habitat uniting church history

The Augustine Centre combined with St David’s Uniting Church in Canterbury in 2009 to form Habitat Uniting Church. Kew Uniting Church joined Habitat in 2013.

history of the augustine centre, also known as the SWell (spirituality and wellbeing) centre

The Augustine Centre combined with St David’s Uniting Church in Canterbury in 2009 to form Habitat Uniting Church.

For 35 years, Augustine has sought to ‘inspire people, ideas and spirit’. From 1971 to 2001, this was achieved through personal growth workshops, for which Augustine gained a significant reputation throughout Melbourne and Australia.

As interest in those types of courses waned in the 1990’s, Augustine diversified into the areas of spirituality and holistic education while continuing to provide counselling to individuals.

As well as renting rooms to many interesting groups for workshops, training sessions, meditation, yoga, art exhibitions and concerts, we have formed partnerships with various groups who have set up offices in the building.

the augustine / SWell centre buildings

The Augustine / SWell Centre is a suite of buildings, managed by the Habitat Uniting Church. The Augustine Centre has a fascinating history covering more than 150 years.

The SWell Centre, formerly Augustine Centre in Hawthorn

The Hawthorn-red brick hall was originally built in 1889 as a Sunday School Hall for the Congregational church that fronted 500 Burwood Road. That church was built in 1881 and is now owned by Qanstruct, who use it as an administrative and architectural office.

When the church was sold, some of the money was used to renovate the hall and build the new suite of rooms at the rear of the block. The spacious hall area can now double as a gallery, a concert hall, a study/workshop room or a meditation centre. People are invited to use this space during the week as a quiet refuge to sit, restore, reflex, listen to music or read.

history of the canterbury site

The original Methodist church in this area was situated on the corner of Sackville St and Balmoral Ave Kew where services of worship were first held in Dec 1889. Although the population of the area increased during the next 20 years the congregation did not, so a decision was made to move the wooden building, measuring 40’x21’, to a more suitable site.

Two blocks of land were purchased on the corner of Burke and Mont Albert Roads and the church was literally wheeled to its new site! 

Services recommenced here on March 3 1908. The church was enlarged 3 years later and continued in use as a Sunday school when the present church building was opened for worship in 1926 along with the residence next door for the minister in 1927.

In 1957 the old timber building was demolished and a new Sunday School/hall complex built to accommodate the large numbers of children and cater for the recreational needs particularly of the young people of the church in what was a golden period for the churches - the 50s and 60s.

The Church at St. Davids Centre in Canterbury

Union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches was realised in 1977 and this church, known then as Burke Road Balwyn, became a Uniting Church. Its name was changed during the 80s to St. Davids Uniting Church Canterbury.

Over the next 20 years declining membership numbers mirrored the decline in church attendance across the board, until around 2000 when the Presbytery (the regional administrative unit) initiated a number of conversations between Uniting Church congregations of which there were an embarrassing number in the Boroondara area.

An awareness grew of much under utilised property and the need to rationalise and bring upgraded remaining buildings into community use. As a result St.Davids Canterbury and Augustine Hawthorn Uniting churches agreed to work together with one minister in 2008.

Under a Strategic Plan developed in 2012 the buildings at both sites will be upgraded and become a place of interaction with the community in line with the vision of Habitat as a centre for spirituality – a place where the needs of the spirit can be explored and nourished.

history of the kew uniting church, past and present

2013 marked the 160th anniversary of the formation of the Congregational church in Kew. The Methodist Mission followed in 1857, to become Primitive Methodist and finally Wesleyan Church in 1881 and the Presbyterians began in 1874. Early Kew was bush sparsely populated with residents living in mansions, houses and tents.

Kew Uniting Church

Kew Uniting Church

At the moment little is known about the Congregational church’s activity, but from information relating to the 20th century, the Methodists and Presbyterians put emphasis on education for all ages, mission and sport. The education facility was helped by having a strong preaching tradition with teachers in the congregations at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Students from Otira Methodist Home Mission training centre and Esperanda Deaconess College were required to attend Sunday services at the Highbury Grove church.  The music has been classical, from the Renaissance to the 21st century literature, with a desire to integrate with the readings and themes of the services.

