BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
^ ^ "
A Biographical Dictionary of British Makers of
Stringed Instruments and Bows and a
Critical Description of their Work
WITH INTRODUCTORY CHAPTERS, AND NUMEROUS
PORTRAITS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
Rev. W. MEREDITH MORRIS, B.A.
REVISED AND ENLARGED
LONDON: ROBERT SCOTT
PATERNOSTER ROW, E.G.
AH rights reserved
THE first edition of this work was published
in 1904. Its splendid reception, the ready
sale it obtained, and the fact that it has long been
out of print, encourage me in the hope that a new
edition may find favour with the public. The title
of the present edition differs slightly from that of
the first, and the book has been partly re-written,
thoroughly revised, and considerably enlarged. The
present effort is, I hope, an improvement in every
way upon the first ; for one thing, it shows a better
sense of proportion and a truer appreciation of the
relative merits of makers, past and present. The
list of makers has been extended by the addition of
about a hundred and fifty new names, and the
extension made it necessary to condense the matter
of the first edition wherever possible. The work
would extend to twice its present length if it included
the name of every one in this country who has
dabbled with violin making, but I have rigorously
excluded all who have not made at least half-a-
dozen instruments. The line had to be drawn
somewhere. I regret that a few names are unavoid-
ably omitted which it had been my desire to include :
these are the names of makers working in London,
and two or three of the principal towns, who are
employed in making for music shops and wholesale
houses, and who therefore are not in a position to
allow their names to be published. Among these
are a few clever craftsmen who, if the Fates were
only more propitious to them, would be reaping the
reward of public recognition.
I need hardly say that I have never missed an
opportunity since the first appearance of the book
of extending my acquaintance with violin makers
and violins, and of deepening my knowledge of the
fascinating art of violin making. Within the last
few years I have visited nearly all the fiddle work-
shops in Great Britain, and have examined thousands
of instruments, new and old.
The fiddle has been the companion of my spare
moments (too few alas !) for thirty-five years, and
if I have laid myself open to the charge of having
written too enthusiastically about it, my apology
is that I could not write coldly about a dear, blessed
little " creature " that has been of untold comfort
to me. When I have had to wrestle (often unsuc-
cessfully) with the difficulties of a large industrial
parish, I have not lacked cheer with my fiddle at
My sincere thanks are due to all violin makers
who have furnished me with biographical and other
particulars, and to all who have helped in a variety
of ways to make the work a success. I am specially
indebted to the following gentlemen for much valu-
able assistance : the Rev. Father A. L. Greaven,
B.A., C.C., parish priest of S. Paul's, Belfast ; J.
Michie, Esq., of Brechin, N.B. ; Charles Challenger,
Esq., of Tiverton Villa, St. Andrew's, Bristol ; W.
M. Groundwater Esq., of Salford ; James Atkins,
Esq., of Cork ; Count G. N. Plunkett, F.S.A., etc.,
Director of the National Museum of Science and Art,
Dublin ; the Messrs. W. E. Hill & Sons, New Bond
Street ; the Messrs. G. Hart & Son, Wardour Street,
W. ; the Messrs. G. Withers & Sons, Leicester Square ;
and W. W. Cobbett, Esq. , 34 Avenue Road, London,
N.W. I must also acknowledge the assistance of
my wife, who has been good enough to correct the
proofs, and of Mrs. Matthew Lewis, who kindly
furnished some of the illustrations. The authors
whom I have consulted are acknowledged in the text.
CLYDACH VALE VICARAGE,
I. THE OLD SCHOOL 3
II. THE MODERN SCHOOL 21
III. BRIDGES : OLD AND MODERN .... 33
IV. STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND ... 38
V. LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 48
VI. THEORIES ABOUT THE ITALIAN TONE ... 62
VII. MISCELLANEA 72
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND Bow MAKERS ... 89
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND Bow MAKERS (continued) . 261
APPENDICES ........ 297
LIST OF PLATES
QUARTET OF OLD ENGLISH INSTRUMENTS . . Frontispiece
VIOLIN BY ATKINSON . . . . To face page 94
VIOLA BY BANKS . . . . , 99
VIOLINS BY BANKS .... . 100
F. W. CHANNON . . . . 118
G. A. CHANOT 120
GEORGES CHANOT 122
GEORGE DARBEY ..... 128
VIOLIN BY DUKE 137
G. L. DYKES 140
VIOLONCELLO BY '' OLD " FORSTER . . 150
VIOLIN BY GILBERT 156
GEORGE HART 171
WILLIAM EBSWORTH HILL . . . 179
VIOLIN BY MAYSON 198
VIOLIN BY OWEN . . . ..,,,, 212
VIOLA BY PARKER 215
VIOLIN BY PARKER . . . ,. 216
VIOLIN BY PERRY . . . . . 218
xii LIST OF PLATES
VIOLIN BY TOBIN . . . . . To face page 239
JAMES TUBES . 241
EDWARD WITHERS (Pere) . . . . tt 253
EDWARD WITHERS (Fils) .... 254
FELIX FOUCHER tt tt 2 6o
EDWARD KEENAN if tt 277
VIOL D' AMOUR BY LEE . . . 280
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
I. THE OLD SCHOOL
THE period embraced by what may be termed
the "Old School" of British violin making
is almost conterminous with the eighteenth century,
and includes the work of Banks, Forster, Duke,
Parker, Hill, Wamsley, Betts, Hart, and a number
of other men of equal or less note. It is advan-
tageous to review its remains from the point of
view of model, material, varnish, workmanship,
A. THE MODEL
In contemplating the model adopted by our old
makers, two features alone seem to stand out suffi-
ciently prominent to arrest the attention of the
connoisseur, viz. the absence of originality and the
inferiority of the type adopted. The manifest
poverty of idea is very extraordinary when we
bear in mind that the English excelled as makers of
the lute and viol. There can be no doubt that
viols of British manufacture were facile princeps
among instruments of that type. We gather as
much from a work by Jean Rousseau entitled
Traite de la Viole, which was published in Paris
in 1687 ; from numerous statements on the subject
4 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
in Mace's Musick's Monument, and from other
works dealing with the history of music. So extra-
ordinary are the above features considered to be
that most writers on the subject have thought it
necessary to endeavour to account for them. Hart,
in his standard work, The Violin : Its Famous
Makers and their Imitators, offers the following
explanation : "It may be that Continental con-
noisseurs have credited themselves with the works
of our best makers, and expatriated them, while
they have inexorably allowed bad English fiddles
to retain their nationality/'
This is possible but hardly probable. Some
connoisseurs are blessed with an easy mind and
an elastic conscience, we know, but we doubt
whether, apart from their tonal qualities, there be
sufficient merit in our old instruments to tempt
dealers to " expatriate " them. Instruments that
are " faked " are, as a rule, such as are meant to be
purchased by the eye and not by the ear. If lack
of originality had been the only defect of our old
instruments, the explanation would be plausible,
but there is beyond that the further defect of in-
feriority of model.
The British copied, and in numerous instances
exaggerated, the high arch of Stainer. Doubtless
there are reasons, and cogent reasons. We are
not for a moment to conclude that British artists
have at all times been unequal to the higher flights
of art. I hazard the following explanation. There
(i) A want of stimulus. During the greater part
THE OLD SCHOOL 5
of the eighteenth century the intellectual world
passed through the chill cloud of (what Sir Leslie
Stephen terms) " otiosity." If British violin makers
were possessed of the necessary talent, the means
were wanting to call it forth. Healthy environ-
ment is as much a condition of life as is healthy
organism. The glories of the Elizabethan age
were past and gone. Reaction that principle
which runs like an undercurrent through the waters
of universal history was already in motion. The
force was even now at work which eventually cul-
minated in the production of Latitudinarianism
in ecclesiastical polity, of pamphleteering in litera-
ture, of artificiality in poetry, of Epicureanism in
morals, and of mechanical servility in art. Ennui
was in the air, and the nation, from Parnassus
down to Bedlam, caught the infection. There
were sporadic efforts at originality in some depart-
ments, but periodical intellectual gushes are not to
be mistaken for the persistent and even flow of true
genius. The social conditions of Britain in the
eighteenth century were not favourable, I certainly
think, to the production of original work in the
branch of art which we have under consideration
here. It has been objected that social conditions
have nothing to do with literary or art activities,
but I think the intelligent reader will be more
likely to agree with Sir Leslie Stephen, who says :
" To my mind . . . the philosophy of an age is in
itself determined to a very great extent by the
social position. It gives the solutions of the pro-
blems forced upon the reasoner by the practical
6 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
conditions of his time. To understand why certain
ideas become current, we have to consider not
merely the ostensible logic but all the motives which
led men to investigate the most pressing difficulties
suggested by the social development. Obvious prin-
ciples are always ready, like germs, to come to life
when the congenial soil is provided. And what is
true of the philosophy is equally, and perhaps more
conspicuously, true of the artistic and literary
embodiment of the dominant ideas which are corre-
lated with the social environment " (English Litera-
ture and Society in the Eighteenth Century, p. 3).
(2) Musical conservatism was a potent factor.
The viol enjoyed a monopoly of public favour, and
the upstart violin in its battle for the possession of
the British music world, or for a share of its patron-
age, had to contest every inch of the ground. This
is painfully if amusingly evident from the vitu-
perations of old Thomas Mace, whose " doleful
jeremiad " over the intrusions of the " scoulding
violins " are familiar to every student of violin
literature. The viol held its ground more or less
down till about 1650, and perhaps even later. In
spite of Court and other influences the " French
fashion " (as the cult of the fiddle was called) was
looked upon by the public as " a giddy and impu-
dent intruder." Even when modified by the
" Italian fashion " it found its path strewn with
many thorns. Very timely was the arrival of
Thomas Balzar in 1656, and of Nicola Matteis in
1672. Their wielding of the magic wand it was that
proved the principal means in undoing the conser-
THE OLD SCHOOL 7
vative spell. By the time the strife had fully ended
the eighteenth century had dawned. The art of
violin making in Italy was then at its zenith, and
Cremona stood unrivalled in the production of the
' l King of instruments . ' * Age and use had done much
for the Brescian, early Cremonese, and Tyrolese
instruments, and those which found their way
into this country were incomparably superior to
the raw material produced by the native makers.
Even as the demand on the Continent a hundred
years previously had been for the splendidly-made
and well-matured English viol, so now in England
(that had at length awakened to the superiority of
the violin) the demand was for the unrivalled instru-
ments of Italian and especially of Tyrolese manu-
Owing to a constitutional abhorrence of innova-
tion we started a hundred years late, and we of
necessity lost the race.
(3) Puritan fanaticism. The furious bigotry of
Anabaptists, Levellers, and Fifth-monarchy men had
placed music under a ban, and the gentle voice of
melody had been drowned in the hoarse battle-cry
of the " saints. " In the fanatical days of " Praise-
God-Barebones " many and many a precious old
viol shared the fate of the stained glass and carved
work of our cathedrals. Puritan England was the
Patmos of art. Nearly a century elapsed before the
muses ventured forth to fan art into a flame out of
the embers of its dead self.
If some of my readers should think (as some of my
critics have thought) that I am over-stating the case
8 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
against the Puritans, let them consult such a work
as The Building of Britain and the Empire, edited by
H. D. Traill, D.C.L., and J. E. Mann, M.A., where
we read that " During the troubles which followed
the death of King Charles I. the cultivation of
English music was utterly extinguished. Not only
was progress impossible : it was equally impossible,
in face of the open hostility of the Puritans, to main-
tain the high level that had already been attained.
The cathedral and collegiate libraries were sacked
by the Roundheads, the great organs were des-
troyed, all singing worthy of the name was pro-
hibited in the desecrated churches, and dramatic
music was publicly condemned as a snare of the
Evil one " (vide vol. iv. pp. 548-9) .
So much for the absence of originality. As to
the other characteristic, the inferiority of type, I
fear no explanation or apology can be offered. It
shows lack of discrimination. The old makers
adopted the model of Stainer and followed it with
but few departures for the greater part of a hundred
years. In following those who had gone before
they unwittingly showed a predilection for the
least worthy. Something may be said for the
copyist who, conscious of his inability to create,
assiduously sets about to copy that which is best
and noblest in art, but apology becomes difficult in
the case of the man who deliberately copies an
inferior model. The British in their choice of type
showed inability to differentiate tone nuances, and
lack of artistic feeling in the matter of form and
proportion, That they sinned without excuse is
THE OLD SCHOOL 9
perfectly certain. They were acquainted with Bres-
cian and early Cremonese instruments as well as with
those of the Tyrol. They were in a position to make
a choice, and their choice fell upon the inferior
model. I am aware that the truth of the last state-
ment has been denied by certain writers, and it will
be well perhaps to bring forward the evidence upon
which it rests :
(1) There were numerous Italian instruments
brought into this country about this time. William
Corbett, who resided for some years in Italy, brought
back a rare collection "A Gallery of Cremonys
and Stainers." These were bequeathed by him to
Gresham College, and handed over to the authorities
on the death of the collector in 1748, with the proviso
that they were to remain open for inspection. Soon
after the death of the donor the college authorities
disposed of the " gallery " by auction (it is supposed),
and the instruments became the property of dealers
and private collectors. The Duke of Hamilton, the
Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Fafymouth, and
others, also formed collections of Italian instru-
(2) That Italian models were known in this coun-
try is proved by the fact that they were occasionally
copied ; e.g. :
(a) Richard Meares (1680) adopted the Bres-
cian model, and made excellent violins on the
lines of Maggini. This old maker probably
made the first English violoncello.
(ft) Barak Norman (1683-1744) ornamented
his instruments in the Maggini style, and used
io BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
labels which are no doubt in conscious imitation
of those used by Del Gesu.
(7) An undoubtedly genuine violin by Christo-
pher Wise (1656) is on the Maggini model.
(8) Peter Wamsley (1715-51) is admitted
by most experts to have made several copies
of Stradivari, and to have followed that maestro
closely except in the matter of graduating the
thicknesses. He spoilt his work in attempting
to produce the Italian tone by over- thinning the
(e) Cuthbert (1700). An admittedly genuine
example of this maker is on the Maggini model.
() Matthew Hardie made many violins on the
Stradivari model towards the end of the
eighteenth century, and that at a time when the
Amati model was the vogue.
(3) There is further the fact that several eminent
Italian virtuosi visited this country from time to
time. The performances of these must, one would
naturally think, have drawn attention to their
(a) Francesco Geminiani came to England
between 1709-14, and met with a great success.
Here he remained and published his works,
making a few tours on the Continent and again
(/3) Veracini came to London in 1714, and led
the Italian Opera Band there.
(y) Gaetano Pugnani (1727-1803) visited Lon-
don more than once, and stayed there on one of
these visits for nearly two years.
THE OLD SCHOOL n
($) Giardini came to London in 1744 and
remained there for two years.
(4) Somewhere about 1686 the banker Michele
Monzi, of Venice, sent a set of Stradivari violins,
altos, and violoncellos, as a present to King James
of England. In this connection it may be remem-
bered that, according to Sandys and Forster, a con-
signment of new Strad instruments sent to this
country on approval could not be disposed of at six
pounds apiece !
Thus there is not a shadow of doubt that Italian
models were known in this country early in the
eighteenth century, and there is not a shadow of
doubt that the best models were deliberately set
aside in favour of an inferior type.
B. THE MATERIAL
The wood used by our old makers is for the most
part maple and pine of the orthodox kind, but
various other woods were occasionally used, either
by way of experiment, or because there was a scarcity
of the right sort. Benjamin Banks used plain
English sycamore for the back of some of his violins,
and red pine for the front tables of a few of his
violas. "Old" Forster used common deal for the
table of many of his second-class instruments.
Richard Duke and Daniel Parker were usually very
particular about their wood, and the latter ranks
with the most careful of our native makers in this
respect. Would that we had many more examples
of his art left us ! Duke's maple is mostly plain,
but is invariably good acoustically. Matthew
12 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Hardie used anything that came to hand for his
second-class instruments, though he generally used
excellent wood for his Stradivari copies. A " Long-
Strad " copy of his make now in the possession of
the Messrs. Hill is made of very fine wood. Edward
Withers, the elder, whose instruments are rising in
value, was very careful in the selection of his material.
The wood in instruments bearing the label of John
Betts is usually good, but mostly plain. Tobin, one
of the very best of our British makers, was very
particular about his wood when circumstances
allowed him the free exercise of his will, but he
often was obliged to use indifferent material. These
are isolated examples, and the departures from the
traditional rule are neither numerous nor important.
