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Organa Cantuariensia: Organs in Canterbury, New Zealand, 1850 - 1885. Christchurch: School of Music, University of Canterbury, 1992. Number Six in The Canterbury Series of Bibliographies, Catalogues and Source Documents in Music; series editor Dr. Brian W. Pritchard. Copies are available (NZ$45 incl.GST) from the School of Music, Private Bag 4001, Christchurch, and the New Zealand Organ Manufactory.


1875 Jenkins pipe organ in St. Bartholomew's Anglican church, Kaiapoi. Ian Smith (1991).



The colonial province of Canterbury, situated on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, was arguably one of the most successful attempts of the Old World to replicate itself in the New. It was one of the last major programmes of cultural transplantation, and under the leadership of the idealists and ecclesiastical visionaries of the Canterbury Association, the prospective settlers were safeguarded against all possible obstacles in the working out of the model colony's future. The Association transferred to Canterbury the traditional institutions of church, school and government, with major endowments of land, though precious little cash. Four ships of 'Pilgrims' arriving at the end of 1850 were soon followed by a fifth carrying a Bishop-designate, bell, stained glass, choir robes, and organ.

The timing could not have been more fortuitous for the Canterbury Association. The middle of the nineteenth century saw England enjoying a period of cultural and political vigour. Throughout society old orders were being renewed, fresh ideas were beginning to be worked out, and a new generation of high-born and high-minded people began to be attracted to the possibilities of life in a new land, where the troubles of the old country were traded for the freedom and prosperity of the new.

The Association was indeed a child of its time, and it is not surprising to see its various 'siblings' participating in its activities. St. John's Training College at Battersea, founded in 1844 to supply superior teachers for the Anglican schools, provided Canterbury with Rev Thomas Jackson, a former principal of the College, as the Bishop-designate, and John Bilton, a former student, who was sent as a schoolmaster and the Cathedral organist-designate.

The high-church Oxford Movement had its influence too, most noticeably over such areas as church architecture and religious practice. In turn, this came to have an effect on the types of organs that were imported into Canterbury. The main principles of this expansion of interest in the material culture of the Church, also known as the 'Gothic Revival,' were based on fourteenth-century architecture and the sixteenth-century Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The editors of The Ecclesiologist, the journal of the Cambridge Camden Society, included an occasional article on organs and church music among their manifestos on correct taste in things ecclesiastical. In these they admitted a problem. Their commitment to authentic mediaeval practice suggested that the organ was not necessary as it would not have been found in fourteenth-century parish churches. But as this was unrealistic in mid-Victorian England, they were faced with the problem of where, if there had to be an organ, it was, to be placed. The historical precedent of placing the organ on the rood screen was no longer appropriate, considering the size of the contemporary organ, and the correct purpose of the screen. The familiar place for an organ until then was in the western gallery, but as these galleries were to be dismantled for ecclesiological reasons other places had to be considered. The idea of placing the organ in or near the chancel was not accepted at first as it was thought that choirs ought not to be accompanied, the organ being used solely to support congregational singing. Possibilities suggested were the west end of the aisle or nave at floor level or later, a divided organ, with the Choir organ on the rood screen and the Great at the west end, or again, an organ chamber:

..if a proximity to the Choir be judged essential, there is no reason why even a special building to contain the organ should not be added to the plan;- provided always that this addition be not made to look like a sacristy, or porch, or chapel, or transept: in short, like any thing else than what it is..

A miscellaneous note at the end of the same article commented on the arrangement of case pipes:

With us the organ pipes are usually arranged in a group of large pipes in the middle, and two similar clusters at the end; the three being connected by pipes arranged in gradation, or in two large groups, one at each end, the intermediate pipes being disposed in a curve. We would suggest that the large group be made, where it is possible, in the middle; and then let the pipes be arranged, from large to small, in order on each side, giving a pyramidal outline to the whole. This form will be found more graceful, and more suitable for a pointed church; and there will be less apparent necessity for making the pipes lie in different planes. Then by adding doors, we get the effect of a triptych. The leaves may be painted inside or outside, or both... so that, whether shut or open, the organ is made quite a decorative feature in the church. These doors are perhaps some protection to the instrument. We cannot but think that much might be done in the way here suggested, and by adding appropriate scriptures on, or near it, for improving the general appearance of the organ.

In time, these early attitudes came to be reflected, to a greater or lesser extent, in the organs of the Canterbury settlement. Although the rood screen was never used as an organ loft, and neither were organs with doors to be found, the words of The Ecclesiologist did provide precedents for organ design. Organ chambers, especially those which B. W. Mountfort built at Holy Trinity Avonside and St. John's Latimer Square, were constructed on the lines mentioned, and in correct style. Other organs are known to have been at the west end at floor level or thereabouts. In case pipe design, the 'pyramidal effect' was common in most small organs imported into or built in Canterbury, the Jenkins organ at Holy Trinity Avonside being a representative example, and the Gray and Davison organ at Holy Trinity Lyttelton being complete with 'appropriate scriptures' The triptych effect is also visible in the Holdich organ at St John's Latimer Square and the Jenkins organ for St. Mary's Merivale.

To the churchwarden, as well as to the ecclesiologist and architect, the placement of the organ was a problem. These three, for different reasons, found the organ chamber to be the necessary solution. The ecclesiologist chose it as an unhistoric improvisation. The architect did so for aesthetic reasons and, in making a virtue out of this necessity, created it as beautiful, yet too often as impractical, as possible. The churchwarden, however, was counting pew rents and saw it as a way of enlarging, or at least not reducing, seating space. Most of the discussion connected with adding chambers to churches included such reckonings, and in the final analysis economics may have been the most common reason for their existence.