Pastoral care and mission have been important.  Volunteer groups have worked hard to raise money and provide time and skill for local and overseas missions, charities, nursing homes and schools.

Twenty years ago the mission interest culminated in the Boroondara Community Outreach ministry being established. This ministry, true to its name, visited people in rooming houses etc., particularly those with a mental illness. Initially the Kew congregation fully funded that ministry.  The outreach ministry continues today.

The Kew congregation was very much an extended, loving and caring family, which has embraced the Korean and Outreach congregations and is looking forward to the future in the joining with Habitat Uniting Church.

pipe organ

The Augustine Centre houses an historic organ originally built by George Fincham. It was first used in 1888 in the Congregational Church in Burwood Road now used as commercial offices.

Augustine Centre Pipe Organ with Double Facade

history of the augustine pipe organ 1888-1974

written by Roland Cropley

The Augustine organ was built by “grandfather” George Fincham, and began its service 25/2/1888 as a two manual tubular pneumatic, (8,7,1). A Vox Humana was added as a clamp on the Swell together with a tremulant in 1898, and a 5 stop Choir manual 8,8,8,8,-, in its own box was added 18/2/1902, with a latch down shutter pedal like the Swell. A Bourdon 16 was then also added to the pedal, which must have been a very useful addition to the large Open Diapason 16.[i] The organ remained as a three manual 8,8,4,2 till 1972 when David Fincham converted the choir organ to 8,4,2,1?,8, by adding a Flute 4’, transposing the Choir Celeste and Gamba to make the 2 and 1?, thus finally utilizing the spare slide.

specifications of the organ from 1902-1971
Open Diapason 8 Bourdon 16 Harmonic Flute 8 Ope Diap. 16
Clarabel 8 Open Diap. 8 Gamba 8 Bourdon 16
Dulciana 8 Gedact 8 Celeste 8

Principal 4 Keraulophone 8 Clarionet 8

Waid Flute 4 Gemshorn 4 spare slide -

Fifteenth 2 Piccolo 2

Mixture 15,17,19 2 Oboe 8

Trumpet 8 Vox Humana 8 SW-CH
SW-GT Super

Latch down swell pedals

organ move to church hall 1974-75

Once the had church decided to move all activities to the large Sunday School Hall and the new church tenant had built a floor to ceiling stage between the organ and the nave, it was unlikely to ever play there again. The tenant requested that the pneumatic console be moved to make way for theatre activities, and once separated from its tubes who would want to try to reconnect it?

I did not want to lose such a beautiful instrument, and persuaded my fellow deacons after a meeting inside the organ, that we should move it. They were rather dubious, but we could not afford to pay an organ builder. My father was an electrical engineer, and I had been a computer technician with IBM where much of my work was with electro mechanical equipment. I also had carpentry skills and had recently been making and selling children’s play equipment to subsidise my time at university whilst studying for a B.Mus.Ed. Ken Falconer helped me disassemble some things like the heavy swell box panels, and after 3 weeks it was spread around the church. Several people assisted move the components into our hall, but the console; full of compo tubing was unbelievably heavy.

Many hours of planning preceded the re-assembly, and a number of changes from the original scheme occurred. Two of the building frame posts were infested with borer and were replaced, and George Stevens built and connected two wind regulators and other trunking. (Later, in 1985, he added a Mixture 22.26.29 to the swell, which was extremely useful, displacing the Vox Humana.) I added a small chest to the pedal organ with the 8’ Harmonic Flute and a thirty note Oboe 16’ made from 12 bass and six top pipes (swapped by George Stevens for the original Swell Bourdon) and the 8’ octave of the Swell Oboe (which was transposed to an Oboe 4’)

It took me six months to get the Positive playing using 11mm plastic tubing for the pneumatic action, and the other divisions soon followed. Most of the above activities were described in the Victorian Organ Journal of October 1977.

