The Henry Jones Organ
George Augustus Selwyn was appointed in 1842 as first bishop to the widespread Diocese of New Zealand which included all of NewZealand and the south Pacific Islands up to 10 degrees north of the equator. After his purchase of the magnificent Parnell site, he had the first St Mary’s church, Parnell, built in stone as his Pro-Cathedral. This was unsatisfactory as the local stone proved unsatisfactory (at least one other local church collapsed) and was soon too small.
He went to the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 and, while in London, contracted with Henry Jones to build an organ for his new Pro-Cathedral. During the conference, he was asked to consider taking up Lichfield and seems to have made his decision prior to his arrival back in New Zealand in early 1869. He presided over his last General Synod mid-1869 and left at the end of that year for Lichfield where he died in office in 1878.
A long-standing tradition has it that he chose an organ out of stock at the Fulham Road factory, but the fact is that he never saw the organ either in London or installed in his New Zealand cathedral.
The organ in St Albans’ Church
In August 2006 the Research Assistant of the British Organ Archive in Birmingham consulted Jones’ Opus Book and informed us that this organ was built in 1872, shipped to New Zealand and erected in Old St Mary’s in 1873. After the new St Mary’s was completed in the 1890s, the organ was re-installed in the wooden building without any changes being made. It must have quickly been obvious that such a small instrument was unsatisfactory in such a large church. It was offered for sale in 1908, purchased by St Alban’s in 1909, and installed in 1910 after alterations to the church had been made to provide sufficient space.
The Researcher at BOA considered last year that this organ was the only Henry Jones organ left in its original state out of about 500 in the Opus Book.
The only possible change from its original state was the installation of a tremulant while in St Mary’s. Since this feature seems to have been standard on Jones’ swells, it is possible that one had been provided for, but it is also possible that the apparent addition is merely the replacement of the stop ivory that may have been lost (one fell off recently and was nearly lost).
It remains in its original factory state entirely apart from restoration of the action in 1985 as preparation for the centenary in 1986. This was very careful and utterly authentic work which replaced only worn out or damaged items and otherwise attended to perishable items such as tracker bindings and re-leathering. The manuals were also tidied-up for the ivories must have been very discoloured and warped.
"Henry Jones was born in Folkestone 19 May 1822. He was apprenticed with Joseph Walker in Lambeth and set up his own business in 1843, settling in Fulham Road, Brompton. He built a number of smaller organs before his first large instrument in 1861. His magnum opus was for the Royal Aquarium, Westminster in 1876. When he published a catalogue in 1881, he listed 306 organs of which 106 were in London, (many of which were destroyed in the Blitz) 184 in the Counties and 17 exported, 8 of which are known to have come to New Zealand. He worked until 1898 and died on 18 May 1900. His eldest son took over the running of the firm which survived until 1942 when the family home was bombed, killing the remaining members of the family."
Four other Jones organs are known to have come to Auckland besides this one: a totally rebuilt instrument in the modern caseless west-end style at All Saints, Ponsonby, an 1881 slightly larger organ for St Mark’s, Remuera, the 1877 organ for St Paul’s, Symonds Street and the 1898 organ for Trinity Congregational Church. The earliest Jones organ went to Christchurch in 1864 and the last to Oamaru in 1903.
Joan is remembered with love as a member of our congregation who found great joy in the music at St Alban’s. Joan’s family made an important and much-valued contribution to the restoration of our iconic organ, one of the last operational Henry Jones organs.