Chelveston 2018

Saturday April 7th

Thank you to all who came along and made this a great party.  I think we all had fun, and a chance to meet new friends and to chat to old ones.  Special thanks to Derek Adlam for entertaining us with fascinating tales of his time at the Colt Collection, Finchcocks, and Welbeck.  And thanks to Allie Cade for her presentation about amateur-built square pianos in America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  We had time for music as well, and thanks to those who played the clavichord, square piano, and spinet for us. 

Thanks also to those who brought instruments along,  not least to Olaf and Charlotte van Hees who brought two splendid (and quite heavy!) Dutch square pianos from Holland.  We assembled fourteen instruments in total - here's a picture of about half of them...

...and here's the other half.  Altogether there were six clavichords, one clavisimbalum, four spinets, and three square pianos.  

Chelveston 2018 - The Instruments

Thanks to our Friends, we had a fine collection of instruments at the party.  Some of my favourites will be featured on this page over the next few weeks.

Haxby Square Piano 1787

 Most of our English square pianos were made in London, but there were a few notable exceptions.  Thomas Haxby was born in York, the second of seven children, and baptised on 15th October 1739.  Robert, his father,  was a carpenter, and it was most probably from him that his son learned the basic skills that were to serve him so well.

  There is no record of his education or of an apprenticeship, but in 1751, at the age of 21, he was appointed Clerk for the parish of St Michael-le-Belfry, and also as 'singing man' in York Minster.  It is here that we find the first evidence of his involvement with musical instruments, for in 1754, having repaired the bellows of the Minster organ, he was paid six guineas annually for tuning it.  

  He married Mary Eatwell in 1756, and shortly afterwards set up a music shop in Blake Street, selling a wide range of goods and services, but not apparently yet making instruments himself.  

  The first of his instruments that we know about , after repairing the organ in Leeds Parish church in 1760, is a new organ for St Mary's church Scarborough in 1762  His earliest known plucked stringed keyboard instrument is a spinet from 1764, and his first recorded harpsichord was dated 1772.  

  Like most of his contemporaries, he turned to piano-making in the last quarter of the eighteenth-century, and at least 20 instruments survive, dated from 1772 to 1794.  He died in 1796.


  His pianos are basically similar to the London instruments, but have a character of their own.  Certainly they are at least as good as the London pianos, and are beutifully-made and decorated.

  The example that came to Chelveston is dated 1787, and carries the number 209 in several places.  As well as being exceptionally pretty, it has a beautiful sound as we heard, and is a delight to play.

  Thanks to Peter and Mary Berg for bringing this fine instrument.  They also have a Haxby spinet, which came to Chelveston last year, and is the instrument used on one of the very few spinet recordings available (see the Friends Recordings page).

We are already planning Chelveston 2019, and the hall has been booked for Saturday April 13th.

The papers presented at our 2017 Spinet Day are still available:

Harpsichords and Spinets shown at the In[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]
The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasty - P[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [917.8 KB]
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© David Hackett