Historical information

This organ was gifted by the Bethel Community in 1890 to the then Victorian Seamen's Mission, originally founded by the Bethel Union in 1857. The gift was intended to assist with worship. Despite all appearance, this organ is not a pipe organ but a reed organ that works in a similar manner to an accordion.

In May 1890, the sum of seventy pounds was put towards the purchase of the organ. The sum being raised via subscriptions.
The organ was inaugurated in September 1890.

Jabez Carnegie (1832-1892), importer of piano and organs in Melbourne, had made a trip to Europe and Canada in 1887 and had secured the agency of Bell organs. W. Bell & Co were a Canadian organ and piano manufacturer, considered the premier organ manufacturer of the time. W Bell & Co changed its name to Bell Organ and Piano Co in 1888 meaning this organ had to be manufactured prior to the name change.

The organ was first used in the mission main room from 1890 to 1915 when the St Nicholas chapel was built at the back (see item 0548.
It was transfered to the new Port Melbourne mission in 1937 (link on postcard from State Library Victoria).

In 1972, it was transferred to the Holy Trinity Church in Bay Street after the closure of the Mission

In the late 1980s during a National Trust campaign to save the building, the organ was sold by the Anglican Men's Society to the Trust's organ committee, who carried out some restoration work and returned it to the former Missions to Seamen chapel.

In 1991 the Office of Major Projects had control of the whole 'Bayside' development site. With the Mission to Seamen Building emptied and proposed for demolition, the Office of Major Projects removed the organ and placed it in storage in various locations - finally, in the Museum of Victoria store in Abbotsford.

In 1995-6, enquiries by Jim Hillis resulted in the return of the organ to the control of the Port Melbourne HIstorical & Preservation Society. As the Society had no suitable location for the organ, several churches and schools in Port Melbourne were approached to take the organ with no results. The nearby suburbs were suggested next. Finally the Melbourne Maritime Museum (Polly Woodside) was approached and agreed to place it in their Museum on a long term loan.

In 1997 it was on display in no 5 shed South Wharf (23/3/1997).

In 2006, the Polly Woodside South Wharf site was to be re-developed, and they could no longer retain the organ.

Accordingly, on 4 May 2006, the organ was transferred to the Mission To Seafarers building in Flinders Street Extension as an indefinite loan (refer OL 022)

The PMHPS deaccessioned it to finally transfered it in 2018 to MTSV.


(See also acquisition details re 21st C finalisation of acquisition) This organ is a tangible reminder of the longevity of the Mission to Seafarers, a link with the original Bethel Union which was instrumental in 1856 calling a public meeting and inviting subscriptions by various non-conformist churches to found a mission to Seamen. Rev Kerr-Johnson delivered the first service in 1857 aboard the Emily. The Mission to Seafarers has been in operation ever since and continues to operate to the same purpose today.

Physical description

Large reed organ that looks like a pipe organ with fifteen elaborately painted pipes bearing a floral motif. The body of the organ is elaborately decorated in carved wood. It has 17 knobs above the keyboard both which can be concealed when the keyboard cover is lowered. There are two foot pedals at the bottom of the organ with "Mouse Proof Pedals" cast into the framing iron.

list of stop names:

Viola 4Ft
Diapason 8Ft
Dolce 4Ft
Violetta 2Ft
Sub Bass 16 Ft
Octave Coupler
Vox Humana
Picciolo 2Ft
Hautboy 8Ft
Aeoline 8Ft
Cremona 16Ft
E---bone 16Ft
Echo 8Ft
Celeste 8Ft
Melodia 8Ft
Flute 4Ft

Inscriptions & markings

Maker's mark in gold lettering above keyboard:
W. Bell & Co
Brass plaque on front board:
Presented to/The Victorian Seamen's Mission/by/Congregation worshipping in Bethel/& friends./1st September 1890
Behind the stops a wooden plaque: J. CARNEGIE & SONS, SOLE AGENTS FOR VICTORIA MELBOURNE