One thing to be noted in particular about the pine
used is that it shows a general preference on the part
of the makers for wood with a medium "reed," or
grain. Very close or very wide grained wood seems
to have been systematically avoided. Some of the
best examples of " Old " Forster are an exception to
the rule, but many of these have common English
deal, and not Swiss pine.
C. THE VARNISH
The varnish is excellent as regards elasticity and
adhesiveness. The oil varnish of our old makers
will probably wear better than that of even the
great classical makers themselves. I have seen
many a battered old Duke and Forster with the
varnish still plentiful and "defiant." Of but few
Italian instruments can this be said : the majority
THE OLD SCHOOL 13
of the best of them are quite bare. Nothing short
of a serious accident will damage the English
varnish. I have seen a Dodd's 'cello varnished with
the celebrated "original Cremona varnish," which
had a hole knocked in one of the bouts, and the
varnish around the scraggy edges had parted
"clean." There was not a suspicion of "chip"
or transversal cracks. In this respect the varnish
of our old makers contrasts favourably with some
of the best varnishes on the market to-day. One
drawback, e.g., of Whitelaw's varnish is that it is
brittle, an,d that it chips in a most provoking manner.
In other respects the modern varnish is far superior
to the old. The varnish of most of our old makers
lacks colour and brilliancy : that is the rule, but
there are notable exceptions.
Colour and transparency, however, are not so
important as elasticity and adhesiveness. In its
bearing upon tone, elasticity is perhaps the most
important of all the known qualities of varnish.
I say " known," because it is highly probable that
the varnish has a subtle influence upon the colour
of the tone, the nature of which is not yet precisely
understood. Long experience and innumerable ex-
periments compel me to think with the Messrs.
Hill (vide their Life of Stradivari) that varnish
plays a much more important part in the evolution
of tone nuance than is usually admitted.
It is remarkable that so few authentic recipes of
old varnishes have been handed down to us. This
is a fact which militates against the opinion that the
nature of the ingredients and the method of making
14 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
them into a varnish were regarded as a trade or pro-
fessional secret. " Secrets " were generally confided
to " black and white/' paradoxical as it might seem.
The secret of many a long-lost art consists in the
fact that at the time it was practised it was no secret
at all. If the art of embalming had been regarded
as a mystery, known only to a small inner circle of
hierophants in ancient Egypt, we should probably
know more than we do about it to-day. At one time
everybody ia the land of the Pharaohs knew how the
mighty Cheops was built, and how the stones were
quarried and conveyed, and the fact that everybody
knew then is one of the reasons why nobody knows
to-day. The masters of painting had no darkened
chambers wherein they ground their pigments and
mixed their oils : it would be better for modern
artists if they had. On the other hand, make a
mystery of an art, and you thereby secure for it a
niche in one of the safest recesses of Walhalla. The
art of the magician in the days of Aaron was a
secret, but the pundits of India practise it to-day.
Archimedes enshrouded with a veil of mystery the
discovery of the principle which is named after him,
and, thanks to the fact, the world has not had to
re-discover the law of specific gravity.
Innumerable instances might be quoted in sup-
port of my contention, but sufficient has been said
to illustrate the point. The inference is this : the
varnish of Stradivari, Guarneri, and other Cremonese,
was no professional secret ; if it had been such we
should be familiar with its composition to-day.
Dodd guarded the secret of his mixture with a
THE OLD SCHOOL 15
jealous eye, but his varnish has been applied to many
an instrument since he laid his brush to rest.
Our old makers used both oil and spirit varnishes.
The gums, resins, etc., which entered into their
composition are perfectly familiar to us. One thing
alone is doubtful, viz., whether or not in these
sinful days we get the pure and unadulterated
article. A list of these substances is given in a
useful appendix to the valuable work of Mr. Edward
Heron- Allen, Violin Making, as it Was and Is, and the
reader who wishes for full information on the subject
is referred to that book.
I do not think our older makers, or at least a
number of them, varnished in the same way as
modern makers do, and as the Italian masters
undoubtedly did. Their varnish appears to be
perfectly homogeneous, that is to say, there is no
sizing of colourless or yellow varnish, with subse-
quent coats of colour varnish. There is no foil of
golden sheen to etherealize the fire of the varnish.
All that was probably done in the majority of
instances was the mere rubbing of a little oil into
the wood, followed by the application of varnish
in the usual way. A few instruments, it may be,
show evidence of some such sizing as that of gam-
boge, notably amongst the examples of Parker,
Forster, Tobin, Dodd, Fendt, and a few others.
D. THE WORKMANSHIP
The distinguishing feature of the workmanship
is its solidity. Some of the greatest of our old
makers at their best produced work which may
16 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
justly be described as beautifully finished and
graceful, but " solidity'' is a word that generally
applies to all. A typical maker is Daniel Parker.
Here we have plenty of timber, careful workmanship
on the whole, with sometimes an absence of regard for
finesse, and something which impresses one with a
sense of unconcerned self-reliance and freedom. If
there is no evidence of laborious finish, there is
certainly nothing even remotely connected with the
vulgar or grotesque.
Many of our second-rate and inferior instruments
were probably built without a mould. So were a
large number of the Italian ones ; but there is
generally this difference in the result : the latter
are often crude and sadly out of line ; the former, at
the worst, are only a little rough and quaint looking.
Our average British luthier may not be highly
artistic, but he is certainly never truly barbarous.
Generally speaking, the part of the work which
is most frequently deserving of censure is the scroll.
Old British scrolls not infrequently show some
strength and decision of character, but the curves
are inclined to be stiff, and the heads a trifle flat.
The throat of the scroll is usually somewhat thick,
and the head in consequence appears diminutive.
Almost invariably the back of the peg-box dimin-
ishes rapidly right away from the scollop down to
the first turn, where the volute begins. This is so
persistent a characteristic of old English scrolls
that an expert could pick one out from among a
dozen others with his eyes shut. In all Italian
fiddles of the first water, the width of the back of
THE OLD SCHOOL 17
the peg-box diminishes almost imperceptibly until
it reaches the throat, where it diminishes much
more rapidly : this arrangement of lines and curves
gives the whole scroll a feeling of majesty combined
with simplicity a feeling wholly lacking in all but
the very best of our old English fiddles.
Richard Tobin was the best scroll carver that
Britain has ever produced. I do not hesitate to say
that his finer scrolls vie with the best work of Stra-
divari. It is a sin and a shame that the poor man
has been robbed of his due by an unscrupulous
posterity. The heads have been removed from
many of his best violins, and grafted (I more than
suspect) on the bodies of nondescripts which have,
perhaps, sold again and again as " Italians."
Curiously enough, Benjamin Banks, our English
"Amati," has left some scrolls which are rather
feeble in design and execution.
The interior of our old instruments is often rough
and unfinished, the marks of the chisel and gouge
being discernible ; especially is this the case with
the end blocks, which are rounded off in a more or
less haphazard fashion with the chisel. In the
larger instruments the blocks are often shaped by a
few applications of the tool. I do not think our
old makers troubled much about glass-paper and
its uses, either in the finishing of the interior or
exterior. They handled their scraper very nattily,
and were content with the result. Nor were they at
all times particular about matching their wood. I
have seen fine examples of Duke and Forster with
an odd rib^ cut the wrong way of the grain to match
i8 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
the other ribs : I have also seen a Banks viola with
ribs cut from three different pieces of timber varying
in width of curl. It is a common occurrence to
meet with a fiddle with the head cut from a differ-
ently figured maple from that of the back and ribs.
There is one point more in the general character
of the workmanship which calls for remark, and
that is the absence of purfling in a large number of
instruments of the poorer class, and in not a few of
those of the better class.
Ink-lines as a substitute are but an eyesore and
a sham, and are further to be deprecated as affording
no protection to the exposed edges.
E. THE TONE
An extraordinary thing about the tone of our
old violins, and one which has, apparently, escaped
the attention of all connoisseurs, is that it is very
different from the tone of Stainer J s violins, which
our luthiers copied so slavishly for three-quarters
of a century. Our artists followed the contour
and arching of Stainer, but they gave us a tone
approximating to that of the Amatis. The best
description of the Stainer tone that I have read is
that given by the Rev. H. R. Haweis, who says it is
" a loud, piercing, and pungent " tone. " A vio-
linist/' he remarks, " in the orchestra could make
his Stainer cut through all the first fiddles, and
once the taste for that sort of tone was excited, it
would be to the ear what curry, or vinegar, or
quinine bitter, or absinthe is to the palate. The
Stainer tone is a sort of drastic, stinging stimulant
THE OLD SCHOOL 19
to the ear, almost an intoxication ; and the ear
that has once been caught by it craves for it, and
misses it even in the loud richness of Joseph, the
exquisite velvety timbre of Amati, or the superb
ringing brightness of the great Antonio. J> (Old
Violins, p. 99.) That description, as any one knows
who knows anything about fiddles, cannot be applied
to the tone of any English instrument of the old
school. There were hundreds of Stainer copies
produced in this country in the eighteenth century,
some of them very exact in the matters of outline,
arching, thicknessing, etc., but I have never come
across a single instrument of that period the tone of
which could be said to have the slightest resem-
blance to the tone of Stainer. The tone of old
English fiddles is neither loud nor piercing : it is
rather small, but bright, silvery, and responsive.
I do not at all know how to account for this rather
remarkable fact, but I would point out that it has
its modern counterpart. Many makers who have
copied Stradivari and Guarneri more recently have
given us a sufficiently piercing, pungent, Stainer-like
I fully agree with those writers who aver that the
qualities of our old instruments have been much
under-rated. The very best work of Banks, Forster,
Duke, Parker, and a few others, rivals all but the
very best Italian work, and I submit that in this
supremely important matter of tone production, our
old makers take rank next to the Italians. There
are one or two old French makers who may be
superior to our best artists, but only one or two :
20 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
the rank and file of French luthiers are not fit to
hold a rushlight to our old makers. Stainer is,
of course, head and shoulders above us, but one
man does not constitute a school.
The tone of our old fiddles is not powerful, and
it may not fill our large modern music halls, but it
carries well, and ought to win, where it fails to
conquer, by its purity and sweetness.
II.-THE MODERN SCHOOL
A. THE REVIVAL OF VIOLIN-MAKING
T has been said that the art and craft of violin-
making is dead in Britain since about the middle
of the nineteenth century, but the fact is that it
never was more alive than it is at the present day.
There are fifty to sixty professional luthiers now
living and working, and at least ten times that
number of amateur and occasional makers. This
number is exclusive of dealers in factory fiddles,
foreign makers living in this country, and firms who
employ merely repairers. Since about the year
1850 the British School of Violin-making may
truly be said to have accomplished the most complete
of its avatar a, or incarnations : it has been born
again born, I verily believe, to a higher and fuller
manifestation of life. We have now working
amongst us Atkinson, Byrom, Channon, Chanot,
Darbey, Gilbert, Hesketh, Keenan, Owen, Richard-
son, Withers, etc., much of whose work will, I
venture to think, be highly esteemed a century
hence. Some of these have struck out a path for
themselves, and the British school promises to
justify its claims to the highest honours for the
production of first-class instruments. Material, var-
nish, workmanship, and tone place the work of our
best artists in the front rank.
22 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
The renewed interest in the art of violin-making
is due in part to the general activity in the world of
art and letters of the last three decades of the
Victorian era. Such works as Violin Making, as it
Was and Is (Heron- Allen), The Violin : Its Famous
Makers and their Imitators (Hart), Old Violins and
their Makers (Fleming), Old Violins (Haweis), An-
tonio Stradivari (Hill), and other good books, have
also materially helped to foster the love of the
" King of instruments.'' Greater than all has been
the impetus given to the study of the violin by the
bewitching charm of the playing of such virtuosi as
Joachim, Sarasate, Ysaye, Wilhelmj, Wieniawski,
Dunn, Lady Halle, Kubelik, Kriesler, and others.
B. CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERN WORK
The salient features of modern work demand
close attention. The models mostly adopted are
those of Stradivari and Guarneri. It is rather
curious that English, Irish, and Welsh makers
have a decided preference for the Strad model,
whereas Scottish makers seem to prefer the Joseph
model. Maggini, Gasparo da Salo, Amati, Ber-
gonzi, and Gagliano are also copied, but not so often
nor, I think, so carefully.
Atkinson, Channon, Gilbert, and one or two
others among professional makers, mostly work on
models of their own. The late Walter H. Mayson,
of Manchester, who made over eight hundred instru-
ments, also made nearly all his violins on a model
which was decidedly original. The wood used by
THE MODERN SCHOOL 23
our leading makers is of the traditional kind and
quality, and is frequently of exceptionally beautiful
texture and figure. Our amateur fiddle makers
are not always as careful about the quality of their
wood as they might be ; the idea having got abroad
that old wood is the best, and very often they use
timber which has been almost pulverized by age.
The instruments made of such wood cannot live
long. And here I would utter a note of warning : it
is possible to ride a hobby-horse too far ; that is,
being interpreted, it is possible to make too much of
the old wood theory.
The right sort of timber, cut at the right time of
the year (in winter), and naturally seasoned in
blocks for about ten to fifteen years, or twenty
at the outside, is what is required. Some makers
ransack the land, hole and corner, for wood which is
two or three hundred years old, but they could
well spend their time more profitably. The tone
obtained from extremely old wood is not a whit
better than that got from wood which has been
seasoned for a reasonable number of years ; and in
a hundred or more years hence, when fiddles made
from fresh and properly seasoned wood will be
beginning to live, those made from very old wood
will be ready to die. It is feared by some makers
that instruments made from wood of only twenty
years' seasoning will shrink ; but what about the
instruments of the old masters ? These, if they have
shrunk at all, have not done so to any appreciable
extent, and they were made from wood seasoned by
them in their own lifetime.
24 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
My readers will remember that most Continental
authorities agree with me on this point. August
Riechers in The Violin and its Construction (p. n)
says : " The age of the wood I consider of only
very small importance ; if it has been lying by for
five years, ready cut or split, as the case may be,
for the construction of a violin, it will then be suffi-
ciently dry, and will need no further preparation.
I have exactly ascertained the weight of wood which
had been laid by for drying for five years, and then,
having weighed it again at the end of twenty years,
have found it had not become perceptibly lighter/'
I have not come across one Italian, French, or
German writer on the subject who advocates the
use of very old wood. This country has one advo-
cate of old wood, Mr. W. C. Honeyman, the author
of several popular works on the violin. Many
Scottish makers are converts to his teaching, and
use nothing but the oldest timber they can lay their
hands on. I have had fiddles down from Scotland
for inspection from time to time which were said to
be made from wood which had been cut two or three
hundred years ago. I can well believe some of
them were made from wood which had been cut
twice as long ago, for they seemed as brittle as a
mummy, and ready to crumble at the slightest
touch. One trembled to draw the bow across the
strings lest the fiddle should vibrate into dust.
And just a word with regard to seasoning timber.
It is much more difficult nowadays to obtain a
block of old naturally seasoned wood than is usually
imagined. It is usual to look for such in old build-
THE MODERN SCHOOL 25
ings, old furniture, etc., but it is not always borne
in mind that the method almost universally adopted
to season timber in days gone by was that of sub-
mersion under water for an extended period, followed
by exposure to dry air for a similar or longer period.
The newly- sawn planks were sunk in deep water for
two years or thereabouts, and afterwards stowed
away in open sheds.
My father (a Pembrokeshire yeoman), who had
paid a great deal of attention to both the theory
and practice of timber seasoning, always treated
his oak, ash, beech, elm, and sycamore in this way,
and held that that method had been in vogue in
this country from the days of the Romans. The
timber used in our cathedrals and ancient churches
was all seasoned in this manner, he maintained.
He explained that the submersion caused the per-
manent tissue of the wood to "pack," on account of
the distension which took place in the cells of the
meristem, and that the active cells themselves were
made more susceptible to dessication. Thus there
was secured a minimum of meristem and a maximum
of density in the permanent tissue. He said the
permanent tissues were to be regarded as the bones
of the timber, and the meristem the flesh. The
bones would last, but the flesh began to decay from
the moment the tree was cut, and the important
thing in seasoning timber was to over-rule or retard
the process of decay as long as possible.
When violin makers talk about old, naturally
seasoned wood, the question is : What do they mean
by " naturally " in that connection ? Is the process
26 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
described above a " natural " process ? If not, then
what is the " natural " process?
I have searched patiently and long for what I
could accept with a degree of confidence as historical
evidence of the exact method adopted by old
Italian violin makers in seasoning their wood, but I
have searched in vain. Modern writers say that
Stradivari, e.g., was wont to dry his timber in a
kind of loft or open attic, having first cut it up from
the trunk or balk into blocks of suitable dimensions.
