William Rolfe c. 1803

The pianos made by William Rolfe in the early years of the nineteenth century are notable for the beautiful flower paintings that adorn the nameboard.  The designs are the same as on pianos by Clementi and other makers, but Rolfe was particularly fond of the most elaborate of these designs, featuring sweet peas, Turk's cap lilies, blue auriculas, Rosa centifolia, and morning glory.  This early example has the name on a plain wood oval - later on the background was dark, like the header of this page (taken from a Clementi).  

Because of the unusual structure, Rolfe pianos are sometimes subject to a severe twist, but this example seems to be absolutely flat (see below).

The structure is unusual in consisting of massive beams on a relatively thin base; this is very strong against bending moments, but not so well able to resist torsion about the main beam.  But as we said, thiis one looks good after 215 years!

Clearly, this is a major resoration project, but the soundboard and bridge look OK - if in need of a clean!

There is some damage to the nameboard frets, but enough remains to copy. 

There is no sign of the dampers, but these were the overhead lever type, and not difficult to make.  Some of the hammers are detached, but there is a box of loose parts.

Unfortunately, there is no trace of the stand or pedal.  This would almost certainly have been a French stand, but in view of the early date of this piano, a plain trestle stand would look good.


This piano is in Escrick, a village south of York.  The price is £100.

Please contact the owner Cathie Dance



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© David Hackett