(Updated December 2016)

271, Southtown Road, Great Yarmouth NR31 0JB.

Tel. / text 07969 778428

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ARCHIVES - BLOG - DEMOS - DATEMARKS - DIAGRAMSDONATIONS - EDWARDIAN - EXHIBITION - FALSENESS - GENEALOGY - GRAND - HEALTH - HEAT DAMAGE - MEMORIES - MISCELLANEOUS - NAMES - NUMBERS - REPERTOIRE - SQUARES - TUNING - VICTORIAN

 

If every visitor to this site donated just one pound, we would have a proper museum building, and much more scope for doing research within our archives.  Small monthly donations can also be set up through the Donate button.  If you would like some gentle music while you look through this site, click on the heading at the top of the page, it starts very quietly.

 

Details of OUR COLLECTION may be found further down this page.  For other headings, click on the following links…

 

HISTORY, NOT VALUATION!

The most important factor deciding the value of a piano is not its name, but its condition, and the most important aspect of that is whether it holds in tune, because if it doesn't, repairs can cost over a thousand pounds, and this is usually more than an old piano is worth.  Nobody anywhere can guess the value or condition of a piano without inspecting it on the spot, and checking that it can be tuned, so your local tuner is the best person to ask about that.  Here in Britain, where antique pianos are plentiful, unrestored ones have very little value, and we are offered several each year for nothing.

 

PIANO TUNING in East Anglia, including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex etc.

 

PIANO HISTORY

 

GRAND pianos from Cristofori’s invention to modern.

 

SQUARE pianos (Querpianos) were the main domestic instruments before upright pianos were perfected.

 

VICTORIAN cottage pianos and earlier attempts at upright pianos.

 

EDWARDIAN upright pianos and later ones.

 

DATE-MARKS and other clues inside your piano.

 

EXHIBITION medals and awards shown on a piano provide clues to its age.

 

GENEALOGY of the Piano makers, and some impression of what your ancestors might have done in the piano trade.

 

NAMES and fictional aliases used on pianos.

 

NUMBERS as a guide to the date of a piano.

 

ARCHIVES of the piano makers are rarely available, so our own archives try to fill some of the gaps.

 

DIAGRAMS of piano actions – the working parts of the notes.

 

FALSENESS in piano strings can make tuning very difficult.

 

CENTRAL HEATING can damage your piano.

 

MISCELLANEOUS piano subjects that don’t fit conveniently into other headings.

 

MUSIC

 

DEMOS of Bill Kibby’s performances on various instruments.

 

REPERTOIRE – over two thousand titles that Bill Kibby can play for you.

 

OTHER

 

HEALTH matters and possible help with them.

 

BILL’s BLOG has little or nothing to do with pianos or music.

 

MEMORIES of my childhood in Walthamstow.

 

 

In all the world, how many collections have a uniquely-detailed 300-year time-line of piano history, with thousands of images, thousands of pages of piano information, thousands of index cards, over a million directory entries, and actual pianos for most decades from the 1790s to the 1970s?  JUST US!  Recently, someone said that until he heard me perform, he would not have believed all the things I can do in music.  Much the same argument applies to piano history, and until we can achieve the proper museum display, people will not understand how much the collection has to offer.  Every day (to my amazement) THOUSANDS of people around the world visit this website looking for information about their pianos. 

 

Imagine taking the world’s largest collection of piano history, and packing it away into a large brick shed at the end of our garden.  We have all the ingredients, but sadly, our humble building is barely big enough to store our unique and growing collection, let alone display it, so the pianos are crammed in together, and the archives are functional but not on display.  At one time, the only way into the room was to climb on a stool, then up onto a piano, crawl along it, then along another one, and down onto a stool! 

 

Dear Henry,

The PHC can’t get a building without funding.

The PHC can’t get funding without charitable status.

The PHC can’t get charitable status without an income of £5,000.

The PHC can’t raise that income without a building.

..But the PHC can’t get a building without funding.