Roland Cropley in the pipe organ
Roland Cropley between the Positive and Choir Organs through the Glass Shutters

electro-pneumatic action 1986-7

But by 1987 the original pneumatic console had become too unreliable and it was not worth trying to repair its compo tubed couplers. No other pneumatic console was available so I bought the redundant duplicate 1965 console ex St Francis Lonsdale St. for $6000 from David Fincham. I repaired all the chests and converted the under actions with Kimber-Allen lever magnets air-freighted from England costing $1800. My 1975 plastic tubes had operated reliably for twelve years, and I gave them to “The Reverse Garbage Truck”.

Electric action produced the following benefits:

  • Four adjustable pistons to each keyboard and twenty one couplers etc.
  • An enlarged Pedal Organ through electric extension,
  • A "Bombarde" division playable from the Great and the Positive. (4-7 below),
  • Dulciana and Trumpet 8’ moved off the Great to the Bombarde chest,
  • Twelfth & Seventeenth on the Great chest,
  • 16' Pedal or manual reed,
  • Soft accompaniments from the Great or Positive keyboards,
  • The extended pedal Bourdon 16 was also playable from the Great.

In late 1986 I had asked Michel Alcouffe to fix a few pipes with speech problems. He convinced me that by resetting the quality and power of the Diapason, and then matching all the other ranks to it, the organ would be greatly enhanced. There were many dramas along the way, which could become a separate article, but eventually the whole organ was revoiced.

ruckpositive 1987-8

During January 1988 the old Fincham five slide Choir Organ chest was lowered from its roost on the wall where it was not only a frightening challenge to tune, but its volume was uneven to the player, with the CC# end immediately behind the organist sounding louder than those at the far end. I had worked on a larger second hand chest with six sliders (ex Curzon Street Uniting Church in North Melbourne) from September to December 1987 in Michel Alcouffe's factory, preparing for an enlarged Positive Division of nine stops. Three slides were added as a 'clamp'. The newer chest was beautifully located as a 'Ruckpositive' behind the organ bench where it looked very attractive, particularly since its black painted pipes had been stripped and varnished to match the others. Its sound was now balanced, and easily tuned. It had a full Cornet (8, 4, 2 ?, 2, 1 3/5,) a Larigot 1 ?, Sifflet 1, and Cymbale II, plus the old Swell Vox Humana 8 revoiced as a Regal, to help it blend with the great organ and give more choice of solo colour. The two wooden flutes gave a delightfully intriguing playfulness, and the whole division produced an exquisite, direct sound.

Michel created this very beautiful section from quite diverse sources. The bulk of the Larigot and Nazard came from 84 wide scale fluty pipes replaced in the Oxley Road U.C.A. Swell Mixture. I bought them for $100. Finchams provided the remainder for $300. The Tierce was the 2nd rank of the Great Mixture (15.17.19 now replaced & reworked as 19.22.26). The Gedact and Piccolo were originally in the Swell, and the 4' Flute was added in 1971 by David Fincham. The Cymbale II and Sifflet 1’ stop were made in October 1991 by Michel from spotted metal I bought from Australian Pipe Organs. These two add a brilliant top to the chorus and a sparkle to the Gedact. The Positive Organ became an extremely useful division with exquisite tonal colours having gone through a quantum leap in versatility. It makes an excellent foil for the brilliant power of the Great Organ.

bombarde 1987

For the first time the four divisions of the organ were roughly equal in power and variety, but better still, there was a five rank floating division, which I thought of initially as part of the Great. I think its chest came from the Andrewarthur organ in Warnambool Congregational Church which had been added to the pedal organ in 1975. It now contained the Great Dulciana and Trumpet, a Gamba 8, and the 30 note Oboe 16.’ I called it the Bombarde division because of the two reeds and its location beside the Great. The organ by then was a very impressive instrument, and performed very reliably for the next 15 years as a 3 manual


The Great Organ was revoiced in 1987 by Michel Alcouffe with most impressive results. It now makes a strong clean sound with a slight chiff and has considerable versatility. The “clanging” Mixture 15.17.19 became a brilliant sparkle for the whole chorus as a 15.19.22 with the 22nd previously supplied by David Fincham. In 1988 the Dulciana and “honking” Trumpet were also revoiced. The latter took enormous time, as half of the resonators had to be lengthened by up to a sixth, and the tongues replaced. No wonder it had sounded so harsh. Previous organists had recalled it with horror! I was delighted by its new clarity and brilliance. The short length problem occurred when the whole organ was lowered a semitone to A = 440 probably in 1902. I had found the discarded top F pipe from the Pedal Open 16’ inside the organ in 1974, and a new monster CCC that sat on a separate little box beside the main pedal chest.

