WORLD’S LARGEST LIST OF PAST UK PIANO FIRMS!
(Page updated June 2018)
Many of the products you can buy in shops have fairly meaningless brand names, so I wonder why some people are disappointed if their piano does not have a name on the front? People often imagine that this is a rare mystery, but many piano names are meaningless anyway, as is the example shown above. If your computer has a keyboard, don’t forget that you can use the usual CTRL F to find a name on this page, but because we have over 80,000 piano and music names on file, (probably more than the whole of the internet) we can’t include them all here, so email me. Before you start spending lots of time, effort and money on researching a piano name, it is always worth asking if we already have the information. After all, I have been researching piano names for half a century, but if the information you seek is not already typed up on our computers, we may have to go through more than a million entries manually on card and paper files, so rather than waste our time…
PLEASE CHECK THE SPELLING!!
So often, the name is the only information people give us, yet they can’t be bothered to check the spelling. Please try to give us the complete, exact wording that is on the piano, as well as any other information you can find by opening the top. If a picture paints a thousand words, then photos showing what the WHOLE piano looks like (unobscured by dogs, stools, vases etc.) are often very helpful.
If you find that our website can’t help you with a piano name, email us, because there are far too many names on our files to put them all here. If you wanted to look up a piano firm, you might just look in your local Yellow Pages, but what we have is not only piano firms for most UK towns, but also for most periods going all the way back to the 1700s. The whole point about this website is that instead of giving you a finite list of piano names, and leaving you stranded if your piano is not listed, we aim to give you a range of general information that can be applied to many different pianos, regardless of their names. People have come to regard the internet as the ultimate fount of knowledge, but we have over 80,000 piano and music names on file. The majority of them are not listed on the internet, and many are not real makers. We never turn away piano information that turns up from around the world, but…
Because of lack of funding, our active research is aimed at antique British pianos.
The majority of these were made in London.
The majority of their factories were in the Camden and St.Pancras areas.
When it comes to tracing piano names, and especially British ones, we have an unrivalled collection of information here at Burwell, but in the absence of official funding or major sponsorship, it remains to be seen how long this unique collection can survive, and there is still a lot more research that could be done in the long term if we had funding to employ staff, by going through the files we already have here, but as things stand, we have to give priority to the older items, and ask for donations where more modern research is required.
HISTORY, NOT VALUATION
Nobody anywhere can guess the value or condition of a piano without inspecting it on the spot, and checking how well it will hold in tune, so your local tuner is the best person to ask about that. Condition is often more important than the name, unless you have something famous like a Bechstein, although some of those don’t even fetch £20 now. I recently saw a Bechstein offered on Ebay for £1, and another was broken up before I could rescue it. 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.
PIANO NAMES AND ALIASES
In Britain, the term “decal” seems to be unknown to most people, so I will refer to nameplates, labels and transfers.
What's in a name? Not much when it comes to the average piano. Some names were used for such a long period that they give no clue to the nature of the individual piano, and very few of these labels can pin down the age of the piano. For example, Gough & Davy used the name Keska. A fairly typical scenario is that a wholesaler (such as Bansall) would supply a piano to a retailer (such as Barnes) who would then sell it with one of several fictitious names, such as Barnes, or Adlon, D'Allinson, Gebruder Sohne, Harcourt, Karl Lange, Kirkwood, Osbert, Paul Gerard, Romberg, Stahl, etc.. Barnes routinely used all these names. Some “musical instrument sellers” had no expertise or experience with pianos, they simply sold them, in the same way that any junk dealer might do now. Years later, the piano is stripped and repolished, so the original name transfer is lost, and replaced by one that is more-or-less picked out of a hat, and still has no relevance to the original manufacturer, so your best hope is that you may find some clues hidden inside the piano, to trace it back to the manufacturer. See
Incidentally, although limited companies existed before 1900, they were usually referred to as “limited”, and “Ltd.” tends to be after 1900.
A century ago, most retailers were selling a mixture of well-known names, combined with pianos bought in from anonymous wholesalers, and fitted with fictitious names, or the retailers’ own names, as if to imply that they made their own pianos, so Joshua Marshall sold the “Marschal Model”, the Chesham Music Salon sold the “Chesham”, Middletons sold the “Mydelton”, B.Handel Garth sold “Handel, Berlin”, Luckmores sold the “Elmore” (L-More) etc.. By 1870, John Geary was the manager of the London Pianoforte Co., Kentish Town, but made some “Geary” pianos, while others had a transfer stuck onto them saying “Dussek & Dussek”. There was an apparently separate "London Pianoforte Co." in Glasgow. Some clues may be found on our Numbers page…
OEM is not text-speak, it means “Original Equipment Manufacturer”, a modern term for the fairly unusual situation where the piano name is actually the real maker, though I fail to see why the world needs yet another thing shortened to cryptic initials!
I would love to see statistics on how many pianos have the real maker's name on the front. Of course, a great deal depends on one's definition of a “real maker”: most firms contracted out to specialist ancillary trades for such things as frames, keys, action and various other specialised items. Some used to buy in all the interiors, and build their own cases, but more would tend to have the entire piano made for them by a wholesale factory, (most of which were based in Camden Town) or perhaps they might personalise it with some of the minor decorative work. None of this is peculiar to the pianoforte trade, gramophones and antique clocks come to mind, but it also applies to many modern products. The selling power of a German-sounding piano name is still exploited, even by Chinese, Japanese and Korean makers and dealers.
NAMES OF KOREAN PIANOS
Names produced by Korean piano factories include the following: Alex Steinbach; Apollo; Bachmann; Choiseul; Elysian; Gilbert; Hanil; Karl Muller; Schutzemarke; Klingel; Landauer; Melford; Otto Renner; Reidsohn; Rosenstock; Sam Ick; Schumann; Stegler; Steinburg; Steinmeyer; Suajin; J. Thompson; Wagner; Weber, Berlin; Young Chang. See also the various “Schumann” references further up the page. “Elysian” is a trade mark of Morley, London. The Piano Tuners’ Quarterly, April 1981, includes the following item about Korean piano names.