 

Having spent 8 years trying to obtain sponsorship or funding for a proper museum building, we are looking into the idea of extending our existing building so that there will be space to display all the pianos, and a portion of the forty thousand images.  This is a big compromise, there will not be enough floor space to meet Health & Safety regulations for a public museum, or put on live music events to raise funds, so it will remain a private collection, but we hope that if it comes to fruition, at least people will be able to visit us, and see a compact version of the museum we would like to have.  Not only that, but our archives should be a lot more accessible when I don’t have to squeeze between pianos to get to them!  

 

CHERISH YOUR ASPIRATIONS!

 

OUR COLLECTION

 

General (non-piano) History items are further down the page.  We are a world centre for piano history, we deal with enquiries from around the world every day, and I find myself in the position of being the keeper and protector of a unique history collection, not just because it is my passion, or because of anything it can do for me.  It deserves to survive long after I am forgotten, because people need it.  Occasionally, someone will tell me that what I am trying to do is impossible, and I have to point out that I have already done a lot of it! 

 

Visiting pianos at many museums, it is interesting that there is usually little or no historical information attached to them, whereas we have more than we can possibly display.  Recently, we supplied a dozen items to a World War I display, and a friend was immensely impressed with what was, after all, a tiny fraction of our display material.  We continue to function as an archive, and every day, we supply piano information in answer to enquiries from around the world.  We also offer occasional lectures on piano history to Women’s Institutes, colleges, museums, schools, etc., and I am always impressed by the enthusiasm of so many people who want to learn more about pianos, and ask very searching questions.

 

It is important to understand that although piano history is a minority interest, taking that minority from the whole world means that a great many people are searching for piano history, thousands of hits every day, quite apart from the many people who have a more casual interest, and although this website goes some way to satisfying that need, a museum could do so much more.  Imagine a huge museum of piano history, with the world’s largest specialist archive of related information, a unique pictorial time-line of piano history, over forty thousand images, thousands of index cards, thousands of printed pages, a collection of Victorian books containing piano ads, irreplaceable reference material, as well as actual pianos from the eighteenth century right through to modern, plus provision for lectures and live music projects.  Although the books were purchased for their piano content, they also provide a wide range of general history

 

“A calling that cannot be realised becomes a burden” - Gunther von Hagens

 

At the end of 2014, the Eastern Daily Press very kindly did a whole-page feature on our collection, and our plight in trying to find funding or sponsorship for a proper museum building.  I watched a television programme about a man who collected worthless junk for years.  Everyone agreed it was junk, nobody understood, but one day, he bought a building, and all of that “junk” suddenly came together to form a wonderfully-integrated display.  What we have here is perhaps the piano equivalent, there is no cash value in the individual items, the historical value is in what they make together.  At least it seems a little more reasonable to me than the man who collected live crocodiles!  In the past twenty years, a total of seven other projects have very kindly offered to house our collection within theirs…

 

“This time, I had the answer right here in my hand,

then I touched it, and it had turned to sand.”

 

One by one, they all fell by the wayside and ceased to exist, but we are still here!

 

To add to our problems, we are in a flood risk area, and although we said “it hasn’t flooded since 1953”, within a few months of moving in, we had a near miss when we were evacuated because of flooding just along the road.  I have this image in my mind of all the pianos floating down the river!  We were not troubled by flood waters, but were greatly troubled by the flood warnings, which had us in a panic to get irreplaceable books and paperwork into the house, and upstairs.  In the process, electronics got broken, the books were thrown into chaos, I strained my back, and we were exhausted. 

 

In 2007, we moved to Great Yarmouth when we were offered a large museum space in a wonderful Georgian setting, but sadly, after months of intensive preparatory work, the premises proved to be unsuitable because of problems with parking, disabled access and egress, fire regulations, legal wranglings, and differences of opinion between the residents and the local council about many things, including the previously-stipulated ground floor space, which is a matter of public record.  Not only that, we were asked to put my most treasured possessions (and my life’s work) into a building where anyone could walk in when we weren’t there!  What seemed like a gift from heaven to house our collection for a peppercorn rent, by the generosity of the residents, ended up with the council wanting us to invest thousands of pounds for an upstairs venue that had not been designed to fit in with modern regulations. 

 

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Ironically, it was only in the process of designing displays for that museum that I really began to appreciate the scope of what we have here.  People often say that we will need a lot of space to display three dozen pianos and organs, but what they don’t realise is that in order to display the more important history items at a reasonable size, we would need even more display width. 

