The Organ Factory
6-10 Page Street Clifton Hill
This simple double storeyed red brick building has a colourful past.
It was originally built by William Yates for his Yates Boot Factory in 1884. Collingwood was the home of Melbourne’s boot and shoe trade for many years. In 1927 the long-established British firm of organ builders, Hill, Norman and Beard, took over the building to use as an organ factory. It needed the site to handle a large number of orders for church organs, including the prestigious new organ for the Melbourne Town Hall. The Town Hall organ was almost entirely constructed by Australian artisans at Clifton Hill out of Californian redwood. The organ, described as a “masterpiece of tonal architecture”, was the largest concert organ built in the British Empire between the wars. The firm also built organs for St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney and St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane.
In 1974, when the firm ceased operating in Australia, the Gold Street Primary School Council, staff and parents, and the Collingwood Council petitioned the Department of Education to purchase the building. They succeeded. In 1980 the building was looking somewhat dilapidated, rough and seedy, and was declared unsafe. Demolition became a serious threat. Once again parents and the local community went into battle to convince the Department of Education to save the building. The National Trust recognised the building for its contribution to Australia’s heritage and recommended that its preservation should be encouraged. The Arts Ministry and the Department of Education funded renovations, which were completed in 1983.
Since 1974 the Organ Factory has been home to an amazing range of activities. It has been used as a Community Education Office and by local artists and numerous local theatre and recreation groups. It has also been the home of yoga, self defence and meditation classes, the Flying Bookroom Theatre Company, an experimental music centre, Fringe Festival productions, and the Bushwahzee Band. New Theatre became tenants in 1976 and remained the principal user of the upstairs theatre space until 2000.
Today the Organ Factory is administered by Gold Street Primary School and is used for classes and the after school care program. Local artists hire some rooms as studios.
The Organ factory has been recorded by the National Trust (B4969).
Vincent, Alison, 2001, A school for one thousand scholars, Clifton Hill Primary School, Clifton Hill.
New Theatre Melbourne, 1986, 50 years of New Theatre 1936-1986, http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/objects/pdf/d0937.pdf