Hobart Town Hall

Macquarie Street, Hobart

B. 1870 J.W. Walker, London (job no. 905).
3m., 30 sp.st., 5c., tr.
Gt: 16.8.8.8.4.4.2-2/3.2.III.8.4. Sw: 16.8.8.4.2.II.V.8.8.
Ch: 8.8.8.4.2.8. Ped: 16.16.8.16.
Reb. & enl. 1929 Geo. Fincham & Sons.
Reb. & enl. 1966-67 J.W. Walker & Sons, Ruislip, Middlesex.
3m., 61 sp.st., 9c., el.pn.
Gt: 16.8.8.8.4.4.2-2/3.2.III.8.4. Sw: 8.8.8.8.4.4.2-2/3.2.2.IV.16.8.8.4.
Pos: 8.4.4.2-2/3.2.1-3/5.1-1/3.1. Ch: 16.8.8.8.4.4.2.8.8. 8.4.
Ped: 16.16.16.16.10-2/3.8.8.8.8.5-1/3.4.4.III.16.16.8.4.





Historical and Technical Documentation by John Maidment
© OHTA (last updated June 2011)





Hobart Town Hall : exterior
[photograph by Trevor Bunning (24 December 2008)]

This large building, in a florid Italian Classical style, was designed by Henry Hunter and built in 1864-66.1 It is of interest for its symmetrical form and meticulous level of detailing which includes the pediments to the windows of the piano nobile, and a projecting triple-arched portico. The main hall, with elaborate plaster details, is located immediately behind the façade at first floor level.



Hobart Town Hall : interior showing the J.W. Walker organ
and its stencilled facade pipes taken late 19th century
[photograph from Picture Australia]




Hobart Town Hall : interior showing the J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd organ
[photograph by Trevor Bunning (26 April 2011)]

The organ was ordered in March 1868 (job number 905) from J.W. Walker & Sons, London.2 It was built under the supervision of Richard Limpus, organist of St Michael's Church, Cornhill. The instrument was installed by Jesse Biggs and opened on 17 March 1870.3 With three manuals and 29 speaking stops, the tonal design was practically identical to the 1865 Walker instrument now in St Stephen's Church, Richmond, Melbourne, except for the addition of a Great Clarion, Choir Clarionet and Pedal Violoncello and Trombone, the latter initially prepared for.

Mr. Packer writes when ordering organ 25 March 1868:

– I cannot again too strongly impress upon you the necessity of avoiding anything screamy or noisy in tone. The Hall is a magnificent room for sound and a noisy Organ would be a perfect abomination in it.

The Soundboards – Tables – Upper Bds. Squares & Backfalls to be of the best seasoned mahogany or wainscot oak.

Composition Pedals & heavy machinery of the best wrought iron & hard wood – I trust particular attention will be paid to this as I have known so many instances in which the compost. Pedals are a nuisance instead of a help. Keys of best Ivory & Ebony – upper sets to project over the lower at least one inch to bring them nearer the performer.
Swell to be Venetian & the Box not less than 2 inches thick & lined. I should be almost disposed to have it a shade thicker if you approve.

The Pipes to be made of extra stout metal to withstand a long voyage & all (except the front ones) to be of the best spotted metal consisting of pure tin & lead only. Rollers for key and Pedal action to be made of wrought iron, with turned centres working in brass bearings bushed with leather for durability and silence.

The Case to be open (as per design submitted & approved), to be deal stained & varnished) with speaking pipes in front decorated. The whole manufacture of the best seasoned materials & in the first style of workmanship. The packing in proper stout cases (delicate parts in tine lines cases).4

An extended account of the instrument was published in March 1870:

The colony – the smallest of the Australian colonies – that some years ago, through a lack of musical talent, had to sell, at a sacrifice, all the instruments belonging to its Choral Society – can now pride itself upon being the possessor of the best organ, with one exception, in the Southern Hemisphere. This great change has been brought about by the perfecting of that native musical talent that was then in a state of positive roughness, and the importation of new blood into our harmonic community ; so that not only is Tasmania now possessed of an organ superior to any in the possession of neighbouring colonies – except New South Wales – but also of a Philharmonic Society that will bear favourable comparison with any other similar society to be found on this side of the equator.