 

Here, you can see just a small selection of the images for the 1700s, and there are 6 times as many for the 1800s, before we even get to the 1900s.  In a way, the pianos are only window dressing, the main collection is history.

 

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

 

 

I began collecting musical instrument information around 1958, and focussed on pianos from 1963.  When I left college in 1965, I realised that there were many unanswered questions about piano history, and as I began seeking them, people were already asking me for help.  My Piano Archives  service was dealing with historical enquires by 1972, when home computers didn’t exist, and everything was done with a pen, a typewriter and a photocopier. 

 

By 1989, I had a shop at Lowestoft, and was writing computer software that could search through the files overnight, and print out the results while I slept.  Things are a teeny bit quicker with modern computers, but less convenient for writing one’s own software.  In 1990, I began 14 years of major illness, and was given no help at all by the NHS.  I was incapable of going out to work, and while my current life was showing no progress, I tried to invest in my future by working on piano history whenever I had a burst of energy.  That intermittent work laid the foundation for the service we now provide every day, read by thousands of people all around the world.

 

PIANO WHAT?

 

The old PianoGen web pages were set up in 2001 in conjunction with UK Piano - Britain’s largest piano website.  Sadly, although we have always known that “gen” meant information, many people still do not understand what “Piano Gen” means, so now, we are…

 

 

Since 2001, I have dealt with thousands of postings on the piano history forum, in addition to our own extensive clientele.  A recent Google search revealed 38,800 internet entries connecting “Kibby” with “piano”, while “piano history centre” showed 785,000 entries.  The hits for my forum postings about Spencer pianos alone are in excess of twenty thousand.

 

We supply information to many museums, archives and specialists around the world who only deal with specific aspects of pianos, and we also receive information from them, we don’t just quote from books, we add to the existing knowledge.  Because we have so far been unable to locate major funding or sponsorship, our active research is aimed at antique British pianos, so anything else that arrives is a matter of luck, but with growing worldwide demand, we never discard any kind of piano information, and the Piano History Centre works together with the specialists in researching, filing and storing all kinds of piano information.  It is fair to add that although we try to help with any pianos…

 

Our active research is aimed at antique British pianos.

The majority of those were manufactured in London.

The majority of their factories were in and around Camden Town.

 

Many piano books are written by professional writers who have no experience of pianos, or only have a very narrow view of the subject.  On the internet, text is often misleading, and you will find a lot more reliable material from Google Images, but unfortunately, huge amounts of space on the net are wasted on images that are not labelled properly:  if you are looking for Broadwood square pianos, you won’t be able to find them if they are labelled “xyz123” or “our piano”, they are useless to most people because a search will not find them, so some my work is in cataloguing and cross-referencing these. 

 

Just for fun, try searching for paino or panio.

 

THE AGE OF MISINFORMATION

 

A lot of the misinformation about piano history has arisen from people writing books and phrasing things badly, or misquoting information, or quoting other authors who got it wrong.  I have written to authors, challenging statements they made, and the usual answer is that they read it somewhere else, and took it to be correct.  Sometimes, there is a whole chain of people quoting previous authors, and this applies especially to serial number dates.  Nobody is immune to misinformation, and the tangled web often makes matters worse by spreading misinformation more rapidly so, as they often say in CSI or NCIS, “follow the evidence”.  I spend a lot of my time searching for original unadulterated information from paperwork, or the pianos themselves, but even that will have human errors.  It might seem that by looking at books written a century ago, we would get nearer to the original truth, but this is not always the case, they didn’t have the benefit of later research, and people like Michel, Dolge and Brinsmead published all kinds of misinformation, commenting on aspects they knew very little about, or carefully quoting misinformation from each other.

 

Our collection includes…

·        over 5,000 index cards; 

·        thousands of printed pages; 

·        over 40,000 computer images; 

·        general reference books on the pianoforte;

·        uniquely-detailed visual time-line of piano history;

 

·        34 pianos ranging in date from the 1790s to the 1970s;

 

·        miniature pianos, music boxes and piano-shaped ornaments;

·        hundreds of piano directory lists, totalling over a million entries;

 

·        a growing archive comprising hundreds of old sheet music copies; 

·        thousands of computer text pages, listing over seventy thousand names;

·        a range of Victorian books from 1844 onwards, purchased for their piano content. 