It is, however, a later consequence of the Gothic revival - John Baron's experiments and the emergence of the 'Scudamore' organ in the late 1850s that most directly influenced the subsequent history of the small parish church organ in England and the colonies alike. Indeed, if the traditional parish church organ was the last item of church furnishings to be affected by the ecclesiological reforms, its change was also, probably, the most dramatic. And, as a comparison of the first two organs in the Canterbury settlement makes clear, the effect of this ecclesiologically-inspired development penetrated the colony within a decade of settlement.

The traditional parish church organ of early nineteenth-century England was of a type that had become popular towards the end of the previous century, and was usually placed in or under the west gallery. These organs, excellent examples of eighteenth-century craftsmanship, could be had as 'finger or barrel, church or chamber' and, by the next century, were generally enclosed in a false Gothic case. It was one of these organs that the Canterbury Association sent out with their designates in 1850; it was soon to become a 'survival' from a not-too-distant past. Perhaps the falsity of the design had irked the Gothicists most, or the fact that the case itself was not an honest exposition of the basic structure of the organ within (a favourite ecclesiological precept), but whatever the reason the situation was ready for a new design of organ suitable for a small ecclesiologically-aware parish church. Although The Ecclesiologist had made known its opinions on the subject of organs in the 1840s, it was not until 1855 that the necessary changes were effected. In that year the Rev Dr John Baron, an Oxford graduate, member of the Oxford Architectural Society, and incumbent of St. Mary's, Upton Scudamore in Wiltshire, ventured on the increasingly popular activity of 'restoring' his chancel (or rather, he hired George Street, a leading 'approved' architect, to obscure Norman and Early English design features with Gothic tracery). Deciding that an organ (which would cost less than 100) correct in taste and based on true principles was required for the restored chancel, he enlisted the help of a local organ builder, Nelson Hall, and built a church organ (to the design of George Street) that may have been the first to be created exclusively to suit the demands of a manifesto which was, primarily, neither ecclesiastical nor musical.

Baron described this new instrument in a letter to The Guardian dated 11 April 1856 and on 9 June at the General Architectural Congress in Oxford two examples were exhibited. The organ which he had built had one manual and an unenclosed open diapason rank. This was to be placed against the wall of the chancel between the choir stalls, the unenclosed soundboard above the player's head projecting the sound into the chancel. With the bellows being under the stalls and the depth of the organ being only l' 3", there was to have been an uninterrupted view of the chancel from the nave. The tone was strong enough to lead the congregation, and the case design was such as to blend in with the restored chancels of parish churches.

Baron further expressed his ideas on the instrument in Scudamore Organs, and its second edition (London, 1862) included an illustrated prospectus by Henry Willis advertising his own version of the Scudamore organ as a practical adaptation of Baron's concept for the commercial market. Willis added pedals but otherwise kept the Scudamore concept intact. A surviving sound board of a Willis 'Scudamore' (further discussed in File 2) shows that all pipe work was in the pyramidal shape, the Open Diapason was very close to the front of the chest, the Principal was of a narrow scale, making the sound bright, and the three 8-foot ranks (Open and Stopped Diapason and Dulciana) each had a bass octave of wooden pipes (that of the Stopped Diapason being on a separate slider). Thirteen Bourdon pipes were siphoned off the chest and so were properly a manual rank.

Other English builders such as Bevington and Bryceson Brothers in London produced organs modelled on the Willis 'Scudamore.' These 'developed' Scudamore organs, as well as including the above features, also enclosed some or all of the ranks in a swell box operated by a hitch-down pedal. They were, however, more compact than the Willis instrument and the cases they filled were often fantasias on Gothic themes. Although these organs exhibited such modern features as a 54 note compass (CC to F) and up-to-date mechanism, their overall design concept was 'rustic' or 'antiquated.' Perhaps this, together with the ideals of the Ecclesiological Society and the Canterbury Association, was part of a romantic yearning for a lost pre-industrial England. If this is so, then it would have been only natural for these small instruments to find their way to the Canterbury settlement.

The first organ brought to Canterbury was an early Willis 'Scudamore' (1862) for St. Luke's. Only the pedal board and sound board, mentioned above, survived a fire in the 1960s. This was followed by a small organ by Gray and Davison for Holy Trinity Lyttelton (1864), based on the Scudamore idea. It has come down to us in near original condition. The Bryceson Brothers organ for St. Peter's Akaroa (1869) is, apart from the action and later extensions, also in good condition, and has a satisfying design. The most complete example of the- Ecclesiological influence on organ design is the Bevington organ (1870?) for St. Mary's Merivale, now in the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was originally without a swell box and the case is superlatively Gothic. The next imported small organ was the Bevington installed at Southbridge in 1875. A last group of these small ecclesiologically-influenced organs built by Henry Jones of London, arrived in the early 1880s; one still survives in St. Mary's Church, Addington. Even at this late date, the case and tonal design were still consistent with the earlier organs.

These were all small one-manual organs with a basic stop list of

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Dulciana 8

Principal 4

The Stopped Diapason might be divided, so providing a bass octave, and a treble from Tenor C under another name. The 1864 Gray and Davison also has a Fifteenth. With two octaves of pull downs, and perhaps an octave or two of pedal Bourdons, they were useful instruments and their keen tone could easily have led a full congregation.

Of course, as well as being acceptable to ecclesiologically-minded churches such as those at Merivale and Akaroa, these small organs were cheap and transportable, and together this group provided models on which Canterbury builders constructed small organs for parish churches up until the First World War.

At the same time, the prosperity of the growing colony was very real, and by the mid-1870s larger organs began to be imported. The working classes who in England attended 'chapel' while their masters attended 'church', soon built the non-conformist denominations into strong participants in the cultural life of the province. Indeed, while the Anglicans stood on ceremony as regards the churchmanship of organs, the Wesleyans would buy one as soon as they could afford it - their first in 1874. The Presbyterians had stricter ideas on instrumental accompaniment in church services. Their first New Zealand church to gain an harmonium was St. Paul's, Christchurch, in 1867, although the English Presbyterian Church did not authorise instrumental music until 1870 and then only' by consent of the individual congregations. St. Paul's was also the first Presbyterian church to obtain a pipe organ, in 1877. Trinity Congregational was the first nonconformist church in Canterbury to purchase an organ, in 1871.

