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Organ restoration an historic venture


North Ipswich church commits to raising $250k for pipe organ restoration

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Trying to restore any object 140 years old is a major challenge.

But when the object is a unique pipe organ, which was once hailed as the ‘King of Musical Instruments’, that adds to the magnitude and importance of the task.

St Thomas’ Anglican Church, North Ipswich has committed to an ambitious fundraising drive of $250,000 to restore their beloved, yet barely playable James Cole Pipe Organ, which was purchased in 1892 – just three years after construction of the church was completed.

The organ was first played on Easter Sunday, 1892 and the local Ipswich newspaper, the Queensland Times trumpeted its arrival as “among the finest organs of its kind throughout the Colonies.”

The organ was purchased from the Wesleyan Church in Albert Street, Brisbane on the advice of their popular organist and choirmaster, Professor Burton, “whose judgement in selection, doubtless, led to the church reaping a tremendous bargain.”

Organising committee member May Bartrum said the church had been encouraged for many years by a world-leading pipe organ expert Dr Geoffrey Cox, to have the organ restored because of its vintage and original condition.

It is the only James Cole organ to have been exported to Australia from Manchester and the only one with all of its mechanical action still intact.

While the organ is played regularly, it has had little or no maintenance for many years,” Mrs Bartrum said.

“It is barely playable, some notes don’t work and requires a major restoration. You could say it’s lost its ‘oomph’!!!

“And in a rare move, the Organ Historical Trust of Australia is coordinating the appeal, which is the first time they have supported the restoration of an organ in Queensland.”

It is proposed that the organ will be restored to the state in which it arrived in the church in 1892.

The parish has given an undertaking not to commence the restoration until it has secured the $250,000 funding for the project – and hopes a large part of that will be sourced through donations, grants and philanthropy.

If you would like to support the appeal, send donations to St Thomas’ Church Organ Appeal, PO Box 2060, North Ipswich, Qld 4305, or contact

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