The first thing that strikes you on visiting a Korean piano factory, apart from the pervasive smell of glue, is the variety of brand names stamped on the instruments. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As Korean companies are not yet household names in the musical world, nearly all the foreign customers themselves select the names under which the pianos will be sent to them. Thus instruments marked “Alex Steinbach” go to Holland, while French dealers take them under the names of “Otto Renner” or “Choiseul”. For Singapore, the choice is “Steinmeyer” and “J.Thompson” and for Hong Kong “Steinburg” and “Bachmann”. For Japan, pianos are marked “Rosenstock”, “Klingel”, “Gilbert” and “Melford”. For the United States “Stegler” and “Schumann”, and for Canada, “Wagner” and “Landauer”.
In German, STEIN means “stone” and in the same way that many British surnames begin or end with “stone” so it is in Germany. Because of the fame of Stein, Steinway and Bechstein pianos, any name that begins or ends with “stein” is considered worth using, so I am surprised I haven’t found a “Steinstein” piano yet. Genuine and fake piano names include Bechstein, Bergstein, Blankenstein, Breidenstein, Elbstein, Lahnstein, Rubinstein, Solstein, Stein, Steinbach, Steinbeck, Steinberg, Steinburg, Steiner, Steinert, Steingraber, Steinhart, Steinhauer, Steinhoff, Steinhoven, Steinman, Steinmann, Steinmayer, Steinmetz, Steinmeyer, Steintelser, Steinwald, Steinway, Steinweg, Waldstein, Welstein. There were different piano firms called Steinbach in London, Germany, Italy, China and Korea.
I recently tuned a brand new “Steinhoven” Chinese piano, it is a perfectly useable instrument, but what a shame they had to put such a daft name on the front, it’s as if it can’t decide whether it is a Steinway or a Beethoven! Perhaps the absurdity doesn’t translate into Chinese. My recent experience with Chinese junk mail and on the internet is that they want to appeal to British buyers without bothering to learn proper English.
There are clues which may suggest whether a name on a secondhand piano is original, for example, if the name is inlaid in brass, or cast into the iron frame, (rather than a separate plate screwed on) it must have been originally intended as the name of the piano, but even that doesn't mean it is the real name of a factory. However, if it only had a three-quarter iron frame, not extending to the top of the piano, a separate head-bar would sometimes be added, painted gold, often with the name cast into it, and screwed on to give the impression that it was a full iron frame, and that the piano name was a proper maker. A standard model could be bought in from a wholesaler, and the head-bar would be screwed on. However, if the name is cast into the main iron frame, this at least proves that it was always intended to be the name of the piano. The next question is, do we have any record of the name? We have a piano marked “Nottingham Piano & Organ Co.” but this firm was only in business for a few years, and although their name is cast into the frame, they did not have a factory.
This printing block appears in G. Rutley's 1878 ad, which says "The best real gold name tablets for Pianofortes, Organs, &c., at reduced prices, supplied by G. Rutley, Gold printer" so these were no ordinary cheap transfer. (Kennard used the same block on his stationery.) Of course, gold leaf could not be imitated in Victorian times as easily as "gold" paint is today, so the genuine article was more common. Sadly, they do not prove that the name is a real maker...
Between about 1832 and 1866, or “circa 1849”, there were many gold name transfers made for piano firms as far apart as London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and even Hamburg and Montreal, which had surprisingly similar details in the graphics, suggesting that the lettering was superimposed onto a standard background.
Some of these have been applied by wholesalers supplying their pianos to be sold with the retailer’s name on them, and it seems likely that there was a firm such as Rutley’s producing these gold transfers to order.
PIANO NAMING LOTTERY
For many years of the 1900s, it was a running joke in piano reconditioning that when the polish was stripped, and the original name transfer was lost, unless the piano was by a famous maker, a replacement transfer would be pulled out of the hat more or less at random, bought for a few pence, with little or no concern about whether it was the original name of the piano, or even a real maker. (These aliases are unaccountably known as "Stencils" in the U.S.A. although they are not stencilled, but that term is also used in connection with gramophones. Some people call them "badged" names, although they are not badges.) I suppose it is predictable that composers' names are used, and anything German-sounding too, so I reach a point where it is tempting to think all the German names I haven’t heard of by now are fake. The word schutzemarke means trademark, but it too has become a fake German piano name. I wonder if these practices are still allowed under the Trades Descriptions Act? There has always been an alternative, because a name can be made up from separate letters, and although these can look less artistically satisfying, sometimes distinctly home-made, and are often just block capitals, they may indicate an attempt to reproduce the genuine name. Another choice is to simply say "Reconditioned By ...".
A Victorian example bears the name of the Essex retailer James Dace on the outside, but inside the piano, the maker’s name is revealed as J. Hulbert. From the historical point of view, it is all the more frustrating that the real name is often not written inside.
An ad in a trade catalogue from the seventies offered "gold" transfers at a mere 10p each for the following names:
English Names: Clifford, London; Elmore & Son, London; Graham, London; Gresham & Co., London; Heywood & Sons, London; Lincoln, London; Powell & Co., London; Raymond & Co., London; Studholme & Sons; Windsor Model.
Continental Names: Paul Gerard; Hoffman; Karl Lange; Schumann; Schonberg; Steinbach; Steinmayer; Steinmetz; Maxime Freres, London & Paris; Wagner Model.
In a way, although some of them are fictitious, it is far more worrying that others are real makers’ names. For example, Gresham was real, but his genuine transfers were very large and fancy. Elmore was used by Luckmore (“L-more”). Windsor was a Berry model name, yet these transfers can be randomly applied to any old piano! There were several “Schumann” piano firms in Germany a century ago, some just marked “Schumann”, some “Schumann, Germany”, some “C. Schumann”, and various “Carl Schumann” in Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Stuttgart. No proper dates of serial numbers are available, and very little is known about them. There are also Chinese Schumanns, as well as the Korean ones below!
If you are looking at the name transfer on an old piano, you may find that the alignment of the words is strange, as it often is on shop signs and advertisements: for example, the large words that you read first may be in the middle, the words either side may belong together, or the small letters at the top may continue at the bottom, which can be quite confusing when you are trying to make sense of it. Sometimes, the only clue is the difference in the fonts of the various words or phrases. Generally speaking, an old piano will often have the makers’ name and the retailers’ name, and it is not always obvious which is which.
