Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos

This is a website for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, and would like to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update 15th August

 

1812 Broadwood - Free to Good Home 

 

1808 Broadwood For Sale

1812 Broadwood - Free to Good Home 

This Broadwood, number 16,008, is being offered as a restoration project, Free to Good Home. It looks like a pretty good proposition to me.   Please see the Sale Page for details.

1808 Broadwood For Sale

In 1806/7, Broadwoods finally abandoned the single action with brass under-dampers, and introduced a new specification to compete more directly with their very successful competitor led by Muzio Clementi.

At the same time, the eighteenth-century 'French stand' with square tapered legs gave way to turned legs, often reeded and with decorative brass collars, as on this example.  The major internal changes were the adoption of the Geib-style escapement action and overhead wire-operated 'dolly' dampers.  These made the operation of the pedal simpler and more responsive - as required by the increasing use of expressive phrasing in the music.  

 

This 1808 example of the new design is now offered for sale.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

1836 Broadwood - Good Home Found

This piano will need some work to make beautiful music again, but as far as I can see from the pictures and information supplied, it looks like a good proposition to me, especially as it is generously being offered Free to Good Home.  Please see the Sale Page for details.  

Richard Burnett 1932 - 2022

   With great sadness, we record the death of our dear friend Richard Burnett.  He died peacefully at home on Friday, 8th July, at the age of ninety. 

  We send our condolences to Katrina; she will be in our thoughts.  Katrina will continue to lead  the Finchcocks Charity.

   Richard and Katrina created a wonderful thing at Finchcocks, and we have many happy memories of time spent there.  The picture above was taken in 2012 at one of our Friends of Square Pianos parties, when Richard entertained us with his playing and mischievous humour.  

   He will be fondly remembered.

1793 Thomas Haxby at Tennants

Thomas Haxby of York was one of the finest English makers of organs, harpsichords, spinets, and pianos; his work was fully equal to any of the London makers.  This lovely piano, dated 1793 was one of his last - he died in 1796.  It was offered for sale at Tennant's Auctions, Leyburn, Yorkshire, on 16th July, but against an estimate of £600 - £800, and presumably protected by a reserve, it failed to sell.  Please see the Auction Page for pictures and details.

 

Recent weeks have not been encouraging for square piano sales. Int he last couple of weeks, several Broadwoods 1820 - 1840 have failed to sell, and the one that did achieved just £55.  Bearing in mind that it cost £20 to register the ivory to make the sale legal, and other logistics costs, this is somewhat concerning.  I can't believe that it's price - it's looking like a shortage of buyers.

Ivory!

Over recent years, I have given considerable front-page coverage to the news concerning developments in the laws concerning the use and sale of ivory, with particular reference to keyboard instruments.  I have done my best to increase awareness, and to help Friends with the practical aspects of complying with the law.  Now that the UK Ivory Sales Act 2018 is fully in place and being enforced, the situation in the UK at least is now stable.  So unless anything dramatic happens,  everything to do with ivory regulations, including guidance on applying for the necessary permits, will now be on the Ivory Page.

 

Thank you, Jumbo, you can go back to your own page now!

Piano Auctions Sale June 28th

Lot 15 in this sale was a fine 1765 spinet by Baker Harris.  There is a 1765 Baker Harris spinet listed in Boalch, but that one went to John Collins of Newport , Rhode Island, in the year it was made, and is almost certainly still in the USA.  So this one is a 'New Discovery'

 

Bidding was quieter than I expected, but to be fair to Séan it did sell for exactly mid-estimate - £5,000.

 

Please see the Auction Page for more pictures and details.

An Interesting L &B at Trevanion Auctions

This pretty Longman & Broderip piano will be in the sale at Trevanion Auctioneers, Whitchurch, Shropshire, on 29th June.  The number 446 (in the five-octave series) dates it to 1786. Sold for £480 hammer-price.  Please see the Auction Page for pictures and details.

A Memorable Auction

A memorable sale at Gardiner Houlgate on 17th June). My favourite harpsichord (the 1612 Ruckers) achieved twice the top estimate, to sell for £180,000 - that's £227,520 including premium. Is that a record for a harpsichord sale?

 

We mustn't forget the Joseph Mann spinet though - that sold just on estimate for £4,000 hammer price. An interesting instrument.

More details and pictures on the Auction Page.

 

Pictures by, and by courtesy of Gardiner Houlgate

Broadwood 1823/4 For Sale

Further details and pictures on the Auction Page.

 

All pictures by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate.

Felicks Yaniewicz Exhibition at Edinburgh 

Felicks Yaniewicz was a distinguished composer and musician.  He was a friend of the great Muzio Clementi, and a number of Clementi pianos appeared with his name on the front.  The best known of these was recently restored by Douglas Hollick, and is now exhibited at the Polish House in Edinburgh.  A programme of events to celebrate his life and work has been organised for the summer; details are on the       Yaniewicz Page, and a flyer for the events is below:

Yaniewicz exhibition events flyer lands[...]
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New Page - Plans For Sale

Plans for Keene & Brackley Spinet -

Now Affordable!

