When Mr. Broadhurst founded St Peter’s in 1936, he purchased a magnificent pipe organ for the chapel. Mr. Broadhurst loved music, and twice-daily chapel services were an integral part of the school. The chapel organ was built by Lawton and Osborne of Onehunga and Aberdeen. Considered the “finest organ in the province” (outside Auckland itself), it features 32 stops in total on the Swell, Great, Choir and Pedal organ including a full range of couplers. Today it is still one of only two three-manual pipe organs in the Waikato. Right through until the 1970s the chapel not only hosted worship services, but also regular concerts and recitals.
In the 1970s it was decided to install an electronic solid-state system along the lines of a transistor radio. The action of the original organ – the mechanics of pressing a key at the console and having a pipe play on the other side of the building – was tubular pneumatic. As the organ aged, the action became more and more sluggish. The Old Boys’ Association at the time voted to preserve the organ and began fundraising. The overhaul of the organ was completed in the 1980s by George Croft & Sons.
Current restoration project
Around the age of 85, it was decided it was time again to overhaul the organ – to clean it, replace the electrical transmission system and resize the console. The biggest expense is to remove the brittle, outdated solid-state system and replace it with a digital capture system to ensure its reliability and take it to the St Peter’s centennial celebration.
An Organ Restoration Fund was set up to fundraise for the project, with the school’s Alumni Association taking the lead. The organ remains an important part of school life and retaining it in its best condition will also benefit the wider community.
St Peter’s is also one of the few schools in New Zealand able to offer organ lessons to students – very important if a new generation of organists is to be trained. Both St Peter’s and the wider community will benefit from this campaign. Fundraising targets have been achieved and an organ restoration specialist from Australia, Pierce Pipe Organs, won the bid to undertake the work. Covid delayed the company’s onsite assessment of the organ but this happened in May 2022. Parts are now being sourced for the work to begin.