 

DIRECTORIES & OLD BOOKS

 

Here is a brief summary of some of the directory lists and other sources we have available for reference, in addition to our more modern reference books:  some are complete originals, others are just piano lists:  there are many more to be added, containing over a million entries, and far too many for us to make them available online without major funding, quite apart from the enormity of the copyright problems.  There are London lists for every decade.  Early directories are written in name order, some musical instrument makers did not specify which instruments they made, and it is easy to miss piano entries unless one knows what to look for.  If you are searching for London names in any trade, it is worth remembering that we have a selection of complete  London Directories from 1786 to 1892.  We also have incomplete lists of piano items found in London alphabetical directories for 1765 1768 1769 1771 1772 1774 1775 1778 1782 1794 1797.  In some cases, Longman’s is the only music firm listed.

 

          1786           Lownde’s London Directory.

          1790          Edinburgh Directory.

          1792           Lownde’s London Directory.

          1794           London directory

          1805          Various London directories

          1809          Glasgow

          1814          Pigot's Directory of Chester. (Trades)

          1814          Pigot's Directory of Leeds. (Trades)

          1814          Pigot's Directory of Liverpool. (Trades)

          1816          Birmingham Directory

          1817          Leeds

          1817          Johnstone's Directory of London

          1817          Leeds Directory

 

 

          1819          Post Office London Directory

          1820          Glasgow

          1820          Post Office London Directory

          1820          Glasgow Directory

          1822          Huddersfield

          1822          Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London; Musical Instrument makers

          1824          Canterbury

          1824          Post Office London Directory

          1824          Kent Directory

          1825          Nottingham

 

 

          1825          Pigot & Co., London

          1825          London Directory

          1825          Nottingham Directory

          1827          Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary

          1828          Leamington Directory

1828          Pigot's National Commercial Directory covers an odd selection of major towns and cities in some (but not all) counties, and strangely avoids London.  From this, I copied every list that had piano, organ or music firms, including Chester, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Scarborough, etc..

 

          1828          Worcester Directory

          1829          Birmingham Directory

          1830          Devon

          1830          Ipswich

          1830          Norwich

          1830          Post Office London Directory

          1830          Yarmouth

          1830          Devon Directory

          1830          Great Yarmouth Directory

          1830          Ipswich Directory

          1830          Norwich Directory

          1830          Suffolk Directory

          1832          Manchester Directory (Trades)

          1833          Edinburgh

          1834          Leeds

          1834          Edinburgh Directory

          1834          Leeds Directory

 

 

          1835          Dublin’s earliest classified trades Directory

          1836          Isle Of Man

          1836          Norfolk

          1837          White’s Directory of Sheffield, Wakefield, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds

          1838          White’s Directory of Hull

          1838          Manchester Directory (Trades)

          1839          Ipswich

          1839          Norwich

          1839          London Pianoforte tuners

          1840          Dublin

          1840          Glasgow

          1840          Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London

          1840          Post Office London Directory

          1840          Dublin Directory

          1841          Manchester Directory 

          1842          Norwich

          1842          Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London

          1842          Norwich Directory

          1842          Penny Magazine

 

A single reel of microfiche in the Manchester Archives includes Pigot's Manchester directories for 1841, 1843, and 1845, but it is very difficult to tell which part is which, and it seems to end illogically with the 1843 list, so the most accurate description is "circa 1843".

 

          1844          East Anglia

          1844          Glasgow

          1844          Ipswich

          1844          Glasgow Directory

 

The Illustrated London News was first published in 1842, and suddenly, people could not only read the news, they could see engraved illustrations of major events, exotic animals, foreign peoples, landscapes, and all sorts of things about the world around them.  We have a selection of volumes of the Illustrated London News for every decade from 1844, and these include many items of general history.