The organ, which now graces the large room of the Town Hall, was ordered some two years ago; and the manufacture of it was entrusted to Mr. J. W. Walker, of London, at a cost of something like £950. Under the superintendence of Mr. Biggs, the instrument has been erected, and able connoisseurs have pronounced the workmanship, tone, and general arrangement to be faultless. As this article is intended only to be descriptive of the organ itself however ; and as a critique appears elsewhere treating upon its "opening" performance, we must be careful to avoid repetition, and confine ourselves to prescribed limits. Turning to the right after mounting the grand staircase, the visitor is presented with a full front view of the organ, the appearance of which is in keeping with the Hall itself, truly superb. Immediately in front of the instrument a temporary platform has been erected, the tiers of seats, three in number, having a rise of about a foot to each tier, the row of seats farthest from the audience being only separated three feet from the organ. The material and workmanship of the organ are described as being of the very best, and there are three complete manual organs – the great, swell, and choir – the compass of each being from CC to G, 56 notes, with an independent pedal organ of three complete stops (a fourth, the trombone, containing 30 pipes, is expected to arrive about Easter), namely from CCC to F tenor, 30 notes. There are 11 stops in the great organ, viz. : bourdon, open diapason, stopt diapason, gamba, wald flute, principal, twelfth, fifteenth, mixture, trumpet and clarion. In the swell organ, there are 10 stops, comprising the following : bourdon, open diapason, stopt diapason, principal, twelfth, fifteenth, mixture, piccolo, oboe, and cornopean. The choir organ has six stops, viz. : stopt diapason, harmonic flute, concert flute, keraulophon, clarionet, and flageolet : whilst the pedal organ has three stops – the open diapason, bourdon, and violoncello, which will be increased at Easter, as before stated, by the addition of a trombone stop recently ordered out of England. Add to these are two and a half octaves of pedals, and five composition pedals. Making these up, the grand total of 1,700 pipes will be found to be at the disposal of the organist ; and if these are not found sufficient to produce sounds enough to satisfy the most fastidious lover of harmony, there must be something altogether wrong in his composition. The organ, which is enclosed in a stained case, and standing 19 feet 6 inches high, 16 feet 6 inches wide, and 16 feet deep, has a rich, evenly-balanced tone, and has been planned with sound judgment, and thorough knowledge of the requirements of an organ specially intended for concert purposes. The great organ, which includes a Gamba and other stops of excellent quality, has eleven through registers. A feature in the swell is the substitution of an orchestral oboe for the ordinary and somewhat indefinite stop of that name. The orchestral oboe of this organ is not too strong and acid to mix well with the other work, but nevertheless has the individual character of the instrument after which it is named. The flutes of the choir organ are of exceptional excellence, and there is a very fine eight-feet violoncello in the pedal organ. Mr. Limpus, under whose superintendence the organ was built, paid particular attention to the adoption of means for the procuring of a most ample supply of wind, so as to suffice for any addition that might be possibly subsequently effected. The apparatus for the supply of wind has been so constructed, that if necessary water-power might be applied to the working of it, and we believe that such is the intention of the committee when opportunity and finds permit of it. The trebles of the stops and open wood pipes instead of being made of deal wood, as is usually the case, have been manufactured out of mahogany, thus ensuring additional durability. The reeds used are of very superior quality : and with a view of preventing the dust from falling in, and preserving them much longer in tune and good order, they have been mitred. Too much praise cannot be accorded to the builder for the introduction into the swell of the orchestral oboe in place of the ordinary oboe stop, so admirably voiced as to serve for solo playing, and yet capable of being used with capital effect in the passages of harmony. The diapasons throughout are very fine, and the flute work on the choir organ is very effective. The vast amount of mechanism used in the instrument is of a first class description, and so simply arranged as to be easily repaired, whilst the arrangements fortuning are also admirably constructed, and ample room is given by passage boards to get at the various parts of the instrument for tuning purposes. The pedal pipes are of a large scale and effective, speaking very promptly, so different to those in use in most organs previously constructed.

In concluding this necessarily brief sketch, we cannot accord too much praise to the gentlemen who were instrumental in procuring this noble instrument for Tasmania. And in doing so express a wish that the Hobart Town Philharmonic Society may enjoy an uninterrupted successful career.5



Order record for J.W. Walker organ
(J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd, Brandon, Suffolk, UK)

The specification of the J.W. Walker organ was as follows:

GREAT
Bourdon
Open Diapason
Gamba
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Wald Flute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Mixture
Trumpet
Clarion
Swell to Great
Super Octave to Great
CC to G
16 tone
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
3 ranks
8
4



wood
front pipes of zinc & decorated
ditto
metal [treble]

wood







 
SWELL
Bourdon
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Piccolo
Twelfth & Fifteenth
Mixture
Cornopean
Orchestral Oboe
CC to G
16 tone
8
8 tone
4
2
2-2/3
5 ranks
8
8

wood

tone

metal




 
CHOIR
Keraulophon
Stopped Diapason
Harmonique Flute
Concert Flute
Flageolet
Clarionet
CC to G
8
8
8 ft tone
4 tone
2
8


wood



TC
 
PEDAL
Open Diapason
Bourdon
Violincello
Spare slide
Great to Pedals
Swell to Pedals
Choir to Pedals
CCC to F
16
16 tone
8







wood
for Trombone 16 slide only, no action ...