In 1989 Michel’s factory was robbed of most of his wood working machinery and he became very depressed. I rescued his voicing machine from his abandoned factory in Mitcham after paying the long overdue rent. He worked in my garage revoicing the 560 pipes of the Swell Organ late in 1989, making a great improvement in their sound which had been muffled and distant with pipes uneven in power and quality. A few didn't speak at all. The two reeds had their caps removed, which gave them a distinctly French character. Michel donated two weeks work to create the beautiful Chimney Flute out of a nondescript set of cut down Harmonic Flute pipes from the old Choir Organ, and I worked for scores of hours preparing the wooden bass pipes and fitting tuning slides to many of the metal ranks out of his discarded beer cans. They now speak promptly with clear (and sober) character.

In January 1990 the Pedal Organ, was completed. It’s Contra Oboe 16' took months of work and adds a vibrant bite to the bass. The wind pressure of the Open Diapason 16' was reduced to about 100mm, and the cut-up lowered to the original 1888 1/3 the mouth width. The Bourdon's cut-up was also carefully lowered, and it is marginally softer and much more even. Its acoustic 32' now works perfectly. (Two rattling windows were silenced to complete the job). Even the console has been restored, with more reliable tabs and couplers, and a re-felting job to the pedal board to stop it clattering. The improvement that Michel made to the sound of the organ was substantial, and added to the benefits produced by the 1985-86 electrification. The organ then performed reliably for the next 15 years.

building alterations 2005-6

The organ complicated these plans, because its building frame was resting on the main floor, but its case and the Bombarde were built on the stage. The positive and console were on an elevated steel platform, and most of it had to be removed before the builders could start. Only the building frame, Great chest and the complete Swell could remain together with the Pedal Bourdon. The wooden pipes of the pedal Open 16’ would also be stored, but the biggest problem was where to put the twelve pipes of the Open Metal 16’ I had bought from Ian Wakeley ex the façade pipes of St Francis Lonsdale Street. The whole process was a Clayton’s move, because the hall had to be completely gutted and everything removed first, but as we weren’t going anywhere, everything the church used had to be stored somewhere.

My first reaction to these plans in 2003 was that we should get a professional organ builder to do it. My 1975 obsession with moving it into the hall had been very costly to my first marriage; the 1987 electrification and re-voicing had been another huge effort, and I was quite happy with the organ the way it was. I liked its wonderful sounds, appearance, versatility, and reliability. But there were some benefits in a partial rebuild.

  1. It was impossible to tune some Trumpet pipes without removing others,
  2. The pedal Dulciana and Oboe 16’ were incomplete,
  3. Some trunking needed repair,
  4. The Bombarde chest had several runs and needed flooding with glue,
  5. It was too loud for a small congregation,
  6. The Positive and Choir/Bombarde would benefit from a swell box.
  7. Some people thought my original layout a visual hotchpotch.

It soon became obvious that we didn’t have the funds to pay some one else to move it. I was a member of the building committee and heard that initial costing by the quantity surveyor of the architect’s plans was $1.5m. The available funds of about $880,000 necessitated substantial pruning of costs, and it was touch and go whether the project could proceed. Without it, the congregation would not be financially viable, and it was obvious that if I wanted an organ, I would have to maintain it. The quantity surveyor had guessed the organ rebuild would cost $60,000 and I quoted $5000 for materials and $12,000 for labour. Stewart Organs quoted about $45,000 and Australian Pipe Organs already had two years of work, and was not interested. Not surprisingly, my bid won, but with out the labour component. I eventually got petrol costs.

