Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos

This is a website for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, and would like to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update May 24th

Historically Important Harpsichord

by Alec Hodsdon - Safe in a Good Home

The Buckingham Palace Broadwood

Sold

A New CD by Jonathan Delbridge

Historically Important Harpsichord

by Alec Hodsdon - Safe in a Good Home

I'm happy to be able to report that this historically important 1939 harpsichord is safe in a good home in the UK.  It was spotted by Daniel Flew, a very welcome young up-and-coming restorer, who placed the sole bid at the auction.  With support from Cesar Hernandez, it will be restored to full playing order as time permits.  If all goes well, we hope that it may make an apperance at our Friends of Square Pianos party in April next year.  We will keep in touch with this exciting project, and I hope to be able to report progress on this website from time to time.  

The Buckingham Palace Broadwood - Sold

John Broadwood & Sons are of course holders of the Royal Warrant, and this piano was chosen as part of the exhibition held at Buckingham Palace in 2013 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the late Queen Elizabeth II.  In 2016 it was one of the instruments used for concerts at the Broadwood  Festival at Lythe, Whitby, and it has been cared for and regularly tuned since then.  This beautiful piano is now sold - please see the Sale Page for pictures and full detals.

 

Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed that as a first-generation Broadwood it is identical to my own favourite piano, much loved, and featured in the 'Welcome' picture of this website.  

A New CD by Jonathan Delbridge

We were privileged to hear Jonathan as one of our soloists at the Friends of Square Pianos party in April, and I am now happy to recommend his beautifully presented new CD, recorded on the 1814 Broadwood that he brought to Chelveston.  Most of  the chosen pieces were written in the early days of the square piano, from well-known composers including Haydn and Clementi, but also some delightful pieces by lesser-known composers such as Burney and Pinto.  Inclusion of an arrangement of Elgar's 'Nimrod' is perhaps a surprise, but Jonathan reminds us that this is one of the several pieces that Elgar composed at his 1844 Broadwood square at Malvern Cottage. 

 

For several of the pieces, Jonathan is joined by the charming soprano Molly Jasmine Soo.  Mozart is perhaps not well known for his Lieder, but Molly's performance of 'An die Freude' is one of my favourite pieces from this excellent CD.  Highly recommended.

 

Collard & Collard c.1833 Free to Good Home

The owner assures us that this piano is in playing order, but sadly due to 'downsizing'  it needs to go to a new home.  Good to see that the pedal is present and correct.  Please see the Sale Page for pictures and details.

Broadwood 1827 Free to Good Home

This fine Broadwood - number 33770 - is surely one of the very best  generously to be offered Free to Good  Home.  In the picture above we note the good nameboard and ivories, and happily the pedal and green painted shade are still present.  The shade does have a significant effect on the tone, especially when the piano is being played with the main lid open.  Please see the Sale Page for pictures and full details.

Cesar Hernandez at N° 1 Royal Crescent

This event will take place on Thursday 23 May at 6.30,

at N° 1 Royal Crescent, Bath.

 

'Join Cesar Hernandez for a one-hour experience in our sumptuous Withdrawing Room, including an overview of the harpsichord, its musical capabilities, tuning, and some of the conservation techniques involved in maintaining this instrument.'

 

Click on This Link for full details.

Broadwood 1840 For Sale

This handsome piano is number 51463, dating it to 1840, the third year of the reign of the young Queen Victoria.  There is a story behind this one, and the entire proceeds of sale will be donated to a cause that must touch all our hearts.  Please see the Sale Page for the full story.

Spinet by Roger Bedding

after John Harrison 1757 For Sale

This exceptionally fine spinet by Roger Bedding, after John Harrison 1757 is now offered for sale. 

Please see the Sale Page for pictures and full detals.

Spinet by Stephen Fogg 1972 For Sale

The owner states that this 4½-octave spinet is in full playing order.  Please see the  Sale Page fpr pictures, full details, and a sound-clip.

Clavichord by Robert Goble 1959 For Sale

This beautiful clavichord by the famous maker Robert Goble was made in 1959 .  After some time making keyboard instruments for the pioneer Arnold Dolmetsch, Robert set up his own workshop in 1953. This one was made for the brother-in-law of the present owner in 1959, but now it seeks a new loving home, where it will be cherished as it has been for the past 65 years.  As we see, it remains in excellent condition.  The compass of AA - e3 is wider than many contemporary clavichords. Please see the Sale Page for details.

Harpsichord by Rubio (after Hass) 1985

For Sale

Recently used for concerts, including with the Academy of Ancient Music, this is surely the finest harpsichord to be offered for sale on these pages.  Please see the Sale Page for pictures and details.

An Original English Spinet

by John Kemys of Bristol, c 1770

Sold

Original English spinets (my favourite instruments) do not often appear for sale, and it is my privilege to present this 'long lost' instrument by John Kemys of Bristol for sale. Please see the Sale Page for pictures and details.  (Now sold)

NORVIS 2024

I'm happy to give publicity to this splendid event which is being held in County Durham in August this year.  Please see the Events Page for details.

