Musical treat with historic pipe organ

Audrey and Stan Robinson in front of the pipe organ.

Music lovers are in for a treat on Sunday April 22 when Church Street Methodist in Wynberg will host an afternoon of music featuring its historic pipe organ.

The pipe organ was built by James Binns of Bradley, Leeds, and was installed in 1902 at a cost of 563 pounds, 17 shillings and threepence.

Of the 10 pipe organs brought to South Africa by this firm, only three remain in their original state, including this one.

According to the Pipe Organ Heritage of South Africa, or Pyporrels in Suid-Afrika by Albert Troskie, the organ was assembled by Mr WC Cooper who was sent out to South Africa by Binns for this purpose. While here he founded the firm of Cooper, Gill and Tomkins.

The organ pipes are made out of zinc and decorated with black, gold and a touch of red. They almost suffered a disastrous fate in 1944 when Cooper Gill and Tomkins suggested they be repainted in silver but this was fortunately not accepted by the church.

The organ’s 100th anniversary was commemorated on October 12, 2002 with a plaque.

When the Bulletin visited the church last week, congregants Stan and Audrey Robinson said the music programme was not confirmed but organists had been invited including Gregory van Schalkwyk, who tunes the organ, John Frans, Gary de Villiers and Eve Gold.

Because Church Street Methodist does not have a choir, they have invited choirs from the Ottery Road Methodist Church and the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in Aliwal Road.

Tenor Wilhelm Lichtenberg will be singing as well as Yvette Elliott.

Reverend Mark Stephenson will be giving a brief history of favourite Methodist hymns, which will then be sung by the congregation.

Methodism or the Methodist movement is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley.

The commencement of the Wesleyan cause in Wynberg was some time early in the nineteenth century. In 1829 a small church was built opposite where Wellington Road joins Wynberg Main Road and was opened by the Reverend Barnabas Shaw who presented an inscribed Bible to the church, which remains one of the Wynberg Methodist Church’s most treasured possessions.

The present Wynberg Methodist Church was built in 1851 and altered and enlarged over the years.

Mr Robinson showed a sketch of the church as it stood at that time on a dirt track with a horse and cart.

And while the façade of the church is mundane, the inside is beautiful with a high wooden ceiling and arches and various stained glass windows, each with a different story.

The most elaborate was donated by Duncan Taylor in memory of his wife, Isabella Jesse Taylor, who died on October 25, 1912. Above the church entrance is a brass plaque in memory of Duncan Taylor, “Doorkeeper in this house of God for over 40 years”. His family owned an outfitters store in Wynberg Main Road.

Behind the church is a graveyard, which appears to be a combination of cemeteries for the Dutch Reformed Church and St John’s Parish, extending over a block to nestle up against a business block, with its entrance on Brodie Road.

Ms Robinson says the church has been part of her life for 66 years since she joined Sunday School at age six.

This type of pipe organ works on pneumatics, now powered by electricity, but originally built to be hand-pumped.

She recalls how as a child when there were power failures, a door in the organ would be opened and the bellows would be used. Asked if she pumped the bellows, she said no,”It was hard work, the boys would do it.”

Let’s hope there is no power failure on Sunday April 22.

The music afternoon begins at 4pm, at 72 Church Street, Wynberg. Entry is R50. For more information contact Audrey or Stan at or 021 797 6853.