Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos!

This is a sort of on-line club for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, possibly 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 20 September


The Colt Clavier Collection - Important Announcement


Chelveston 2018

Friends of Square Pianos Party April 7th


Carolina Music Museum to open in Greenville, SC, Spring 2018


Piano Auctions September Sale and

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos


A Spinet and two Harpsichords at Gardiner Houlgate  - Prices Realised

The Colt Clavier Collection

Announced today...

More details will be published as soon as they are available.

Chelveston 2018

We all enjoyed our Spinet Day at Chelveston earlier this year, and I am happy to confirm that we can look forward to another party in April 2018; we are organising this together with the British Clavichord Society.


  We are particularly pleased to announce that Derek Adlam has agreed to be our Guest of Honour and principal speaker.

  For fifty years and more, Derek has been a major figure in the early keyboard instruments world, as a maker and player.  We look forward to tales from his early years, his time at the Colt Collection, the Adlam-Burnett partnership at Finchcocks, and now at Welbeck, where he has been specialising in clavichords.

  In 2017 we assembled a remarkable collection of spinets, but for 2018 the scope will be wider.  As well as at least three spinets, there will be clavichords and (I hope) at least one square piano.  We are supposed to be Friends of Square Pianos, after all!

 The programme is in its early stages, but Derek's presentation will be split into about four conversational sections, with music in between.  We are also hoping that one of these interludes will be a recital on a newly-restored John Player spinet.

  As before, there will be a substantial buffet lunch, as well as refreshments throughout the day.  The fee for the day is likely to be about £25.  Booking will open formally in the New Year, but by all means make a provisional reservation now by email to David on 


Carolina Music Museum to open in Greenville, SC, Spring 2018

 Recent years have seen some sad changes in the musical collections in the UK.  Richard and Katrina Burnett decided that the time had come for them to 'downsize', and consequently Finchcocks closed, and much of the collection has been sold.  Barbara Lore Colt died, some of the Colt Collection has been sold, and its future seems uncertain.  Musical instruments no longer have a place in the plans of the V&A, and although some of the instruments have gone to the Horniman Museum, many are in indefinite storage.  Additionally, the private collection of Christopher Hogwood has been dispersed following his death.  All this is against a background of declining musical education in state schools, which makes it more difficult for most young people to become actively involved.


  So it is very refreshing to announce a splendid new Initiative in the United States, the founding of the Carolina Music Museum in Greenville, SC, due to open in  the Spring of 2018.  

This owes much to the efforts and enthusiasm of our Friends Tom and Debra Strange; Tom is seen in the above picture on a recent visit to the UK, inspecting (with a feline advisor) the action of a rare 1774 square piano by Weber.  

Tom Strange has had a life-long interest in early keyboards beginning in the 1970s and including building and playing harpsichords and restoring early pianos. That interest built enormously with the advent of the internet and the ability to connect with people all over the world. The first antique instrument entered his collection over twenty years ago, and was followed by others over the years.

 Ultimately the collection grew into something that seemed appropriate to share with the public. With continuing visits to his house by students and professionals from all over the world, it suggested that a more permanent home for the collection might make sense. A splendid use of the collection for the 2017 HKSNA conference last May made it clear that having it in a dedicated, climate controlled space would be a requirement for the instrumentsto be used with an eye toward conservation and limited disruption.

  After a three year search and several dead ends, the museum now has a lease on an ideal building in Greenville SC, set on the campus of Heritage Green, and home to the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville County Museum of Art, The Children’s Museum, and others, with state of the art climate control, security, and ADA compliant facilities. There will be an office, performance and display space in the roughly 8000 square foot facility set on a campus-like green space, with ready access to parking and within easy walking distance of all the museums as well as downtown Greenville.

  The first show will be titled ‘Facing South: Keyboard Instruments in the Early Carolinas’ with a projected opening date of late March, 2018. The show will highlight twenty-seven selected instruments that have been associated with music in the Carolinas from 1700 to 1860, either by repute or using instruments that have been here since they were new. However the museum must be more than early keyboards, and while the opening show is being mounted and begins running, work continues in the background on additional projects to bring other instruments and important southern ethnomusicology interests to the Carolina Music Museum.

  The core of the museum will always be the early keyboard collection, with a mission to help emerging musicians and seasoned professionals understand the critical ability of the historic keyboard to bring forward the actual intent of the composers who knew them and composed from them. 

There is now a permanent new page 'Carolina Music Museum' on the website, where updates and details of the collection will be posted as they become available.

Piano Auctions September Sale and

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos

  The next Piano Auctions sale will be on Thursday September 21st, at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn.  As usual there will be an informal meeeting of Friends of Square Pianos on the viewing day before, Wednesday 20th.  Please come along if you can, especially if you have not been before.  I will be there from about 11.00, probably to be found in the café in Red Lion Square.   We will of course spend time in Conway Hall, looking at the pianos, and adjourn to the Dolphin pub for beer and chips at about 1.00.


  As well as the usual selection of fine 'modern' pianos (i.e. post-1850) there will be a very interesting 1796 Broadwood grand.  I have asked for more pictures and details

 The estimate for this one is £7,000 - £10,000.

A Spinet - and Two Harpsichords -

at Gardiner Houlgate

  Modern instruments quite often turn up at auction, and theycan be something of a mixed bag.  But these three at the Gardiner Houlgate auction on September 15th look exceptionally interesting to me.  As usual, I have not seen them, so what follows is just my interpretation of the pictures and other information, kindly supplied by Jamie South at Gardiner Houlgate.  


  All three were made by Geoff Hughes of Bath around twenty years ago. It appears to me that they were made from the excellent kits or plans devised by John Barnes for the Early Music Shop.  


  The first is a spinet, closely based on the Keene & Brackley c. 1710 original.  At this time, the English spinet was just moving away from the 'broken octave' variant of the seventeenth-century short octave, but had not yet reached the full five-octave chromatic compass of the eighteenth century.  The original ran from GG to e3, but omitted the lowest and highest sharps.  John Barnes' version included these.  The result is a beautiful and practical instrument, and this example does seem to have been carefully built.

  It is worth mentioning that this example does have the authentic fancy brasswork, which alone is worth several hundred pounds.  The Early Music Shop no longer sell these kits, but this one is still available from the Renaissance Workshop Company for about £3,400, with the fancy hinges an extra £600 0r so.  Sold for £1,550 (hammer price)

 With an estimate of £300 - £500, this one will either 'do well' - or I(if my analysis is correct) be a bargain for someone.



Then we have two harpsichords.  Again, if I am right, they are from the John Barnes/EMS stable, and are essentially the same instrument, based on an original by Delin, itself a derivative of the Ruckers school.

  The first is the single-manual version, evidently including the 4' option. Some beautiful veneer-work; it does seem to need a stand.  Again the estimate is just £300 - £500...  Sold for £1,650 hammer price.



  And then the full two-manual version, probably built with a coupler in the French style.  Another very handsome  cross-banded case, and a stand this time.  And the estimate is still £300 - £500; The Renaissance Workshop Company kit for this one costs over £5,000, and you don't get the pretty veneer for that. Sold for £2,800 hammer price.

If only I had room...


Pictures by courtesy of Gardiner Houlgate  


Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have been following 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 Scotland.    

 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.

Square Piano Tech

Please take time to visit our sister website www.squarepianotech.com  This is run by our Friend Tom Strange in America, and is rapidly growing into a treasure-store of permanent wisdom.  

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