Chelveston 2019

Saturday April 13th

  In April 2018, something over 40 Friends of Square Pianos came together for our second party in my home village of Chelveston (Northamptonshire).  For 2019, the Village Hall is booked for 13th April (the weekend before Easter).


  40 or so is the best number to allow space for the instruments that we will be assembling, and for our informal café-style seating.  We already have a provisional full house again, but please let me know if you would like to join the reserve list.  As before, the fee for the day will be £25, which includes tea, coffee, hot cross buns, cookies, and a substantial buffet lunch (more than half the money goes on the food).

  The theme will be 'makers, restorers, and owners' - which includes many of us!  But those who have yet to own a square piano or a spinet will be equally welcome - it will be good to meet new friends.
  We will be assembling a dozen or more instruments for us all to study and play, and so far we have promises of at least three square pianos, two clavichords, four spinets, a virginal, a 'Viennese' grand piano, and a harpsichord with an interesting story.  
  As we will have a number of accomplished instrument-makers and restorers, perhaps some of us would like to bring questions for general discussion?  

  The hall will be open from 8 a.m. to give people time to unload their instruments and for everyone to have tea, hot-cross buns, and a chat.  We aim to start the 'programme' at 10 o'clock.  As well as tea-breaks, there will be a substantial buffet lunch at 12.30.  There is no bar, but we have glasses, and you are welcome to bring your own bottles.


  For those coming from further away, there will be a chance to unload and tune instruments on the Friday afternoon, and there will be an evening meal in the Star & Garter at 7.00.


  As you have probably gathered by now, this party is mostly about making friends, chatting, drinking tea (or whatever) and eating.  But there will be lovely instruments and music as well.


  Looking forward to another good party!

Instruments and Programme (Provisional)

First of all, we will have an 'Italian' harpsichord with an interesting story.  It was one of the items in the Colt Collection sale, and I was one of very few people to see past the somewhat dodgy outer case to the beautiful (if neglected) harpsichord within.  And furthermore to guess that the maker 'DA' was none other than Derek Adlam.  This was the only harpsichord of this type to be made at Finchcocks, after an original instrument brought in by a client for restoration.  Fortunately, we were able to win the bidding for this one, and it is now with Derek at Welbeck, where (after making good the damage caused by damp at Bethersden)  he is completing it in line with his original intentions.  Completion of the work is promised in time for next April, when Derek looks forward to showing it to us and saying a few words about it.  


The pianos of Adam Beyer demonstrate a remarkable standard of craftsmanship.  This example belongs to David Hunt, and will be appearing in unrestored condition.   It  will demonstrate some of the decisions and challenges that we face as restorers.

Another of Adam Beyer's beautiful pianos, made in 1781, and now in need of full restoration.  Lucy Coad will be bringing this one.  'Original condition' and undisturbed, but needing the usual attention to soundboard, dampers, missing handstop, etc.

Karin Richter brought her beautiful clavichord to Chelveston in 2018, but we did not have time to appreciate it properly.  It now has its correct stand. 

I'll be asking Karin to say a few words about it, and we look forward to hearing some music.



This fine 1789 Haxby piano was formerly part of the Colt Collection, and now belongs to Luke Bradley.  It demonstrates that in every way, Thomas Haxby was at least equal to the London makers with whose work we are more familiar.  Some restoration work will be complete by April, and Luke will be playing some music for us.  He will also have a story to tell!

If there is room,  I might bring my own 'Viennese' grand piano along for what will probably be its only ever outing.  So far, it has literally never moved - it stands exactly where it was built.  It might not be the best piano in the world, but it is the best one in Chelveston, and it was a lot of fun to make; I hope to share this enjoyment with you.  Its life began in a local sawmill, where I bought the huge cherry tree from which the case is made.  It does work, and perhaps someone would like to play a tune for us?


The 'Revival' instruments have been with us for the best part of a hundred years now, and having been deeply unfashionable since about 1970, there are now signs that they are possibly due for a revival of their own.  The best of them were beautifully constructed and durable, and Olaf van Hees has recently refurbished and decorated this Morley virginal.  This will be a chance for us to hear the result, and no doubt there will be a lively discussion!  


Graham Walker has recently completed the restoration of an early Ganer, and he has promised to bring it as the focus for a discussion on hammer-leather.

We can now reveal the identity of the Mystery Piano!  It is the beautiful 1775 Pringle that was sold at auction late last year.  Archibald Pringle is recorded as a maker of spinets; one or possibly two of his instruments survive in the USA.  This, the only known piano, shares the 'skunk-tail' sharps often found on earlier spinets.

It is a rare privilege to be able to construct a replica of a historic instrument alongside the original.  This is the 1704  Edward Blunt spinet, the notorious '1664' which caused so much confusion amongst historians in the nineteenth, twentieth, and even into the twenty-first centuries.  It appeared in the 1885 Exhibition in the Royal  Albert Hall, but was not seen in public again until its re-emergence at auction in 2014.  It does indeed carry the signature of Thomas Hitchcock as Maker.  

The picture above is the original, seen on the occasion of its post-restoration debut at Finchcocks in 2015.  The picture at left is the replica,  which follows the original as closely as possible.  The two instruments will be shown side-by-side for the first time for you to play and compare.



Two or three of the instruments will be for sale, as well as for us to enjoy.  Unless sold before then, one of them will be this replica of a classical Thomas Hitchcock spinet.  made by Roger Murray in 1987.

Hitchcock spinets have either a straight nut, like the one above, or a nut which is convex towards the player; this gives a more flutey tone, due to the deeper plucking point.  This will be a rare opportunity to compare the two types sise-by-side.  This one was made by Mark Stevenson in 1980.

More to follow!

Chelveston 2018

Some pictures from our party in 2018 - The Hall:

.. and a reminder of the fourteen instruments that we assembled for Chelveston 2018 - 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.  

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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