The affluence of the 1870s resulted from a considerable amount of overseas borrowing, paying for public works (including an improved transport system) on a grand scale. The opening of the railway to Kaiapoi in 1872 enabled E. H. Jenkins to commute from Kaiapoi to Christchurch (a distance of some fifteen miles) to engage in organ building and to continue to do so for nine years. The line to Southbridge, opened in 1875, which turned this village into a bustling farming centre also brought its first organ. Local organ building flourished from the middle of this decade and was to continue strongly until 1884.

Edgar Henry Jenkins, who had trained under William Hill in London and Aristide Cavaille-Coll in Paris, arrived in New Zealand in 1868 to help manage his brother Frederick's flax processing enterprise in Kaiapoi. In 1873 he bought some property in Kaiapoi and began working his trade, erecting the new Bevington organ in St. Michael's Christchurch, that same year. After two years of installing, moving, enlarging and rebuilding organs, Jenkins started building new instruments. Beginning with the Kaiapoi Anglican organ late in 1875, his first period of organ building ended in 1884 with the partial completion of the organ for St. Mark's Opawa. He had shifted his operations to a large new factory in Christchurch by the end of 1882, but early in 1884 like a number of other organ builders and musicians such as the Sandford brothers, his own brother George Jenkins and George West in Dunedin, he was bankrupted and lost everything. Although he remained in the trade doing repairs and minor enlargements, it was not until 1892 that he was building again on his own. In 1904 he moved the Anglican Cathedral organ into the new transept. Jenkins' last organ, for the Temuka Catholic church, was installed in 1921 when he was 85. This last organ is similar in style to his first, the Kaiapoi Anglican organ, built in 1875/6.

Christopher Farrell had a factory in Stanmore Road in Christchurch in 1878, and was the only Canterbury builder known to have made his own metal pipes. He built the organ for the Rangiora Anglican church, and another in 1881 for an unknown location, rebuilding it for the 1883-84 exhibition. He, too, had worked for Hill in London, finishing there in 1874, and immigrated to Canterbury with his wife and two children shortly after.

Frederick Sandford and his brother George Mace Sandford were apprenticed to Jenkins from 1880 to 1883. From 1885 Frederick was commissioned by Milner and Thompson (a local music importing firm) to make a number of small useful organs modelled on the Scudamore-type organs which Milner in Christchurch and West in Dunedin had earlier imported into Canterbury. Though by then antiquated in style, they were sturdily enough constructed to be excellent resources for later rebuilds. Few survive in their original state. The last organ he built was for the Prebbleton Anglican church in 1905 shortly before retiring to New Plymouth. George Sandford built an organ in 1885, one with his brother in 1888 and then a few in the 1890s, one in partnership with A. A. Hobday, son of Arthur Hobday of the Adelaide branch of Fincham and Hobday.

Michael Berkeley, a local organist, was active as a tuner and repairer, being associated with the Anglican Cathedral organ from its installation until after the turn of the century.

After a decade of importation, the first period of organ building in Canterbury, from the mid-seventies to the early eighties, saw the establishment of an industry based on the experience of a few highly trained craftsmen and a state-subsidised economy. With the affluence of the seventies allowing churches to import larger organs, and the arrival of up-to-date expertise in the persons of Jenkins and Farrell, organ building in the province was not far behind the rest of the world.

The boom economy was not to last. With the onset of depression in the early 1880s the industry began to flag. No large new organs were imported in the 1890s and, apart from the rebuilds undertaken in Christchurch by the Australian firm of Fincham and Hobday in the mid-decade, the trade grew particularly insular. Only with the arrival of Herbert Brett in 1905 did local builders discover just how backward they had become. Brett, sent out from England to install the electro-pneumatic Ingram organ for the 1905-6 Christchurch International Exhibition, found that Jenkins, senior organ builder though he was, had no working knowledge of electricity. Unexpectedly finding himself cast in the role of an expert, Brett decided to remain in the city, and spearheaded a new phase of local organ building that was to continue until the 1930s.




Chronicle [University of Canterbury] v27n13 13 August 1992 p8:

From 1850 to 1885 Canterbury was the centre for pipe organs in New Zealand and the author of a recently published book on the subject says there's one main reason for that happening here, and not the North Island. "There was nothing to hinder prosperity in the South Island. We had gold, we had sheep, and we didn't have wars, and we didn't have the huge amounts of bush to cut down first. Whereas the European prioneers in the North Island - the last thing they had on their minds were ecclesiastical ornaments."

Author and organist Ronald Newton did a performance degree at the University of Canterbury and, after working for some time in Wanganui and California, decided to return to do honours papers in musicology. His research for one of those papers has provided this fascinating and valuable book.

Organa Cantuariensia: pipe organs in Canterbury 1850-1885 - a documentation has been published by the School of Music, with support from the Lilburn Trust, as part of "The Canterbury Series of Bibliographies, Catalogues and Source Documents in Music."  Series editor, and senior lecturer in the School of Music, Brian Pritchard says of Mr Newton's work: "Not only does he amass an immense amount of technical information, but he also opens a fascinating window on the history of many of Canterbury's ecclesiastical institutions."

As Mr Newton says, "There are all kinds of ecclesiastsical and political things involved with pipe organs. The Methodists bought them as soon as they could afford them because singing was a very important part of going to church. The Presbyterians didn't have any kind of instruments in churches until the 1870s because instrumental music wasn't authorised at all. And Anglicans were divided between low and high church." Generally pipe organs were placed at the back of the church to support congregational singing, but High Anglicans wanted them up near the chancel to accompany the choir.

