Wesley Uniting Church
Alfred Monk, London; installed 1895
2 manuals, 7 speaking stops, mechanical action
Photo: Bruce Duncan
An organ built by the firm of Alfred Monk of London was installed in the church in 1895.
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
C-ggg, 56 notes
metal, open 56 pipes
metal/wood, stopped 56 pipes
metal, open 56 pipes
Enclosed, C-ggg, 56 notes
now Gemshorn 8, metal, open 56 pipes
wood, stopped 56 pipes
metal, open 56 pipes
C-f, 30 notes
wood, stopped 30 pipes
** The Violin Diapason was recently replaced by a Gemshom 8 by F.J. Larner and Co.
The organ was hand blown until 1929 when an electric blower was fitted. The names of many of the organ blowers were carved into the organ case, put there by the blowers themselves. Unfortunately these names were removed in an attempt to refurbish the case.
The following information and history was supplied by Bruce Duncan (Jan. 2008):
Built 1895 Alfred Monk, London, United Kingdom.
Casework and frame is in Pitch Pine.
Console type: Integrated
Stop controls: drawknob, flat arrayed SW and Ped on left, GT on right
Pedals type: concave/flat
Key action: mechanical
Stop action: mechanical
Pitch: a1 in Hz 440
Wind power: Electric, one double rise reservoirs, wooden trunking throughout
Two manual and pedal tracker action with 7 ranks of pipes and 7 speaking stops. Number of pipes: 366.
Originally located on a raised platform, now located free standing on the floor of the church.
Restoration work 1904 J .E. Dodd (no detail recorded)
Electric blower replaced hand blowing mechanism 1929
Relocated from front choir gallery to floor of church. Overpainting of original case and pipe colours. c1960
Restored 1982 F.J. Larner & Co. Tonal adjustments and refurbishment (no detail recorded), Possible stripping back of case to remove black overpainting . Pipes remain overpainted in silver.
Tonal alteration 1990 F.J. Larner & Co. Gemshorn substituted for Swell Violin Diapason.
Refurbished 2001 F.J.Larner & Co. Pipework cleaned, leathers and felt replaced.
Pipework stencilling to restore remnant of original diapering 2001 Pipe Organs of WA
New wood wind trunking to replace flexible tubing 2003 Pipe Organs of WA
Photo: Bruce Duncan
Listed with the Organ Historical Trust of Australia as perhaps the best example of a Victorian era organ in its original location in Australia.
History of the pipe organ in Wesley Uniting Church, York
York, one of the oldest country towns in Western Australia, is fortunate to have two very good 19th Century English organs. The older of the two organs is the 1895 organ built by Alfred Monk of London for the Wesley Methodist Church.
This organ has two manual keyboards of 56 notes and a 30 note pedal board, all mechanical action, and there are seven ranks of pipes totaling about 400 pipes. The mechanism employs a floating backfall, making it extremely suitable for the extremes of heat and cold experienced in York. It is regarded as the best of the 19th century organs in Western Australia, in both warmth of tone and brilliance of sound and in capability to fill the sanctuary with sound. The organ is one of three Western Australian instruments listed in the Organ Historical Trust of Australia .
The current specification of the organ stops is:
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Hitch down swell pedal
Alfred Monk (born 1848) was an organ builder of repute in London during the period 1862 to 1926. He, his wife, daughter and a housekeeper lived in Islington, London, at the time of building the York organ . There were 67 of his pipe organs installed throughout Great Britain  and a number of others exported to other countries, although information on these is difficult to obtain. Mostly his exported organs went to Europe; some also went to Africa and Asia. There are no other known organs by Alfred Monk in Australia, although there are some components in the large organ in Randwick Uniting Church, Sydney, built by him for W G Rendall, an Adelaide organ builder .
Miss Florence Monger of Faversham House, York, offered to secure subscriptions for the purpose of erecting a pipe organ in the church in the mid 1890's . The organ was subsequently ordered and was delivered and erected in the church on 17th and 18th August 1895, following which special services were held at which the organ was used for the first time. It is thought the organ may have already been in Perth at the time the church ordered it, because the period of time from when subscriptions were commenced to the installation date is extremely short, almost impossible for an organ to have been built in England and shipped to Australia.
