Benedictine Monastery Chapel

Arcadia Road, Arcadia

Atterton Organ Builder, Leighton Buzzard, UK 1893 (2/10 mechanical)

Photos: Trevor Bunning (October 2018)

From SOJ Summer 2003-4:

On entering the modern chapel "in the round", one immediately notices a very elaborate organ case against a wall. This case must be the most intricately carved organ case in Australia. Its entire surface is literally covered and bears very close inspection. Its genereal appearance is quite Italianate with a simple central thirteen-pipe flat peaking towards the middle and flanked by four three-pipe flats, two either side. Green painted wooden pipes form the side of the case from impost level. A transom rail with finials surrounds all three sides. The bench which appears to be joined has a finely carved panel to the rear, itself bearing two carved animal faces mouths open and showing menacing teeth. A similar animal face motif is continued onto the lid where it acts as a handle to lift the key music desk with an enigmatic monogram. (This perhaps might indciate the name of the original owner. It is thought the previous home of this organ was a Masonic Temple in Perth). The Melbourne piano tuner, Paul Smith heard of its sale and drove to Perth, dismantled it and brought it back to Melbourne in 1985 where it was stored for some time in Steve Laurie's organ factory. Upon restoration it was installed in the present Chapel in Arcadia.

Paul Smith writes (personal email 19/1/06):

Before 1985, Bill Smith of the Society of Organists Victoria, of which I had become a member, told me about this organ, part of a deceased estate. The organ had come from the Perth Masonic Lodge. Apparently it was installed there in 1967. I was not able to uncover any more information and also tried through the head office of the Masonic Lodge here in Melbourne. No more information was available.

I visited the Bedfordshire County Office when I was in England in February 1990 but there was not much information there except for the existence of a couple of other Atterton organs.

After the Lodge finished with it, the organ was installed in a private residence in a modified back verandah. This location’s owner was Mr Gribble. In January 1985 I drove to Perth with a friend from Sydney where I bought the organ, dismantled it, packed it into a trailer and drove back to Melbourne. Albert Park Baptist Church was to have the organ, but then declined. The minister was not a great lover of such things, but a suggested agreement was drawn up. The organ’s complete set of pieces was trucked to Steve Laurie’s workshop. He worked on it, fitting a new blower and doing some repairs. I have a letter from him dated July 1985. The organ never went into that church. Steve Laurie continued to do small amounts of work on the organ and in May 1990 I instructed Steve Laurie to find a buyer for the organ. Eventually the Arcadia Monastery bought it and Steve paid me for it in August 1995.

From the Sydney Organ Journal (Winter 2012), Peter Jewkes writes:

The Monastery has for some years been home to an unusual instrument by Atterton of Leighton Buzzard in 1893, installed by Steve Laurie 1995, after other residencies as diverse as in private homes and in a Masonic Temple in Perth. This quaint, compact and lavishly decorated instrument was recently temporarily dismantled and stored elsewhere in the Monastery while the Chapel was renovated. Re-erection a few weeks later revealed a happy improvement in the acoustics which had hitherto been somewhat carpet-dampened.

Atterton 1893 (2/10 mechanical)

The specification is:

Open Diap.
Stopt Diap.TC
Stopt Diap. Bass
Dulciana TC

Lieb Gedeckt
Voix Celeste
Principal TC


Great to Swell (sic)
Swell Octave
Pedal to Great (sic)
Pedal to Swell (sic)




Compass 58/30
Mechanical action

The stop label for the Principal 2' is slightly different in appearance from the other labels implying it may have been changed. As it is only tenor C, it may have been a 4' rank transposed.

© PdL 2006

2 photos above: Trevor Bunning (October 2018)