The first four ships brought the early European Canterbury settlers. The fifth arrived in February 1851, carrying supplies for schools and churches, including a bell, a set of choir robes and very small pipe organ. A considerable number of other pipe organs were brought out in subsequent years, but in 1875 the first factory was established in Kaiapoi, marking the beginning of the local industry.

Many of those early pipe organs have survived very well and Ronald Newton's book is illustrated with forty plates, including 14 in full colour, revealing what a work of art many of them are. His researches have also thrown up some delightful stories. Until the turn of the century all pipe organs bellows were pumped by the hand of a bellow blower who, however lowly his station in life, obviously had considerable power at the time. This story from the Lyttelton Times of November 1879:

"The new organ at the Roman Catholic Church in Barbadoes Street was formally opened yesterday morning at the 11 o'clock mass. The strains of the organ were heard after the procession. Professor Hughes playing a "Voluntary" in which tasteful modulations were most pleasing so long as they were not very loud. When, however, he tried to show the power of the instrument at his command that too frequently neglected individual, the blower, asserted himself and let out the wind. Fortunately the blower was contented with the sensation he had thus created and did not endeavour to repeat the effect"


Crescendo [International Association of Music Libraries] August 1992 p16:

The stated aim of this volume is to "record and explore the basic source materials pertaining to the history of the pipe organ in the Canterbury Province, New Zealand, from the beginning of the settlement up to 1885". Churches, institutions, private residences and exhibitions are all covered. The material is organised into 43 files, each corresponding to the location of an organ. The files are arranged chronologically and the same instrument may feature in several files, given the tendency of re-locating instruments. For example, the Willis organ opened at St Lukes Anglican Church in 1863 (File 2) re-appears at Trinity Congregational Church in 1871 (File 10) and again, at St Mary's HaIswell in 1882 (File 33). Similarly, one location may be home to more than one instrument even within this relatively short time span (St Luke's had 3, while 6 others had 2).

Each file is systematically constructed and includes the following elements: location, purpose and name of premises; builder, date of completion and specifications of instruments, re-locations and present where-abouts; documents - specifications, minute books, account books, vestrybooks, annual reports, letters and letter books and newspaper extracts; organists. The amount of information in each file varies considerably according to the amount of documentation extant, and to some extent, the size and complexity of the instrument. Thus, the description of the Bryceson Bros organ at St Peters Akaroa runs to 6 pages while the Hill and Son organ at the Anglican Cathedral receives 51.

The documentary sources are arranged chronologically and cover references from the planning and fund-raising for the building of the organ through to reports of special services in which the organ features. Two documentary sources outside the prescribed period are referred to: Mainwaring's series of articles published in the Musical Opinion and Music Trades Review in 1898, and a series of 9 articles by Clarence Turner on early Canterbury organs which appeared in the Star in 1929.

In addition to the files themselves there is a very worthwhile introduction which provides a general overview. Three appendices are also added, giving access via location, organ builders and organists. One highly effective inclusion is 40 plates, a significant number (14) of which are in full colour. This not only gives life to the facts in the files, but also graphically illustrates the work of the organ builders and the range of casework decoration, etc. This is a substantial volume, running to some 444 pages, and is clearly the result of much dedicated painstaking research. Given the scattered nature of the primary documentation the author has done those interested in the history of organs and organ building in New Zealand a great service. It also acts to whet the appetite for more information on subjects purposefully merely touched on, namely the organists who played on the instruments, and the music they performed.

Elizabeth F Nichol Auckland City Libraries.


OHTA News [Organ Historical Trust of Australia] October 1992 p27:

This highly important work is very much a pioneering effort in this part of the world.  It is the first major attempt to record systematically the history of organs in New Zealand; while in its comprehensive quotation of primary source material it establishes a new technique in organ documentation.

The author's immense effort in transcribing so much contemporary material must be greatly admired.  This includes newspaper and journal articles, minutes, correspondence and much more.

The material is limited geographically to the Canterbury region in the south island of New Zealand surrounding Christchurch, but reveals a rich organ heritage.  The range of builders represented is most interesting, including such well-known British names as Bevington, Bishop, Gray & Davison, Halmshaw, Hill, Holdich, Henry Jones and Willis, all of whom are represented by instruments in Australia.  Bevingtons exported the most instruments, while the local builders Farrell, Jenkins and Seager also carried out important work.  It is interesting to note that Christchurch did not possess a major civic organ, unlike its counterparts in Australia.

The work gives a wonderful insight into attitudes to organs at the time of their commissioning and installation.  The republication of so much material will permit research by those who would not have access to the original documents.  The concept of quoting from primary source material was also exploited by Michel Jurine in his recent work on Merklin and can be be highly commended.  One might hope that something similar could be initiated in Australia.

There are numerous illustrations, some in colour and some contemporary with the installation of the instruments.  The work includes several appendices and a bibliography.

In conclusion, this is an admirable work in every way.  The material is accurately and clearly presented, while the layout and printing are excellent.  It establishes a new standard in organ scholarship in this part of the world and its purchase can be strongly recommended. JRM


The Organ October 1992:

This relatively short period in the history of just one area of New Zealand is of importance to the reader because the author describes in detail how a country with no native organbuilding tradition suddenly found that organs were becoming an increasingly important part of the life and worship of the church, to some extent, no doubt, as a reflection of the Oxford Movement.

The first organs were imported from England, and supplied by Bishop, Bevington, Bishop & Starr, Bryceson, Fincham, Gray & Davison, Hill, Holdich, Jones and Henry Willis, all London builders, and from Halmshaw of Birmingham. Many of these organs were based upon the Scudamore design, and indeed, the first organ imported was an early Willis 'Scudamore' of 1862, followed by a small Gray & Davison based on this principle.

