St John's Anglican Church
cnr Chapman Avenue and Beecroft Road, Beecroft

Griffin & Leggo 1913 (2/14 mechanical)



From SOJ Autumn 2000:

The organ in St John's Anglican Church, Beecroft was the first wholly new organ by the Griffin & Leggo partnership. It was ordered in 1911 and opened in 1913 with a recital by Arthur Mason. The specification and design was submitted by Mr J. Earnshaw and the organ was built under his supervision. Preparation was made for four additional stops. The pipes were manufactured and voiced by Alfred Palmer & Sons of London. The organ has been restored with the missing ranks added by Roger Pogson.


From SOJ Autumn 2013:

Organ Centenary at St. John's, Beecroft

Ian McLeod

 

The newly-built Church of St. John the Evangelist was dedicated in 1908, but  it was five years before the congregation had raised the funds to install a new pipe organ. Only half the nave of the well-proportioned new brick building was completed at first and so the organ specification, prepared and designed by Joseph Earnshaw1, a Sydney organist and consultant, allowed for future expansion. The contract was awarded to a newly-established firm, Griffin & Leggo, of Point Street, Pyrmont, in 1911 and was opened on 31 January, 1913 with a recital by Arthur Mason. 

Arthur Mason, was Organist of St. James, King Street, Sydney, from 1897 and City Organist.  from 1901  He resigned both these posts in 1907 to return to England  but was in Sydney again from 1910 to 1913 as leader writer and a member of the literary staff of The Sydney Morning Herald. Mason was a lifelong friend of Charles Leggo2,  and it was undoubtedly at Leggo's  suggestion that Arthur Mason gave the opening recital.  In 1924 another recital was given by Dr Tom Haig who was visiting Sydney as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Haig became organist at St Andrew's Cathedral in 1927.3

After five years apprenticeship with Charles Richardson, Charles Leggo became   manager of Finchams' newly-established Sydney branch in 1904. He stayed with the Finchams until 1911 when he joined the Griffins (father and two sons) to establish Griffin and Leggo. As Rushworth points out Leggo was the principal contributor at least in expertise to the Griffin and Leggo partnership.4  

Leggo's abilities as an organ builder, his integrity, and seven years experience with George Fincham & Son were all factors that would seem to have made the Griffin and Leggo business as successful as it was. Charles Leggo parted company with the  Griffins after six years and went on to run his own successful business until his retirement in 1949.

The Beecroft organ reflects the characteristics which Leggo incorporated in his smaller organs.  The original specification was as follows: 5  

Great
Open Diapason
Tibia Minor
Gemshorn
Harmonic Flute
spare slide

Swell
Clarabella
Viol d'Orchestre
Voix Celeste (Tenor C)
Geigen Principal
Closed Horn
spare slide
spare slide

Pedal
Sub Bass 
spare slide

Couplers
Swell to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Swell Octave

8
8
8
4
8


8
8
8
4
8
16
8


16
8






 

Compass, 61/32
mechanical action to manuals (except for the lowest Open Diapason pipes)
pneumatic action to pedals 
two combination pedals to Great, two to Swell
balanced swell pedal
tremulant

The swell  box  was the first in NSW  to be constructed from a composition known as  'Mack', greatly increasing the flexibility of the swell organ. The metal pipes were manufactured and voiced by the eminent London specialists, Alfred Palmer and Sons.

The only organist in those early days whom we know of was Cyril Byles, who came to Australia in 1913 as Chief Signals Engineer with NSW Government Railways. When he admitted to being a Unitarian, he was sacked from his organ post.

After sixty years St John's Parish Church was finally extended to its planned size in 1968 and the unfinished organ, as a result, became a little less than adequate for the church. This inadequacy  began to be remedied in 1990 with the purchase of a rank of 8' pipes from the Richardson organ of 1898 out of the demolished Presbyterian Church of St Enoch in Newtown (probably the Gamba). 6 Roger Pogson & Co. installed these pipes in 1996 (never let it be said that we rushed things in Beecroft !). Peter Pogson had taken over the tuning about 1980 from ST Noad & Son and cleaned the organ in 1982. Mercifully St. John's organ was still in its original state when Pogson took it over.

In the twelve years that followed Pogson went on to install a Fifteenth 2' on the Swell and a Principal 4' on the Great from old Fincham organs and built what is, in fact, a fine 8' Octav to add to the Pedal although it is named Bass Flute. And so by 2008. we were able to dedicate the completed  organ, an instrument of which we are justly proud. The full specification is now as follows:

 

Great
Open Diapason
Tibia Minor
Gemshorn
Harmonic Flute
Principal

Swell
Violin Diapason
Clarabella
Viol d'orchestre
Voix Celeste
Geigen Principal
Fifteenth
Closed Horn
Tremulant

Pedal
Sub Bass
Bass Flute

Couplers
Swell to Great
Swell Octave
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal

8
8
8
4
4


8
8
8
8
4
2
8



16
8











[new rank added to a spare slide c. 2003 by Pogson]


[added to a spare slide 1991-2*]




[new rank added to a spare slide c. 2003 by Pogson]





[new rank added to a spare slide 2008 by Pogson]







Compass 61/32

Mechanical action

* Rank from St Enoch's Presbyterian Church, Newtown. The organ was broken up in 1965 and the church demolished. The organ was by Charles Richardson 1898.


 

Appropriately, the Sydney City Organist, Robert Ampt,  gave  a Centenary Recital at 3 pm on 17 February to a church packed to capacity when the program was:
Böellmann  -  Suite Gothique            
J.S. Bach - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Two Funeral Pieces: Sonatina (Cantata 106),  When Thou art Near (Anna Magdalena Book), Sleepers, Wake! Prelude and Fugue in G Major (BWV 541)
Robert Ampt -  Trumpet Tune         
Saint Saëns -  The Swan 
Dubois - Toccata in G 

Thirteen women and seven men of the St. John's Singers sang Stanford's Te Deum and Jubilate in B flat very beautifully. Accompanist Peter Kneeshaw drew some superb pianissimo effects from the organ.

We are grateful that the organ has remained in its original form and did not suffer the 'updates' and modifications that prevailed in the 1950s and 60s. It is now maintained by Darrell Pitchford. All it needs now is a silent internal blower which we are working for.

Ian McLeod has been St John's, Beecroft organist since 2000. Other organists who have served since 1950, not necessarily with an official appointment, include Arthur Willetts, Miss Claydon Dick Watts (1953), Miss Camelia Laybutt, Miss Annette McDonald, Dr Wilbur Hughes (1960-1961),  Dr John Gill,  Margaret Bigg (Mrs Margaret Orchard), Lindsay Johnstone (1965-68), Philip Nicholson, Shirley Crawford, Ruth Nannelli,  Helen Miller and John Fry. 


1 Rushworth, GD, Historic Organs of New South Wales, p. 161.

2 Ibid., p. 396.

3 Sydney Morning Herald, 16.7.1924, p. 10.

4 Rushworth, GD., op.cit., p.160

5 St John's Chruch, Beecroft, Dedication of new Organ, 31.1.1913

6 See Rushworth, op.cit. for a full description of this instrument.

 


Photos: MQ (August 2007)