Pembroke School
Holden Street, Kensington Park

B 1989 George Stephens. 2m, 22spst, 4c, tr &
Gt: Sw: Ped:


From the 2009 OHTA Conference Book, David Shield writes:



Pembroke School was formed in 1974 as a result of the amalgamation of Girton Girls School and the King’s School, for boys.  Being a church school, one might have anticipated the presence of a chapel from its inception.  Despite several headmasters with strong religious conviction the chapel on the King’s campus was not built until 1962, with the pipe organ following in 1989.


The Girton school for girls was one of a number of private girls’ schools established in Adelaide.  Mrs Lillie Smith was the wife of a stock broker whose income varied according to the health of the market.  Once her children had grown up, and in order to maintain a regular income, in 1915 she acquired a property in Kensington and established her private school for girls.  It was to flourish for almost 50 years.1


In the 1920s, there were moves to amalgamate Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.  A Basis of Union had been drawn up and although union did not proceed, a new spirit of co-operation emerged between various denominations.  The Baptists joined with the Congregationalists to form King’s College.2


The King’s School was founded in part to extend the Kingdom of God.  A school of the Congregational Union it had several headmasters with strong religious affiliation and might reasonably have been expected to have had a chapel from inception.  J.A. Haslam, the first headmaster, was the son of a Methodist minister.  W.N. Oats, a Quaker with strong Methodist background, revived the school from flagging enrolments, in 1942, and the Revd R.A. Cook expanded the school from 1957 to his retirement in 1973.  Like many church schools, however, its facilities were primarily designed to cater for the academic, physical and cultural development of the students rather than the spiritual.  With the merger of the two schools in 1974, the more formal ties with the founding denominations lessened.3


The first headmaster was J.A. Haslam.  The son of a Methodist minister he was educated at Norwood Primary School, Prince Alfred College, and Adelaide University, becoming a teacher after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in 1892.  From 1906 he taught at his old school leaving in 1923 to take the position at King’s.  He was also organist and choirmaster at Kent Town, Parkside, and Malvern Methodist churches.4


In 1942, school enrolments were down, the school faltered and was in danger of closure.  W.N. Oats was appointed and given a year to reverse the school’s fortunes.  Within three years this was achieved.  A Quaker, Oats had been born in Kapunda of a strong Methodist family and had a love of singing.  In his memoirs he recalls that his father was commissioned by “squire” Dutton of Anlaby to bring out a small choir each Sunday to sing in the Dutton family chapel.5  Oats’ educational views were regarded as somewhat challenging for King’s.  His vision of it to become co-educational, for example, was not to be realised for another 30 years.  Oats went on to the Friends’ School Hobart in 1945 and remained till retirement in 1973.


It was not until the first, and only clergyman, was appointed as headmaster that a chapel was built.  R.A. Cook was appointed headmaster in 1957 and was to remain until 1973.  Prior to his tenure there is no evidence of plans being drawn up for a chapel.  Although the school facilities catered well for the academic, physical and cultural development of the students, the spiritual had been ignored.  The Revd R.A. Cook wanted to redress the situation and several factors helped, particularly the first Billy Graham Crusade of 1959.  The climate was right and at the dedication ceremony on 27 May 1962 much was made of the lighted cross, “the light which guided those who put their trust in Christ”.6  An electronic organ accompanied the singing until replaced by the present organ in 1989.


A feature of the chapel is the stained glass windows, the work of Adelaide artist Cedar Prest OAM.  The east window tells the creation story and was undertaken as an Artist in Schools project with year 11 in 1999.


The pipe organ was built in 1989 by George Stephens.  With mechanical action to the keys, tubular-pneumatic action to the offnote chests and electric stop action, it is the most substantial instrument of its type to have been built in South Australia since the 1920s.  It is notable for its immaculate sound and appearance and its solidity of construction.








George Stephens Pty Ltd 1989

2 manuals, 22 speaking stops, key action mechanical, stop action electric





Open Diapason


Stopped Diapason




Wald Flute












Swell to Great






Chimney Flute




Vox Celeste (TC)






Sharp Mixture


















Bass Flute






Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

Great and Pedal Pistons Coupled




Action: mechanical key action, electric stop action

Compass 58/30

Capture combination action with 4 memory levels:

5 thumb pistons to Great

5 thumb pistons to Swell

5 general thumb pistons

5 toe pistons to Pedal

5 toe Pistons to Swell

Reversible thumb & toe pistons for Great to Pedal

Reversible thumb pistons for Swell to Great, Swell to Pedal

1 general cancel piston

1 keyswitch to secure piston combinations

1 switch to select memory level

Balanced swell pedal7







1  Background information to the two schools is found in Davis, J.R., Principles and Pragmatism (1991)


2  Cameron, J., In Stows Footsteps (1987), pp.44, 186-187; Davis, J.R., op.cit.;The Birth of A Boys School”, p.186; original prospectus, p.195


3  Cameron, op.cit., pp.78-79


4  Davis, op cit., pp.191-192


5  This may have referred to Henry Dutton or, more likely, his son Henry Hampden Dutton.  Oats was born in 1912 only two years prior to the death of Dutton senior.  Oats, W.N., Headmaster by Chance, pp.9, 111, 115-133


6  Davis, op.cit.  Apparently the original intention was for the cross to be seen by passers-by on the Parade from the main gates down an avenue of trees.  Development makes this impossible now. Personal comment Richard Frick, Pembroke School archivist,15 July 2009


7  OMS Newsletter, vol.22, no 3 (June/July 1989), pp.3-4



Photos: Trevor Bunning (March  2009)