I should much like to know where they get their
information from. It is so easy to suppose this or
that, but what we want is plain, exact historical
The workmanship of our leading professional
makers, and of many of our amateurs, is excellent.
Careful attention is usually paid to every detail
of the work. This is a feature worthy of commenda-
tion, as the British have in the past been somewhat
impatient of detail. Even details which to the
ordinary observer would appear as mere trifles are
now finished artistically. And what a difference
this attention to minutiae makes to the completed
article ! An artistically finished violin is a poem,
a painting, and a musical instrument combined in
English makers somewhat lower down the rank
have yet something to learn in the matter of inlay-
ing the purfling, the proportion of widths, the
arrangement of the curves, the treatment of the
button, etc., and many Scottish makers are open to
the charge of having exaggerated the peculiarities
THE MODERN SCHOOL 27
of Del Gesu, more especially in the outline and
sound-holes. It is possible that young or inexperi-
enced luthiers do not quite realize that it is much
more difficult to make a faithful copy of Joseph than
of Strad. The so-called Gothic arch of the former
is a veritable pons asinorum to the modern copyist.
A large number of amateurs pay little attention
to the proper length of the stop, and the majority
of them ought to exercise more care in the working
of the neck. A thick, clumsy neck at the shoulder
is a severe tax on the patience of the player, for it
impedes shifting. Many otherwise fine old instru-
ments were a great deal too bulky about the shoul-
ders, but they have been refitted with a new neck in
accordance with modern requirements. In the cal-
culation and working out of form and proportion,
art and craft must go hand in hand and contrive to
give us that which is both elegant and serviceable.
Modern varnishes claim a few paragraphs. I
need hardly say that curious connoisseurs and
anxious luthiers have devoted much time and
thought to the fascinating but elusive problem of
varnish making. Innumerable experiments have
been made and much money sacrificed in the endea-
vour to re-discover the Italian varnish.
Whether the time and money thus expended have
been utilised wisely is very problematical. It has
been held by not a few chemists and writers on the
subject that the basis of the Italian varnish was
fossil amber. The late Mr. James Whitelaw, of
Glasgow, the late Dr. George Dickson, of Edin-
burgh, Dr. Inglis Clark, of Edinburgh, and many
28 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
others, have been advocates of the amber theory.
I do not exactly know what the data are which
these authorities adduce in support of their view :
to me there does not appear to be the smallest
grain of historical evidence to support the amber
theory. I believe I have read everything that has
ever been written on this interesting subject, and I
have hunted up old documents and made laborious
research, and I am bound to say that what little
information I have thus gathered points away from
the amber hypothesis.
This is not a treatise on Italian Varnish, and I
must not allow myself to run away after that ignis
fatuus : I am writing of modern varnish. Whilst I
am thoroughly convinced that amber varnish is not
identical with, nor even distantly related to, Italian
varnish, it is not to be inferred that I am insensible
to its many good qualities : I think it an excellent
substitute. I would not be disposed to quarrel
with those who think that for brilliancy and trans-
parency it is equal to the old Italian varnish. I
think that, on the whole, it is the best covering we
possibly can apply to our instruments to-day. I
must make it clear, however, that by amber varnish
I mean varnish which has real fossil amber for its
basis, and not oleum succinis, commonly called oil
of amber. A number of varnishes which are sold
as amber varnish to-day do not contain the actual
gum : they are usually made of much softer and
less durable gums. It needs a knowledge of chemis-
try to solve fossil amber successfully, and especially
to develop the deeper colours.
THE MODERN SCHOOL 29
The following varnishes, most if not all of them on
the market, are made from genuine fossil amber,
in solution in oil.
(1) Whitelaw's varnish. This has been on the
market for many years, and is now very well known,
and its excellency generally admitted. It is beauti-
fully transparent, elastic, and fiery. It is easily
applied, and does not take a long time to dry. It
has one drawback : when hard set it is rather brittle
and inclined to chip.
(2) Dr. Inglis Clark's varnish. The varnish of W.
Inglis Clark, D.Sc., had been known to a few experts
and a small circle of friends for several years before
the inventor decided to put it on the market. It
may now be obtained of Messrs. Duncan, Flockhart,
& Co., manufacturing chemists, 104-108 Holyrood
Road, Edinburgh. It is made in the following
colours : golden yellow, pale brown, orange brown,
dark brown, orange red, and ruby red. It is trans-
parent and elastic, and possesses a depth and rich-
ness of colour quite equal to the best of the old
varnishes. It does not crack or chip, but it takes
a considerable time to dry.
(3) Anderson's varnish. This is manufactured
by Mr. Walter Anderson, of 4 Kildonan Terrace,
Ibrox, Glasgow. With the use of this varnish the
maker recommends that raw linseed oil, or other
specially prepared oil, be rubbed into the wood first,
day after day, till the wood can absorb no more,
when the instrument must be allowed to dry
thoroughly, and the varnish applied thereafter. It
is made in various colours, but, as far as my experi-
30 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
ence of it goes, it is more successful in the lighter
than it is in the darker shades.
(4) Harris' varnish, made by Mr. J. E. Harris,
violin maker, 37 Nile street, Gateshead-on-Tyne.
It is made, I believe, in all the usual shades, and is
said to be of good quality. A number of makers
have used it with good results.
(5) Walker's varnish. Made by Mr. John Walker,
violin maker, 8 Broomfields, Solihull, Birmingham.
It is soft, elastic, and transparent. I have tried
it in the golden orange colour, which was very
beautiful when laid on, but the colour had slightly
faded in a year's time. No doubt I had exposed
the varnish too much to the direct rays of the sun.
It may be remarked here that varnish makers gener-
ally claim that their colours are lasting, but nearly
all varnishes, I think, fade a little in the direct light
and heat of the sun. This was a failing of even the
otherwise perfect Italian varnish. Charles Reade,
in his second letter on A Lost Art Revived, first
published in the Pall-Mall Gazette, August 24, 1872,
observes that " the sun will take all the colour out
of that maker's [Stradivari's] varnish/' and he knew
more about the Italian varnish than anybody ever
did, barring Luigi Tarisio.
I dare say there are many more amber varnishes
on the market, but I think I have named most of
the better known ones. Professional violin makers
for the most part eschew amber varnish at least
the market article and use varnish of their own
make, but I cannot help thinking that it would
be more to the interest of their art if a goodly number
THE MODERN SCHOOL 31
of them used Clark's, or Whitelaw's, or some other
reliable varnish that has been produced by the
assiduous application of scientific knowledge and a
long experience in the laboratory. My remarks
do not apply to the best of our makers of course,
who are presumed to know at least as much about
chemistry as the old Italian violin makers did.
A very beautiful varnish is produced by Mr. F. W.
Channon, a clever and well-known professional
violin maker, of London. Unlike the majority of
professional makers, he does not attempt to make
a mystery of its composition or of the method of its
preparation ; on the other hand, he readily reveals
both. With his kind permission I am allowed to
say here that he is prepared to furnish his formulae
with full instructions to any bond fide violin maker.
I cannot conclude my remarks on varnish with-
out urging upon all violin makers the great import-
ance of this branch of the subject. I reiterate the
conviction that varnish has a very considerable
effect upon the tone. I am not prepared to go so
far as the Messrs. Hill, who say that of the factors
that go to make a scientifically constructed fiddle
which shall give the best possible tonal results,
varnish is to be put down first in the order of import-
ance. That, I think, puts the case too strongly.
On the other hand I certainly cannot agree with a
well-known writer who says that " Varnish has
little or no effect upon tone." Only a man with
no actual experience of violin making could write
that. To cite the instances of old Italian violins
which have been denuded of their varnish in
32 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
proof of the contention that varnish has nothing
to do with tone is beside the mark, for such
violins have been robbed of only their surface var-
nish. All the instruments of the masters may be
said to be embalmed bodies, the varnish having
permeated their whole fabric, so that now they are
really neither wood nor varnish, but a sort of com-
pound of both. Every fraction of a drop of the
varnish which these instruments have absorbed has
entered into indissoluble relationship with the mole-
cules of the wood. The Rev. H. R. Haweis very
pithily observes : " Time, that sometimes robs it
[the violin] of a little varnish, has no power over its
anointed fabric. The hard durable substance steeped
in silicate-like varnish has well-nigh turned to
stone, but without sacrificing a single quality of
sweetness or resonance." (Old Violins, p. 13.)
Little can be said about the tone of modern instru-
ments. Its qualities, unlike those of outline, model,
and workmanship, can be fully known only in the
future, when time and legitimate use have wrought
their beneficial effect. It may be said, however,
that it fully justifies the belief that violinists of the
future will have cause to remember gratefully the
names of the old artists who carved, and varnished,
and took thought for the morrow.
Note. An important contribution to the literature of the
violin appeared some few years back, entitled : " The
Varnishes of the Italian Violin Makers of the Sixteenth,
Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries, and their Influence
on Tone," by George Fry, F.L.S., F.C.S. London : Stevens
& Sons, Limited. The author has a wide knowledge of the
chemistry of varnishes and of vegetable life.
HI.-BRIDGES : OLD AND MODERN
T) RIDGE manufacture in our days is a distinct
Jj branch of industry, and even as there is a
factory fiddle, so also is there a factory bridge, the
one lacking in merit as often as does the other.
Very few luthiers make their own fiddle accessories
nowadays. A gross of factory bridges can be
purchased at less than it costs in time and energy
to make a dozen artistic or " hand-made " ones.
In the good old days a maker of violins was also the
maker of all the various fittings required for the
instrument. The importance of the bridge cannot
well be over-estimated, since a bad one will infallibly
spoil the tone of an instrument, however good the
latter may be. It has ever been a matter of sur-
prise to me how few makers, and how few players
for that matter, appear to know this simple fact.
It is quite the exception to find a good bridge on a
modern fiddle. The tailpiece, which is of little or
no importance acoustically, is often made with the
utmost care and elaborate finish, whereas the
cheapest bridge made of green wood, or baked wood,
high and thick, is clamped on the suffering fiddle.
A good instrument is very exacting in its demands
upon the bridge, and the finer its qualities, the finer
also must be those of the bridge. A fact worth
34 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
remembering is that fiddle and bridge, once mated,
should never be divorced. They must be allowed
to live their existence together in indissoluble unity,
for there is a sort of psychic bond between them
which cannot be broken with impunity. If a bridge
which has been on an instrument for a length of
time should get damaged it ought to be carefully
repaired, and not thrown away as a worthless trifle.
I believe there are one or two somewhere in the
country who make a speciality of this class of repair.
The present design of bridge is supposed to have
originated with Stradivari. Our early makers were
either unacquainted with it, or did not consider it
the best, as they adhered to the quasi- viol and other
forms of bridge down till well-nigh the end of the
eighteenth century. Very few bridges of the Stra-
divari pattern were made in England, I think, before
the beginning of last century.
Fig. i is an illustra-
tion of an authentic
specimen of a Daniel
Parker bridge, and is
typical of the work of
the period, which was
precise nor highly
finished. Fig. 2 repre-
FIG. i. (Daniel Parker).
sents a bridge by the
little-known maker Henry Whiteside, made some-
what later. The design is less archaic, and the
workmanship a little more finished.
The claims of the modern bridge were advanced
BRIDGES: OLD AND MODERN 35
in this country chiefly by the labours of William
Ebsworth Hill, who made hundreds of bridges,
using only the very best wood, and finishing his
FIG. 2. (H. Whiteside).
work with the utmost care. It is to be feared that
time and more especially the carelessness of players
have considerably reduced the number of Hill bridges.
The Messrs. Hart, of Wardour Street, and the
FIG. 3. (Bonn).
Messrs. Withers, of Leicester Square, are makers
of high-class bridges, which are of the finest, well-
seasoned wood, and of simple but beautiful design.
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Many innovations " improvements/* as they are
called have been put on the market during the
last few years, only the more important or curious
of which can be noticed here.
Mr. J. Edwin Bonn, of Brading, Isle of Wight,
makes a four-footed bridge (fig. 3) for violin, viola,
and violoncello. He thinks that four feet ensure
a more energetic and regular communication of
vibrations to the front table.
A rather pretty design, known as the sound-holes
bridge, was introduced a while ago by the Messrs.
Balfour (fig. 4). Its prettiness was not improved
by the inevitable " Patent " writ large upon it.
A very curious, and, it must be admitted, ungainly
bit of furniture is the
bridge designed by a
Mr. Edward Davies, of
Cheltenham. It is made
of two pieces of pine
cut so that the grain
runs at an angle of 45
to the perpendicular
axis of the bridge, and
which are glued together
by means of two strips of wood placed between.
Each piece, or half, has a protruding wing which
reaches out nearly as far as the sound-hole. The
inventor claims that the wood being pine, with
the grain running nearly vertical, the re-inf or cement
of the vibrations of the strings is much more intense.
A new kind of bridge, recently put on the market,
is called the Gallrein Patent. It is made of three
FIG. 4. (Balfour).
BRIDGES: OLD AND MODERN 37
pieces of wood, consisting of two outer layers of
maple, with a layer of pine between.
There have been sundry other varieties, freaks,
and " patents/' all of which have " had their day
and ceased to be." Many more may come, but the
old pattern bridge is as little likely to be discarded
as the old pattern violin.
IV.-STRING MANUFACTURE IN
WRITERS who pay attention to the subordi-
nate but important subject of violin acces-
sories are in the habit of telling us that strings of
British manufacture are of no great account.
Haweis allows that " the English make a good,
serviceable string," but adds that " English strings
are only fit for rank-and-file orchestral fiddling,
but not good enough for the leader " (Old Violins, p.
158). Other writers speak in much the same strain.
I venture, with all due deference to these authorities,
to take up the cudgels in defence of the English
string, and I am glad of the opportunity to do so for
more than one reason. First, my experience of
violin strings of English manufacture enables me
to say that they are by no means the comparatively
worthless articles they are made out to be, and I
am of the opinion that some, at least, of the people
who condemn them have formed their conclusions
too hastily. About ten years ago I resolved to dis-
cover the truth about strings for myself, and since
then I have thoroughly tested in every possible way
all the principal strings on the market, including
those of Italian, French, German, American, English,
and even of Russian and Indian manufacture. The
result of these tests (conscientiously and systematic-
STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND 39
ally carried out) shows conclusively that the differ-
ences in the relative merits of strings of foreign and
native manufacture are very slight indeed. Some
of the finest Italian strings, notably those of Neapol-
itan manufacture, were admittedly more uniformly
true, but, as a set-back, they were nearly always
more brittle than those of English manufacture.
The greater purity of Italian strings, when it exists
(very often only in the imagination of the player)
is of so small a degree and subtle a character as to be
appreciable only to the highly trained ear. People
who talk glibly about the "immense superiority "
of foreign strings are, in nine cases out of ten, in-
capable of distinguishing differences in tone nuances.
I have again and again come across people who
boasted an advanced musical education, and who
were certainly good violinists, who could not distin-
guish any difference between the tone of a first-
class Italian string and that of an English string. I
have repeatedly tried the experiment, and nearly
always with the same result neither player nor
auditor knew for certain (that is, from the tone)
which string was Italian and which English. I was
not at all surprised, for what difference there was, if
any, was really very slight.
But there is something more important to be said
in favour of the native article. Strings of British
manufacture are frequently " doctored up " a little,
and sold as " Italians."
This fraudulent practice commenced on a small
scale a good many years ago, and it has been going
on at a rapidly increasing rate ever since, so that
40 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
at the present time it is no exaggeration to say
there is as much fraud in the string trade as there
is in the fiddle trade itself. This may sound very
startling in the ears of some, but if they will be at
pains to ascertain the truth about string manufac-
ture, as I have been, they will learn this and a great
deal more. They will soon learn, at least, that
they cannot always be certain that a string which is
sold to them as " Italian " is of Italian manufacture.
Furthermore, it is not generally known, I imagine,
that the finest gut in the world for the purpose of
string manufacture is that obtained from English
lambs, and that the Italians use no other for their
finer strings. Haweis was assuredly ignorant of
this fact (or he was romancing, as he was often wont
to) when he said that the gut obtained from young
Italian lambs killed in September was used for the
best Italian strings.
It passes one's comprehension why the British
public, or a large section thereof, should be for
ever acclaiming everything of foreign origin and
denouncing everything British. That sort of thing
has too long been prevalent in Britain, and it is
about time we had done with it.
The day was (and has not long passed the even-
tide) when an artist in order to succeed in this
country had to go abroad to complete his studies.
We used to be told years ago that a few second-rate
artists had been known to drop their English names
and to assume a grand-sounding foreign cognomen
and foreign manners in order to enhance their
chance with the English public. It seems incredible,
STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND 41
and it certainly is too contemptible for words.