In 1868 Edgar Henry Jenkins landed in New Zealand to help in his brother's flax processing plant. He had previously been trained under William Hill and Aristide Cavaille-ColI and was a thoroughly experienced organbuilder. It was obviously more economic to have the imported organs erected by local labour so Jenkins' name figures largely during this period. Ten years later Christopher Farrell, also trained by Hill, settled in Christchurch. The Sandford Brothers were apprenticed to Jenkins and so, between them, was founded a small, high quality organ installation and organbuilding tradition in the area.

This book is the sixth in The Canterbury Series of Biographies, Catalogues and Source Documents in Music published by the School of Music under the general editorship of Brian W. Pritchard. Ronald Newton, author of this volume, is an organist and church musician. He has travelled widely and his researches through church records, organbuilders' records and local newspapers has been thorough. Fourteen of the 40 illustrations are in colour and show that stencilled painted case pipework was preferred. Even though some of the illustrations are not of the highest quality, I am pleased that they have been included as they are probably the only photographic evidence we have.

The 1850 Bevington for St Michael's, Christchurch, of one manual and seven stops cost 125 and was despatched in zinc lined packing cases (471 feet of one inch material, including packing organ @ 6d per foot, 145 zinc plates @ 4d each). Many of the churches were indebted to the shipping companies who kindly agreed to transport organs from England free of freight charges.

Several of the local organbuilders used New Zealand timbers in the construction of frames, casework, soundboards and pipes but, for the most part, imported their metal pipes from England.

In due course, with greater experience and in a time of relative affluence, organs became larger and many three-manual instruments were built - none, however with electric action as this was unknown here before the electro-pneumatic Ingram organ was installed at the Christchurch International Exhibition in 1905. Thus it was that the first half-century of the organ in Canterbury was entirely derived from English practice.

The author details the changes that have occurred in the course of each instrument's existence up to 1885 and also provides an insight into the life and work of churches of many denominations.

Douglas R. Carrington


Music in New Zealand Summer 1992 pp57-8:

To say that the organ is a disadvantaged instrument in New Zealand is hardly an overstatement. It has always posed challenges to performers and audiences. Capital outlay, housing, maintenance (sometimes aggravated by poor design and materials) and the presentation of recitals in uncomfortable surroundings have all taken their toll on the live organ music scene. But the New Zealand organ mindset has always focused on England and the English cathedral as well as cultural base, so the fortunes of English organ music are reflected here without the benefit of a solid tradition. Despite many appearances to the contrary, England has never been particularly sympathetic to the organ for its own sake; turn rather to Germany, Scandinavia, North America and especially Holland to see it as a confident, well-appreciated member of the keyboard family. Coupled with that problem, the radical decline of support for the organ within the church in recent years has also been reflected here in New Zealand.

These reservations notwithstanding, anything that helps to raise the profile of the organ and strengthen an awareness of an instrument which is an important part of the West's cultural heritage (and, by adoption, an authentic part of this country's cultural heritage) is to be welcomed. Ronald Newton's book, the sixth in the Canterbury University's School of Music series of Bibliographies, Catalogues and Source Documents in Music, is the first to appear on one of New Zealand's more neglected taonga; it is to be hoped it will not be the last.

Organa Cantuariensia deals with 43 instruments in the province of Canterbury, to be found in a rather smaller number of locations, several churches having had more than one instrument. It is a specialist reference work and necessarily limited in scope, but Newton has done his task thoroughly.

(above) Stereograph (c. 1900) showing the 1881 Wm Hill & Son organ, and the north aisle of Christchurch Anglican Cathedral

After a Technical Preface and Historical Introduction, each organ is described in terms of extant documentation - committee minutes, accounts, Vestry Books, annual reports and the like - its specification, location and the organists associated with it. The text is well illustrated and there are a number of excellent colour photographs.

Newton has collected an impressive quantity of material, and ordered it carefully and systematically. The layout is attractive and the book is full of fascinating details, such as the special train laid on to take audience members to a recital at the Lyttelton Orphanage, and the installation of one of those gruesome gas engines into Christchurch Cathedral in 1883.

The Historical Introduction inevitably touches upon the wider issues I have alluded to, and is of particular value. Newton relates his overview of the province's situation to that in mid-nineteenth century England, with the Oxford Movement and its concomitant choral revival. The choral aspect is crucial to a balanced perception of the period; whatever aesthetic and spiritual stimuli were involved, it should not be forgotten that the organ was conceived here almost entirely in terms of accompanying the choir, even more so than the congregation. The general downturn in the fortunes of the organ in France and Germany after the achievements of the eighteenth century was matched in England by a similar decline, but from a much lower starting point. The last century saw revivals in France and Germany of the organ qua organ; in England it was organ qua accompaniment.

It is difficult to avoid the observation that, at the onset of the nineteenth century, the organ tradition in England had virtually ceased to exist. When the choral revival occurred and the organ was deemed useful, there were no organists with sufficient knowledge of the instrument to protect its legitimate interests. Thus, when the west end galleries were dismantled in many English churches (the traditional location for the instrument, sanctioned by sound acoustic principles and many hundred years of tradition), there were no strong objections. This produced an extraordinary problem - where to put the organ? The ecclesiologists acknowledged the problem but failed to see that they had created it. The 'solution' was to build chambers opening into the chancel, which were often cramped and had poor lines of sound to the nave. This, in turn, encouraged some very dubious organ technology. Where a chamber was not an option, another 'solution' was to build the instrument as slender as possible to protect the view of the chancel. The Scudamore organ was developed with this in mind.