If a company survives for a long period, it may go through changes of name or address, which may provide clues to the date, but it is important to understand that name changes were never instant or all-consuming, for example there was an overlap of over 30 years between the use of the names "Monington & Co." & "Monington & Weston", so beware of over-simplified statements about these, because one man may seem to have been a partner in several firms at the same time. Some pianos are marked “Monington, London” long after this name was replaced by Monington & Weton.
In 1808, William Rolfe took his sons into the business as partners, so the firm became known as William Rolfe & Sons, and we can reasonably assume that this name was only used after 1807. However, this does not mean that the previous names stopped, and for many years, for some purposes, they still referred to themselves as “Rolfe & Co.” or “Rolfe & Comp.” or simply “William Rolfe”.
Dates of changes of address are also imprecise, because makers would often have pianos still in stock when they moved, or use up their old stock of pianos, letterheads, transfers and labels that had the old details on them.
This is an impression based on an old drawing of the Cheapside premises of James Longman, Mufical-inftrument makers, No.26 Cheapfide, which he occupied by 1769, one of the earliest London music firms dealing with pianos, although these were actually made for him by Culliford, Dettmer, Ganer, and others. (Modernisation and re-numbering have lost this historic building.) Longman & Broderip were often the only piano firm mentioned in London directories of the 1700s, for example, our copy of Lowndes’ 1786 London Directory does not list Astor, Broadwood, Culliford, Dettmer, Erard, Erat, etc., although Longman & Broderip are there. Many other names can only be described as “not listed”, which does not prove whether or not they were in business at the time.
A huge amount of wrong information is published about the Longman firm in London, who went through a series of name changes, first Longman, then Longman & Lukey, then Longman, Lukey & Broderip, then the more famous Longman & Broderip. In the long process of their bankruptcy, names often overlapped between them and Longman Clementi & Co., and then Clementi & Co. separately from Longman & Co., or Longman & Bates, not to mention Clementi’s various partnership names, including what may be the longest ever…
Sometimes something unusual turns up, such as an 1830s piano by “Bates, Longman & Bates”, a combination I have been unable to trace in the London records, or on the internet. It is also worth remembering that “Longman” could be James, John or Giles. At some point, Masterman succeeded Longman, but which Longman? Robert Keith was also a successor to Longman in the sense that he took over Longman & Herron's premises at 131 Cheapside in 1822.
Even piano makers as famous as Broadwood had their first pianos made for them by other people. Conversely, by 1795, they would sometimes supply their pianos to retailers, to be fitted with false names. Here’s a transcript of a 1795 letter from John Jacob Astor to Broadwood, reproduced in Broadwoods' literature, and in their letter to The Times in 1890. By 1814, Broadwood and Stodart were both supplying pianos to be sold by Panormo, who later claimed to be a pianoforte maker.
A little word that frequently comes up for discussion here is “from”. Broadwoods’ firm was highly respected, and if an ex- employee set up in business, he would be proud to add "From Broadwoods" to his stationery. When a man trained at a famous factory, then left to set up his own business, he would often lean on the fame of his previous employer by putting “From” and the ex-employer’s name. These labels can be very misleading, and some give the impression that the piano was made by that firm. The German equivalent is “schuler”, meaning “student”, for example some of Vienna’s makers (including Scmidt and With) would say “Schuler von Bosendorfer”, meaning that they learned their art with Bosendorfer.
Sometimes, the word “late” was used instead, for example Mantle was “late of John Brinsmead & Sons”. This may give the impression that Brinsmead was dead, or that the name of Brinsmead’s firm was changed to Mantle, which is certainly not true. In the case of “late Clementi”, Clementi was actually dead, and the firm became Collard & Collard.
In the example on your left, the piano appears to be “from Broadwood & Sons”, but it was actually Allen who made it in Glasgow. He later re-worded his transfers (right) to just say “From London”. Tradesmen who were apprenticed to Broadwoods included Camille Pleyel, Allen, Brinsmead, Browne, Butcher, Caperoe, Cons,
Dove, Godball, Johnson,
Logan, McKenzie, Milne,
Morley, Owen & Anderson, Reeve, Rudd, Shelford, Sheppard, Sherborne, Soane, Stodart, Wilkie, and Towns: After his partnership with Charles Packer, Thomas Towns claimed to be “Manufacturers to Her Majesty” but we have found no evidence of this claimed royal warrant.
Mr White took it a bit too far, calling his pianos “Broadwood White & Co.”. Frederick Dove’s pianos were made by White.
Justin Browne was from Ennever, Broadwood and Erard.
Freeman was “From Messrs. J. and J.Hopkinson”.
Hildred was “From Erard’s and Hopkinson’s”.
Coventry was from Goulding & D’Almaine.
John Regale was “From John Brinsmead”.
John Ramsay was “From Stodart & Son”.
Beasman was “From Sebastian Erard’s”.
J.C.Kemp was “From Moore & Moore”.
John Wood “Many years with Erards”
Ridgway was “From Bord’s of Paris”.
W. Denman was “From Kirkman's”
Keighley was “From Kirkmans”.
E. King was “From Kirkman’s”
Fontaine was “From Allisons”.
Eiloart was “From Stodart’s”.
Ball was “From Sames”.
Charles Bustard was “From Collard & Collard”.
Thomas Harper was “From Collard & Collard”.
Arthur James was “From Collard & Collard”
R. Shaw was “From Collard & Collard”.
Hupburg was “From Collard & Collard”
Coldwell was “From Collard & Collard”
Gautier was “From Collard & Collard”
John Squire was “From Collards”.
Priestley was “From Collards”.
F. Eiloart was “(From Stodart’s) Piano Forte Makers to His Majesty”.
Venables was “formerly with Stodart & Son”.
In Paris, Pape referred back to Pleyel, as did Vassier, Jeanpert and Hausdorff. Bataille referred back to Erard and Pape. When someone is trained in a famous factory, they inherit some ideas and design features in their pianos, for example despite being German, Carl Bechstein mainly learned his trade with Pleyel, and his early 7-octave oblique-strung uprights were very similar to Pleyel’s French Pianinos.