I was about to retire from Melbourne High School where I had been Assistant Director of Music, and knew the project would be a continuing rewarding challenge. I incorrectly guessed it would take about three months, and started planning. A significant consideration was sharing the minding of our son who was at kindergarten three half days a week. So although after retiring every day was like Saturday, I agreed with my wife to only work on the organ in half day segments, which of course immediately doubled the time scale.

organ dismantled october 2005

The church continued to use the hall whilst the builders started on the new south building. Then suddenly one Wednesday, I was told that the organ was to be removed by next Monday, six days later. I had expected a month.

Because the organ case was resting on a 3’ stage it had to be removed before the builders could work. I started on Friday with assistance from about 10 people. The pipes were removed and several members of the congregation wrapped them in newspaper or put them in pipe crates I had spent a week making. Another group moved them and the other components to a small wooden shed outside the back door. The removal of the Bombarde chest required the builders’ assistance. The foreman alone carried one end into possum shed. He had impressive strength. And then we were excluded from the building site. The console sat forlornly in the middle of the hall under a sheet surrounded by builders mess with dust everywhere. The builders then cut doorways in numerous walls including a corridor through seven brick walls.

The six months of hall transformation was a pain for everyone. The church worship moved into a large front room for 4 months, along with the Positive chest, part of the façade, and seven of the twelve Open Metal pipes. After much soul searching the remaining five 6 metre long pipes were stored outside on the roofs of the two site offices we had hired as temporary accommodation for our tenant therapists. Apart from a couple of possum nests and a bit of weathering they survived the next few months quite well.


The architect’s Living Colour Studios web site provides details, photos, and drawings of the transition. It is worth a look.

New structures were erected at both ends of the hall after footings and concrete were poured through holes in the floor. The electrical cabling under the floor between three switchboards was amazing. How had we managed for so long on only one? There was no floor under part of the old stage and the two north posts from the organ building frame had rested on thick timber across the beams. The builder jacked up the frame, removed the timber and added a yellow tongue floor. The inter-twining of builder and organ activities I found very frustrating. I was asked at short notice again to remove the pedal diapason for painting the wall behind it. Once again I was in conflict with the foreman through misunderstandings about my access when they were replaced. I was required to sign a Vicsafe declaration about ladders, scaffolding and assistance, for health and safety legalities, before I could work on the site. Relationships with the builders became a bit easier once the floor was complete, and the architect had negotiated for me to work in the new organ gallery. But first some pedal pipes had to be positioned before a wall was built to support the top of the organ case. Ironically the only place the St Francis façade Open Metal 16 pipes could go without being visually incongruous was out of sight beside the Great chest. I wished I had made a video of my friends getting them down from the shed roof and carrying them into the hall. The Open Wood CCC was also put in place before it was too late. A timber frame and plaster wall for a new corridor was then built around the back organ support posts and another three metre high wall erected near the front posts effectively blocking the pipes in place. During the builders Christmas break I re-erected the case on top of this wall with the aid of the plasterers mobile scaffold. The exact location of the Great façade was dictated by its new side timbers, so all the conveyance tubes from the Great chest to the basses in the case had to be redone.

One of the builders had bashed a hole in the end of the main wind trunk from the blower on a platform in the old exit corridor. I had planned to fill it after Christmas but was horrified to find that by then it was inaccessible behind a plaster wall. I was very relieved to hear later that he had glued a piece of plaster over the hole. If anything requires the blower or pedal regulator to be removed some plaster will have to be replaced also. “So be it” was the architect’s comment.

The tops of the Open Wood pipes had been clearly visible behind the main organ in their old location, but had been off centre to avoid now redundant power conduits. The huge CCC pipe previously to the left of the rest of the rank had further skewed the visual misalignment. It was put on the floor inside the case and the end pipes removed the sight line of the now red painted central arch.

