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.

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.

Gardiner Houlgate June 18th

We always look forward to the wide selection of instruments offered in the Gardiner Houlgate sales, and they never disappoint.  Where else could you buy an ophicleide?  And, of course, there was a fine selection of early keyboard instruments.

Lot 1226 was an imposing cabinet upright by George Peachey.  Often called 'Wall Climbers', this one is 6' 6" tall.  This does allow a good length for the bass strings.  

This example has a 6½-octave compass, and its inscription to 'Her Majesty' makes this one of the later examples.  Against and estimate  of £200 - £400, the hammer fell at £480



The earliest piano inthe sale was a very attractive 1776 Beck.  As often found in the earliest pianos, and contemporary harpsichords, the rarely-needed FF# is omitted.  There are the usual three handstops controlling a divided damper-lift and buff.

The soundboard has been replaced, but it was this maker's habit to sign alongside the bridge, and this signature has been saved.

The estimate for this one was £1,500 - £2,000; it achieved £1,350



Next was an 1831 Broadwood, number 409635.

It has evidently been carefully restored, with new strings, damper-cloths and hammer-coverings.

At this date Broadwoods introduced single overspun bass strings, and retained the acoustically elegant divided bridge.  This gives a longer speaking-length for the first of the iron strings, and hence a tension more nearly equal to the brass section.


The estimate for this one was just £100 - £150; it achieved a disappointing £90. 



Lot 1249 was a good looking example by James Ball, dated to 1788.  The diagonal stretchers with small shelf are probably a later addition; these 'French' stands are elegant, but they do have a tendency to go rickety!

This piano has been well cared-for, and comes with notes recording work by Michael Cole, Tim Smithells, and Morley & Co.

The estimate for this one is £1,000 - £1,500.  Sold for £1250.




There are two Machell Dulcitones in the sale, both the five-octave model.  There is normally a pedal for the dampers, but I have to confess that I don't know what the other pedal on the second example is for - do please tell me!


Both have an estimate of just £40 - £80.  Sold for a more encouraging £260 and £280, which seems about average for these.



Then there was a Morley Clavichord, the five-octave model C5.  Possibly the case looks a bit faded in the picture, but this can surely be refreshed.  

Internally it all seems to be present and correct.  The estimate is a very modest £100 - £200, but I felt  it should have done better than that.  It did, but only just at £260.



Finally, we had the return of the 1803 Broadwood, number 7657.  This is another early example with Southwell-type 'Dolly' dampers, three years before Broadwood adopted them for all squares.  Possibly the progressive  influence of the ' & Son' - James Shudi Broadwood?

This one does need a fair amount of work, but it appears to be basically sound, and at least most of the 20 or so detached hammers are visible.  This does have the potential to be a fine piano.  Surely an irresistible project for someone, with an estimate of just £100 - £200.  Evidently yes - it achieved £420.



All images by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate

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

Bland & Weller c. 1800 at

Toovey Auctioneers, West Sussex, May 27

Bland and Weller were unusual makers.  'Bland' was Anne, and her partner 'E Weller' was probably also a woman.  Remarkable to find women leading a manufacturing firm in those days, although Nanette Streicher (née Stein) also comes to mind - she led her own firm from 1802 in Vienna.  

The nameboard is enhanced by a painting of flowers,  in a different style from those of Clementi and others.

The estimate was a modest £80 - £120.  It did a bit better than that at £420, but surely it was worth more.  Lucky buyer!

Broadwood c. 1810 at Hawley Auctioneers  North Cave, Yorkshire, May 22 - 23

The estimate for this lovely piano  was just £200 - £300, but it did coniderably better at £900.  Surely a bargain at that price - just consider the cost of a restoration to this standard!


All images by, and by courtesy of, Hawley Auctioneers

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© David Hackett