In the 1850s, Charles McVay worked at the Erard London factory, and was a senior worker who imprinted his name inside the pianos with a metal stamp, as a way of signing his work. The unusual thing about McVay is that we can track his progress, because he set up his own business in 1862, and made pianos for many years under his own name, adding “From Erard’s”.
We examined a cottage piano with a similar transfer to this one, at the Elgar Centre in 2010. Elgar’s family sold pianos. George Rogers was “From Collard & Collard”, but he eventually became one of London’s top makers, just as famous as the Collards. Rogers pianos became known in the trade as “The English Bechstein”, a phrase which may have led to the myth that he made pianos for Bechsteins. It is said that Rogers made “Reisbach” pianos for Grotrian Steinweg, although Rogers continued to use that name for many years.
THE SCOTTISH PLOY
Macbeth, Marr, Paterson, Reid and other Scottish firms found it very difficult in the 1800s to sell their own pianos against the reputation of the London makers, and would go to great lengths to work in the magic word "London" wherever they could. Macbeth’s 1880 stock included 8 London makers, and Lange, probably German. Some Scots, like Watlen, moved their business to London. Others, if they had trained in London, would mention that, or the name of the factory. Otherwise, they might even go to the trouble and expense of opening an office in London, just so that they could call their instruments “London pianos”. Even William Thompson, in Kentucky, described himself as “From London”.
The situation was much the same around the periphery of Britain. Even sales of sheet music seem to have had more impact if it was “London music”, and it was for this same reason that the "London Pianoforte Saloons" sprang up in many parts of Britain, sometimes selling pianos with fake London names, and it doesn’t seem to have mattered so much who made it, as long as it said “London” on the front. A dealer was often known as a “chapman” or, occasionally, “chapwoman”.
Another thing that happened in Scotland was that genuinely German-made pianos seemed to have untraceable German names, such as Kreutzbach from Methven Simpson, or H. Lange & Co., often made around 1900, but we have no record of this particular Lange in Germany so far, and most examples show evidence of being sold by one of several Scottish firms, so unless Herr Lange made a point of only promoting his instruments in Scotland, it may be that this was a made-up German name used on pianos bought in from an unknown German wholesaler, and sold in Scotland. Some are said to resemble Hagspiel pianos. Ernst Wittig may be another example, sold Machell and by Thompson, both in Glasgow, but also sold by Harston, Liverpool. Murdoch was selling Rottmann pianos, and claiming that they “command a high reputation in Germany”, so it is strange we never hear of any sold by anyone else, anywhere! “Waldberg Berlin” was an original German name in Edwardian times, but some “Waldberg” pianos were later made by Danemann, London. Names like Hofman, Hoffman, Hoffmann, Hofmann, Haufmann and Hauptmann can be found on many old pianos, and although some of these were real makers' names, such as Hofmann & Czerny, some are certainly fake, for example most “Hauptmann” pianos were definitely sold by Stiles. There were over 40 different piano and music firms worldwide with the spelling HOFFMANN!
Although it is quite common to find British pianos with German-sounding names, this 1915 Australian item about Goudge suggests that some German pianos were being sold as English, but the German names can suffer from the same problems as British ones, and there are many more unsolved riddles in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand involving fake names on German pianos. For example “Paul Trubner” doesn’t seem to have existed after 1900, and although “Pruchner” pianos are German, there doesn’t seem to have been a real maker by that name, and every reference I have found is to pianos sold in South Africa.
Beulhoff appears to be a German name, but most examples can be traced back to the UK retailer Archibald Ramsden, and just before the 1914 war the Ramsden company was listed briefly under the Beulhoff name. Anti-German feeling in the war was probably the reason why this was hastily removed. “Mignon” turns up on some German pianos, but in Australia, they were named after Nicholson's granddaughter, Mignon Nicholson. “Herman Schroder” is a German name on German pianos sold in Australia, but which factory did they come from? “Otto Bach” is even stranger, it seems originally to have been a name for pianos exported by Zimmermann, Leipzig and, around 1965, was used on pianos made by Dietmann, South Africa, but Alastair Laurence tells me that Knights supplied the piano parts to Dietmann, so they were virtually Knight pianos. By 1971, there were also “Otto Bach” pianos made entirely by Knight in Essex, and identical to their others except for the name on the front.
I had a call from a Trading Standards Officer who was trying to establish whether a piano was a genuine "Weber". Unfortunately, composers' names are very popular for use on pianos, for example, there are "Beethoven" pianos from Berlin, Stuttgart, London, Australia, New Zealand, New Jersey, etc.. Coincidences can happen, such as the composer Ferdinand Leitner and the piano maker August Leitner. Edwardian Leitner pianos turn up in Australia and Scotland, but seem to be genuinely German. Weber has the double appeal of being German too, so the name appears on some quite different pianos: some are German, some from the American player firm, some antique Irish, some modern Korean, there seem to have been 2 or 3 Weber firms in the states, and it is difficult to sort them all out, quite apart from the possibility of fake name transfers being added randomly to reconditioned pianos.
Here's a perfect illustration of the sort of confusion that can occur, in an entry from our 1914 Music Trades Directory, kindly supplied by Roy Sagar…
“British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Managers; Messrs Windover.) Offices & Factories - Crown Place Kentish Town, London NW. (Wholesale only.) Manufacturers of the celebrated Melville Clark Apollo Player, "Wagener" Player-Pianos.”
Windover is a name used on pianos, but apparently, Messrs Windover were only managers for the British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. They, in turn, were manufacturers of Wagener players, and apparently also of Melville Clark Apollo players. However, the reality is that Apollo players were made in the U.S.A. by Melville Clark, Chicago, and the name was used on some British pianos which had the Apollo player action installed in them.
FAKES & FORGERIES
It is important to differentiate between pianos with fictitious names, and those where the name of a famous maker has been forged. These things still happen with all sorts of products, for example the name of the old electrical firm EverReady is imitated as EvaReady or EveReady. Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts & Manufacture (1853) states that "Some of the smaller dealers are, we fear, sufficiently dishonest to put the name of some eminent maker on their key-board, and thence enhance the price of the instrument. At one time, when the name of Tomkinson was a sort of passport to an instrument, the small dealers would put Tomkisson on their name-boards, and thus escape the notice of the law."
