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.

Dominic Winter South Cerney 14 October

No fewer than six good-looking square pianos came for auction at Dominic Winter Auctions, South Cerney, Gloucestershire.  Probably all from the same collection?    

Lot 349 was an 'Elegant' Broadwood with a twist in its tale.  The nameboard reads: 'Johannes Broadwood Londini Fecit 1795 Patent'.  Broadwood enthusiasts will already have spotted that the date is inconsistent with the Latinized inscription for John Broadwood alone.  After 1793, when James Shudi Broadwood was made a partner in the firm, the inscription was changed to read 'John Broadwood & Son'.  The serial number inside the piano is 1720, which is correct for 1792, and the Latinized inscription.  We cannot know for sure, but it seems likely that the piano was returned after a period of hire, or possibly due to failure of the customer to pay!  In these circumstances a piano would be freshened up, and offered for sale again.  But a bygone date would be a handicap, so it would be re-lettered by the original calligrapher.  

Estimate £800 - £1200.


No result recorded - presumably failed to reach reserve.  

The straight dampers are consistent with the 1792 date of manufacture.  After 1793 they were cranked to allow for bigger hammers.  Nice ivories.  

Bridge and soundboard good, apart from the common separation of a joint.  Usually seems to hae no effect on the tone, but as long as the ribs underneath are secure, it can easily be shimmed from above.

Next was another Broadwood, N° 8665, from 1805.  This is one of the last of the old-style Broadwoods with the beautiful brass under-dampers and a French stand.  These pianos often retain the silvery 'eighteenth-century' tone.  In 1806 the new model was introduced, with six turned legs and the Geib-type escapement action and Southwell's wire-operated overhead dampers.  

Estimate £500 - £800 for this one.  


Result well above estimate for this one, at £2,000

Good to see the 'shade' has survived - these are so often lost.  Cream, rather than the usual green.  Nice ivories.

This one has evidently been recently and carefully restored.  Stringing pattern correct.  

As we suspected, the date at the top of the oval name-panel has been smudged out.  This was often done in the early nineteenth century to stop the piano being called 'old'.  Most makers had stopped open dating by 1805; Broadwoods gave up by about 1809.  

351 was by the Royal maker Thomas Tomkison.  Many makers claimed royal patronage, but Tomkison really did make pianos for the Prince of Wales, who later became Prince Regent (1811 - 1820) and King George IV (1820 - 1830) .  The most famous of Tomkison's pianos is the splendid rosewood grand made specially for the Brighton Pavilion, and now restored to its home.  This one is more modest, number 5859, and inscribed for 'His Majesty'.  Made early in the reign - probably in 1820.  Estimate £400 - £600.


No result recorded - presumably failed to reach reserve.  


Another careful restoration.

New soundboard?

Then lot 352 was a handsome later Broadwood, number 2555Q (last digit faint) from the same time as the Tomkison, about 1820.  Characteristically for Broadwoods of the early 1820s, this one has the wrestpins for the top notes moved to the right, which reduces crowding at the narrow end of the main wrestplank. Soon after this the divided bridge was introduced, but this one is still single.  A handsome piano with a cross-banded case and motifs on the front corners.  Brass inlay to the rosewood nameboard, and brass embellishments on the legs and round the lower edge of the case.  Two useful drawers for music, but thankfully no centre drawer - so it is possible to get your knees under this one!  Estimate £500 - £800.


No result recorded - presumably failed to reach reserve.  


Another carefully-restored piano.  Re-covered hammers, strings look correct, new wrestpins.

Looks like extra 'listing' for the top notes!  Just the red cloth is usually sufficient.

Next was a very pretty piano indeed, in an exuberant satinwood-veneered case by the rarely-encountered maker William Henry Edwards - notable for being 'South of the River' in Lambeth.  We can't quite see the name presentation, but it's probabaly the same design as this one, on a piano by John Hills.  

Difficult to be sure of the date, but from the style I think about 1815.  Six octaves, though - so could be a bit later.  

Estimate £4,000 - £6,000.


Once again, no result recorded - presumably failed to reach reserve.  

Detail of the 'grand-style' music desk - very unusual for a square - and the silk-covered shade.  Note the sockets for candle-holders, and the very unusual edge-banding and complex inlay on the underside of the lid.  

Another view of the music-desk and the presentation of the Hanoverian arms and the maker's name.

Inside we see a very neat restoration.  Some of the hammers have locked up - this is very common as there isn't much room for the hammers, the damper-wires, and the comb for the wires.  Usually this problem is cured instantly if the whole action is pushed ½ mm to the right.

There is a split to the soundboard which really does need to be corrected, although it might have little effect on the sound.

The inlay on  the top of the lid is exceptionally beautiful.

And finally, a rare example (in the UK certainly) of a piano by the famous Dutch maker Corneille Van der Does of Amsterdam.  Beautiful flame mahogany with applied brass embellishments. 

Estimate £2,000 - £3,000.  


this one just beat the low estimate, and sold for £2,200 hammer-price.

This one has a full-length soundboard.

Beautiful flame-mahogany.

All images by courtesy of Dominic Winter Auctions

Also at Auction in October...

An interesting Clementi at Bamford's, Derby.   The numbers 6738 (stamped) and 7710 (ink) confirm the date as 1809, but it appears to be on an earlier-style French stand with Clementi's characteristic turned leg.  Evidently in need of some attention, but a modest estimate of £200 - £300.


Sold for £200

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.

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© David Hackett