 

          1844          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1845          Slater’s Directory of Sheffield, York, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds

          1845          Williams’ Directory of Huddersfield

          1845          Birmingham

          1845          Norfolk

          1845          Birmingham Directory

          1845          Norwich Directory

          1845          Post Office London Directory

          1848          Aberdeen's first directory classified in trades

          1848          Slater’s Directory of Bradford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax

          1848          Manchester Directory

          1848          Post Office London Directory

          1850          Birmingham

          1850          Exeter

          1850          Birmingham Directory

          1850          Devon Directory

          1850          Post Office London Directory

 

          1851          Great Exhibition; Official Catalogue has many items of general history

          1851          Great Exhibition; Art Journal Catalogue has many items of general history

 

          1853          Tomlinson’s Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts & Manufacture has many items of general history.

          1853          White’s Directory of Leeds & Halifax

          1854          London

          1854          Imperial Dictionary has many items of general history

          1854          London Gazetteer has many items of general history

          1855          Post Office London Directory

          1856          Post Office London Directory

          1858          Nottingham

          1858          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1858          Nottingham Directory

          1859          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1860          Post Office London Directory

          1860          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1863          Exhibition Catalogue - South London Working Men. No illustrations.

          1865          Exhibition Catalogue - South Kensington Museum. No illustrations.

          1866          Devon

          1866          London

          1866          Devon Directory

          1867          Paris Exposition:  Extracts from two catalogues

          1870          Bristol

          1870          Family Friend magazine has many items of general history

          1870          Post Office London Directory

 

          1871          Rudall & Co. stock books

          1871          Manchester Directory

 

          1871          Franco-Prussian War, broken book

 

          1872          Family Friend magazine

          1873          Bristol Directory

          1874          Bristol Directory

          1874          Exeter Directory

          1875          Bristol Directory

          1876          Bristol Directory

          1877          Bristol Directory

          1878          Bristol Directory

          1878          Pigot & Co.'s National Commercial Directory

          1878          Sherborne's partial stocklist

 

          1878          Illustrated London News has many items of general history, such as the Norwich floods, and Paris Exposition.

          1880          Melbourne Exhibition

          1880          Post Office London Directory

          1881          Yorkshire Directory

          1882          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1882          Post Office London Directory

          1884          Glasgow Directory

          1884          London Directory

          1884          Glasgow Directory

          1886          Birmingham Directory

 

          1886          Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades is our earliest list of piano firms covering the whole of England, Scotland & Wales.

 

          1886          Scientific American – inventions, patents, general history

          1888          Concertina Makers & Dealers

          1890          Birmingham Directory

          1890          Dublin Directory

 

          1892          Musical Opinion & Music Trades Review

 

          1892          Post Office London Directory – 8 inches thick, with references to names, trades, streets etc..

          1894          Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1894          Exposition Universelle, Antwerp

          1894          Birmingham Directory

          1895          Essex Directory

          1897          Book on 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

          1899          Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1900          Birmingham Directory

          1900          Dublin Directory

 

          1901-1904          “The Connoisseur” magazine includes ads, art and furniture, just at the time when there was an explosion of advertising for Automatic Piano Players, which suddenly took over most of the piano ad space.

          1901-2       Books on the life of Queen Victoria.

          1903          Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1905          Musical Herald has items of general history

          1908          Middlesex Directory

          1910          The Times – a huge bound volume, last quarter of the year, has many items of general history including a report on Dr Crippen's trial, cars, fashion, and various player piano ads.

          1911          Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1911          Coronation books

          1911          Alfred Dolge "Pianos and their makers"

 

          1913          Cabinet Maker magazines include many piano ads

          1914          Chas. Begg & Co., New Zealand, stock records

          1914          Music Trades Directory

 

          1928          Musique Adresses Universel - worldwide lists of music firms

          1929          Kelly's Directory of Norfolk & Suffolk

          1936          Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades.

          1938          Music Trades Directory

          1938          List of Collard & Collard dealers

          1939          Berlin Directory

          1949          Who's Who in Music: Pianoforte Manufacturers

          1951          Directory of the British Music Industry

          1960          Post Office London Directory

          1962          Who's Who in Music; Pianoforte Manufacturers

          1968          Music Trades Directory

          1969          London Pianoforte Manufacturers

 

…and various more modern trade directories, Yellow Pages entries, piano books, etc..  Without donations, I will be fine, but PianoHistory.Info may not survive.  If every visitor to this site donated just one pound we would have a proper museum building, and much-improved facilities for research within our own archives.

 

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