Here, Tomlinson made a blunder over his near-namesake, because the famous Royal piano maker's real name was Tomkison, not Tomkinson. Look how similar their labels are. Later, there was also Thomkinson. It can happen that what seems to be a very familiar name turns out to be spelt differently, and I used to have a copy of a Gibson guitar mass-produced with “Grantson” written on it.
I have had so much trouble throughout my life getting people to put 5 letters together to spell “Kibby”,
at one time I used a label that protested “NOT Bibby, Kibly, Kilby, Kirby, Libby, Nippy or Zippy”!
In the same way that Tomkinson’s was a genuine firm, which may even have made pianos, the name “Stoddart” appears on a few Victorian pianos, and may well have been a genuine name, although a very convenient one. The famous Stodarts (who made pianos for the Royal family) are sometimes listed wrongly in old books as “Stoddart”, “Stothart” or “Stoddard”.
Here’s a square piano name from the 1790s – Hobart – that can so easily be misread as Stodart. The address 26 Wardour Street, Soho is written inside in pencil, but this seems to be Stodart’s address, probably written by someone who misunderstood the name.
It may seem that piano names like Erhardt or Gerard are intended to cash in on the fame of Erard, but Erat was the real name of a harp maker contemporary with Erard’s harp making.
1878 Ad in our Christmas Number of The Illustrated London News: ERARDS' PIANOS: Messrs. Erard, of 18, Great Marlborough Street, London and 13, Rue de Mail, Paris. Makers to Her Majesty and the Prince and Princess of Wales, CAUTION the public that Pianofortes are being sold bearing the name of "Erard" which are not of their manufacture. For information as to authenticity apply at 18, Great Marlborough Street, where New Pianos can be obtained for 50 guineas.
The moral of this tale seems to be "Don't be a mokerard, pay the extra for a real Erard"!
Evrard is another one that is misleading, but enquiries about French pianos said to be clearly marked SRARD are no mystery, these are just misreadings of fancy script.
However, by 1887, a case at the Old Bailey involved Robert Allen and William James Taylor putting a fake Erard name onto pianos.
The 1878 comments above may have been aimed at Nicolas Erard, established in 1865, who was not related to the more famous Erards, but it could also refer to Sebastian Erard Ruffe, a fishy Londoner whose parents seem to have named him after the piano maker, and he used this to his advantage, even though some pianos have the name spelt wrongly. He does not appear as a maker in our many London lists, in spite of claiming to be “London, Paris, Berlin” around 1880, but one of his pianos was repeatedly advertised in Australia, 1885. It was quite common in Victorian times to use the name of a friend or employer as a child’s name or names, for example…
William Frederick Collard Moutrie
Frederick William Collard Moutrie
Henry Broadwood Dimoline
James Schudi Broadwood
William Brinsmead Squire
Howard Morley Phillips
Charles Hollis Challen
Charles Lukey Collard
John Clementi Collard
Some are tributes to close friends, employers or business partners of the parents, but one cannot help wondering whether some were simply attempts by piano tradesmen to add fame to their children's names for future business gains. Mr Phillips hoped to do better by calling his pianos “Morley Phillips”. William Frederick Collard Moutrie was really Mr Moutrie, but used his middle name to advantage in the piano trade by calling his pianos “Collard Moutrie”. Oddly, some were German pianos labelled “Collard Moutrie, Berlin”. Another popular idea in the music trade was to give a child a middle name which was the surname of a famous composer, Handel was a favourite.
In their 1878 catalogue, Chickering & Sons were warning the public of imitations of their pianos.
By the late 1800s, Collard & Collard were offering a certificate of authenticity, because of “NUMEROUS FRAUDS practised on the Public by Makers of COUNTERFEIT PIANOFORTES”. It seems pointless, because the certificate is easier to fake than the piano. This may have referred to Collard Moutrie, and there were problems with other pretenders whose pianos bore names too much like the famous Bluthner …
and Bechstein …
Some of these pianos are still around, but modern fakes are not that common, and there is little cash value in putting fake names on pianos, unless you can convince people that they are buying something very rare and valuable. Some people put labels, plaques or signatures relating to famous composers onto pianos, in an attempt to drive up the price, but anything like this will attract the inspection of specialists, and is doomed to failure, especially if it is handwritten. Years ago, I examined what purported to be the oldest surviving English piano, at a famous auction house. It seemed that a genuine name had been crudely stuck onto an anonymous and inappropriate piano. In another case, a worthwhile antique piano was fitted with a poorly-conceived Clementi label that looked as if it had been printed on a very old computer.
Old record sleeves from the twenties and thirties are one of the most common kinds of piano paperwork to survive, especially if the 78rpm records inside are interesting enough for collectors to hang onto them. Sadly, they have very little value now, so we often miss out on the piano ads from them. The following item from about 1945 has a tiny illustration of the catalogue, and I feel an irrational urge to send off for it!
An undated record sleeve (courtesy George Woolford) links a group of names. Ferry & Foster Ltd. Pianoforte Manufacturers & Exporters, 23, Fawcett Street and 120, High Street West, Sunderland. Telephone 1458, 1459. 'Grams "Ferifos, Sunderland. Proprietors of the following London factories: Wholesale only.
C. & J. Eungblut, N.W. (Est. 100 years)
Burling & Mansfield N. (Est. 80 years)
F.W. Emmerson Ltd., N.
C. Burlman & Co., N.
Carlton Piano Works, N.W.
Sole & Exclusive Agents for Bluthner, Weber & Steck Pianos,
The "Pianola" and "Duo-Art" Reproducing Pianos.
Accredited agents for His Master's Voice Gramophones & Records.
PIANOS direct from factory. F&F Piano Service, London, Leeds, Johannesburg.
Manufacturers, Merchants, Retailers, Ferry & Foster Ltd., Sunderland.
In the early 1800s, and perhaps as late as the 1860s, some pianos had hand-written paper labels for their names, and sadly, they do not wear well. They seem to have disappeared by 1870. I suppose people like Thomas D’Almaine would not have imagined that one of his pianos would still be around in 2016, and he certainly couldn’t have known it would be seen worldwide on the internet.