But matters will improve by-and-by. The British
artist and the British fiddle are coming to their own,
and British strings will not tarry long.
Many violin books give a very good account of
the process of making strings abroad, it might be of
some interest if I give here an account of how
strings are made in England. I am indebted to
Mr. G. A. Parker, of 94 Burghley Road, Kentish
Town, London, N.W., for the information which
follows. He very courteously allowed me to in-
spect his factory, and carefully explained to me
every detail in the process of making strings, from
the raw material to the finished article. I may
mention here that only the very best strings are
made in this factory, the gut and material used
being the finest England can produce.
Before explaining the process of making, it will
be well to describe the fixtures, tools, etc., used.
The plant is by no means elaborate, and there is
nothing striking about it except, perhaps, its almost
primitive character. Here is a complete list of the
articles (for they can hardly be termed anything
else) used :
i. The bench. This rests on two trestles, one of
which is a little higher than the other, and is made
in two parts, each of which is about 8 feet long and
18 inches wide. The trestles are so constructed as
to make the bench dip in the centre, to allow all
water and other liquids to run off. On the trestles
also is fixed, in the centre, a trough, or gutter, run-
ning the whole length of the bench. In the bench
42 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
are cut six holes, the first two being about 3
inches from the lower end, and i foot apart ;
the next two are 5 feet up the bench and the same
distance apart ; the remaining two are about a foot
from the upper end, and also the same distance apart.
The use of these holes will be described further
2. Iron bins, with lids, to hold water.
3. Enamelled bowls.
4. Metal scrapers, to clean the gut.
5. Loops. These are made of the finest hemp,
each about 3 inches long. To these the strings
6. Splitting board. This is about I foot square.
It has a hole in the centre, in which the knife is
fixed, and a wooden peg on the left side, which acts
as a guide for the gut. The knife has a blade about
10 inches long, and a long, tapering handle which
fits into the hole. On the blade are fixed two or
three bone guides, which are so constructed as to
counteract the natural curve of the gut before it
comes in contact with the knife. The point of the
knife is upwards and the edge away from the
7. Spinning wheel. This is made of wood, with
iron axles, and consists of one large wheel connected
to two small wheels by a gut band. To the small
wheels are attached hooks, which enable the operator
to spin two strings at a time.
8. Drying frames. These are of wood, with
pegs fixed at both ends, and are of two lengths, 5
and 7 feet respectively, the shorter ones being
STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND 43
for E strings, and the longer ones for A, D, and 'cello
9. Coiling table. A neat, simple but ingenious
little machine used for coiling the string.
10. Sulphur box. This is a large wooden box
with a tight-fitting lid, and is so carefully con-
structed that it is not only water-tight but also
practically air-tight. Into this is put the sulphur
lamp. Now for the process.
As soon as a lamb or a young sheep is killed the
gut intended for strings is thoroughly cleansed.
It is important that the cleansing be done almost
immediately, otherwise the gut deteriorates, and its
value for string making is lessened. It is then very
carefully dried on frames, and is shortly ready for
the string maker, to whom it is sent in bundles, called
" shocks/' weighing about 2 pounds each.
A shock of gut is taken and placed in a bath, and
covered with water. (The water in this country has
first to be chemically treated, as it is too hard in its
natural state.) In about six hours the gut is
thoroughly soaked, and is then turned out on the
bench, when every strand is carefully pulled through
the fingers to get out all tangles and knots. A
shock is divided up into about seven parts, each
part being placed in an enamelled bowl and covered
with water and allowed to soak for about twelve
hours, when the water is drained off. It is next
scraped, every length of gut being scraped twice
before it is split, first up, and then down. This
removes anything that might be adhering to it, and
it is very essential that the scraping be carefully
44 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
and thoroughly done. When this is completed the
gut is soaked again in water for a short time. It is
now ready for splitting. A bowl of gut is taken
and placed to the left of the splitting board, one end
of the gut being taken out of the bowl, passed round
the wooden peg, and split on the point of the knife.
The gut is opened and fixed on the bone guide [the
guides are of varying sizes, according to the width
of the gut] and is then pulled by the operator to-
wards him, being split as it comes in contact with the
keen edge of the knife. Great care has to be exer-
cised in this operation, to ensure that the strands
are of uniform width. When all the gut is split, it
is put in bowls, and is again carefully scraped in
the same manner as before, this time to cleanse the
inside. Another soaking in water follows, this time
for four or five hours.
The gut is now turned out on the bench ready for
spinning. The laying out looks an extremely easy
matter, but is really very difficult, and is the most
important and tricky part of the whole business,
requiring great skill and a long experience for its
proper manipulation. To make violin E strings
three or four strands are used, violin A six to eight,
violin D ten to twelve, etc., according to the width
of the strands. Guts vary a great deal, some are
hard, some soft ; some are wide, others narrow ;
some are light, others dark. To make a string that
is as near perfection as possible, it must be made of
strands that are of the same texture, colour, and
width, and it is in the correct and rapid selection of
suitable strands that the skill of the workman comes
STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND 45
into evidence. The gut is laid out on the bench in
the desired length, being carried backwards and
forwards until the right gauge is obtained. The
right thickness is ascertained by feeling, there being
no gauge made to test the thickness at this stage,
and great care has to be taken that the strands are
perfectly even and straight, and that they do not
cross each other.
Each string (or batch of strands which make
the string) is now placed in a bowl, with the end
hanging over the edge, the next string being then
made and laid beside the first, and so the process
continues till all the gut is used up.
The string (hemp) loops are now brought into use,
the ends of gut resting over the brims of the bowls
being attached to them, i.e. each batch of gut strands
to one loop of hemp string. A wooden peg is in-
serted in the first hole of the bench and another peg
at the other end. A bowl of strings is taken and all
the strings are laid out on the bench with the loops
at the first peg. One string is taken up at a time,
the loop being placed over the peg, and the gut
drawn down the bench between finger and thumb till
it reaches the peg at the other end, when it is cut
the desired length and the end attached to a loop
placed over the second peg. This process continues
until there is a sufficient number of strings on one
set of pegs, when other pegs are brought into use.
When several pegs are thus made up, the spin-
ning wheel is used. The wheel is placed at one end
of the bench, and two strings are attached to the
hooks, the handle turned about fifteen times, and
46 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
the first spinning is done. One turn of the spinning
wheel gives about twenty-five revolutions to the
hooks, so that each string is twisted from 350
to about 370 times.
The pegs are now replaced by rods which are
made to fit into the sulphur box, and the super-
fluous water being squeezed from the strings, the
latter are carried to the sulphur box or chamber, and
put in position. The lid of the box is closed down,
and all cracks or crevices carefully sealed up. The
lamp is now lit, a tin of sulphur placed over it, and
both are inserted into a properly constructed closed
chamber at the bottom of the box. This part of
the work is usually done the last thing at night, and
the strings are allowed to remain in the sulphur
chamber until the following evening, when the lamp
is again lit. Only a very small quantity of sulphur
is used for the best quality string ; but in making
lower priced strings, and when cheap gut is used, a
much larger quantity of sulphur is burnt, and it is
often necessary to use bleaching water. The lovely
white strings we get from the Continent are really of
inferior quality, if the buyer only knew it. The
strong bleaching impoverishes the gut, but the white-
ness sells the string.
The strings are removed from the sulphur chamber
into the drying-room, where they are stretched on
drying-frames. The spinning wheel is again used,
each string Jbeing given from 150 to 200 revolu-
tions. When the strings are half dry, they are
spun for the third and last time, being given about
the same number of revolutions as before. Care has
STRING MANUFACTURE IN ENGLAND 47
to be taken at this stage that an even temperature
is kept up in the drying-room, and that there is
not a particle of dust about. When the strings are
thoroughly dry they are polished. The polishing
is done ^with specially selected "pumice stones, in
which grooves have been cut, six or seven strings
being polished together in one groove. The strings
are then dusted and oiled. Finally they are cut
off the loops, coiled, and tied with silk or gut, and
placed in bags and boxes ready to be dispatched to
the wholesale houses and dealers. For covered
strings the gut is not oiled. The process of cover-
ing the string with wire is a very simple one so
simple that I was able to learn it in about ten min-
utes, and to cover a G string for myself, which I
keep as a memento of my visit to Mr. Parker's excel-
V.-LEGEND, ART, AND STORY
(i) T EGENDS. Readers of violin literature are
familiar with various legends and tradi-
tions relative to the origin and development of the
fiddle and other stringed instruments, and it would
be invidious to relate here tales that are already
" grey with age." There are, however, two or three
pretty legends which I have happened upon in my
reading that have never, as far as I am aware, been
related in any book on the violin : these are of some
interest, I think, and may afford the reader a little
One is a Keltic legend of the tenth century, related
in " The Adventures of the Great Bardic Com-
pany. 1 ' According to this story (which doubtless
belongs to a much earlier mythology) the emit or
cruidh ( = crwtti) is a metamorphosed mermaid.
Thomas Moore has turned the legend into verse,
substituting, however, harp for emit, perhaps in
accordance with a later version, or it may be on his
own responsibility. This is how Moore puts it :
The Origin of the Harp [Cruit].
" Tis believed that this harp, which I now wake for thee,
Was a Siren of old, who sung under the sea ;
And who often, at eve, through the bright waters roved,
To meet on the green shore a youth whom she loved.
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 49
But she loved him in vain, for he left her to weep,
And in tears, all the night, her gold tresses to steep,
Till Heaven looked with pity on true love so warm,
And changed to this soft harp the sea-maiden's form.
Still her bosom rose fair still her cheeks smiled the same
While her sea-beauties gracefully form'd the light frame ;
And her hair, as, let loose, o'er her white arm it fell,
Was changed to bright chords, uttering melody's spell.
Hence it came, that this soft harp so long hath been known
To mingle love's language with sorrow's sad tone ;
Till thou didst divide them, and teach the fond lay,
To speak love when I'm near thee, and grief when away ! "
Here is another Keltic legend from the folk-lore
of South Wales : A huntsman once upon a time
set out hunting in the forest of Nedd [dd = th in
thee], and chanced to put an arrow through the
heart of a beautiful fawn. On lifting up the dead
fawn to sling it over his shoulders it became a flute.
The ancient huntsman played upon this flute daily,
and its sweet tone gave him unbounded pleasure.
But it chanced one day that he let fall the flute on
the spot where he had slain the fawn, and the flute
when it struck the ground changed into a serpent,
which bit him, so that he died. His son passing
that way found his father's corse, and surmising the
cause of his death, hunted for the serpent a year
and a day. He found it coiled up and basking in the
sun. The serpent sprang at him, but he, being an
agile youth, leapt aside, and struck the serpent a
hard blow, so that it lay stretched out at his feet.
On lifting its body up with his staff it changed into a
lyre. The youth, not in the least alarmed at so
50 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
wonderful a change, picked up the lyre, and bore it
away with a glad heart, and it was his wont to play
upon it daily, and his soul delighted in its charming
sounds. But it chanced one day as he was roaming
in the forest that he accidentally let fall the lyre on
the very spot where he had slain the serpent, and the
lyre upon striking against a stone was instantly
changed into an eagle, which flew away to the
heights of Ban. So great was the grief of the old
man (for he was now stricken in years) at the loss of
his lyre, that he shortly died of a broken heart.
His son swore on his grave that he would avenge
his father's death, and went hunting for the eagle
a year and a day. He found its eyrie on the top of
Mynydd Ban, and rested him on the heather till he
should espy the eagle. When at length it flew close
above the youth, a well-directed arrow brought its
lifeless form down fluttering at his feet. He eagerly
picked it up to examine the wound, when lo ! no
sooner had he lifted it from the ground than it
changed into a musical instrument, the like of
which he had never beheld before. Its form was
like that of a fair maiden, and its tone like the notes
of a nightingale. Each time he drew the bow across
its strings it whispered :
" A fawn was I, my tale to tell ;
A fiddle am I till breaks the spell."
The word in the Welsh legend is cr&th, which I
have rendered fiddle, modern Welsh itself frequently
preferring the latter word to the native and more
ancient one. South Walians invariably call a violin
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 51
ffidl, whereas North Walians have retained crwth,
using it as the equivalent of fiddle.
A very curious legend is current in certain parts
of Poland. It says that the goudok, a kind of rustic
fiddle, was invented and brought to Europe by The
Old Wandering Man, and that from this the modern
violin has been developed. The story of the Old
Wandering Man looks like a variant of the legend of
The Wandering Jew, but it has some peculiar
features. The old man in this case is said to have
invented, many centuries if not millenniums ago, a
cabalistic magnet which possessed the extraordinary
property of " secretly attracting the aura, or mys-
terious spirit of human efflorescence and prosperous
bodily growth, out of young men, and to gather
these benign and healthful springs of life and apply
them to the person of the inventor, by inspiration
and transudation, so that he was able to concentrate
in himself, though waning in age, the accumulated
rejuvenescence of many young people, who were
consumed in proportion to the extent their vitality
was extracted from them." The Old Wandering
Man is believed by the Polish peasantry to be still
living, and to be going to and fro, as devotedly
attached as ever to his primitive fiddle, his only
consolation in life.
(2) Art. The treatment of the violin in painting,
wood carving, stained glass windows, etc., is a very
wide subject, but I can touch only the fringe of it
here, and that at only one point. Every lover of
the leading instrument who is also a lover of truth
cannot but be puzzled and pained by the persistence
52 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
of the badly painted and badly carved fiddle in
modern art. Almost every year picture exhibitions,
coloured windows, and decorative carving, more
especially of the ecclesiastical class, furnish us with
numerous examples of impossible fiddles. Why is
this ? And why is it tolerated ? If a painter
treated an ordinary article of furniture with the
same liberty or indifference that he does the violin
which he sometimes puts in the hand of his sitter
he would be voted a mere dauber. What violin
connoisseur is there that does not feel angry with
the painting entitled The Old Fiddler, exhibited at
one of the Art galleries a few years ago, and now
owned by a rich collector ? The picture depicts
an old strolling fiddler crossing a bleak hill on a
wintry day, carrying his fiddle in a green baize bag
under his arm, with its head protruding. The
picture was pronounced by the critics to be very
fine, and so it would be but for one stupid blunder
the head of the fiddle is shown twisted round on a
level with its sides !
But painters, great delinquents though they be,
are eclipsed by stained glass artists and ecclesiastical
wood carvers, especially the latter, who, I think, are
the greatest sinners of all in this respect. Out of
innumerable examples of bad carving which I could
easily cite, I will take one example, which shall serve
as a type of its class. It is that of the instruments
on an elaborate and very expensive reredos put up
in a large modern church where I officiated recently
a church which boasts an aristocratic and cultured
congregation. The carving on that part of the
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 53
r credos which lies immediately behind and above the
altar depicts the " Heavenly Choir," led by a small
orchestra of angels, who are playing upon various
stringed instruments, all of a modern description.
Of the two principal figures, which stand slightly
in front of the group, and are in high relief, one plays
upon an instrument that is perhaps intended for a
banjo, but which looks more like a frying-pan than
anything else. The other holds a tolerably decent
fiddle, and a bow that might pass muster for a
" Tourte," in an attitude which is intended to show
that he is in the act of playing, but which really
suggests that he has had a fiddle put in his hands
for the first time, and is attempting to scrape out a
few notes !
One often wonders what conclusions future musical
historians, judging alone by such painting and carv-
ing as I have described, would form as to the shape,
size, and proportion of the fiddle of the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, and as to the technique of
violinists of that period. They would not be very
flattering conclusions, I trow. It is a pity the
ancient Greek law is not in force to-day which made
it a punishable offence " for painters or other
imitative artists to innovate or invent any forms
different from those which were established/' and
" unlawful in painting, statuary, or any branches of
music to make any alteration or false representa-
tion " (Vide Plato, De Legibus, liber II). For,
assuredly, truth is as important a virtue in a work
of art as it is in a business transaction, and art itself
ceases to be of real value when it relinquishes its
34 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
hold upon truth. Ruskin very justly observes that
" there are some faults slight in the sight of love,
some errors slight in the estimate of wisdom ; but
truth forgives no insult, and endures no stain."
(Vide The Seven Lamps of Architecture, chap, on " The
Lamp of Truth/' par. i).
