The Pipe Organ at Sunset Rock

Text: Janet Leitch, Rod Kemp

Images: Peter Holderness, Rod Kemp

The Pipe Organ at Sunset Rock Uniting Church, Spencer Street, Stirling, in 2022

The builder of this organ is unknown. Some sources attribute it to Fincham and Hobday, originally of Melbourne, whose Adelaide branch opened in 1881, but it is more likely they restored it at a later date.  Others believe that it was originally installed in St Mary’s in the Castle, Dover Castle.  England.  An unsubstantiated story attached to this instrument is that the famous 17th Century Composer, George Frideric Handel, played it while it was at the castle. 

It first appeared in Adelaide in 1854 when it was installed, by R Daws, at Christchurch Anglican Church in North Adelaide.  It was enlarged by S Lohrman in 1869.

The second installation, in 1873, was in the residence of W Shakespeare, Esq.

In 1877 it was again moved, this time to Norwood Baptist Church.

 In 1882 it was restored to its original specifications by organ builders Fincham and Hobday, Melbourne, moved to, and installed in Clayton Congregational Church in Norwood. 

The next move was in 1897 when it was installed in College Park Congregational Church, then in the early 1960’s it was moved, renovated and installed in the Mt Lofty Congregational Church, Orley Avenue, Stirling, supervised by parishioners Clyde and Phyllis Kemp with assistance from Bob Lockett and others. The cost of a professional move and restoration had been out of the reach of the congregation and Clyde’s offer to do it for free was accepted with some trepidation, although those who knew Clyde didn’t doubt that he would be able to successfully turn his hand to this task.

At the time Clyde was working night shifts in Adelaide and he would come home to Crafers via College Park with a load of parts dismantled from the organ each morning, to be worked on in his home workshop. Some larger parts required the assistance of another parishioner, Dave Scott, and his truck. The organ was rebuilt from the ground up, having suffered many years of wear and tear. The electric blower was added to what had previously been only a hand pumped organ. 

Here it remained until the closing of this Church in 1987 when it was refurbished by Ian Wardle and installed in the newly built Sunset Rock Uniting Church, under the supervision of John Rasch.  Prior to installation the case had been restored by David Hemer.  This included repairing the carvings, the redesigning of the surrounds, the addition of a cover, and the stripping and (French) repolishing of the cabinet.

Photograph of the Newly Renovated Organ at Orley Avenue, presented to Clyde and Phyllis Kemp by the congregation in 1962.

Further Reading: The Church with the Lych Gate, Tom Dyster available in the MLDHS Archive.

Do you have memories or photos of this organ and the many communities it has served? Perhaps you played it at some time? Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.