Many firms used flimsy transfers under the polish, and these can easily be lost when the piano is refinished, because it is very difficult to strip polish around the name without damaging it. Better quality makers, such as Bechstein, would often inlay a brass name into the wood, and Hopkinsons even provided this on their little Miniature Grand, (above) luxurious on an instrument which only sold for 78 guineas in 1942. It was quite common to inlay the brass name into a small piece of wood, and then inset that into the piano.
This phrase usually implies firstly that the piano name is not the maker's name, and secondly that it was made specifically for sale by this firm, implying exclusive use, although this was often not true. As in other trades, many pianos are and were made by large factories, and sold by smaller retailers with the shop’s name on them. William Jones was one of many examples of a London tuner who put his name and address onto pianos, but did not actually say he made them. Some tuners and other tradesmen used to describe themselves as ”Pianoforte Selectors”, claiming to select the most suitable instrument to suit an individual client, almost implying a bespoke piano. If one makes up a name, it is a sure way of being the sole agent for the name, for example Methven Simpson were “Sole Agents for Altmann”. Some big department stores only had small piano departments, or mainly sold famous makes, but they would also buy in pianos made expressly for sale under their own made-up names. If you went to Selfridges’ famous London department store and bought a “Selfridge” piano, you would know they were not really piano makers, so a fake name like “Welstein”, “Schubach” or “Kalmand” was somehow more acceptable. Similar things happened with Army & Navy, Barkers, Harrods, Maples, Waring & Gillow, Whiteleys, etc., but some of the co-operatives had their own piano factories. The Co-operative Wholesalers’ Society (C.W.S.) made “Amyl”, “Amylette” and “Regent” pianos. Another situation might arise when real makers wanted some specialised kind of instrument, or a factory might only be set up for uprights, and might buy in their occasional grands from another firm. Bord advertised grands, but I have only ever seen one bearing their name in all these years. Did they make it?
Whatever the reason, the more honest approach would be say who manufactured it, and for whom, as in the example above, but many avoided giving the real maker's name. "Manufactured Expressly" can also refer to pianos made for particular uses, such as Tropicalised pianos, Yacht Pianos, or School pianos. Fortunately for us, some of the wholesalers who made these pianos, and whose names may have meant very little at the time, are now more famous than the names that appeared on the pianos, so if you find that in spite of the name on the front, you have a Bansall, Beadle & Langbein, Brasted, Broadwood, Chalton, Cramer, Dettmer, Kemble, Kennard, Rogers, Spencer, Windover, etc., we may be able to tell you a little more about it. Hackney Archives have some of Kembles’ archive information, but it is not catalogued yet. For Kemble, Bansall or Brasted, see the list near the bottom of our Numbers page…
Around 1896, an ad for William G.Thomas states that he was a "Manufacturer" with a "Steam Works", but some of his pianos of the period are marked "Manufactured Expressly" with no other qualification. If we accept that he made them, the phrase must suggest that the model was made exclusively for the particular retailer who originally sold it, yet the transfer is obviously adaptable to any supplier.
Around 1913, a catalogue of Sewell & Sewell, London, included their Class 8 upright, "made expressly by one of the Leading Manufacturers in Germany", with a 13" high decorative gallery on top.
Our collection of Victorian books, purchased for their piano content, includes a useful selection of The Illustrated London News for each decade from 1844 onwards. As well as articles and general history, they include many piano ads, and the 1844 picture below, a cottage piano on board the Royal Yacht “Fairy”. There was some debate in parliament during 2012 about whether the country should fork out public money for a new Royal yacht.
We have a large collection of information about Royal piano makers, including fascinating extracts from the Royal Archives: many makers boasted a Royal warrant, but it is strange when people jump to the conclusion that their individual piano was owned by royalty. Some people see a crown mark or a royal crest in their piano, and immediately conclude that the Queen owned it. After all, Colman’s Mustard is “By Royal Appointment”, but that doesn’t mean Her Majesty has tasted every single jar!
There are a great many items on our files about Royal warrants, bills, appointments, privileges, and purchases, under headings which include Addison, Ajello, Bechstein, Bell, Bluthner, Broadwood, Buntebart, Challen, Chappell, Corri, Dale, Erard, Hale, Harper, Haxby, Imhof & Mukle, Jones, Kelly, Kirkman, Lawson, Marr Wood & Co., Marshall & Rose, Metzler, Monington & Weston, Pape, Paterson Sons & Marr Wood, Peachey, Pleyel, Price, Rice, Roberts, Ryley, Scott, Small, Smart, Smith, Steinway, Stodart, Tomkison, Zeitter and others. Around 1844, when the scene above, from the Royal yacht, was printed, when Victoria and Albert were setting up home at Osborne, George Peachey suddenly had a Royal appointment, and called his piano “Royal Albert”, but we have so far been unable to trace any details, or records of a Peachey piano in the Royal yachts or households. (In 1836, he had described himself simply as a Music Seller, yet in 1834 he said he was a Pianoforte Manufacturer.) Victoria and Albert are thought to have owned a large collection of pianos, but the present whereabouts of most of them is unknown, and our correspondence with Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham, Balmoral and Osborne House has not produced any evidence of a Peachey piano. The earthly remains of a Peachey at Berkyn Manor have prompted the suggestion that because the Queen had been there, this might have been her Peachey, but there is no evidence for this.
F. Eiloart advertised that he was “(From Stodart’s) Piano Forte Makers to His Majesty”, but in view of the fact that I can find no evidence of him making pianos for royalty, I wonder if it was a convenient mispunctuation, and it was really just that Stodart made pianos for the king. In much the same way, Robert Cocks was music publisher to the queen but my research has produced no evidence to show that he actually manufactured pianos, much less anything to support the idea that he was “Pianoforte Manufacturer & Music Publishers to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria”. See the end of our Archives page.
Names with Royal connections are always popular, but may still be the genuine, original names, like Alexandra, Albert, Balmoral, Charles Stuart, Jubilee, Osborne, Princess, Regale, Regent, Sandringham, Victoria, Windsor, etc.. Some of these have genuine justification, for example, Monington & Weston’s 1913 catalogue says of their Sandringham Overstrung: "We had the honour to supply two of these instruments to their late Majesties King Edward & Queen Alexandra". The name of Munt’s “Princeps” model has its own meaning, the official title of a Roman emperor, but also seems to suggest a princess. The piano name "Dagmar" implied connections with the Royal Family - the sister of Queen Alexandra. It seems likely that old pianos with the name BALMORAL on them have been repolished, and the original name lost. We have no record of a real maker with this name, and it is presumed to be yet another attempt at implying a royal connection. A crown on the iron frame of a modern piano usually indicates that the frame was cast at the Crown foundry, but some older Erards also used a crown mark. Sawday, Plymouth, had “Royal Pianoforte & Harmonium Saloons” but we don’t know the justification for this label.