It is no answer to the strictures made here (more
especially on the carvings) to say that the artistic
treatment of the violin in this case is to be con-
sidered as a mere abstraction that sort of answer
has been given from time to time. As a matter of
fact it is not abstraction, and if it were, it would
be illegitimate in these particular cases. That it
is not abstraction is evident from the position of the
carving and the attempted perfection of the form
in almost all the instances that have come under my
observation. In abstraction only a limited number
of the qualities of a thing are represented, but in the
carvings here considered an attempt is made to
show all the essential qualities of the form of the
And if it were abstraction, it would be open to the
still more serious charge of illegitimacy. It is a
canon of architecture that abstraction is not legiti-
mate where an object is to be closely seen, but
only where it is to be viewed from a distance. The
carvings in the examples reviewed here are in close
proximity to the altar, choir stalls, etc., and are on a
level with the eyes of the spectator, and only a few
feet away from him. We may reasonably ask those
who offer this kind of apology for bad art : Why
if the instruments put in the hands of angels, etc., are
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 55
intended for mere abstractions are not the figures
themselves treated as mere abstractions ?
Nor is it a good defence of bad painting and
carving to quote the example of certain masters who
have given us false or imperfect representations of
the violin. To such a shallow defence I would reply
in the words of Landor : " I dare not defend myself
behind the bad example of any man, and the bad
example of a good man is the worst defence of all "
(3) Story. The violin has an olla podrida of
romance, anecdote, song, proverb, nursery rhyme,
and what not, all its own, quite apart from its more
formal literature. I can only indicate in a general
sort of way, with no attempt at classification, the
character and extent of this class of writings.
Charles Reade's " Jack of all Trades " and " Christie
Johnstone " are familiar to most readers. These
tales, written as they are by one of the first con-
noisseurs of Europe, and by a master of English
literature, are rather disappointing. If " Thomas
Harvey " is a thin disguise for Thomas Hardie, the
son of Matthew Hardie and there is not much
doubt about it then the writer has exaggerated
the importance of Hardie as a violin maker. Reade
says that Harvey, or Harvie ( = Hardie), was " re-
markably successful in insuring that which had been
too hastily ascribed to accident a fine tone " : as a
matter of fact the tone of Thomas Hardie's instru-
ments is almost always poor and often positively
bad. Honeyman is of the opinion, having regard
to Reade's great knowledge of the violin and his
56 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
passion for truth, that Hardie's violins must have
originally had a good tone, but that they have
gradually deteriorated owing to the wood having
been artificially seasoned. Some scores of novels
have appeared since Reade wrote these two tales,
in which a violin maker or player is the hero, or an
important character ; many of them are of consider-
able merit, and a few very instructive and interesting.
A really clever and fascinating book is " Interplay,"
by Beatrice Harraden, in which one of the minor
characters is a violin maker, bearing the rather
commonplace name of Paul Stilling, whose imbecile
innocence of the world and its affairs is eclipsed only
by his phenomenal ability and skill as a fiddle maker
and repairer. He is described as one who makes
great fiddles by intuition, and as "an absolutely
entrancing companion in his own realm." The
authoress evidently a " modern woman " has a
thorough knowledge of the subject of violin making
and repairing, and has produced something worth
Of interesting violin anecdotes there is no end.
Hart, in his book, has a choice selection, to which
may be added many more equally entertaining from
" Some Early Musical Recollections of George Had-
dock," the numerous publications of the late Dr.
T. L. Phipson ; " The Fiddle in Scotland," by A. G.
Murdoch a little work which contains several
quaint stories of old Scottish fiddlers and fiddle
makers and from other books and periodicals.
To the particularly pleasing and amusing stories of
Gainsborough (related by Hart) may be added others
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 57
about Romney, and one or two other great painters,
who " found inspiration and solace in the sweets of
the fiddle.'* Painters and litterateurs as a rule are
musical, and are able to appreciate the difference
between beautiful and commonplace music, but
there are exceptions, and Ruskin was one. In the
" Life and Letters of Sir Charles Halle," Mr. C. E.
Halle in a passage relating to certain musical inci-
dents at a house party, where several celebrities
had gathered, including Tennyson, Swinburne, Burne
Jones, Rossetti, Watts, Browning, Leighton, Millais,
Fred Walker, Doyle, and several other poets and
painters, says : " My father was always delighted
in having such men to play to ; with painters, as he
has himself said, he was always safe with littera-
teurs he was occasionally not quite so fortunate.
They were fond of talking and found it difficult to
sit long and listen, whatever other sounds were
being made, and at times matters fared even worse.
Some years ago, in 1864, Professor Ruskin asked
him to come and play to a school of young girls in
whom he was greatly interested. My father readily
consented, and as the Professor was there himself,
and it was the first time he had played to him, he
was careful to select what was most great and beauti-
ful, and played his very best. When it was all over
and my father was about to leave, one of the girls
told him she had been practising Thalberg's arrange-
ment of 'Home, Sweet Home/ and would very much
like to hear my father play it before he went away.
He told her it was a pity they should listen to a trivial
thing like that after the beautiful music they had
58 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
just heard, but as she appeared disappointed and
some other girls came forward with the same re-
quest, he gave way, sat down, and played it. To
his chagrin, Ruskin, who had been politely ap-
preciative, now became enthusiastic, and told
him that was the piece he liked best far and
away ! "
Mr. Heron-Allen has told us all about nursery
rhymes connected with the fiddle, it only remains
for me to give a few proverbs I have heard in differ-
ent parts of the country.
" Drunk as a fiddler " is an expression which is
often heard, and is common to all parts. It is rather
hard on the poor fiddler, who would doubtless break
his heart but for the knowledge that he sins in good
company so at least another proverb, " Drunk as a
lord," tells him.
" Fiddler's pence/' a collection of small coin.
" Fiddle-sticks ! " expressive of contempt, etc.
"Mending his fiddle" (S. Pembrokeshire), trying
to recover lost ground, retrieve his position, and a
variety of meanings.
" Playing her fiddle," Welsh " Canu ei chrwth,"
said of a cat purring, and metaphorically of a woman
humming a tune pleasantly while at work. " Digon
o gr^th a thelyn" (Welsh), which means literally,
enough of a fiddle and harp, said of one who can sing
a good song, tell a good tale, play an instrument, or
anything to entertain a company ; who is, in fact,
an entertainment in himself.
" Playing the fiddle," is an expression applied by
Welsh people to a preacher who has " more sound
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 59
than sense/' referring, of course, to the peculiar
style of oratory known as Welsh hwyl.
" Yea canna vettle shoon with a viddle stick " (S.
Pembrokeshire) = you cannot repair shoes with a
" I wunna crowdy to norra one " (S. Pembs) =
I will not play the fiddle to. any one, that is, I will
not fawn upon any one.
" To play second fiddle to " = to act a minor part,
to take a back seat, etc.
" Playing the fiddle to the devil/'
" Many a good tune is played on an old fiddle."
" A dry fiddler makes a dry fiddle."
" There are three won't work without a stick,
An ass, a fiddler, and gentleman Dick."
" You grease the fiddler, he'll grease the fiddle " ;
" greased " in the second instance, of course, referring
to the popular error that grease or some such lubri-
cant is applied to the bow.
" The fiddler blaming the fiddle, and the fiddle
blaming the stick," i.e. saddling the blame on
another, and he on somebody else.
" Three guests who never miss a feast,
The fiddler, beggar, and the priest."
" Fit as a fiddle."
" As taut as a fiddle string."
" Fiddling with it " = trifling with it, a common
" Like fiddle and fiddle-stick " ; i.e. inseparable,
or indispensable to one another.
6o BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
" Got it all in his head like a fiddler." This may
refer to the music, which the old time fiddler usually
committed to memory, or to the miscellanea he
carried in his top hat in the shape of strings, ballads,
spare neck-bands, resin, etc.
" A face like a fiddle, and a tongue like a fiddle-
" As busy as a fiddle-stick."
" Tickle your strings ! " Meaning : " Be up and
doing ! >] Fiddlers at a country dance when their
enthusiasm flagged were encouraged by the crowd
who shouted, " Tickle your strings, ye merry fid-
dlers ! " The expression now has a variety of applica-
" Fiddling money out of people " is an expression
frequently heard in S. Wales.
" Drawing the long bow," exaggerating, finessing,
putting too fine a point to a story, etc.
" Talking and fiddling," a common expression.
11 Talking and fiddling with their hats and fea-
thers " (Pepys).
" Every fiddle to its f addle," equivalent to " every
man to his own trade " ; of. " Let the shoemaker
stick to his last."
" Call the fiddlers ! " When an altercation threatens
to become serious the more placable portion of a
drinking company cry " Call the fiddlers ! " to show
their disapproval of the noise, and their desire for
order and peace. This proverb is a testimony to
the power of the wee fiddle as a peacemaker, for it
points back to the good old time when the fiddle was
the one indispensable thing at country weddings,
LEGEND, ART, AND STORY 61
fairs, village green gatherings, wakes, etc., where
its strains often hushed an angry dispute.
" He has more than one string to his bow."
This proverb has two or three variants.
" Tighten your strings ! " Pluck up courage.
" Leaning on the riddle," concentrating energy
and attention upon anything ; derived perhaps from
the habit of old fiddlers of bending forward and
leaning their heads on their fiddles when playing
earnestly and it must be added furiously.
" Mae e' wedi hongian 'i grwth " (North Pem-
brokeshire) he has hung up his fiddle ; said of one
who has failed in an enterprise, or given anything up
in despair ; cf. " We hanged our harps upon the
willows" (Ps. cxxxvii., v. 2).
" A Two-penny fiddler " (S. Pembs.), one who is a
mere dabbler at a thing, not at all limited to the
violin, or to music. The recognized fiddlers in olden
times charged each couple the sum of threepence for
a " round " of dancing ; the less capable fiddlers
who charged only twopence were looked upon with
contempt, hence the expression.
" Feathering the bow," " Feathering the strings,"
" Feathering the notes," and other similar expres-
sions, have a variety of metaphorical applications.
There are, doubtless, many more fiddle proverbs and
colloquial expressions, some of them I dare say
quaint and expressive, and concealing little bits of
interesting history. A complete collection of these,
with explanatory notes and comments, would be of
value to the antiquarian.
VI.-THEORIES ABOUT THE ITALIAN
THE Italian tone ! What is it ? And what its
raison d'etre ? Simple though these questions
appear to be, they are by no means easy to answer-
Indeed, I do not think the second can be satisfactorily
answered at all.
To the question : what is the Italian tone ? there is
given a diversity of answers, and it is difficult to
say which exactly is the best. The answers are all
of a more or less rhetorical character, and I am not
aware that anybody has ever attempted to give us
an exact scientific description of it, couched in the
phraseology of acoustics. Nor do I think such a
description easy to give. The epithets " sweet/ 1
''clear/' "bright," "rich." "mellow," "silvery,"
"sonorous," "responsive," "bell-like," and such
like, are applied to the Italian tone, all of them cor-
rect enough when they are used to describe the tone
of the best instruments made by the great masters ;
but I think the quality par excellence which distin-
guishes the Italian tone is what I may figuratively
call its liquidity. It has a kind of oily smoothness
which mollifies and pleases the ear in a manner that
words fail to describe. It is a tone, then, produced
by stringed instruments of the violin family which
THE ITALIAN TONE 63
has a peculiar liquidity in addition to other good
qualities. It is a kind of tone, I need hardly say,
which is not possessed by every instrument made by
the old Italians, and not always by instruments
made by even the masters. And I will add (what
to some will appear rank heresy) a tone which is
sometimes possessed by instruments made neither in
Italy nor by the masters.
The fact is, the term Italian tone is much of a
misnomer, leading to wrong inferences rather than
to a right judgment.
Connoisseurs of ripe experience, and whose per-
ceptive faculties have not been warped by prejudice,
will agree with me that a great deal of nonsense has
been written about Italian instruments and the
Italian tone. Without a doubt, the finest of the old
Italian fiddles are superior to all others, but there
were great fiddles made outside Italy.
Mr. W. C. Honeyman appears to me to take a
pretty sane view of the matter. He writes : " ' Are
Italian violins superior to all others ? ' is a question
frequently asked by the puzzled chooser of a violin.
It is not easy to answer this question in an off-hand
manner, players differ so much in opinion as to what
is ' superior ' ; but no one of experience and proper
training can deny that the best of the old Italian
violins have a subtle and thrilling sweetness of
quality of tone which is rarely found in those of any
other country. ... All Italian violins have not
this quality. ... If a skilled violin maker would
but use the best Italian wood of matured growth,
seasoned for years in the warm dry air of Italy, and
64 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
make a good instrument, and cover it with a fine
amber oil varnish and expose that violin for a year
to warm dry air, I have not a shadow of a doubt
that that violin would have the Italian tone, no
matter where it were made." (The Violin : How to
Choose One, p. 45.)
What is the raison d'etre of the Italian tone ?
In other words, what was the secret of Stradivari,
Guarneri, Amati, Bergonzi, Maggini, and other great
Italians, and I may add of a few great makers
outside Italy ?
Connoisseurs differ widely in their opinions. In-
deed, out of the small army of fiddle experts, past and
present, hardly any two men will be found to have
exactly the same opinion.
I think it might be of some interest, and perhaps
of some value, if I put down here as concisely and
clearly as possible the opinions theories I had better
call them of some of the more important writers
on the subject, and at the same time point out what I
consider to be their defects.
A. THE AIR MASS THEORY
The gist of this theory may be stated thus : The
cubic capacity of the best Italian instruments (more
especially of Stradivari's) is such as ensures the
exact mass of air required by the tonal basis of con-
struction. This theory has two fatal defects :
(i) It is well-nigh impossible to secure the required
exact mass of air. The mass of air in the chamber
of the violin is not identical at any two consecutive
moments of time. Air is highly elastic, and its
THE ITALIAN TONE 65
density at any particular moment depends upon
temperature and atmospheric pressure. And the
quantity of reinforcement of vibration by a volume
of air depends upon the density of the air at the time.
(Vide Helmholtz : Sensations of Tone, and other
(2) The present cubic capacity of many of the
best Italian fiddles is not what it was when the
instruments were new. Nearly all these old fiddles
have been refitted with a larger bass bar and end
blocks, which means a slight decrease in the cubic
capacity. A large number of them have been opened
time and again for repair, with the result that the
ribs are not always quite as deep as they originally
were. Others are indented here and there, especially
around the bridge.
B. THE RELATIVE PITCH OF THE PLATES
This theory was broached by M. Savart as a result
of his researches on the acoustics of Italian violins,
with special reference to those of Stradivari. It
holds that the quality known as Italian tone is due
to the relative pitch of the fundamental tones of the
back and front plates of the violin, the pitch of the
back being a tone lower than that of the front.
(Vide Fetis : Notice of Stradivarius, p. 83.)
I observe (i) That this theory rests on the logical
fallacy of non-observation. Savart does not tell us
that he tested the plates of any violin intact, as it
had left the hands of the maker, but he constructed a
fiddle, or some sort of musical box, the plates of
which he graduated to produce the required tonal
66 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
difference, with the result that he obtained what he
conceived to be the Italian tone.
The clue which set him on the right track he says
he got by discovering that rods of maple and pine
cut from shipwrecked Strads were found when
thrown into vibration to give exactly the same rela-
(2) I submit that we have no evidence that the
plates of any great Italian instrument, much less an
instrument by Stradivari, in their original condition,
have ever been tested with a view of ascertaining
their tonal pitch.
(3) I submit further that there is not a fiddle in
existence, made by any of the masters, with its plates
in their original condition. The fixing of a stronger
bass bar has necessarily altered the pitch of the
table. The use of glue in repairing is another little
factor to be considered. A rod of glue would give a
very different note from a rod of pine, and although
the quantity of glue used in repairing be exceedingly
small, still it has to be taken into account. And the
majority of old Italian fiddles have some little glue
in their flesh by now.
(4) It does not seem to have occurred to those
who hold this theory that varnished plates of wood
give out a different note from the same plates in the
white. There is a slight difference of thickness to
take into account, but more important is the altera-
tion in density. Oil varnishes penetrate the wood
and increase the specific gravity of the plates.
Presuming that the old makers worked their plates
to produce a certain tonal difference, why should it
THE ITALIAN TONE 67
be supposed that that difference would be main-
tained after varnishing ?
C. RELATIVE DENSITY
Different pieces of timber differ in density. The
great Italian makers had exact knowledge of the
degree of density required in the back and front
plates to produce what they term " the necessary
acoustic accord." This appears to be the view of
the Rev. H. R. Haweis, who says : " Charles Reade
was napping when he expressed a hope that a certain
Stradivari back, mated with a new belly, might some
day be united to some Stradivari belly of which he
knew ; but unless it happened to be the belly Strad
had selected for that particular back, what reason
is there to suppose that the result would be satis-
factory ? "
Plausible as it appears, this theory will not bear
much weight, for
(1) The only method of determining the exact
density of timber is by the use of the hydrostatic
balance ; and he would be a rash writer, indeed,
who would venture to credit the old luthiers with a
knowledge of hydrostatics. No doubt the great
makers, particularly Stradivari, Guarneri, and a few
others, were cunning craftsmen, endowed with
intuitive powers beyond the average craftsman, still
they had their limitations, and they were very
ignorant, the majority of them, of book learning.