So the Oxford Movement's concept of the organ got itself into deep water right from the start. Where did you put it? How could you relate it to a fourteenth-century church model which had no organ? How could a rood position work in a typical parish church and what historical credibility could you give to such a location anyway? Against a broad overview of the history of the instrument, these tenets were quite artificial and could only have gained the currency they did where a real knowledge and appreciation of the organ was lacking. Newton shows how all this came to New Zealand and it is hardly his fault that the ideas were not seen for the frauds they were. But the legacy lives on.

The varying fortunes of builders such as the Jenkins brothers, the Sandford brothers, West, Farrell and others is outlined here. Brett's work after the depression of the late nineteenth century is described and Newton's precis is fully fleshed out in the body of the book.

I have very few quibbles. The famous Parisian builder Astride Cavaille-Coll is quite unknown to me; possibly she is the sister or aunt of that other famous Parisian builder, Aristide CavailIe-Coll. The claim that Jenkins and Farrell put Canterbury's organbuilding 'not far behind the rest of the world' seems a little over-enthusiastic, especially as Newton's own book shows that neither built anything with more than 18 speaking stops (admittedly, there is far more to an organ than can be conveyed by a stoplist.)

Appendices A and B give locations and builders respectively, useful, except that files numbers are given when page numbers would be much easier to look up. Appendix C gives biographies of the organists, and the Bibliography is devoted mainly to primary archival sources. The cover seems a little flimsy for such a solid book (nearly 450 pages) but this publication will undoubtedly become a valuable resource for enthusiasts and scholars alike.



Organists Review May 1993 pp164-65:

Ronald Newton has found an unusually complete series of documentation for the forty-five organ he describes.  Churches in the Canterbury/Christchurch area seemed to have been far more conscientious in keeping and preserving records than in many a church in Britain.  When church minute books and accounts are added to documents in public record offices, there is ample archival material to arrive at a reasonably complete picture of this interesting period.

And an interesting period it certainly was. The importing of English organs was going on at a furious pace; churches were even being enlarged to accommodate them. The picture that emerges is of mainly smallish one, two or occasionally three-manual organs being supplied by Bevington, Bishop, Hill and Henry Jones, with Bryceson, Gray & Davison, Halmshaw of Birmingham, Holdich, Henry Fincham (London) and Willis providing one each. In the late 1870s and 1880s the firm of Jenkins sprang up in the area and provided a number of instruments. Jenkins had trained with Hill, as had another settler, Farrell, who along with a another local man (Seager) built a very limited number of new organs. This productivity was short-lived as the book's title suggests, as the slump of the 1880s stopped almost all such activity.

The correspondence between churches and builders makes interesting reading, providing social and financial comment as well as musical. There are numerous photographs, some very old and some in colour, and specifications of most of the organs. One entertaining misprint comes to mind: the organ builder Jenkins, we are told trained with Hill and Astride Cavaille-Coll - painful! However this attractively-presented book hardly relies on misprints for its interest; it is a piece of organ history well worth reading.


The Diapason [American Guild of Organists] October 1994 p7:

Separated from the Australia by the Tasman sea, the North and South Islands of New Zealand are a fertile land of rich pastures, dense forests and volcanic mountains. (One of its attributes is the highest ratio of sheep and cattle to people in the world.) New Zealand is a land of settlement - first the Maoris about 750 A.D., then the British in the 19th century. By 1840, colonization was in full swing, with the assistance of the Churches of Scotland and England.

Canterbury Province is a rich farming region situated on the east coast of South Island. Its British settlers brought 21 organs from England and built 12 themselves. These instruments are superbly documented in Ronald Newton's book, Organa Cantuariensia: Organs in Canterbury, New Zealand, 1850-1885. Mr. Newton states that his aim was to "record and explore the basic source materials pertaining to the history of the pipe organ in Canterbury Province, from the beginning of the English settlement up to 1885."

Ronald Newton collected an immense number of documents that focus on or mention organs constructed within the 35-year period of English settlement. He catalogued comments on specifications, construction, fund raising and recitals, and chronicled eyewitness accounts, minutes of meetings, newspaper reports and the occasional diary. The fascination of this book lies in its thoughtful and logical treatment of the original source material. He has shown how contempormy references to these organs formed a "mother lode" of long forgotten but nevertheless fascinating material.

Altogether thirty--three organs are documented. Information is chronicled in files that pertain to each organ site. Significant events are noted which highlight the history of each organ: committee meetings, fund raising, installation, major alterations, rebuilding, enlargements, relocations, or removal.

The organs range in size from one manual, 6 stops to three manuals and 34 stops. Two-thirds of the organs were imported from England during the settlement period. These English builders included Bevington & Sons, Bishop & Starr, Bishop & Sons, Bryceson Bros., Henry Fincham, Gray & Davison, Halmshaw & Son, William Hill & Son, G. M. Holdich, Henry Jones, and Henry Willis. One builder set up shop in New Zealand - E. H. Jenkins. Two organs were built by C. Farrell and one was made in the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum by S. H. Seager for his brother, E. H. Seager, the superintendent of the institution. The organ was well received by the press:

The organ has been built upon the premises by Mr. S. H. Seager, brother to the steward of the Asylum, and the finish and work throughout do him the utmost credit, and he has been assisted by several friends of the institution by means of contributions. During the building, which we may say has occupied twelve months, Mr. Seager has been ably assisted in the work by Mr. B. Petrie and Mr. M. Kinsman, attendants. It is worthy of note that the whole of the ornamental work in the front of the organ was cut out by one of the patients, and anyone going into the room at the time the work was going on, would be amused to notice the earnest way in which the various patients employed went into the work, the whole of the organ excepting the metal pipes and some of the wood stops, having been made at the asylum. Of the tone of the organ we can speak in terms of highest praise. It surpasses for volume and richness of tone anything we heard from the organs now in Christchurch.