D’Almaine claimed to be “Sole makers of the Royal Pianofortes”, implying that every piano the Royal family owned was made by D’Almaine but there is no justification for this, and we are not aware of one single piano supplied to royalty by D’Almaine. He was probably referring back some years, to Goulding’s Royal warrant. Ironically, in 1825, Dettmer advertised that he had made almost all of Goulding's pianos for twenty years. This presumably included those supplied to royalty. Allison & Allison supplied pianos to "Her Majesty and the Royal family", but in Victorian times, several piano makers casually applied the word “Royal” to their instruments, and Ralph Allison described his cottage pianos as “Royal London Model”. Thomas Towns advertised “Manufacturers to Her Majesty” but no details have been found yet.
In 1858, Henry Tolkien advertised “Royal Minuto Pianofortes”, and Oetzmann & Co. offered “Royal Cottage Pianofortes”. We have letters from Osborne House to Oetzmann about furniture, but no evidence of them supplying pianos to Royalty, although Oetzmann & Plumb claimed to be “Pianoforte Makers to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family”. They were succeeded by F. Oetzmann & Sons.
Ajello was maker to the King of Italy. In 1887, Challens said they were makers to Prince Albert, who had died in 1861. By the 1930s, they were saying “By Royal Appointment” but not always making it clear that this one was for the King of Spain. Chappells also said “By Royal Command of His Majesty The King Of Spain”. Cramer was “by Special Appointment to the King of Portugal”. Ajello and Sons were “Makers to the King of Italy”.
Another area that causes confusion is Royal Letters Patents. John Marr was honoured to receive the command of Her Majesty Queen Victoria “to supply a pianoforte of his own manufacture for Balmoral”, and on March 10th, 1849, he was granted “Royal Letters Patent by Special Appointment as Pianoforte Maker to Her Majesty the Queen”.
"Letters Patent" are documents from the Sovereign, or a Crown Office, conferring a title, right, privilege, etc., such as a title of nobility, or the exclusive right to make or sell some new invention for a given number of years. "Royal Letters Patent" are specifically those granted by the Sovereign. Such letters would be authenticated by the Royal or official seal, pendant on a ribbon. The latest examples of such pianos on our files are around 1910.
Royal Letters Patent is often a convenient excuse to show a Royal crest, but it is NOT a Royal warrant. Bishop’s Royal Letters Patent had nothing directly to do with his pianos, it was for stoneware insulators to stand pianos on, like fancy castor cups.
Are your desserts STRESSED? Would you pour something called MUTALIO into your bath water? Or wash your hair in SCIN-AGRO? If you have any idea what I am talking about, then you are probably one of those people who (like me) tend to see words backwards as well as forwards. If that's the case, you won't be at all surprised to hear that Lamberts used a cable address TREBMAL, or that DRANNEK pianos were made by Kennard.
In 1979, Eric Kennard wrote to me, giving some interesting information about the Kennard piano firm, although his business was by then concerned with motor cycles. "Being a small company, we used to supply many shops throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales ~~~~ to mention just a few: Cranes of Liverpool, Wagstaff of Manchester, Crayfourd of Chelmsford, Wilkes Eccles of Newcastle-On-Tyne, Duck Son & Pinker of Bath & Bristol, W.H. Barnes of London, Shepherds of Goole, Allens of Wolverhampton, etc.."
Some other Barnes pianos were made by Bansall, Bentley, Clarence Lyon, Supertone or Kemble: Lyon designed both the interior and exterior of the Cremona pianos, and made wholesale pianos for the trade under various names, such as Paul Newman, Ronson, Barnes of London, Cranes of Manchester, Rushworth and Dreaper of Liverpool and Squire & Longson. Brinsmead also produced a piano called Cremona, with the same address on it as Squire & Longson.
Lionel Sims also sent me a copy of a letter he had received from Eric Kennard. "Dad designed a Backless piano which was a great success once you convinced the dealers that it was a step forward. It was a full frame overstrung overdamper and had an exceptional tone.” [Sadly, there is no known mark that would identify Kennard pianos except that…]
“The frames were made by Boulton & Paul, and we used Gamble actions with Cassini hammers ~~~~~ The name Brunger was a name thought up by Mr Charles McDougall, who was the buyer for the Edinburgh Co-Op, and it was originally for his sole use." I did ask Boulton & Paul, but they have no archives.
Vernon Kennard, of Loch Ness Pianos, says “I knew Eric Kennard, he and I shared the same great-great-grandfather - Isaac DeBock Kennard. I've got the first issue of Exchange and Mart in 1868 where he advertised an organ. Isaac was tuning and selling pianos in 1825, that may make us the oldest piano family business still alive and kicking, as my daughter re-joined us in 2010.”
Some pianos bearing the names EIBHAR or D’AMERY have this same warranty transfer as DRANNEK, but we do not know if this means they were made by Kennards. Examples of reversed names are to be found in many different trades. There was, for example, a decorating supplies firm in Wales called REPAPLLAW, and of course TREBOR sweets, but I don't think YBBIK would be worth pursuing. Family folklore has it that the unusual spelling of "Wornum" was the surname of one William Munro spelt backwards with W (for William) added, and that it was changed following a squabble with his brother.
NAMES OF LONDON FIRMS
At the core of many of the enquiries we receive about London piano and music firms is a group of names which share a complicated inter-relationship, with partner-swapping that Gill Green aptly described as “almost incestuous”. In an attempt to demonstrate this visually, this chart shows the connections between some of those names, which include Addison, Astor, Bates, Beale, Broderip, Buntebart, Challen, Chappell, Clementi, Collard, Cramer, D’Almaine, Duff, Gerock, Goulding, Gunther, Hodgson, Horwood, Kirkman, Longman, Lukey, Nutting, Phipps, Potter, Wilkinson, Wood, Wornum and Zumpe. Similar things happened in Scotland, with the names of Marr, Muir, Paterson and Wood appearing in various permutations.