(2) The specific gravity of different pieces of maple
and pine of the same dimensions varies infinitely.
For example, ten pieces of pine of exactly the same
68 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
measurements, cut from the same log, and from the
same side of it, if you like, would be found to give,
if accurately tested, ten different specific gravities.
(3) By the mathematical theory of chance it is
impossible that Stradivari or anybody else should
succeed in fortuitously hitting upon a uniform ratio
of density between the plates of a large number of
D. QUALITY OF WOOD
This theory holds that the peculiar timbre of the
tone is due to the kind and quality of wood used.
Mr. Honeyman says that nothing but Italian wood
will give the Italian tone. Another says it must be
cut from this, that, or the other locality, and a third
that it must be from a particular part of the tree.
Now there can be no question that it is a matter
of supreme importance to use the right kind of wood,
and the very best of that kind, but that a fiddle made
of such timber will necessarily yield the Italian tone
we know is not the case. There are hundreds of
fiddles made of Italian wood which have not the
Italian tone. Curiously enough, the old Italian
makers used wood of foreign growth for their better
class instruments. We have it on the authority of
the Messrs. Hill that all the finer figured maple of
Stradivari was of foreign (i.e. non-Italian) growth.
(Vide Antonio Stradivari, p. 169, 2nd Ed.)
E. THE VARNISH
This theory holds that the Italian tone is to be
attributed to the old Italian varnish absolutely.
THE ITALIAN TONE 69
The Messrs. Hill, whilst not going quite that
length, perhaps, maintain that the varnish was the
first and most important factor in the construction
of Strad instruments.
But I quite fail to see why, if the secret of the
Italian tone is in the varnish, so many Italian instru-
ments of the classical period do not possess it.
There is genuine enough Italian varnish, I should
imagine, on all instruments made in Italy from 1650
till about 1750, but a considerable number of these
old relics can lay no pretence whatever to the Italian
These do not exhaust the list of theories, there are
many more. There is the plate tension theory of L.
H. Hall, of Hartford, Conn., the natural varnishing
theory of Otto Migge, the harmonic proportion
theory of Carl Schulze, etc. I am not sure that I
quite understand some of these theories, but I have
a suspicion that if I did I should not be very much
I have not a pet theory of my own to offer my
readers, and if I had, I should be exceedingly chary
of putting it before them. In sooth I must confess
that I know very little more about the mysteries of
the Italian tone now than I did thirty-five years
ago when I first took up the study of the sub-
I have thought about this mystery so long, pon-
dered over it, and carried it about with me in all
my daily rounds, that I verily believe I should not
care to have it solved. There is a subtle charm
about all mystery, and about this one in particular.
70 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
I do not think there would be half the number of
violin makers to-day but for this mystery of the
Italian tone. It is the magnetic pole of the fiddle
world, which makes the gauges and callipers of a
thousand craftsmen to point all in the same direc-
tion. I may express my meaning in the homely
language of Bolingbroke, who said that " plain
truth will influence half a score men at most in a
nation, or an age, while mystery will lead millions of
men by the nose."
I may in concluding these few and scattered
remarks on the Italian tone point out briefly what
theory and practice have taught me to regard as
important factors in the construction of a good
fiddle. They are :
(1) The quality of the wood.
(2) The outline and model.
(3) The graduation of the thicknesses.
(4) Good varnish.
(5) Accurate workmanship.
I think the curves of the plates, especially of the
back, have an important bearing on both the quan-
tity and the quality of the tone, and I think also
great care should be exercised to make the plates fit
true on the ribs, to ensure their perfect freedom from
torsional strain when glued on. It is needless to
add that I consider it very desirable that the in-
strument should be finished in as artistic a manner
Stringent attention to all these points may or
may not result in the production of an instrument
which has the Italian tone. May or may not:
THE ITALIAN TONE 71
which of the twain is largely a matter of chance.
This much is certain, however, to neglect these
factors is to court failure, ending in disappointment
and vexation of spirit.
more important matters have been touched
JL upon, it only remains to say something about
those of minor interest.
And first, as to vagaries. By this term I mean
departures from the traditional type of violin, and I
would include under one head all modifications,
varieties, and freaks, whether presented as " improve-
ments " and trotted out under the aegis of the
Patents Act, or otherwise.
No man who loves truth will deprecate scientific
investigation and experiment, and the discovery of a
new law, a new fact, a new element, or a new any-
thing, will be hailed with delight by the thinking
section of the community. The fiddle world would
appreciate any real discovery or invention of un-
doubted worth ; but unfortunately the majority
of violin vagaries can claim to be neither inventions
nor discoveries : they are mostly eccentricities or
Thus it stands with the fiddle, I believe : it has a
long ancestry, reaching back thousands of years,
but it appears to have entered upon its last cycle of
evolution during the Renaissance, and to have
reached the full measure of its stature early in the
eighteenth century. Further it cannot go. Heron-
Allen observes that " The violin ... is perhaps the
only human contrivance which, taken as a whole,
may be pronounced to be perfect. . . . This exqui-
site machine, standing apart in its mysterious
simplicity from the vulgar herd of instruments of
melody and harmony, is capable of expressing more
by its unaided voice than all the rest put together ;
and when this has been said, are we not perfectly
justified in ascribing to it the attribute of perfec-
tion ? And is it extraordinary that any attempted
improvement only proves to be a deteriora-
tion . . . ? "
This is the unanimous verdict of experts, at least.
It is manifest, then, that all attempts at improve-
ments are a waste of time and energy. But hardly a
year passes but that we read of the advent of one or
more rivals to the traditional type.
Mr. Heron- Allen in his well-known work devotes
a chapter to the description of some of the principal
vagaries that had appeared up to about 1880 : it
only remains for me to mention those that have
appeared since. For obvious reasons I omit the
names of the inventors, patentees, etc.
(1) The aluminium violin. There have been
several attempts made within recent years to intro-
duce violins, and especially violas, made of this
metal. I saw quite recently a viola made of what is
known as aluminium gold, an alloy consisting of one
part of aluminium to nine parts of copper. It was
more of a curiosity than anything else, and the tone
was small and harsh.
(2) Duple, triple, and sextuple barred fiddles.
74 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
These are fiddles with two, three, or six bass bars. I
also saw recently a freak which, if I remember
rightly, the maker named the cellular fiddle. In this
instrument little cells or pits were carved all over on
the inside of the back and front table, so that the
surface appeared like a honeycomb. It looked
curious, and must have cost an immense amount of
labour, and that is about all that could be said in its
favour. The makers of these vagaries appear to be
labouring under the delusion that an increase of
the interior vibrating surface of the instrument
ensures a corresponding improvement in its tone-
(3) The radiophone fiddle. The back and front
of this instrument are each made of twelve pieces of
wood, which are so arranged that the grain runs
radially from a common centre located mid-way
between the sound-holes at the front, and from a
corresponding point at the back. These pieces are
not only glued together, but are tenoned and mort-
ised a method which involves the expenditure of
time and energy sufficient to produce three or four
violins of the orthodox pattern. This fiddle is
fitted with a bridge made of six pieces put together
on the same principle.
(4) The plated fiddle. This has two sympathetic
plates fixed to the end blocks inside the instrument,
consisting of laminae of pine about one-sixteenth
of an inch thick, and extending about one-third of
the length of the body of the fiddle from either
end. The plates follow the lines of the upper and
lower bouts, but stand away about half-an-inch from
the ribs. Here again the idea seems to be that by an
increase of the vibrating surface it is possible to
obtain an increase of the volume of tone.
(5) The acute angled violin. In this device the
back of the instrument is made slightly larger than
the front, so that the ribs stand at an acute angle to
it. Why it should be named an acute angled fiddle
rather than an obtuse angled one is not quite clear,
for since the ribs form an acute angle with the back,
they must necessarily form an obtuse angle with the
front. There would appear to me to be greater
propriety in naming the invention after the larger
angle. Great merits are claimed for this " patent "
variety. The inventor in a letter under date of
April 4, 1914, writes : " Violinists of great renown
have tried them, some of whom say the angular
violins are better than those of the old masters, and
I know that I have a dozen of them here in my
house, the like of which for tone have never passed
through the hands of the Messrs. Hill & Sons/'
Possibly not !
(6) The rib sound holes. I have seen three varie-
ties of this kind of fiddle ; one was such a beautifully
made instrument that it seemed a pity it was not
more conformable to " the traditions of the fathers."
The inventor (evidently a scholarly man and a fine
artist) in a pamphlet explanatory of the principles
of this new departure says that " there is, aside
from the absence of sound-holes in the top, no
change from the well-known and orthodox pattern.
The sound-holes have been removed because they
destroy the continuity of the fine grain and fibre in
76 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
a table which, experience has shown, is delicately
sensible to defects. In this table the sound-hole
is but a decorative crack, and just as detrimental
to the expression of full and perfect tone as any other
crack. The old violins with really fine tone (and
they are fewer than is generally supposed) possess
this tone-quality in spite of their sound-holes not
because of them.''
There are numerous other vagaries of recent intro-
duction, some of them being revivals of forgotten
freaks, such as the patent leather fiddle, the one-
table fiddle, the reversed head fiddle, etc. There
are patent finger-boards, tail pieces, tail-pegs, key
pegs, and what not.
* * * * *
The factory fiddle claims a paragraph or two.
This ubiquitous intruder came among us long ago,
and when it did it evidently had made up its mind
to come to stay. Decry it as we will, it is determined
never to shake off from its varnish the dust of
British resin. I am not sure that its advent was
altogether such a bad event as we are wont to
picture it. We know that it unfortunately helped
to kill the home-made and hand-made article, but
then we also know that it has helped to popularize
the " King of instruments " in a country and among
a people which are said to be not over-musical.
The high-class, hand-made, artistic violin can never
be produced at a price which brings it within the
reach of the poorest of the people. Some violin
makers claim that they can complete an instrument
in the white in one week, but it is not possible that
they can within that period give their work the
degree of finish it should have. He is a very smart
worker who can finish a fiddle in a fortnight, and
keep on producing work at that rate. Long days
and fine work demand a big price. No ! we must
not unreservedly condemn the little factory intruder ;
he has a few points in his favour which help con-
siderably to counter-balance his defects. One of
our leading professional makers once remarked to
me that he owed a great deal to the cheap fiddle.
Put in the hands of a beginner it sufficed up to a
certain point, but when that point was reached it
quietly and without a murmur made way to its aristo-
cratic brother, the artistic instrument. Once the
love of the instrument is created within him, the
student will not long rest content with an inferior
or indifferent fiddle.
It is impossible that an artist, or even a player of
merely respectable proficiency, should be anchored
to earth by a factory fiddle.
A machine-made fiddle has no soul, and therefore
It is a fiddle, that is to say, to which the player
cannot impart his own individuality, and thus make
it the medium of expressing his highest thoughts
and deepest feelings. With his usual philosophic
insight Haweis remarks that " when Balzac tells
us of a man who had imprisoned the soul of his
mother in a violin, he was nearer a certain truth than
some of his readers fancy. The soul that is im-
prisoned in your violin is not your mother's, it is
your own soul, seeking and finding through the most
78 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
sensitive of all musical instruments an utterance
such as the human voice alone can equal, but not
excel." (Vide My Musical Life, p. 288.)
* * * * *
On the subject of the relative worth of old and new
fiddles a great deal might be said. It has been my
conviction for many years, and the conviction is
growing with the growing years, that the penchant
for old instruments is largely a matter of sentiment
is, in fact, a craze. I know it is heresy of an unpar-
donable nature to say so, and that the anathemas of
a thousand-and-one devotees of the old cult will come
down on my unfortunate head, but what advantageth
it to hide a conviction ? Providing one has spared
no effort in endeavouring to master his subject,
and that he has not been slow to profit by experience,
surely he has a right to express an honest opinion.
Let it at once be admitted that a good old instru-
ment, in a good, or at least very fair state of preser-
vation, is indisputably superior to a new instrument
and I know not of an expert who would not
readily grant as much and all is admitted that is
justly warranted by the case. As to the bulk of old
fiddles, and all the wretched nondescripts which are
masqueraded as old fiddles, the pity is they are not
gathered into one pile, set fire to, and offered up as
a holocaust to Zethus, or some other vengeful god.
I am quite certain that a new fiddle, made of good
material, scientifically constructed, and covered
patiently with a good oil varnish, if played skilfully
and given a few years to mature, will be superior in
every way to seventy out of every hundred old
fiddles which flood the market to-day. The truth is,
half the number of these old fiddles were poor,
cracked-voiced things when they were new, and
no length of time nor any amount of playing could
ever improve them, and as to the other half well,
about fifty per cent, of them have been spoilt by
quack repairers and " patent " improvement ma-
niacs. In believing and expressing myself thus, I
am not alone and unsupported, as my critic of The
Athenaeum wished his readers to think; I am
abundantly borne out by the opinion of experts of
long standing and good repute. For instance, Mr.
J. M. Fleming (in a passage which I must beg leave
to condense) says : "It is, undoubtedly, a general
opinion current among professional and amateur
players that new violins are usually new in the
matter of tone. That means that the tone is
4 woody,' ' hard, ' or ' metallic. ' These are really
the only terms that may properly describe the
supposed defect. Now, that opinion is, in regard
to the vast bulk of ordinary trade violins, perfectly
sound, and these three terms very accurately por-
tray the kinds of tone which new violins of the
trade class possess. Curiously enough, the same
three terms will exactly describe the tones of ninety
out of every hundred of the old type to be found in
the market at the present time. . . . The reader
will observe that I have said ninety out of every
hundred a rough and ready way of indicating the
proportion of bad to good instruments. And by
1 bad ' I mean not intrinsically bad, but bad by
comparison with new instruments at equal prices.
8o BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
It is now going on for half a century since I began to
take an interest in violins, and few aspects of the
subject have caused me more surprise from time to
time than the apparently fixed determination of
people to have an old fiddle at all hazards. ." ,-v
Age guarantees nothing, except the possibility that
there will be a few cracks . . . nothing with regard
to excellence of manufacture or quality of tone."
(Vide The Fiddle Fancier's Guide, p. 25.) Mr. W. C.
Honeyman, the well-known Scottish expert, ex-
presses himself much to the same effect, and even
goes so far as to maintain that " good new violins
entirely put out of court the majority of old ones."
(Vide The Violin : How to Choose One.) Mr.
Edward Heron- Allen observes : "No one who has
seen the magnificent new instruments of Chanot, of
Hill, of Boullangier, of Simontre, of Gand and
Bernardel, and of many other living makers, can
possibly deny that these instruments will be, when a
little matured by age, far sweeter and finer than
any of the time-withered, tampered-with, over-
repaired, and dilapidated instruments which flood
the market under the names of Stradivari, of Guar-
neri, of Amati, of Ruggerius, of Stainer, of Bergonzi,
and a hundred lesser names " (Violin making : As
it Was and Is, p. 19). And Charles Reade, very
pertinently, and in his own inimitable style, remarks
that if you " take a hundred violins by Stradiuarius
and open them ; you find about ninety-five patched
in the centre with new wood. The connecting link
is a sheet of glue. And is glue a fine resonant
substance ? And are the glue and the new wood of
John Bull and Jean Crapaud transmogrified into
the wood of Stradiuarius by merely sticking on to
it ? Is it not extravagant to quote patched violins
as beyond rivalry in all the qualities of sound ? "
(Vide Fourth Letter in the Pall- Mall Gazette, Aug.
The testimony of many more competent witnesses
might be given, but it is not necessary to belabour
the point. I am not quarrelling with my critics :
they have as good a right to their own opinions as
I. have to mine, but I think if they had been better
informed on the subject they would not have said
the foolish things they did about the comparative
merits of old and new fiddles.
It is my earnest advice to players of moderate
means, professional and amateur alike, who require
a good fiddle, to spend their money wisely on a
sound new instrument, made by some artist of
Repairing does not come within the scope of this
work, but a few words on the sister craft will not be
out of place. Good repairers are like gold, often
scarce, always wanted, and much abused. They
are often abused, forsooth, because they cannot
perform miracles, and transform wretched old fiddles
with broken voices into seraphic Cremonas.
Repairing, I need hardly tell my readers, is a
special art, requiring much skill, great patience,
and a double portion of the spirit of self-effacement
and of reverence for old work. The absence of the
last namecl virtue in the repairers of the past is one
82 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
of the reasons why there are so many spoilt old
instruments. The best makers are not necessarily,
nor even usually, the best repairers. As a matter
of fact very few of the leading British violin makers
are renowned for their repairs, and the majority of
them do not undertake such work at all. I do not
think, however, a man can be a good repairer unless
he is able to make an instrument, and is thoroughly
conversant with the theory of its construction.