After Christmas 2006 a manual mobile fork lift was hired to raise the Positive and Bombarde chests on to the new 3 metre high north platform. Support frames for each chest were built 400mm high for access to the pallet motor screws on the bottom of the chests. This raised the Positive much higher than the Great, which would have made it look very strange if it had been left visible. It was a pity, because I had liked the old appearance of 500 pipes in neat rows. However hiding them behind a new façade allowed the building of a 3 metre square Choir Box with the desirable outcome of some control of volume, particularly of the Trumpet. Once again St Francis was the source of materials; glass shutters via Wakeley Organs. I bought fifteen 8’ bass pipes from Stewart Organs and spent 3 months building a duplicate case for the Great in front of the Positive chest. The pipes were lengthened with gutter down-pipes and pop rivets to match the original Dulciana and Diapason basses, and painted the powder blue of the original colour scheme. (Several months later, only one person has commented that there are only seven instead of nine pipes in the centre flat, and no-one has spotted the pipe extensions.) Although silent at present they may eventually replace the 8’ Diapason pedal stop. We plan to stencil the original patterns on to the pipes when I take them down to complete the tower supports.

The space behind the new north façade became my “factory” storing tools, timber, and hardware, and then the main rebuilding activities could commence. By then the builders tolerated my presence and we were mutually helpful. The first task was to create a stairway in a very limited space. It took three weeks of my half days to solve that puzzle. The old organ loft stairs just fitted diagonally along the wall inside the door to the corridor. Jeff Cooper, the new foreman suggested making a little platform, and a new set of four steep steps continued up to the main passage-board. A couple of vertical handrails and a step to push off backwards onto the new floor completed the access, but it needed care as you could get a back massage from the new plaster ceiling at each transit. It was a pity I didn’t work out before the builders started that a small change to the ceiling would have made a big difference to the ease of its use. The electricians had unexpectedly replaced the 240 volt blower contactor with a 405 volt one and the switch was in the store room which was my choice at the time as the console was still unconnected in the middle of the hall. The blower ran backwards at first, and wouldn’t turn off, requiring a trip to the main switchboard for the next two months. Eventually that was fixed, but I could not persuade them to create one switch that operated the two power supplies and the blower, so there are now two switches beside the console to turn the organ on and off.

The swell shutter mechanical links were also created from scratch, controlled from a rotating pipe at the top of the Swell box with a hinged weight on a lever to balance them. Getting the best counterbalance weight and throw took some experimenting. Then the Great pipes were re-installed after eight months in storage. It was very nice to have two manuals playing again, and now that the administration and counseling rooms were no longer accessible from the main hall space, it became possible for the first time in thirty years to practice the organ without disrupting some other activity.

pedal extension switch unit

The next priority was to make useful the new ecclesiastical store room under the Swell and Great organs. It contained a pedal chest against the back wall, the feet of the twelve St Francis Open metal 16’ (Dulciana bass), and a small 48 volt telephone exchange. I had had a difficult time planning a location for this 1987 crossbar switch unit because it had four 80 strand cables only 2 metres long and hundreds of permanent soldered connections to the console outputs. As it wouldn’t fit inside the console, and I didn’t want to resolder the connections, it had to be close by. Finally I worked out that by swinging the store room door outwards from the right side, it cleared the back of the console and it was just possible to run the cables along the floor and up to the switch unit hinged inside to the left door jam, with a 250mm gap under the door. The connections to the unit were the most vulnerable part of the move, because the outputs were soldered to small electronic bread boards with hundreds of diodes behind them. This arrangement and the connections to the relays had provided 17 years of compact reliable switching for the pedal extensions and the Bombarde couplers, but in 1987 when I spent three months soldering them up I hadn’t anticipated needing to relocate them. Fortunately only a few wires broke off in the move, because the breaks were very difficult to locate and re-solder.

dulciana 16 / open metal

The next challenge was to wind the twelve Open Metal 16’ pipes standing in the store room. The bottom five sound a bit soft, despite trying two direct magnet pallets to a pipe, so I’ll have to resolve that. The other seven matched in both power and tone quite well with the eleven Dulciana 8’ basses in the case above. Unfortunately the top seven that I had had made by Roger Jones are at present a little under-powered. They are sitting on the Great chest where the bottom of the Tierce would be, but winded from the chest below via seven tubes. His pipes perfectly matched the scale I gave him of the rest of the stop in the choir box, but I should have given him the scale of the façade basses. One more task to revisit.

