Unitarian Church

Cathedral Place, East Melbourne

First organ (in previous church), built by Robert Mackenzie
possibly now at St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray
Second organ, built 1887 Alfred Fuller, Kew
2 manuals, 13 speaking stops, 3 couplers, mechanical action
Action electrified 1959 Hill, Norman & Beard (Australia Pty Ltd)
Removed circa 1965 and rebuilt at St James' Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church, Wattle Park

Unitarian Church, East Melbourne: the exterior
(collection of John Maidment)

Historical and Technical Documentation by John Maidment
© OHTA, 2013 (last updated October 2018)

An earlier church building, located in Albert Street, had an organ built by Robert Mackenzie, around 1875. This may be the single-manual organ now at St Monica's Catholic Church, Footscray.1

A new church building was erected in Cathedral Place, adjacent to the Catholic Ladies College and the German Lutheran Church, both of which had pipe organs, and directly opposite St Patrick's Cathedral.


Owing to the increase which has taken place in the congregation of the Unitarian Church, Albert-street East Melbourne, especially since the arrival of the Rev. George Walters, it has been found necessary to erect a larger building. The present structure, which, when crowded, will hold not more than 300 persons, was built about 20 years ago, and at that time the roll of members was a comparatively small one. The pulpit has been successively occupied by the Rev. A.Davidson, the Rev. H. Higginson (for 10 years), by Mrs Webster, and, since her retirement about two years ago, by the present pastor, the Rev. George Walters. The new church, which has been designed by Messrs. Billing and Sons, architects, 78 Collins-street west, will be of Italian Gothic architecture in a free style of treatment. The material is of brick, tuck pointed, with white facings, and Oamaru stone facings and dressings. Accommodation will be provided for .400 sittings on the ground floor and 200 in the gallery, which will be reached by two fire proof stairways. The plans provide for two vestries and an organ chamber and there will also be a lecture hall, seating 300 persons, at the rear of the church. At the north-west corner there will be a tower and spire roofed with lead and slate reaching to a height of 100ft. Three spacious doorways open to the vestibule, whence access is provided to the church by two doors at the aisles. In order to make the acoustic properties of the church as perfect as possible, the ceiling has been coved with kauri pine. Shearingham's inlet ventilators have been fitted throughout the building. The lecture-hall is now being proceeded with, and it will be finished in about three months. It will then be used while the new church is being erected. The total cost of the church and lecture-hall will be about £5,000.2

Unitarian Church, East Melbourne: the organ and choir
(from an original photograph in the collection of John Maidment)

On Sunday 17 July 1887, the opening services were held, and a new organ, built by Alfred Fuller, of Kew, was heard.

The church is furnished with a new organ, built by Mr. A.Fuller, of Kew. It is a fine-looking instrument and is fitted into a recess behind the rostrum, in front of the latter being the key board and choir seats. The organ was heard with fine effect yesterday morning, and gave great satisfaction to the organist, Mr. A.Larard, jun.3

An original description of this organ cannot be found, but it would appear to have had the following specification:


Open Diapason
Wald Flute
Swell to Great

Open Diapason

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal




open wood bass: unenclosed
pierced stoppers in treble


Compass: 56/30
Mechanical key and stop action
Detached drawstop console
Wind indicator enclosed in glass box
Couplers, Pedal Bourdon and Tremolo with coloured stop labels4

This instrument was notable for the superlative finish of the console, casework and façade pipes, which were elaborately decorated.

Unitarian Church, East Melbourne: the organ 1950s after simplification of case
and overpainting of façade pipes
(collection of John Maidment)

After the second World War, the elaborate casework of this instrument was simplified. The decorative features were removed and the façade pipes overpainted. The key actions were electrified by Hill, Norman & Beard (Australia) Pty Ltd in 1959 – order number V478.

This building was sold in the mid-1960s and demolished. The organ was removed and rebuilt by Kilners, of Camberwell, with possible assistance from Harry Marriner, for St James' Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church, Wattle Park where it was installed in 1965. A new detached stopkey console was installed, the action was converted to electro-pneumatic, but apart from the transposition of the Wald Flute 4 to a Nazard 2-2/3, the original tonal design remains.5

The building has been acquired by the congregation of St Paul's Lutheran Church, Box Hill in 2018 and it is proposed to move to the Wattle Park building. The future of the rebuilt Fuller organ is uncertain.

Unitarian Church, East Melbourne: the exterior
(collection of John Maidment)

Unitarian Church, East Melbourne: the interior showing the gallery
(collection of John Maidment)

St James' Uniting Church, Wattle Park: the organ case and façade pipes
(photograph by John Maidment [12 June 2006)]

St James' Uniting Church, Wattle Park: rear of façade pipes showing remnants of Fuller decoration
(photograph by John Maidment [12 June 2006)]

St James' Uniting Church, Wattle Park: Great pipework
(photograph by John Maidment [12 June 2006)]

St James' Uniting Church, Wattle Park: Swell pipework
(photograph by John Maidment [12 June 2006)]

1 Mackenzie pamphlet reproduced in OHTA News, vol 23, no 2 (April 1999), pp.10-12 (original in the collection of the Adelaide City Council Archives)

2 The Argus, 19 May 1886, p.7

3 Ibid., 18 July 1887, p.10

4 From examination of photograph of the organ at the Unitarian Church and the instrument now located at St James' Church, Wattle Park

5 Information provided by Myles Brown October 2018; examination of the organ at St James' Church, Wattle Park 12 June 2006