The accounts of the press and minutes of various church meetings make fascinating reading. Records of vestry meetings, various parish gatherings, treasurers' account books, church registers and annual reports provide a "worm's eye" view of the actual decisions which enabled the purchase of an organ. From these accounts, one can see that the business of buying an organ has changed little in our own time. Here are some examples:

Weekly Press 28 August 1875:

The chairman reported that a sum of 60 was already Subscribed towards an organ, and an estimate had been received from Mr. E. H. Jenkins that he would agree to build one for about 100. Mr. E. McKenna moved, Mr. R. Macfarlane seconded - That an organ be purchased as soon as funds sufficient are subscribed.' To which an amendment was moved by Mr. R. S. Bean, seconded by Mr. J. Birch. "That this expense should not at present be incurred, seeing there were other more necessary improvements wanted in the church, and the present harmonium was sufficient.' The original motion was carried.

The document goes on to indicate that "a committee was appointed to canvas for subscriptions." (Perhaps the term "bean counter" could apply to Mr. R. S. Bean, who attempted to derail the purchase.)

The notes and commentaries are rendered by Ronald Newton in the vernacular of the day, with the presentation of various bits of local correspondence and newspaper extracts. Last but not least is an index of the names of organists who served where each of these organs found a home.

Local news stories rendered novel insights into the process of organbuilding, as shown by this snippet from The Press, January 1, 1876:

It may not be generally known that on a small scale an organ building factory has been established at Kaiapoi. The work is carried on by Mr. E. H. Jenkins. His name is already well known in connection with additions and enlargements to St. John's, St. Michael's, Southbridge Church, the Orphanage, and the erection of St. James Wesleyan Church organs, and, evidently encouraged by the prospect that further organs will be wanted, he appears to have established a perfect factory, in which he manufactures every part of the instrument except the ivory keys and the metal tubes. On the premises are two organs in progress, one with two rows of keys, and a smaller one with one row of keys. The latter is in an advanced state towards completion. The greater portion of the timber employed in its construction is New Zealand, and the builder seems to consider the native timber superior to any other in the manufacture of wooden pipes. The case of this organ is a Gothic design of Kauri timber, the twenty-five pipes to be richly illuminated. The bellows are double feeding action, and of large size, to secure an ample and steady supply of wind. The various parts appear to be put together with great care, and it is surprising to see the neatness and workmanlike manner with which each is fitted to its place.

Would that press coverage were so thorough today - and that our local builders were as well regarded as Mr. E. H. Jenkins appeared to be!

There was no shortage of detail in the press. The announcement of the decision to make a contract for the new organ at the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral went like this:

The CATHEDRAL COMMISSION, after mature deliberation, determined to send to Messrs. HILL AND SON, the celebrated Manufacturers, an order to build an ORGAN for the Christchurch Cathedral, the cost to be about 1500.

Upon the whole the Commissioners have come to the conclusion that the plan least open to objection and liable to meet with general approval, is to invite a certain number of Churchmen to undertake individually to raise sums of ten pounds (10) each. It being of course open to any person to guarantee further amounts if so disposed.

The organ was installed by the local organbuilder, E. H. Jenkins. The Lyttelton Times made this report on January 12, 1882:

The whole of the Cathedral organ is now unpacked, and Mr. E. H. Jenkins, who has the contract for the work, is making fair progress in setting it up. As no plans or elevations were sent out with the instrument, some little delay has been occasioned in this.

Twas ever thus. . . How many organs have been sent to their destination with nary a word of instruction!

Of the 33 organs documented, 11 survivors are handsomely photographed. Of special interest is the variety and beauty of the pipe stencilling and elaborate colors used to finish each facade. Much of the decoration appears to be in gold leaf against vivid backgrounds of green, blue, grey, brown, gold, bronze or ivory.

Far from being a dry and dusty account of one smaIl aspect of the English colonization of New Zealand, there is a proliferation of fascinating detail as the file of each organ unfolds. Mr. Newton has organized carefully documented minutiae into an appealing narrative that touches on all aspects of an organ's existence. His book reveals an astonishing amount of research and is a model for organ historians. It may be ordered from the School of Music, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ for $45.00 (NZ); Library of Congress: ISSN 01124730, ISBN 0 908718-03-9, 1991, Ronald G. Newton.

Herbert L. Huestis, Ladner Village, BC

Organ Yearbook 1994 pp155-56:

The 'settling' of the colonial province of Canterbury, New Zealand, took place at a time when England itself was at something of an apogee, not least in the vigour and cosmopolitanism of its organ builders. Relatively modest though most of the imported organs were, 1850-1885 was a time marked by firmly held ideas, and one can imagine that to this day New Zealand's churches and churchpractices reflect this period and its traditions. While it has always surprised me how strongly influenced by English styles the organs of New England and New York were before the middle of the nineteenth century - surprising because there were other strong cultures represented by immigrants in the USA, some with major organ traditions - the Anglican and English Nonconformist flavour of the topics covered by the present book is predictable. The result is a vignette of great interest, picturing a province with much national-local colour and constantly suggesting (how reliably I do not know) that energy and interested concern in all things typical of a newly developing country.

Some forty-three organs are described from voluminous documentation, including forty photographs and photocopied papers, amongst which is a page or two from a copy of 'Hopkins & Rimbault' (1870) with an organist's annotations, and colour photographs of extant instruments. Each organ has its original and subsequent history traced, and there is generous quotation from committee minutes, letters, builders' specifications and newspapers. Most are small, and the colour photographs of highly decorated little organs are, indeed, not easily matched elsewhere in today's literature concerning organs. The account of Christchurch Cathedral itself is particularly interesting, offering an evocative picture of the church's contact with English advisers of the time (such as F. A. G. Ouseley and H. S. Oakeley) and tracing, largely without comment and therefore rather touchingly, the vicissitudes of choosing, commissioning, paying for, erecting and publicizing a 34-stop Victorian organ (made by William Hill). The whole process took that amazingly short time one finds when organ-building was in the hands of large organ-factories. Also striking, from a broad cultural point of view, is how newspapers had no qualms in printing stoplists of organs (when was the last time The Guardian or Frankfurter Allgemeine printed a list of organstops?).