The famous Keene and Brackley spinet is rightly the model for many reproductions, both amateur and professional.  I am happy to announce that by courtesy of the copyright owner of John Barnes' original plan, we are now able to offer copies at an affordable price; they are now available through Friends of Square Pianos for just £20, plus carriage at cost. 

 

Even if you are not going to build an instrument yourself, anyone with an interest in spinets will find this plan fascinating.  

Please see the new page Plans For Sale for details of plans of spinets, harpsichords, and clavichords offered at reasonable prices.

Bespoke Tuning Hammers

Early keyboard Instruments, whether originals or replicas, do require more frequent tuning than modern iron-framed pianos.   The costs of professional tunings mount up, and it can also be a problem finding a tuner who is happy to work with our ancient instruments.  For this and other reasons, most of us do our own tuning.  To offer some help to those thinking of having a go, I have prepared a short PDF guide, available on request.

  

It is very important to have a properly-fitting tuning hammer, which should bear on a good portion of the two flat faces of the wrestpin (tuning-pin).  If the fit is too sloppy, the corners of the pin and the socket of the tuning hammer will be damaged, and the backlash makes accurate tuning difficult anyway.  If it is too small, it will grip the top of the pin only, with the same result.

 

Tuning-hammers are available from Lucy Coad or David Law - see 'Suppliers' page of this website.  Alternatively, I am now able to offer a limited number of hand-made hammers tailored to your own pins, either directly or via a template.  Please see the Tuning and Tuning Hammers page for details

 

I have made a number of very short and lopsided hammers; these have proved popular with owners of Broadwoods and other pianos with the pins at the back, and also with spinet owners.  In both cases the lid makes tuning difficult (unless it can be thrown right back) and these special hammers can help.  They don’t look as elegant as the long-stemmed symmetrical type, but they are quite practical!

 

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasy - Names, Numbers, and Dates

The second of these two essays builds on the first ('1664 and All That' - see below) and offers a new interpretation of the data concerning the establishment of Thomas Hitchcock as the leading spinet maker.  It explains the somewhat confusing numbering sequences, their relationship to dates of manufacture, and the change on the nameboard from Thomas to John.  As before, the piece is rather long to transfer directly to this page, so please open the PDF below.

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasty Apr[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

1664 and All That 

Some confusion still surrounds the early life and career of Thomas Hitchcock.  When was he active?  Who was ‘Thomas Hitchcock the Elder’?  One of the first histories of keyboard instruments in Britain was written by Edward Rimbault (pub. 1860).  He tells us that “John [!] Hitchcock made these little instruments of a compass of five octaves. Several specimens still exist bearing dates between 1620 and 1640”  It is likely that Rimbault mistook front numbers for dates, and numbers as high as this would indeed have carried the name of John Hitchcock, but it seems surprising that he had apparently never seen Hitchcock spinets carrying numbers which could not possibly have been dates, such as 1460.

Perhaps the most important early historian for keyboard instruments was Alfred Hipkins of Broadwoods.  He compiled the catalogue for the 1885 International Inventions Exhibition, and used this experience for his 1888 book ‘Musical Instruments – Historic, Rare, and Unique’.  It is in this book that Hipkins makes the notorious statement “…Thomas Hitchcock, whose autograph appears in spinets from 1664 and 1703.” 

His famous 1896 book ‘A Description and History of the Pianoforte’ repeats this as “Thomas Hitchcock’s written dates found within instruments made by him cover the long period between 1664 and 1703.”  But he then goes on to note that Hitchcock was the first to number his instruments, so he did realise that the numbers on the nameboards were not dates. 

As so often happens, later authors followed these statements as unchallenged facts, and the misunderstanding is repeated in James (1933) and Russell (1959).  Boalch ‘Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord’ (2nd edition 1974 and presumably 1st edition 1956) has a variation of the muddle, ascribing ‘1664’ to ‘Thomas the Elder’, and ‘1703’ to ‘Thomas the Younger’.  Even the 3rd edition (1995) still has the entries, but the editor (Charles Mould) does realise that something is not quite right, and offers the plaintive statement: “…1664 does seem early for a wing spinet in London, and the date may have been misread.  If it were possible to locate this, and the other early Hitchcock instruments, it would be possible to be more precise about the identity and dates of the members of the Hitchcock family in the early years of their workshops.” 

So it was that, having kept a low profile since 1885, the mysterious ‘1664 Hitchcock’ emerged from the shadows.  This is the story of an important little spinet – it is my privilege to be part of the story.

The essay is a bit long to transfer to this page directly, so please open the PDF below.  All comments welcome!

1664 and All That .pdf
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Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have followed the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in the Marlow Sigal  Music Museum in South Carolina.   Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

The Spinet Page

  We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

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© David Hackett