Wardens of All Saints Church of England Church Hunters Hill, 5 August, 1927.
6 Messenger Febuary 1929
7 Messenger, June 1932.
8 Messenger, August 1934.
9 Letter S. T. Noad to C. H. C. Simpson (Honorary Secretary), 14 May, 1951.
10 Letter S. T. Noad & Son to Honorary Secretary 15 April 1959.
11 Bicknell S., Personal communication 17 May, 1996.
12 Murphy, P. J., Personal communication 19 May, 1996.
Further background historical information has been gleaned from:
Hubbard, N., The Sure Foundction and
Rushworth, G. D., Historic Organs of New South Wales.
© PdL 2006
And from Robert Wagner who grew up in the parish:
The firm of Bevington and Sons produced more tbnn 2,000 organs during 150 years of trade. Henry Bevington commenced business in 1794 after finishing his apprenticeship with the English firm of Ohrmann and Nutt. The workshop was located at different times in Greek, Rose and Manette Steets in the Soho district of London. Their magnum opus was built for St Martin-in-the-Fields, London in 1854 (3 manuals and 48 stops). Bevington organs won medals at exhibitions in Paris (1855 and 1867) and London (1862), and were held in high regard for the quality of their construction and voicing. The firm was absorbed into Hill, Norman and Beard in 1944.
At least twelve Bevington organs were imported into Australia, six to Tasmania four to Victoria, and two to New South Wales. The Hunters Hill organ (Opus 1394) is the only one remaining in New South Wales and is the largest remaining in the country following the destruction by fire in 1865 of the other New South Wales instrument which was installed in the first St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. This organ had the distinction of having Australia's first 32ft flue stop. The specification of the Bevington at All Saints, Hunters Hill has not changed since installation.
The Great and Swell Double Open Diapasons 16' are full length metal ranks apart from be bottom octave and a half of the Swell (from tenor G downwards), which has pipes of stopped wood. Bottom C of the Great Double is cut exactly to length, with no provision for tuning! The use of manual 16ft diapasons instead of Bourdons (particularly in the Swell) was a hallmark of Bevington organs as was the indusion of a Claribel 8ft on the Great instead of the more common Stopped Diapason. Stencilled pipes from the Great Salicional 8ft and 16ft and 8ft Open Diapasons form the facade (including the lowest notes). Apart from the Davidson/HNB instrument at St Thomas' North Sydney, this is the only parish church organ in New South Wales with a 16ft case. Stencilled pipes from the Pedal Bourdon 16ft fill the arch in the church baptistry.
Wind for the organ has been provided in many ways since installation; it was originally hand blown, but was replaced in 1892 by a water engine. Due to increasing water charges this was replaced in 1904 by a gas engine which in turn was replaced by an electric blower in 1927.
The church was opened in 1888, built to the design of John Horbury Hunt. This beautifully proportioned sandstone building contains fine stained glass (a copy of the east window can be found at Grafton's Anglican Cathedral) . The first organist of All Saints' was Mr. E. P. Truman whose son Ernest was later to become Sydney City Organist. He was appointed whilst the church was being built in 1887. It was on his recommendation that the order for a new organ be placed with Bevington, and it was hoped that the instrument would be installed in time for the opening of the church. Although this was not realised when the organ arrived it was installed in the remarkably short time of 12 days by local organ builder C.J. Jackson. It was first used on June 16, 1888 accompanying a Performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah". The total cost of the organ was £1053.
Before it left the London factory, the organ was tested by the organist of the Temple Church, Dr. Edward Hopkins, who reported:
I have just carefully tried and tested the organ built my the Messrs Bevington for All Saints' Church, Hunters Hill, (Australia and am able to speak very favourably of it. The tone throughout is extremely good and the workmanship excellent. It is not necessary to give an extensive report of the instrument but a few of its many good points may be specified. The Salicional, although not of the ordinary character of tone, is most agreeable in quality; and will I think, prove a very useful stop. The Vox Angelica also is an excellent register, whether used by itself or in conjunction with its companion, the Voix Celestes. The Lieblich Gedact is another stop of pure intonation and one that is sure to be in constant request.
The general effect of the Great Organ is full and bright without being at all cutting or piercing; and the same may be said of the Full Swell. The crescendo pedal to the Swell is very well managed and yields at once to the pressure of the foot, which is a very important point, though one that is my no means generally obtained. Taken as a whole, the organ reflects much credit upon its builders'
Signed, Edward Hopkins.
Doctor of Music. Temple Church, London.
Fortunately, several attempts to have the organ modernised in the 1930s were unsuccessful due to lack of funds. The organ has given excellent and almost trouble free service to the church for over 100 years, and has been an important part of All Saints' strong choral tradition since its opening. This fine instrument is thought to be the largest untouched example of Bevington' s work remaining in the world, and can be considered to be one of Australia's most important historic organs. The parish is to be congratulated on the decision to proceed with a full restoration, which is currently being done by the Sydney firm of Pitchford and Garside.
G. D. Rushworth Historic Organs of New South Wales (Hale and Iremonger, 1988)
Messrs Mark Fisher, Peter Jewkes and Stuart Garside.
Private research and personal comments.
© PdL 2006
Its specification is:
Henry Bevington & Sons 1887 (3/25 mechanical)
Double Open Diapason
Double Open Diapason
Clarionet et Bassoon
Swell to Great
Swell to Pedals
Choir to Pedals
Great to Pedals
Pedal Super Octave
Mechanical action throughout
5 combination pedals
2 horseshow pedals for couplers
Lever Swell pedal
Pedalboard, parallel and concave
© PdL 2006
Photo: Trevor Bunning (Aug. 1984)