- Built in 1928-9 by W.G. Rendall.
- Rebuilt in 1930 by C.W. Leggo.
- Rebuilt and enlarged in 1956 S.T. Noad & Son.
- Rebuilt and enlarged in 1972 by A. Welby.
- Some electrical work with new console by Peter D.G. Jewkes in 1986.
- 2 manuals, 19 speaking stops, 7 couplers, electro-pneumatic action.
- 4 pistons to Great Organ
- 4 pistons to Swell Organ
- 4 toe studs to Pedal Organ
- Great to Pedal reversible piston (under Great manual)
- Swell to Great reversible piston (under Swell manual)
- Great to Pedal reversible toe stud
- Swell to Pedal reversible toe stud
- General Cancel piston
- Setter piston
- Two levels of memory
- Great and Pedal pistons coupler
This organ was ordered in January 1882 by William R. Angus, a well-known amateur organist, of the carriage and coach building form of Angus & Son, which was then at 101-185 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. William Angus was organist at the York Street Wesleyan Centenary Chapel in about 1881 and then at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Petersham in about 1900.
In 1940 Arncliffe Methodist Church acquired the organ. At union in 1977 when the Uniting Church was formed, many church properties from the former Methodist Church of Australasia, the Presbyterian Church or Australia and the Congregational Union became surplus to requirements and some were sold. This happened to Arncliffe Methodist Church which was acquired by the Coptic Orthodox Church and became St Mark’s Cathedral, with the foundation stone laid by the Coptic Orthodox Pope on 8 May 1980.
No longer required by the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the Hill organ was moved to St John’s Lutheran Church in Wollongong in 1979. In Wollongong it was restored and installed by Brown and Arkley, and has been maintained by Peter D.G. Jewkes Pty Ltd for some years now. After several years of searching and inspection of several instruments, the Hill chamber organ became available and was purchased in February 2012 by the St John’s Music Association for use at Gordon.
The organ was Hill & Son job number 1810, and has a ‘deal case’ with non-speaking front case pipes. These were originally diapered in typical Victorian fashion, but at some stage the ears of the case pipes were roughly removed and the pipes painted gold with red mouths. It would be wonderful to restore the pipes and diapering at some stage in the future. Likewise, the timber panels that encased the lower section of the rear of the organ and the upper rear sides to the sides of the swell box were at some stage removed, and as the organ is free standing again, these would be usefully reinstated. These panels give some hint as to the instrument’s provenance as a house organ. Likewise, the flue stops lack the forthright tone often associated with Hill organs, but the reed is fiery and much stronger than typical oboe stops. All manual stops are enclosed in a swell box operated by a hitch-down swell pedal. This box is very effective and helps give the impression that the organ has more stops than it in fact has, offering a very gradual decrescendo with judicious use of stops and swell.
Despite the organ’s diminutive size, it bears all the hallmarks of many of Hill’s larger and better-known instruments. The key cheeks are typical, the pipe mouths are typical, and the solidity and complexity of the mechanism was attested in the amount of time taken for the organ’s reassembly at Gordon. The pipework is voiced with the skill expected of its maker. The Dulciana is beautiful and with the swell box closed reduces to an almost inaudible pianissimo. This can be accompanied by the uncoupled pedal bourdon which speaks so beautifully as to render the absence of a coupled 8’ stop irrelevant. The Harmonic Flute as the solitary 4’ stop rather than a principal is perhaps another hint of the organ’s first home, but is a delightful stop characteristic of the maker.
At some stage amateur builders tried to install a super octave coupler and tremulant using parts from a reed organ. These have now been removed, restoring the organ to its original specification. The compass is 54/25, the two octave flat and parallel pedalboard sitting in a different place to most in relation to the manual. There are two composition pedals.
Note: The Rendall and Hill organs are at different pitches and cannot be used together.
There was an amateur-built organ in the western gallery at St John’s from about 1992 until 2001. While this instrument was never intended as a replacement for the Rendall organ, it included some pipework from the Leggo organ (Leggo rebuilt and made playable the Rendall organ when first installed) formerly in the Masonic Temple at Manly. The recital series of 1993 featured music for two organs using the Rendall and Gallery organs.