bombarde / choir and positive organs

The five stop chromatic Bombarde chest was flooded with glue in January. I removed the upper boards and slides, and plugged all the pipe holes with newspaper and insulation unused by the builders, turned it over and removed the glued canvass access, then poured hot animal glue into each bar. My brilliant idea of plugging with insulation seemed to fill the holes easily, but the glue dribbled through it onto the floor! It was a wonderfully messy business. I didn’t find out for some months that all that effort was wasted. The runs must have been on the pallet side of the bars which I hadn’t removed. So I had to re-bore the bleed holes and put back my “temporary” blocking magnets to reduce the leaks to an acceptable level. What a pity! I don’t fancy the idea of removing all the pipes and totally dismantling the chest in such a limited space, but getting the chest out to repair it would require removing the positive organ and the façade pipes.

The biggest physical challenge was fitting the 150mm plastic air duct from the main blower trunk around various corners to wind the two regulators at 65 and 90mm. It needed a taller skinnier person than me to squeeze past the main bellows and the back wall, and it would have been easier with an assistant to measure where the tube needed cutting and make its supports.

Returning the 828 pipes was easy except for the first six pipes of the Oboe 16 which had to be relocated on the floor to fit under the Choir box roof. It was a particular joy to find that my months of soldering work converting the Vox Humana from eighth to half length resonators had paid off handsomely. It stays in tune much better, blends effectively with the positive chorus, and is a wonderful solo stop, with or without the tremulant. It has a slightly fuller tone than the Swell Clarinet. Both sides of Positive tremulant pneumatic motor were split which explained its previous unreliability. After re-leathering, the effect was splendid, though the didgeridoo effect on the Cromorne CC and the marvelous theatre organ sound probably won’t get much use in serious music.

The mechanical links from the console expression pedals to the glass shutters had eighteen metres of timber and metal shafts. They were too heavy as they went through six 90? turns. Replacing the three longest mechanical links with 2mm multi strand steel wire fixed it. There was just enough room under the door behind the console to run the links, and after about three weeks of work, the effect was reasonably acceptable. Rubber sealing strips glued to the glass shutters improved their effectiveness.

infinitely patient tuning assistant

Because tuning is a time consuming process, and is an imposition to get someone to hold keys, I developed two devices to make it possible for one person to do both tasks. The first was a simple wooden holder for a chest connector socket, with several small nails soldered to wires connected to the 15 volt supply. It is relatively easy to select stops and pitches and do the tuning. Once a rank is in tune, the remainder can be tuned to it, using the second device. It is based on a rotary 25 position 5 pole uniselector that is stepped with a remote push-button. The chest connector sockets are plugged into it, and switches select which stops are activated. It can control two chests at once, and three additional switches choose the C or C# side, or the top six notes.

pedal extension chests

The pedal top notes are on two unit chests, one screwed to the outside of the Swell box, and the other in the middle of the gallery behind the “blue sanctuary”. Running its 100mm wind trunk from the main reservoir was reasonably simple compared with fitting the 150mm trunk to the choir. A branch tube went down to the lone CCC Diapason. Despite being behind a wall, I was delighted with its volume, which matched the rest of the rank perfectly. Eight of the pedal Open Wood pipes were relocated to un-clutter the sight lines of the central wall red arch shape. Providing them with big enough conveyances was a challenge and still one of them is not adequately winded, but acceptable. That is another task for the long fix-it-later list.

console layout

It took two weeks in May 2007 to reorganize the stop tabs and install a Choir to Swell coupler. The Choir tabs are now between the Swell and the Positive tabs with the 16’ Oboe and 8’ Trumpet now playable as part of the Swell chorus. I had to work out a new way to control the Crescendo device as the original pedal location is now connected to the choir box shutters. A 200mm wooden disk projecting through the console panels saved adding another pedal, and functions like a rollerschweller.


