The organ, built by Arthur Hobday and installed in this church in 1912, was Hobday’s last work before his death. He was apprenticed to the prominent 19th century Australian organbuilder, George Fincham, around about 1866, and later set up his own organbuilding business in Wellington. He died on 9 October 1912 at the age of 61.
Internal evidence suggests that this organ is a rebuild and enlargement of a previous instrument made in England in 1848 and sent to Sydney. It was originally powered by bellows worked by an hydraulic system. An open pipe carried the water out on to the church grounds.
The present organ makes use of pipework from an older instrument. John Stiller, in his 1981 documentation of this organ, states that it is the “finest of the Hobday organs which have been preserved”. Excellent tonal qualities are enhanced by a splendid acoustic and visual setting.
Its historical value is underlined by the following features:
- The Hobday case has been preserved in original form and displays design characteristics typical of his style.
- The console has been retained and includes original fittings, such as stop knobs, stop labels, keyboards, keyboard cheeks, pedal-board and organ bench.
- The original actions have been preserved. It is one of the few remaining organs in New Zealand which has pneumatic action.
- The pipework has not been altered since Hobday’s time and contains superb examples of voicing.
The organ was restored in 1986 by the South Island Organ Company. It now has 1516 pipes. They range in length from 16 feet to quarter of an inch, and are made from wood, tin-lead and zinc.
In the 1986 restoration, the following additions were made:
- a trombone rank on the pedal organ
- a two rank mixture of the great organ
- a three rank mixture on the swell organ
- a sub and super octave coupler on the swell organ.
The front pipes were altered in colour, from silver to gold, and springs were added to the pneumatic actions to improve the organs responsiveness.
The 1986 restoration cost $70,000.