While no doubt specialists in this country's history may have some queries (e.g. on the 1898 report at Trinity Congregational), the general reader is going to wish rather for full indexes. More technicalia would have also been desirable. A few sectional drawings (however informal) of extant instruments, or descriptions of action, wind-raising and pipework etc, would match other recent work on Victorian instruments, although such technical remarks as there are already (e.g., on English pedals, p42) are not always clear. Book-production itself is very serviceable and the price is reasonable. It would be a pity if the book appeared to be of local interest only, for as so often, good research illuminates a whole period and its civilization.

Peter Williams

The American Organist February 1995 p72:

Apart from the obligatory detour to the monumental Hill organ in Sydney, Australia, studies of English organbuilding in the late 19th century are invariably confined to the British Isles. This Anglocentric approach to historiography misses telling the whole story, because Australia and New Zealand have something to teach us when it comes to organs. A new book documenting organs in Canterbury, New Zealand, from 1850 to 1885 proves this point. "The aim of Organa Cantuariensia is to record and explore the basic source materials pertaining to the history of the pipe organ in the Canterbury province, New Zealand, from the beginning of settlement up to 1885" (p. xv). Forty-three instruments are described using extracts from original sources such as church and financial records, newspaper accounts, letters, and even diaries. These were mostly one- and two-manual organs, although a few three-manual instruments were found here. Organbuilders who sent organs to New Zealand included Bevington & Sons, Bishop & Starr, Bryceson Bros., Fincham, Gray & Davison, Wm Holdicih, and Willis. Edgar Henry Jenkins, who had trained with William Hill in London and Aristide Cavaille-Coll in Paris, was New Zealand's first organ builder. Jenkins installed, repaired, and enlarged many of the imported instruments, but he also built new organs. For better or worse, New Zealand was far from the organbuilding trends of England and a marked conservatism was the order of the day. For example, Jenkins's first (l875) and last (1911) organs were similar in style. Even in 1905 Jenkins "had no working knowledge of electricity" (p. 7).

This book has a narrow but clearly defined subject matter, illuminated by the author with exemplary research. Organa Cantuariensia is number six in "The Canterbury series of bibliographies, catalogues and source documents in music" published by the School of Music at the University of Canterbury.


The Galpin Society Journal v50 March 1997 pp299-300:

The compilation of historical inventories of organs throughout the world has increased greatly over the past few decades, and it is no surprise to see accounts now coming from centres far removed from the European heartlands of the instrument. In this context the present volume is a valuable contribution not only to the musical development of the instrument in the Southern Hemisphere but also to the various social and religious issues surrounding it.  It is easy to forget how recent the arrival of European culture in New Zealand is.  The settlement at Canterbury dates from 1850, and was not only a very English one, but more specifiaclly at the outset a very Anglican one, even if other denominations soon appeared on the scene.  Church building was high on the settlers' priorities, and not far behind came the provision of organs - indeed a chamber organ was shipped out with the first immigrants.  For the first twenty years they were naturally all imported from England, and many show the influence of the new 'Scudamore' design - simple small instruments of shallow construction, suitable for chancel placement in accordance with the Ecclesiological ideals of the Oxford Movement.  One or two English-trained organ craftsmen were amongst the early settlers, and they were able to assist in the erection of these imported instruments, and eventually to build the first native instruments.  The financing of these organs was procured by the usual variety of means - a few generous benefactors, public subscription, concerts and similar fund-raising events.  The resulting sounds were doubtless for many a nostalgic reminder of what they had left behind in Europe.  The number of organs increased with the country's growing prosperity in the 1870s, only to diminish again with the onset of economic depression in the following decade.

All this is fully chronicled by Ronald Newton, who covers a total of some 32 instruments up to his cut-off point of 1885. What is interesting is the remarkable amount of surviving documentary evidence that he has been able to unearth - contracts, vestry minute books, correspondence, and not least press reports, which often commented at length on the installation of new instruments, are all reproduced in toto.  The result is a very thorough treatment, but the author's presentation does not make for easy consultation.  Although he gives basic information about the premises and speification of each instrument together with its opening, alteration, removal and so forth at the head of each entry, all other details are buried in the following documentary section.  Given the often large amount of duplication or near-duplication of information in the various documentary accounts, much of which is of very minor interest, through-reading is not encouraged.  It would have greatly benefitted the user if a summary of the more important aspects, such as the cost and positioning of the instrument, had also been provided separately.  The brief historical introduction could also profitably have been longer; it contains, for example, no discussion of the larger instruments at all.  The generous number of illustrations colour photographs of over a dozen surviving instruments, all of which, not surprisingly, have been subject to varying degrees of modifaction and rebuilding.  The most distinguished organ featured here is the fine 1881 3-manual William Hill in Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, which is still in service after its last rebuild by the South Island Organ Company in 1980.  Some 50 pages are devoted to this instrument's genesis, including the difficulties in raising the 1450 that it cost, and the problems of providing an adequate blowing system.  Even an instrument like this was merely shipped over (having first been set up and tested in the London factory) and left for a local man to erect - his job being made all the harder in this instance by the failure of Hill's to include the plans and elevations with the shipment.  Because of the country's remoteness, there was no question of someone being sent out to voice and adjust the instrument in situ.  The result in many of these organs must have been a certain lack of refinement in sound compared with their British counterparts and some clearly gave unanticipated mechanical trouble within a short time.  Nevertheless within a very few decades of the Canterbury area being settled, organs had a firmly established place not only in churches, but also in an asylum, an orphanage and a couple of private houses.  The author has done a commendable job in detailing this development.


With thanks to Dr Michael Fleming, Editor of the Galpin Society Journal