It has taken 18 months working mainly half days to get all the components functioning again. There is still some work to do on the liturgical store room, and revoicing some of the new pipe work. When I installed the organ in 1975 I did not have to consult a builder, electrician, or an architect. This time I did, and all of them probably found my requests mysterious and inconvenient. Somehow we survived the challenges reasonably amicably, and I am much wiser about their processes now than before. Despite small reductions in the size of the hall and a wall to wall red carpet, the covering of the twelve recessed doorways seems to have increased the organ reverberation slightly. It sounds and looks great, and we are now considering the cost and practicalities of gilding and stenciling the north façade pipes.


Stops Ranks Pipes
Great Organ 9 11 550
Positive Organ 9 10 560
Choir/Bombarde Organ 5 5 268
Swell Organ 8 10 560
Pedal Organ 11 4 129
North Facade 8' basses unused - 23
TOTAL 42 40 2090

pipe organ specifications 2007

56 note chests, electro-pneumatic action.

III Swell organ 90mm wg
1 Flute a Chaminee 8' Alcouffe 1985
2 Open Diapason 8'
3 Keraulophone 8'
4 Gemshorn 4'
5 Fifteenth 2' Fincham 1974
6 Mixture III 22.26.29 Stevens 1985
7 Clarinet 8' Choir 1902
8 Oboe (French) 4'


Swell 16' & 4'
II Great Organ 90mm wg
9 Bourdon 16' A (+2 pipes)
10 Claribel Flute 8'
11 Wald Flute 4'
12 Open Diapason 8'
13 Principal 4'
14 Twelfth 2 2/3'
15 Fifteenth 2'
16 Tierce 1 3/5' Ex Gt Mixture
17 Mixture III 19.22.26

Swell-Great 16' 8' 4'

Bombarde-Great 8' 4'

Positive-Great 16' 8' 4'
I Positive Organ 65mm wg
18 Cromorne 8' Vox H. lengthened
19 Gedact 8' Ex Swell
20 Flute 4' Fincham 1974
21 Nazard 2 2/3' Oxley Rd Mixture
22 Piccolo 2' Ex Swell
23 Tierce 1 3/5' Oxley Rd Mixture
24 Larigot 1 1/3' Fincham 1974
25 Sifflet 1' Alcouffe 1990
26 Cymbal II 1 1/3' Alcouffe 1990


Positive 16' & 4'

Swell-Positive 16' 8' 4'


Choir (Bombarde) (floating) 90mm wg
27 Contra Oboe 16'
28 Trumpet 8'
29 Gamba 8'
30 Dulciana 8' 45 pipes +11 of C
31 Celeste (Salicional) 8' Ten. C

Pedal 100mm wg pipes
32 Acoustic Bass 32' A
33 Bourdon 16' A 30
34 Flute 8' A 12
35 Flute 4' A 12
36 Open diapason 16' B 30
37 Principal 8' B 12
38 Quint 5 1/3' B
39 Choral Bass 4' B 12
40 Dulciana 16' C 30




Choir-Pedal 16' 8'

Balanced shutters for Swell and Choir/Positive

4 adjustable pistons each manual
8 toe pistons, 5 reversibles, cresc. etc.

1888 Built by George Fincham, II manuals, 16 stops, pneumatic action.

1902 III m. 22 stops.

1971 David Fincham remodeled Choir organ as

1974 Removed to church hall by Roland Cropley with pneumatic action.

1985 RC fitted KA lever magnet under action; 3 man.1965 Fincham console ex St Francis Lonsdale St.

1985 Ped. extension switching & Bombarde; 1988. Ruckpositive RC

1987-1990 French revoicing by Michel Alcouffe

2004 Gamba, Celeste, Dulciana 16’

2006 Choir/Bombarde & Positive divided to North of sanctuary, Cromorne I/2 length resonators RC

[i] p136 Colonial Organs and Organ Builders; E.N.Matthews, MUP 1969. [back]


Habitat Uniting Church Office
2 Minona Street, Hawthorn VIC
phone 9819 2844

St David's Centre
2 Mont Albert Rd (cnr Burke Rd)
Canterbury VIC

Habitat Spirituality Centre
SWell Centre (Ex Augustine)

2 Minona St, Hawthorn VIC

Kew Uniting Church
23 Highbury Grove