Kirkman was taken over by Collard, who became part of the Chappell group, and Chappell pianos were later made by Kemble. In the early 1900s, the Belgian crest and motto “L’union fait la force” was associated with “The Cramer Agencies”, which (as well as Cramer) began to take over such old names as Brinsmead, Dale Forty, Dussek, Cavendish, George Russell, Metzler, Saville, and Justin Browne. The making of Cramer pianos, in turn, was later taken over by Kemble, a little-known name to the public until modern times, while Saville’s retail firm adopted the Cramer name. Kemble have made pianos for the trade under many other names, including Barnes, Bijou, Boyd, Brinsmead, Chappell, Cramer, D’Almaine, Dresdner, Firth, Higgins, Minx, Osbert, Regent, Renn, Rogers, Rogers Eungblut, Saville, Sebastian, Shenstone, Squire, and Stiles. Identical models may appear with most of these names. I have no evidence to connect them with the much earlier firm of George Kemble.
This is a family tree of some of the big London piano names, which ends with Kemble and, inevitably, the Japanese firm of Yamaha, whose excellence is difficult to ignore. They took over and supported the Kemble factory for many years, but it closed in 2009, the dying breath of the long line of British piano factories, leaving only a few small workshops producing small numbers, such as
When I worked for Hodges & Johnson in the sixties, they used the name “Cavendish” on their reconditioned pianos because their workshop was at Cavendish Gardens.
Here is a list of musical instrument names (not all piano makers) taken mainly from some of our earlier directories, before 1830: bear in mind that just because the surname is the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is the maker you are looking for. See also the Genealogy page. If any of these names are of interest to you, email us for details. Without funding, it is unlikely that we can ever publish a complete list. Spelling mistakes can occur in these directories, poor old Tomkison suffered terribly from this, and then there’s my typing...
Abbott Adam Addison Adlam Alexander Allen Alsop Anderson Aston Astor Backers Ball Bainbridge Baker Ball Banger Banister Barnes Barry Bart Barton Barry Bateman Bates Baudin Bavink Bazzoni Beale Beck Bell Betts Beyer Biggs Bilton Birchall Blackman Blair Blanckart Bland Blumer Blunt Boag Boosey Booth Borrell Botcherby Bown Brace Brackley Brenner Briggs Broadwood Broderip Brown Bruce Bryan Bryson Buchan Buchinger Buckinger Buckwell Buntebart Buntlebart Burdon Bury Butcher Butt Calder Card Carter Celson Challen Challoner Chapman Chappell Chew Child Claggett Clementi Cocks Collard Cons Cooper Corri Corrie Corsby Coston Cramer Crang Creber Culliford Cumming Curtis Dale D'Almaine Darling Davidson Davies Davis Day Dean Dearlove Delvaux Demoline DeMonti Dettmer Dierkes Dieskes Diether Dimoline Dittmer Dockree Dodd Donaldson Done Donner Dove Dover Downing Duff Duncan Duncombe Dunn Eavestaff Edwards Elston Elwick Emeny England Erard Erat Evans Eveleigh Evenden Ewer Fairn Falkner Farlow Faulkner Fearn Fellows Fenton Fentum Fletcher Flight Forster Foster Frecker Froeschle Furber Gahusac Galloway Ganer Gange Garbutt Garcka Garland Garlick Garrett Geib Gerber Gerock Gibson Gilchrist Gilkes Gillespy Glanville Goodlad Gormon Goulding Gray Greaves Green Greenhill Greenwood Grosjean Gunther Haig Haines Halliday Haltzburgh Hamilton Hammond Hancock Hannan Hardy Harris Harrison Harrod Hart Harwood Hasler Hatley Haward Hawes Haxby Henderson Herock Herron Hicks Higginbotham Hilberg Hill Hills Hingston Hitchcock Hobart Hodsoll Holland Hollaway Hollister Holmes Holst Hopkins Hopkinson Horwood Hudden Huggett Hulton Hyde Ibbertson Ibbetson Indermaur Jackson Jacobs Johanning Jones Kauffman Kearsing Keith Kemp Kennedy Key King Kirckman Kirkman Lancashire Lavenu Lawson Leslie Lethbridge Leukfeld Light Lindsay Lloyd Loeschman Loeschmann Loesehman Longman Lowe Lyon Lyster Marshall Martin Masterman May Mayhew Mayor McCarthy McFadyen Metzler Meyer Migley Miles Miller Millhouse Mills Milne Mirrlees Mitchell Monro Monzani Moore Morrison Mott Motts Muff Napier Nicholas Noble Norris Nutting Otten Owen Owencroft Pace Paine Panormo Pape Parratt Pearson Percival Perenelle Perkins Pether Phillips Phipps Pikeling Pinnock Platts Pohlmann Porter Potter Powell Power Preston Price Pringle Prowse Pynock Rathmacher Reading Regent Reid Roalfe Roberts Robertson Robinson Roe Rolfe Rose Round Rowlstone Rudall Rutter Sabin Sandbach Schaepe Schwieso Sclettar Scott Searle Shade Sharp Shaw Shudi Simpson Skerratt Skillern Smart Smith Spratt Stanley Steed Steven Stodart Straight Stretch Stumpff Sykes Tabel Tarry Tate Taylor Thomas Thompson Tobin Tolley Tomkinson Tomkison Tompkinson Toulmin Tschudi Tubbs Turner Turton Veck Vernon Vince Waite Wales Walker Waller Walter Ward Ware Warren Watlen Watts Webb Weir Weller Weller Wessel White Whitaker Whittaker Wigley Wilkinson Williams Willis Wolfenden Wood Woodham Woodward Woolley Wornum Wrede Wrede Wright Zerbin Zumpe.
I am the moderator for the Piano History Forum, and there are other tradespeople there who may be able to help you search for piano information. See also the list of directories on our index page. Without donations, I will be fine, but PianoHistory.Info may not survive. If every visitor to this site made a donation, we would have better displays in our museum building, and much-improved facilities for research within our own archives.
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