Repairing is to making what surgery is to anatomy
skill in the one is dependent on a knowledge of
the other. There are some scores of repairers of a
sort up and down the country, but they are not
repairers in the true sense of the word ; they are
dabblers. An artistic repairer does not merely
mend the fiddle, he restores it restores it, that is,
as near as possible to its original condition, and by
the help and with the addition of as little new material
as possible. He does not, like the vandal Ortega
of whom we read, substitute a brand new table for
a cracked old one, nor even, indeed, the tiniest
splinter, where he can possibly avoid it. All the old
pieces that have broken off, if they are not lost, he
deftly and cunningly refits in their proper position.
It has been said of the repairs of Francois Gand,
of Paris, that they were "masterpieces of ingenuity
and delicate workmanship." "The care that he
took and the judgment which he exercised in bring-
ing together the various broken parts of an imperfect
instrument, that the original appearance might be
maintained as closely as possible, cannot be too
highly praised. He often accomplished seeming
impossibilities. Splintered cracks were by his in-
genuity closed as though no fibre had been severed,
while at other times, pieces were so deftly inserted
that the most experienced eyes might fail to detect
their presence. It was with him a labour of love,
and he did not scruple to spend days over work on
which others would only spend hours." (Hart.)
That is a picture of the genuine restorer and
reverent artist ! And that is the sort of work every
repairer desirous of doing full justice to his art must
aim at. The great bane of the fiddle world is the quack
repairer, with his " patent " nostrums for this, that,
and the other violin ailment. If you value your
old instrument, avoid him as you would a pestilence.
There are several clever and conscientious re-
pairers in the country, and the owner of a valuable
instrument requiring doctoring up need be under
no apprehension in committing his treasure to them
* * * * *
The preservation of instruments is a matter of
supreme importance, and I do not think I shall be
giving superfluous advice when urging upon all
owners of valuable violins the necessity of attending
to the following points :
(1) Wipe the instrument carefully with a soft
silk handkerchief each time after use.
(2) If the violin is not at all in use, then give it
frequent airings, but do not expose it for long to the
direct rays of the sun that would take the colour
out of the varnish.
(3) Keep the instrument from extreme tempera-
84 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
tures, and never expose it in a damp atmo-
(4) Keep it as free as possible from dust. If
dust should get into the inside, pour in a handful
or two of barley or rice through the sound holes,
and shake backwards and forwards till the dust has
(5) Attend to any damage, however slight, with-
out delay : that will prevent further mischief.
(6) If the fiddle should unfortunately fall a victim
to the voracious wood borer the little demon so
dreaded by possessors of old instruments wash the
affected parts with hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ), which
may be obtained at any chemist shop. This is
perfectly harmless, will not injure the instrument in
the least, and is the most effective remedy yet
(7) Last, but not least : give your violin an
occasional rest. If the instrument gets a great deal
of hard use, the periods of rest must be reasonably
frequent and fairly long. If it does not get a respite
now and again, it will infallibly get " played out."
A word on the ethics of violin collecting. Some
writers hold that it is positively wrong to form
collections of old instruments, on the ground that it
is selfish, and that it prevents the instruments
getting into the hands of players. Others take an
opposite view, and regard fiddle maniacs and rational
collectors alike as benefactors to the fiddle world.
To me this wordy warfare seems to be " Much ado
about nothing." The question of the right or wrong
of violin collecting is, assuredly, but a small fraction
of the very large question of the right of ownership
in the abstract. We can well afford to let the
smaller matter rest till the larger one has been
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND BOW
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND BOW
ABEL, DAVID, . A violin of fairly good workman-
ship bore a label with this name, without date or place-name.
It looked like early nineteenth century work.
ABSAM, THOMAS, Wake field : 1810-49. I have
seen only two instruments of his make, both violins, one on
the Stradivari and the other on the Amati model. The
workmanship was of average merit. He made chiefly for
Pickard, a dealer in Leeds.
ACTON, WILLIAM JOHN, London. He works at
472 Katherine Road, Forest Gate, E. He was born in
Woolwich, December 12, 1848, and was educated at Rectory
Place Academy, of that place. He was trained by his
father, and carried on business at Woolwich till 1898, when
he removed to London. He has made up to date 210
violins, 19 violas, 29 violoncellos, 21 contra-basses, and 250
bows. He has also made a large number of replicas of
ancient viols and other instruments. The model of his
violins approximates closely to that of the grand Strad,
the material is excellent, and the workmanship and tone are
good. He has latterly specialised in bows, which are
excellently made of the finest wood, and well seasoned.
His prices for instruments and bows are exceptionally
moderate, as prices go to-day. Mr. Acton is considered a
90 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
very skilful repairer, and being a diligent and conscientious
man, he does not lack for work. Facsimile label :
ADAMS, CATHUNE, Garmouth. From about 1775
to 1805. He made kits, violins, and violoncellos. The
workmanship is fairly good, but the varnish is of poor
quality. Tone small, but clear and responsive. Hand-
ADDISON, WILLIAM, London. Period unknown,
but probably about 1650-75. It is not certain whether he
made violins, but he made viols. Label :
IN LONG ALLEY,
OVER AQAINST MOORFIELDS, 1670.
AIRETON, EDMUND, London. From about 1730
to 1807. His best instruments are on the Amati model.
The workmanship is good, and the tone of fair quality.
The varnish is a spirit one, of a lustreless yellow. It has
been surmised that a workman, of the same name, in the
employ of Peter Wamsley in 1735, was his father.
AIRTH, WILLIAM, Edinburgh. About 1860 to 1881.
He emigrated to Australia in the latter year, where he has
remained, only occasionally making violins. Fair work-
manship and tone.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 91
ALDRED, . A maker of viols about the middle of
the sixteenth century. His instruments were very cele-
brated and much in demand a century later. They were
classed with those of Jay, Smith, and Bolles, by Mace in
his Musick's Monument.
ALLEN, EDWARD HERON-, London. The author
of the most popular and reliable work yet published on
the art and craft of violin making. The book is entitled :
Violin Making : A sit Was and Is. Without a doubt this
work has done great service in creating anew and fostering
the love of the " King of instruments " in this country.
Mr. Heron- Allen has a practical knowledge of violin making,
and has made a few instruments.
ALLEN, SAMUEL, London, contemporary. Chiefly
a bow maker. He was for several years in the employ
of the Messrs. Hill, and was esteemed by them as a first-
class workman. He started business on his account in
1891. He was born in Cornwall in 1858, and was educated
for the scholastic profession.
ALLEN, W., Bristol. Nineteenth century. 1 have
not seen any of his work.
' ALLWOOD, THOMAS, Barnstaple. Nineteenth
century. His work is said to be fairly good.
ANDERSON, HENRY, Edinburgh. He was born in
Auchtermuchty in 1839. He has made about 120 violins
on the Guarnerius model. He received a diploma and
bronze medal at the Glasgow East End Exhibition, 1890,
for a case of violins.
ANDERSON, JOHN, Aberdeen. Born 1829, died
1883. He is said to have made about a thousand instru-
ments of every description. If so, the majority of them
must have vanished in a mysterious manner, for I have
failed to discover one.
92 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
ANDERSON, JOHN, Glasgow. He is the son of the
preceding John Anderson, and was born at Aberdeen, in
1856. He has made a number of violins on a modified Strad
model, and he also makes very good varnish.
ANYON, THOMAS, Manchester. An amateur who
makes very beautiful instruments, and for which he is said
to obtain prices ranging from thirty to fifty guineas !
ARNOT, DAVID. Born at Crieff, and worked in
Glasgow, where he died in 1897. He made a large number
of instruments on various models. He had a shop in
Stockwell Street, Glasgow, where he carried on extensive
repairing business. Handwritten label.
ASKEW, JOHN, Stanhope. Born in 1834, die( l in l8 95-
A very clever maker, who, if circumstances had but allowed,
would doubtless have produced a large number of instru-
ments of exceptional merit. Mr. Towry Piper had a high
opinion of his abilities. In a monograph recently published
by Mr. W. Morley Egglestone, entitled : John Askew
the Stanhope Violin Maker, a full description is given of all
the violins by Askew which are known. I have seen only
one instrument by this maker ; it was the violin " christ-
ened " the Van Gelderen, fecit in 1884, and was on the Strad
model, with golden amber varnish of a slightly reddish tint,
very transparent and lustrous. The workmanship showed
the master hand of a born fiddle maker, and the tone was
full, responsive, and mellow. He was awarded a bronze
medal at the Inventions Exhibition, 1885, and the first
prize at the Jubilee Exhibition, Newcastle-on-Tyne, in 1887.
ASKEY, SAMUEL. He worked in London about
1800-40. Originally a tinman, he became a pupil of John
Morrison, and worked for some time for George Corsby.
The work varies in character, but the tone is usually weak
and harsh. No label of his is known.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 93
ASPINALL, JAMES. He works at Bolderstone. An
amateur who produces very commendable work.
ATKINS, JAMES, Cork. He carried on business as
music seller for many years in Cork, but has now retired.
He is over 80, but still takes an interest in the violin, and
it is not long since he laid by his gouge to enjoy a well-
earned rest. He has made a number of violins, mostly on
the Strad model, which are of good workmanship, and have
a full, clear, and responsive tone.
ATKINSON, WILLIAM. He worked for many years
at Tottenham, but left there in 1911 for Paglesham, near
Rochford, in Essex. He was born at Stepney, October 23,
1851. He is a professional maker, and is recognized as one
of the best artists in Great Britain to-day. He received a
good early education at Lukeing's Grammar School, Mile
End Road, Stepney, and thus laid a solid foundation for
his later reading in acoustics and the theory of violin
construction. He was married October 6, 1880, to Mary
Elizabeth Camper, at Bromley-by-Bow Church, and has two
sons, William Camper, and John Benjamin Camper. He
made his first violin in 1869, whilst serving his time as a
joiner. He has completed up to date about 200 violins, and
a corresponding number of violas and violoncellos. He
works on two original models ; the principal measurements
of model No. i being :
Length of body 13 $ inches.
Width across upper bouts . . . 6f
middle bouts . . 4!
lower bouts . . . 8^
Depth of ribs at top .... i^
bottom . . . H
Length of sound holes .- . . 3^ *
Distance between sound holes * . ijf
Elevation, from J . . . f > f
94 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
The measurements of model No. 2 are the same, except
that it is -^ narrower across the bouts.
Mr. Atkinson is particularly careful and happy in the
selection of his material. He is able to test acoustically his
wood, and therefore to reject all that does not come up to
the highest standard of excellence. He prefers maple with
a figure of medium width, and pine of a " reed " rather under
medium width. His outline and model are pure and grace-
ful, and the workmanship is most carefully and delicately
finished down to the smallest detail. The scroll is a notable
feature of the work : I have never seen it better carved, and
rarely quite as good. The width of the back from the
scollop down to the first turn opposite the throat is main-
tained with a gradual and almost imperceptible diminution,
just as in the best old Italian work, and certainly in a style
which all but the very best of our old English makers failed
to reach. The button is nearly semicircular, with gently
toned-down edge. The margin is one-fifth wide, and the
edges are full, with a very slight elevation above the level
of the purfling bed. The purfling, every bit of which Mr.
Atkinson makes himself, is one-sixteenth wide, the inner
strip having a width which is slightly greater than that of
the outer ones combined. The sound holes are of beautiful
outline and cleanly cut. The varnish is an oil one, ranging
in colour from pale straw to light ruby, is perfectly trans-
parent and elastic, and soft as velvet to the touch. It is
laid on in from fifteen to twenty thin coats, and dried in
the open air. Few makers are so fastidious as Mr. Atkinson
in the matter of varnishing. He removed from Tottenham
simply because he believed the air of that place injured his
varnish during the drying process. He preferred to sacrifice
the prospects of a ready market for his instruments to the
less remunerative but vital interests of his art. The Duke of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was an admirer of Atkinson's violins,
and gave proof more than once of the practical interest he
took in the welfare of the gifted maker. The tone is remark-
VIOLIN BY ATKINSON.
To face p. 94.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 95
ably clear and responsive : it is powerful, but withal mellow
and silvery. Facsimile label :
in Tottenham J9O3.
The label is varnished over with the same varnish as that
used on the fiddle, to prevent the ink fading. The maker's
monogram is also stamped with a cold punch on the back
under the button.
BAINES, , London ; about 1780. Nothing is
known of him beyond the fact that he worked for Matthew
Furber for some time, whose pupil he was.
BAKER, FRANCIS, London. An old viol maker. A
bass viol bearing his label has been known.
BAKER, JOHN, Oxford, 1680-1720. He made viols
chiefly, but towards the end of his life he is supposed to have
turned his attention to violins. No one, however, appears
to have seen any of these. Tom Britton had a fine viol of
his make in his collection, and a four-stringed viol da gamba
was among the exhibits at the South Kensington Special
Exhibition, 1872, bearing the following label :
96 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
BAKER, WILLIAM, Brighton. About 1820-40. He
made a number of violins on a model approaching that of
the grand Strad, some with grotesque figures instead of the
usual scroll. Good wood and workmanship ; varnish,
golden brown, of good quality. Sound-holes rather weak,
inclined to be " knock-kneed." Tone, powerful, but
inclined to be metallic and harsh. Label printed in Roman
GEORGE STREET, BRIGHTON
BALLANTINE, , Edinburgh and Glasgow. No-
thing known of him except that he worked about 1850.
BANKS, BENJAMIN, Salisbury. He was born July
14, 1727, and died February 18, 1795. He was the second
son and the third child of George and Barbarah Banks, of
the parish of S. Thomas, Salisbury. In Grove's Dictionary
of Music and Musicians, Vol. V. p. 306, new edition, it is
stated that Banks was not a native of Salisbury, but that
" he early migrated there," from London presumably. This
can hardly be correct, as it would involve the removal of the
parents to London and their return to Salisbury within a
short period of time. George and Barbarah Banks were
living in Salisbury in 1725 and in 1730. It is not quite
certain, of course, where he was born : the old registers of
the parish of S. Thomas are lost, and the transcripts in the
Diocesan Registry are incomplete. The following are the
only entries contained in the transcripts with reference to
the Banks family :
" Baptisms :
21 March 1722, George, son of George and Barbarah Banks.
8 July 1725, Elizabeth, daughter of George and Barbarah
15 August 1730, William, son of George and Barbarah Banks.
20 June 1732, Mary, daughter of George and Barbarah Banks."
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 97
There are no transcripts for the periods 1725-1730 ;
1740-1778. Strange to relate, the burial entries are also
missing for the year 1795. Thus were the Fates resolved to
cheat the future biographers of Banks of every scrap of
information relative to his birth, baptism, and burial !
Banks has been styled " the English Amati," a title which
he no doubt fully deserves. It ought to be recognised,
however, that only in his best work does he soar above
Duke, Forster, and one or two others. I have seen some
examples of Duke which, in my opinion, were quite equal to
the best work of Banks, except as regards varnish. Duke's
varnish is mostly thin and lustreless, whereas Banks'
varnish is very fine as a rule. Hart remarks that it has " all
the characteristics of fine Italian varnish." The work of
Banks may be arranged into two classes : (i) the Stainer
copies, and (2) the Amati copies. Banks, I believe, when
left to his own choice, copied no one but Amati, but his
patrons and the trade frequently demanded that he should,
in accordance with the taste of the times, supply Stainer
copies. No one is responsible for this inference but myself,
and perhaps I ought therefore to attempt to justify it.
The majority of the instruments made by him for Longman
and Broderip, and which bear that firm's stamp on the
back, are Stainer copies, and show work which is inferior
in finish to that seen in his Amati copies. Similarly, instru-
ments made on the Stainer model for private patrons are
lacking in delicate finish, and some have an inferior varnish.
It is as though the good man were impatient of his model, and
in a hurry to get the instrument out of the way. Patient
labour, delicate finish, and luscious varnish were reserved
for the model of his own choice. Only when the material
happens to be poor or very plain is there any evidence of
impatience in the finish of the Amati copies. I have seen
a very large number of Banks' instruments, and I cannot
recall a single exception to this rule. My inference is to a
certain extent justified by the fact that it was long ago recog-
nised that the Amati copies of Banks were his best,
98 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
(1) The Stainer copies, as already stated, show compara-
tively inferior work inferior, that is, as compared with
his best style The model is long, from 14^ to 14^, with
a perceptible narrowing of the upper part of the instrument.
