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 April 16th

Clavichord by Robert Goble 1959 For Sale

Clavichord by John Morley c. 1962 For Sale

Chelveston 2024

Spinet by Roger Murray 1982 For Sale

Chelveston 2024

A busy few days for me!  Thanks to all our friends who came to the village to make Chelveston 2024 such an enjoyable party.  There were about 55 of us, just about a full house for our beautiful spacious church.  We assembled a collection of twenty or so harpsichords, spinets, virginals, clavichords, and even some square pianos!  There were two or three entertaining short talks, but mostly we just enjoyed each others' company with time to make friends, chat, browse the instruments, and listen to some lovely musical interludes.  It was encouraging that we had not only a wide range of experience, but also ages from sixteen to ninety-three.  Just one of the highlights was the Handel duet for two spinets, played by Lizzie Cooke and Francis Knights. The instruments were the original 1704 Blunt (right) and a 2018  exact replica - a rare chance to hear such a pair side-by-side. 

 

I'll write a fuller report as soon as I have time!

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 full details.

Clavichord by John Morley c. 1962 For Sale

The five-octave clavichords by John Morley are well-built and dependable.  This walnut example from c.1962 is now offered for sale.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Spinet by Roger Murray 1982 For Sale

This beautiful spinet was made by Roger Murray in 1982, based on the anonymous 1708 instrument in the Royal College of Music collection.  Please see the Sale Page for pictures and full details.

Square Piano by Freudenthaler

in Mallam's Abingdon Auction March 25th

Ten instruments by this firm are recorded in Clinkscale, six of them in museums in France.  This elegant example was Lot 77 in Mallam's auction in Abingdon on Monday, 25 March.  Sold for £350 hammer price. Please see the Auction Page for pictures and details.

Clavichord by Clayson & Garrett - Sold

This elegant clavichord by Clayson & Garrett is longer than most with a C compass, and the greater string-length offered the prospect of a good tone. Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1817 Free to Good Home

When well-restored, a Regency Broadwood is a lovely piano.  This one does need a lot of work, but I believe it has that potential. It has lost its front inner pair of legs and the pedal, but as far as we can see, it is internally virtually complete and in undisturbed original condition.  From a restorer's point of view such benign neglect is infinitely preferable to the results of clumsy intervention.  

 

Please see the Sale Page for pictures and details.

Broadwood 1817 For Sale

This handsome Broadwood is one of the best to appear on this site.  It is in Stockholm, which is an advantage for potential EU purchasers.  It is in good current playing order, tuned to A=415.  Please see the Sale Page for 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.

Harpsichord by Miles Hellon 19776

after Dulcken 1745

This splendid harpsichord was made by Miles Hellon in 1977, a copy of the 1745 original by Dulcken in the Smithsonian Institute.  It is now offered for sale.  Please see the Sale Page for pictures and details.

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