The Auction Page

Please remember that, as with 'Pianos for Sale', I have not usually seen these pianos, and any comments I make may be based entirely on information supplied by the auctioneers, or what we can see from the pictures.

Gardiner Houlgate September 10th


Lot 1288 was a very unusual small square piano, believed to have been made in Germany or Austria c.1825.  It has a 'prell' action and a stand in the Biedermeier style.  Obviously intended to be a compact piano, it has an apparent compass of 3½ octaves, but if the apparent low B is tuned to G by a short octave arrangement (with C# playing A and D# playing B), it would be nearly 4.  But is 1820 rather late for players to be familiar with the convention?  

The estimate for this charming instrument was £2,000 - £3,000.  With a top bid of £1,500, it was not sold.



Rather more conventional was this six-octave piano by the Royal maker Thomas Tomkison,  number 8430.  From the pictures it appears to have been carefully restored, and could well be in playing order, but there is no pedal shown in the pictures - a point worth checking.  

A  modest estimate of £300 - £500 for this one, it did rather better at £700.


Lot 1309 was a charming 'Crystallophone' by Chappell & Co, c.1820.  This one will never go out of tune!  The estimate was  £500 - £800; it was sold for just under this at £460.  



Finally, a four-octave clavichord by Morley, number 556. 

Against an estimate of just £200 - £300, it achieved £340.  

All images by, and by courtesy of GardinerHoulgate

Piano Auctions June 29th - Results

The Piano Auctions' sales at the spacious G&R premises at Langley, Buckinghamshire, are proving to be very successful, and there must be enormous logistical advantages in not having to transport 100+ pianos from the warehouse to central London and back again.  Much as we miss our Friends of Square Pianos meetings at Conway Hall, we wonder if the move to the G&R premises might be permanent?  

Lot 34 was an interesting item indeed.  It appears to have started life as an early five-octave grand piano (late eighteenth-century?)  At some stage it was converted into a harpsichord, with the addition of a second (lower) manual, and the case extended forward to accommodate it.  

  A new picture (above) now shows a name-batten inscribed  'Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1776'.  It now has three sets of strings (8', 8', 4') with a fourth set of jacks for a lute stop, and also a buff.  The work has been neatly done, and includes later contributions by the Goble workshop and Robert Deegan.  An excellent appraisal by Ben Marks (which accompanies the lot) confirms that it contains elements of an eighteenth-century English harpsichord and a late eighteenth-/early nineteenth-century English piano, possibly more that one of each.   So something of a hybrid, original maker uncertain, but a lot of fun (and a talking point) with an estimate of £1,000 - £1,500.


  It did attract a lot of attention and enquiries, but sadly not much in the way of actual bids.  It sold for a somewhat disappointing £600.  I would have bought it, just for fun, if only I had enough room...



  Lot 86 was a nice-looking ThomasTomkison c. 1825 making a return appearance.  

Carefully-restored, and apparently in good order.

The estimate this time was £600 - £800, but the bidding only reached £200, and again it failed to sell.  For a nice-looking piano in such good condition, this is not a good omen.  



The prettiest instrument in the sale was surely the spinet by Alan Whear.

This spinet, which one of our Friends has recently tuned and played, seems to be based on the classical design of Thomas Hitchcock, but with a veneer scheme remininscent of the later eighteenth century, and even echoes of Art Deco in the beautiful namebord.  

The date is 1976, possibly the Golden Age of the Early Music Reveval.  Those of us who were around at the time remember the name Alan Whear, but we have been unable to find any substatial records of his work.  

The keyboard is one of the neatest I have ever seen.  It has been identified as ivory, and as a post-war instrument it now has the benefit of an Article 10 certificate.  The estimate for this very attractive instrument was £800 - £1,200, and the hammer fell at £1,050.  Such a pretty and practical instrument surely deserved more.



Finally, we had two Goff clavichords, lots 131 and 132.

These clavichords are probably the most beautiful ever made - Cobby's cabinet making is exquisite.  ('Cobby' worked alongside Thomas Goff).   As well as clavichords, they made just a few big two-manual harpsichords favoured by pioneers such as George Malcolm, Valda Aveling, and Thurston Dart in the fifties and sixties.  Despite their magnificent apperance, these seven-pedalled metal-framed instruments made a sound disappointing to modern ears ...

... but the clavichords are much more favourably-regarded, particularly the larger double-strung model.  


Lot 131 was a typically fine example in burr walnut and other exotic woods, made in 1956.


Lot 132 was an example of the less-common single-strung version, in a polygonal case.

This one, again in burr walniut, was made in 1962.

The estimate for lot 131 is £800 - £1.200; Lot 132 is £500 - £700.  They achieved respectively  £1,000 and £800.  Not really much for such exquisite workmanship.  


All images by, and by courtesy of, Piano Auctions Ltd.

Broadwood 1828 at Duggleby Stephenson, York, June 4th

This handsome Broadwood was in the auction at Duggleby Stephenson, York, on  June 4th.

It is good to see the green painted 'shield' surviving - these do improve the sound, but have very often been lost.

This piano has been carefully restored.

The original label on the underside of the shield repeats the serial number, and confirms the date as 1828, possibly 1829.  'Fraser'was probably the foreman.  


The estimate for this fine-looking piano is just £100 - £200.  Once again, surely it's worth more?  Think of the cost of that restoration...  But it sold for a hammer-price of just £220.  


All images by, and by courtesy of the auctioneer

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© David Hackett