The organ was hand blown for some 30 years by the young men of the church, a somewhat arduous physical task but one that allowed some retribution to the organist. It seems that on occasions the organ unexplainedly ran out of wind at crucial moments during the service if during the week before there had been some cross words or other event that irked the organ blowers. In 1929 an electric blower was fitted to the organ. Although this aided the organist and benefited the congregation by giving a steady wind supply, the names of the blowers are still scratched in the back of the organ case to remind us of their earlier contributions.
It is not recorded when the organ was stained dark brown and the pipes were painted over with silver, hiding the original stenciled designs on the display pipes, but it is thought to have been about 35 years ago. This may have coincided with the shifting of the organ from a raised platform to the floor of the church, the move allowing more ingress of light to the worship area from the stained glass window on the south wall behind the organ. In 1982 it was necessary to affect some restoration work to the organ and in 1990 a tonal adjustment was made to substitute a Violin Diapason with a delicate Gemshorn stop in the Swell division .
The organ was designed to compensate in the mechanical key action for extremes in temperature and climate experienced in York. As a result, the organ is in excellent condition for its age and, on this basis, F J Larner and G A Devenish (organ builders) were commissioned in June 2001 to conduct a study on restoration of the organ to its original condition. The restoration is now complete. Restoration was not extensive, due to the excellent condition of the organ, and involved mainly a thorough clean, replacing felt bushes, leather buttons, pallet leathers, Gedeckt stopper re-leathering and coupler regulation.
The organ before restoration
In addition to refurbishing the internal workings of the instrument, the display pipes were stripped of the silver paint and have been beautifully diapered in line with the original patterning. The exquisite design, drawing colours from the stained glass windows, greatly enhances the visual impact of the instrument and is based on the original pattern and similar patterns found in organs of that era. The overall result of the restoration has been to make the organ look elegant, revitalize the sound of the instrument and improve the responsiveness of the action.
This organ is 106 years old, still in good voice, and ready now for another hundred years of service. It is the great privilege and honor of the York Uniting Church to continue a very proud and long history of the use of the pipe organ in Christian worship. This church is the steward of a fine and noble instrument. On Sunday 19th August 2001 the church united in praise to God for His provision and celebrated the anniversary of the organ and its new rebuild. The morning worship included many previous organists of the church who had returned to play part of the service music.
In the afternoon a recital was held. Graham Devenish was the recitalist and he played to a responsive audience who filled the main floor and gallery of the church. People had traveled from Perth and further afield to attend the recital, including members of the Organ Society of WA.
Graham presented a varied selection of music, all of it well executed in both technical skill and appreciation of the instrument and its environment.
The program was:
Fanfare - Jacques Lemmens
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme - J S Bach
Grand March from Tannhauser - Richard Wagner
Prelude and Valse Lente from Coppelia - L Delibes
Partita on "Hyfrydol" - David Lasky
Graham played a selection of hymn improvisations and invited participation of the audience to sing (words were provided in the program). These included "Love divine", "To God be the glory", and the rousing "Guide me, O my great Redeemer".
Adagio from Toccata and Fugue in C major - J S Bach
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor - J S Bach
Encore: Toccata and Fugue in D minor - J S Bach
The evening service was a combined churches of York sing-a-long and once again the church resounded to the organ accompanied by piano leading a large congregation. On this occasion, Bruce Duncan, organist at York Uniting Church, played the organ and Shirley Winton, Churches of Christ, played piano. In all, Sunday 19th August 2001 will go down in the history of the church as being a rather magnificent day and one on which the organ well and truly acquitted itself in all its old age and new glory.
"Almighty God alone can never be given sufficient thanks for having granted to man in His mercy and great goodness gifts as have enabled him to achieve such a perfect, one might almost say the most perfect, creation and instrument of music as is the organ in its arrangement and construction; and to play upon it with hands and with feet in such a manner that God in Heaven may be praised, His worship adorned, and man moved and inspired to Christian devotion."
1. "The Organ", William Leslie Sumner
2. OHTA web site detail
3. Census Reference: RG12/144 f.174
4. The British Institute of Organ Studies
5. Gazetteer of New South Wales Organs
6. Wesley Uniting Church, York, records
7. Organ records, F J Larner & Co
8. Michael Praetorius, 1619