Plans for Keene & Brackley Spinet -

Now Affordable!

The famous Keene and Brackley spinet is rightly the model for many reproductions, both amateur and professional.  I am happy to announce that by courtesy of the copyright owner of John Barnes' original plan, we are now able to offer copies at an affordable price; they are now available through Friends of Square Pianos for just £20, plus carriage at cost.  Please note that this is the original plan taken from the original instrument in the picture, not the EMS kit version which had two added sharps for GG# and d3#.

 

Even if you are not going to build an instrument yourself, anyone with an interest in spinets will find this plan fascinating.  

Please see the new page Plans For Sale for details of plans of spinets, harpsichords, and clavichords offered at reasonable prices.

Bespoke Tuning Hammers

Early keyboard Instruments, whether originals or replicas, do require more frequent tuning than modern iron-framed pianos.   The costs of professional tunings mount up, and it can also be a problem finding a tuner who is happy to work with our ancient instruments.  For this and other reasons, most of us do our own tuning.  To offer some help to those thinking of having a go, I have prepared a short PDF guide, available on request.

  

It is very important to have a properly-fitting tuning hammer, which should bear on a good portion of the two flat faces of the wrestpin (tuning-pin).  If the fit is too sloppy, the corners of the pin and the socket of the tuning hammer will be damaged, and the backlash makes accurate tuning difficult anyway.  If it is too small, it will grip the top of the pin only, with the same result.

 

Tuning-hammers are available from Lucy Coad or David Law - see 'Suppliers' page of this website.  Alternatively, I am now able to offer a limited number of hand-made hammers tailored to your own pins, either directly or via a template.  Please see the Tuning and Tuning Hammers page for details

 

I have made a number of very short and lopsided hammers; these have proved popular with owners of Broadwoods and other pianos with the pins at the back, and also with spinet owners.  In both cases the lid makes tuning difficult (unless it can be thrown right back) and these special hammers can help.  They don’t look as elegant as the long-stemmed symmetrical type, but they are quite practical!

 

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasy - Names, Numbers, and Dates

The second of these two essays builds on the first ('1664 and All That' - see below) and offers a new interpretation of the data concerning the establishment of Thomas Hitchcock as the leading spinet maker.  It explains the somewhat confusing numbering sequences, their relationship to dates of manufacture, and the change on the nameboard from Thomas to John.  As before, the piece is rather long to transfer directly to this page, so please open the PDF below.

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasty Apr[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

1664 and All That 

Some confusion still surrounds the early life and career of Thomas Hitchcock.  When was he active?  Who was ‘Thomas Hitchcock the Elder’?  One of the first histories of keyboard instruments in Britain was written by Edward Rimbault (pub. 1860).  He tells us that “John [!] Hitchcock made these little instruments of a compass of five octaves. Several specimens still exist bearing dates between 1620 and 1640”  It is likely that Rimbault mistook front numbers for dates, and numbers as high as this would indeed have carried the name of John Hitchcock, but it seems surprising that he had apparently never seen Hitchcock spinets carrying numbers which could not possibly have been dates, such as 1460.

Perhaps the most important early historian for keyboard instruments was Alfred Hipkins of Broadwoods.  He compiled the catalogue for the 1885 International Inventions Exhibition, and used this experience for his 1888 book ‘Musical Instruments – Historic, Rare, and Unique’.  It is in this book that Hipkins makes the notorious statement “…Thomas Hitchcock, whose autograph appears in spinets from 1664 and 1703.” 

His famous 1896 book ‘A Description and History of the Pianoforte’ repeats this as “Thomas Hitchcock’s written dates found within instruments made by him cover the long period between 1664 and 1703.”  But he then goes on to note that Hitchcock was the first to number his instruments, so he did realise that the numbers on the nameboards were not dates. 

As so often happens, later authors followed these statements as unchallenged facts, and the misunderstanding is repeated in James (1933) and Russell (1959).  Boalch ‘Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord’ (2nd edition 1974 and presumably 1st edition 1956) has a variation of the muddle, ascribing ‘1664’ to ‘Thomas the Elder’, and ‘1703’ to ‘Thomas the Younger’.  Even the 3rd edition (1995) still has the entries, but the editor (Charles Mould) does realise that something is not quite right, and offers the plaintive statement: “…1664 does seem early for a wing spinet in London, and the date may have been misread.  If it were possible to locate this, and the other early Hitchcock instruments, it would be possible to be more precise about the identity and dates of the members of the Hitchcock family in the early years of their workshops.” 

So it was that, having kept a low profile since 1885, the mysterious ‘1664 Hitchcock’ emerged from the shadows.  This is the story of an important little spinet – it is my privilege to be part of the story.

The essay is a bit long to transfer to this page directly, so please open the PDF below.  All comments welcome!

1664 and All That .pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [942.5 KB]

Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have followed the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in the Marlow Sigal  Music Museum in South Carolina.   Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

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© David Hackett