Four composition pedals
Organ to be so arranged as to bellows &c that a water blower can be applied to it6



Hobart Town Hall : organ as rebuilt by Geo. Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd
[photograph from Description of The Grand Organ, Town Hall, Hobart,
12th December, 1929: with the compliments of George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd...]




Hobart Town Hall : organ as rebuilt by Geo. Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd - console
[photograph from Description of The Grand Organ, Town Hall, Hobart,
12th December, 1929: with the compliments of George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd...]

The instrument was rebuilt in 1929 by George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd, who installed new slider windchests, detached stopkey console and tubular-pneumatic action, increasing the number of stops to 44 and making a new organ case in Tasmanian blackwood, its design copying the original.7 The following tonal changes were made:

GREAT
Addition of Open Diapason no 1 8 on heavy wind and Harmonic Flute 4

SWELL
Addition of Viol d'Orchestre 8, Voix Celeste 8, Wald Flute 4 (from Great), Oboe, Vox Humana and extension of Cornopean to 16 and 4ft pitches to form Double Trumpet 16 and Clarion 4.

CHOIR
Addition of Orchestral Oboe 8 (from Swell)

PEDAL
Violone 16 (extended from Violoncello 8), Principal 8 (extended from Open Diapason 16), Bass Flute 8 (extended from Bourdon 16), Clarion 8 (extended from Trombone 16).




Hobart Town Hall : organ as rebuilt by J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd
[photograph by Pastor de Lasala (3 October 2002)]




Hobart Town Hall : console by J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd
[photograph by Trevor Bunning (26 April 2011)]

A further rebuild was undertaken in 1966-67 by J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd, of Ruislip, Middlesex, who converted the action to electro-pneumatic and added a new stopkey console as well as carrying out far-reaching tonal changes and additions, including a new floating Positive division. The work was carried out under the direction of Arthur Jones and in consultation with the City Organist John Nicholls.8

GREAT
Violone
Open Diapason
Viola
Stopped Diapason
Principal
Harmonic Flute
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Mixture 19.22.26
Trumpet
Clarion
Swell to Great
Choir to Great

16
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
III
8
4



A ex Pedal, new top notes
ex Open no 2
ex Gamba (revoiced)





remodelled
B
C


 
SWELL
Open Diapason
Stopped Diapason
Viola da Gamba
Voix Celeste
Principal
Wald Flote
Twelfth
Fifteenth
Piccolo
Mixture 19.22.26.29
Contra Fagotto
Cornopean
Oboe
Clarion
Tremulant
Sub Octave
Unison Off
Octave

8
8
8
8
4
4
2-2/3
2
IV
16
8
8
4







ex Viol d'Orchestre revoiced
Ten. C revoiced



ex Choir Flageolet remade
remodelled
D ex Oboe, new bass

D
new




 
POSITIVE
Rohr Flote
Principal
Koppel Flote
Nazard
Block Flote
Tierce
Larigot
Sifflote

8
4
4
2-2/3
2
1-3/5
1-1/3
1
(unenclosed) – all pipework new 1967 – playable on bottom manual








 
CHOIR
Lieblich Bourdon
Salicional
Concert Flute
Lieblich Gedeckt
Salicet
Octave Flute
Piccolo
Orchestral Oboe
Clarinet
Tremulant
Trumpet
Clarion
Swell to Choir

16
8
8
8
4
4
2
8
8

8
4

(enclosed)
E ex Swell & Choir
F ex Keraulophon
G ex Harmonic Flute
E
F
G
G



B
C

 
PEDAL
Open Wood
Violone
Bourdon
Lieblich Bourdon
Quint
Octave
Violoncello
Bass Flute
Salicional
Octave Quint
Fifteenth
Octave Flute
Mixture 22.26.29
Trombone
Fagotto
Trumpet
Clarion
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal

16
16
16
16
10-2/3
8
8
8
8
5-1/3
4
4
III
16
16
8
4





A
H new top octave
E
E
I ex Open no 1
A
H
F
E
I
H
new
part B
D
B
C




compass: 61/32
electro-pneumatic action
detached stopkey console9



 

1 Priceless Heritage, p.126

2 J.W. Walker ledger book AA (1868), pp.156-57

3 Re-opening of the Organ in the Town Hall, Hobart, 10th March 1967

4 J.W. Walker ledger book AA (1868), pp.156-57

5 The Mercury, 18 March 1870, p.3

6 J.W. Walker ledger book AA (1868), pp.156-57

7 Description of The Grand Organ, Town Hall, Hobart, 12th December, 1929: with the compliments of George Fincham & Sons Pty Ltd...

8 Re-opening of the Organ in the Town Hall, Hobart, 10th March 1967

9 Ibid.