The arching is somewhat exaggerated, having the ridge
accentuated between the sound-holes. One is given the
impression that the copyist, having grasped the general
idea of the Stainer model, and thinking it sheer waste of
time to attempt an extended analysis of it, and to be nice
about detail, resolved that it was sufficient indulgence to
existing wickedness to reproduce the said feature in any
shape. I have not seen one Banks fiddle which can be said
to be a faithful Stainer copy, and I do not think there is
one in existence. The outline is fairly true, but the curves
of the arches are treated with a degree of freedom which
removes the work from the category of " copy/' in the strict
acceptation of the term. These are the so-called copies
which have got poor Banks into ill odour with regard to
some of his varnishing. His varnish, in some cases, has
" killed the grain " of the tables, so Hart informs us, and I
dare say he is correct enough, although I do not think there
are very many instances where this has occurred. Banks
was a great man, and the small faults of a great man are
easily seen and usually magnified.
(2) The Amati copies. On the construction of these
magnificent copies Banks concentrated his energy, heart
and soul. Wood, workmanship, and varnish are almost
faultless. The only part of the work to which exception
can be taken at all is the scroll, which is sometimes weak,
and never quite in the Amati style. It is rather singular
that our old makers, even the best of them, should fre-
quently come to grief at the same spot the scroll. Some-
how they fail to respond to the elan of the Italian spirit
the great thrust of art-life, which makes for freedom in
every bit of carving and painting. The old English scroll
is too cramped. There are, of course, some exceptions, but
not many. Banks therefore failed where the majority of
VIOLA BY BANKS.
To face p. 99,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 99
his brethren failed, both before and after him. It is difficult
to account for this failure. Perhaps it is due to the limita-
tions and idiosyncrasies of the individual artists, or to the
fact that post-Renaissance Art suffered from the general
exhaustion which followed the great Awakening.
But viewing the work as a whole, the Amati copies may
be described as faithful and felicitous examples of the
imitator's art. Benjamin had sat at Nicola's feet, and had
drank deep of his master's inspiration. It has been said
that the noblest function of art, be it the art of painting,
sculpture, music, or poetry, is to eliminate what is accidental,
trivial, and temporary ; and to set before us what is essen-
tial, profound, and eternal. How far Nicola Amati was able
to accomplish such a purpose in his art may be a debatable
point, but there can be no doubt that what the master
accomplished the disciple very successfully attempted.
Nor ought the work of the disciple to be disparaged simply
because it is a copy. The Italians were themselves copyists.
" The people of Italy," says W. S. LiUy, " are gifted, beyond
all other nations, with a sense of form. It was natural that
the supreme masters of the arts of design should arise among
them. But in other departments of intellectual activity
they are mediocre and worse. Great men have been among
them. But how few ! The race is lacking in veracity, in
virility, and therefore in originality. Just as in the present
time those who claim to represent its political ideals are
mere plagiarists from the French, so in the Renaissance
epoch those who claimed to represent its literary and art
ideals were mere plagiarists from antiquity." (Renaissance
Types, p. 31.)
Italian art in general, and that of sculpture and design
in particular, owed more to Greek art than we are wont to
think. Stringed instruments are not to be excluded from
this indictment, for the construction of these is but the
application of the principles of design to wood carving.
To despise the work of our old makers because it is more
or less an imitation of Italian art, and to extol the art
ioo BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
which they copied and dub it " classical," is the usual way
with the flippant connoisseur, who does not trouble about
the wider issues of history.
The truth is, no work of art is absolutely original, and all
nations are copyists by turns. What we borrowed from the
Italians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the
Italians themselves borrowed from the Greeks in the fifteenth
Dr. Johnson said that " No man was ever great by imita-
tion " : if that is true, then we must say that Banks was
great in spite of imitation, for great he most certainly is.
His best work, if not original and distinguished by subtle
and ^delicate feeling like the art of the Italian masters, is
yet marked by decisiveness of execution, freedom of manner,
and exquisiteness of finish. His Amati copies show that he
was not only a master of the principles of his art and craft,
but also that he was imbued with the knowledge and feeling
of form. It is many years since I began to make a careful
study of the work of our old violin makers, and it has been
my good fortune to come across some very fine examples of
Banks' handiwork. I look upon him as summing up in
himself the whole tradition of the old British School of
violin making. The tradition of that school, if not remark-
able for its insight, is sincerely reverent. It has been
recorded of Michael Angelo when he was a pupil of Ghir-
landaii that " he was wont daily to contemplate reverently
the saints and angels whom Fra Angelico seemed to have
drawn from heaven." And such is the figure I have drawn
in my mind of Benjamin Banks, save that for saints and
angels I have substituted violins, violas, and 'cellos. Rever-
ence, I have observed elsewhere, is characteristic of all true
art -reverence, that is, for the Idea, in Plato's sense of
the term, and not merely for any special form under which
the Idea is visualized. The inspired artist loves the form
his model not so much for what it is as for what it repre-
sents. The best work of Banks impresses me with the
feeling that the artist had set himself the task of discovering
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 101
the formulating principle of his master's model, and having
discovered it, that he always kept it in mind.
That Banks understood something of the subtle relation
between form and sound, and of the modifying effect which
the curves of the violin had upon its tone, appears to be
pretty evident to me. Whilst he is careful never to depart
from the essential features of his model, he nevertheless
frequently treats his curves in a manner that suggests either
experiment or a reasoned purpose. But he is very cautious :
he was seeking knowledge, if haply he might feel after it,
and find it. Had he been less cautious and gone further he
would have adopted the great Stradivari's model.
I quite recently saw and tried one of the most beautiful
of Banks' violins which it has been my fortune to see.
The wood was fine, the back being cut on the quarter, with
a curl of medium and regular width, slanting at a rather
acute angle in the direction of the button. The tone was
clear, responsive, and beautifully sweet and mellow.
One of the best toned Banks violoncellos that I have seen
was an instrument owned some years ago by a gentleman
amateur of Tenby. It was of the smaller pattern, of rather
plain wood, and varnished red. It was in perfect condition,
and in chamber music it sang mellifluously like a velvet-
throated baritone. 1 took dimensions of this instrument,
which I append here :
Length of body . * . . .... 28J inches.
Width across the upper bouts "..." , 13
middle . < icj
lower . , . 16
Depth of ribs at lower bouts . , N . 4i
top . *. ; 4f
Width of C's . . . . ... 6J
Length of sound-holes . ,. . . 6
Distance between sound-holes . . 3f
Length of stop . . * . . . .26
Genuine Banks instruments are somewhat rare, consider-
ing the large numbers that he undoubtedly must have made.
I have not discovered that there are more than about sixty
102 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
violins, and about twice that number of violas and 'cellos,
at present in existence. Of this number a good many are
in poor condition, and some have been spoilt by former
Goths and Vandals of the art of repairing. I dare say there
are some fiddles of his about which have been " touched
up " a little and have got Amati labels in them : I know one
or two. Some 'cellos that I know are in the possession of
wealthy people, who trouble little about their condition, and
probably less about their musical merits. More than one
poor instrument lies dumb and sad among the folios and
quartos of a neglected library, and like
" The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled."
Banks stamped his instruments in all sorts of places,
below the button, under the finger-board, under the tail-
piece and near the button, etc., and he used various labels,
such as :
" Made by Benjamin Banks, Catherine Street, Salisbury,
1770 " ; " Benjamin Banks, Musical Instrument Maker,
In Catherine Street, Salisbury, 1780 " ; " Benjamin Banks,
fecit, Salisbury " ; " B. Banks, Sarum."
He was buried in the Churchyard of S. Thomas, Salisbury.
His tombstone, which is near the south door, on the right-
hand side, bears the following inscription:
WIFE OF MR. BENJAMIN BANKS
DIED 14 SEP*
AGED 57 YEARS
MR. BENJAMIN BANKS
DEPARTED THIS LIFE
18fH FEBiY 1795
AGED 67 YEARS
IN MEMORY OF,
THE MOST EMINENT ENGLISH MAKER
OF STRINGED MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 103
BANKS, BENJAMIN, Salisbury, London, and Liver-
pool. He was the second son of Benjamin Banks, senior,
and was born September 13, 1754, at Salisbury. He died
in Haroll Street, Liverpool, where he last worked, January
22, 1820. He worked with his father for about ten years,
but in 1780 he removed to 30 Sherrard Street, Golden Square,
London. He did not remain there long, probably because
he failed to obtain patronage. Very little of his work is
known, and what there is does not reach a high standard of
BANKS, JAMES and HENRY, Salisbury and Liver-
pool. They continued their father's business till 1811, when
they sold up and went to Liverpool, where they opened a
shop in Church Street, and which they removed later to
Bold Street. Both were born at Salisbury ; James about
1756, and Henry about 1770. The former died on June 15,
1831, and the latter on October 16, 1830. Henry was
really a pianoforte tuner, and James the violin maker.
James was a very good workman, and ought to have done
much better than he did. He followed his father's model,
and occasionally succeeded in making a good instrument
with a fine varnish. The tone is never good. He is said
to have resorted to the deleterious practice of baking the
wood, then very much in vogue ; if so, that accounts for
the inferiority of tone. The brothers left a number of
unfinished instruments in the cellar of their shop, most of
which were sold to music sellers.
One of their violoncellos, made in 1797, was among the
exhibits in the South Kensington Museum, 1872. It was
the property of Mr. C. J. Read, of Salisbury. It was said to
be a well-finished instrument, with a moderately powerful
tone of very good quality. Nothing that I have seen by
any one of the sons could be said to possess a tone of any
distinction. The father's mantle unfortunately did not
fall on the shoulders of the sons.
104 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
BARNES, ROBERT, London. He was a pupil of
Thomas Smith at the " Harp and Hautboy," in Piccadilly.
Afterwards he became a partner with John Norris, with
whom he had been a fellow- apprentice at Smith's. Norris
and Barnes started business together in 1765. All the
instruments which bear their label were probably made by
others. Label :
MADE BY NORRIS AND BARNES,
VIOLIN, VIOLONCELLO AND BOW MAKERS
TO THEIR MAJESTIES,
COVENTRY STREET, LONDON.
BARR, ROBERT, Belfast. A contemporary maker,
mentioned by the Rev. Father Greaven in his booklet on
Irish makers. I have not seen any of his work.
BARRETT, JOHN, London. Period about 1714-30.
He copied Stainer, and very often exaggerated his arching.
He also worked on a modified Stainer outline, which was
long, narrow, much grooved, and highly arched. The
workmanship is fair, but the tone is small and muffled.
As a rule, he used ink-lines instead of purfling. The varnish
is yellow and hungry looking, and helps to give a cheap look
to the instrument. He is said to have made a better class
instrument now and again.
BARTON, GEORGE, London. Period about 1780-
1810. Nothing is known of him except that he worked in
Elliot Court, Old Bailey, and principally for music sellers.
BARTON, JOSEPH EDWARD, Llanelly, S. Wales.
Born at Moulton, in Lincolnshire, October 10, 1846. A
very ingenious man who makes all his own tools, and can
turn his hand to almost any kind of work. He commenced
to make violins in 1869, but did not turn his attention
seriously to the craft till a few years ago. He has made a
number of violins on an original model, of excellent material,
workmanship, and tone. Latterly he has turned his atten-
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 105
tion to the Strad model, and has produced some really
BELLINGHAM, T. J., Leeds. An amateur who has
made a large number of instruments of excellent workman-
ship and tone. Accounts have appeared of his work in the
press from time to time, in which high tributes have been
paid to his ability. I saw some of his work about ten years
ago, and thought it very good, but doubtless he has made
great progress since then.
BELOE, W. L., Coldstream. Born in 1819, died in 1897.
He made a considerable number of instruments on a model
somewhat resembling that of Stradivari. The workmanship
is fairly good, but the tone is of an indifferent quality.
BENNETT, , Cork. Nineteenth century. A short
notice of him appeared in one of the Irish papers many years
ago, but I know nothing more of him.
BENSON, JAMES, Stanhope. Nineteenth century.
He is mentioned in Egglest one's book on John Askew.
BERTRAM, ALEXANDER, Peebleshire. Nineteenth
century. He worked at Eddlestone, and made hundreds of
fiddles of a very inferior quality.
BERTRAM, WILLIAM, Stobo Castle. He was game-
keeper to Sir James Montgomery, and made a number of
violins which it is said he sold to the visitors to the Castle.
Honeyman says his work was good.
BETTS, EDWARD, London. He was a nephew of
John Betts, and a pupil of Richard Duke. The date of
his birth is not known, but the date of his death is 1817. He
worked on the Amati model, and produced work which for
excellency of workmanship is rarely surpassed. Hart
observes that " the workmanship throughout is of the most
delicate description ; indeed it may be said that neatness is
106 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
gained at the expense of individuality in many of his works.
Each part is faultless in finish, but when viewed as a whole
the result is too mechanical, giving as it does the notion of
its having been turned out of a mould." The observation
is very just, and could not be better put. The one failing
of these beautiful (i.e. beautiful to the eye) instruments is
their tone, which, as far as my experience goes, does not
by a long way reach the same standard of excellence as the
workmanship. But it is fair to say that some judges with
a much longer experience than I have affirm that the tone
of a number of them is of a very bright, sweet, and resonant
BETTS, JOHN, London. Known in his day all the
country over as " old Betts the fiddle maker/' He was
born at Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1755, died in March 1823,
and was buried at St. Giles, Cripplegate. He was a pupil
of Richard Duke, and the few instruments there are of his
own make show that he had imbibed much of his master's
teaching, but he did not continue long to make himself, he
chose rather to devote his energies to the building up of a
solid business, and to employ others to do the actual making.
That he chose wisely goes without saying, for he would not
have succeeded as he did financially if he had not left the
bench for the counter. He was peculiarly fortunate in his
workmen, some of the finest artists of the day having at one
time or another worked for him, such as the Panormos,
John Carter, his nephew Edward Betts, Bernhard Fendt,
Richard Tobin, etc. Into the productions of these fine
craftsmen he inserted his own trade label a species of
fiction which did not originate nor, unfortunately, cease
with him. There is quite a number of instruments about
bearing the label of Betts, which could not have been made
by the artists just named : they are of inferior workmanship,
and not a few of them have a poor tone. These were possibly
the work of apprentices or " improvers." A very clever
copy of the famous 'cello known as " King Andreas Amati "
was made by (or shall we say for ?) John Betts, which was
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 107
wont to be exhibited by him as " the most exact copy ever
made of any of the great Cremonys." Fleming remarks
that " this copy is certainly a fine production, which,
besides showing paint [sic] in what was apparently the
primitive abundance, also shows the wood ; a very great
advantage over the original, which is rather ancient now,
and dingy-looking " (Fiddle Fancier's Guide, p. 42).
Violoncellos with Betts' label are fairly common. There
must originally have been a large number of them, con-
sidering that there has been a greater depletion in the
number of 'cellos than of violins. Betts was one of the first
in this country to do extensive business in old Italian
instruments, and a large number of fine fiddles found their
way here in his time. The story of the " Betts Strad," told
by Hart and others, is well known. Writers describe the
transaction as "an exceptionally lucky windfall." I am
afraid it ought to be described as a smart bit of roguery. If
the story is true (and I have never seen it questioned) then
Betts must have allowed business considerations to get the
better of his moral sense. To pay the unsuspecting owner
of a Strad violin the sum of only twenty shillings for what
Betts well knew to be worth at least two hundred times as
much was a most discreditable thing to do. It was immoral
per se, it was doubly so if, as was not unlikely the case, the
vendor was a needy person. It is deplorable that writers
treat this sort of thing as though it were nothing but an
exceptionally interesting and clever bit of fiddle dealing.
Clever it may be, but more clever than honest. There have
been, and there doubtless still are, too many Luigio Tarisios
about. If business morality in Britain were generally on a
level with the " Betts Strad " transaction, the day would not
be far distant when prisons and workhouses would be as
numerous as schools and churches. Betts used different
kinds of labels, but mostly inserted the following, with the
proper date : -
JOHN BETTS, NO. 2 NORTH PIAZZA,
ROYAL EXCHANGE, LONDINI, FECIT
JANUARY 9, 1782.
io8 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
BEVERIDGE, WILLIAM, Aberdeen. Period 1821-
1893. He was a native of Craigh, Tough, Aberdeenshire, a
man of strong intelligence, a keen student of nature, and
an artist of refined tastes. He was for many years curator
of the Free Church College Museum in Aberdeen, and
made a number of violins during spare time. The workman-
ship of the one and only example of his art which I have seen
was beautiful, and the tone very good. Label :
BLACKBURN, J. H., Colne. Contemporary. An
amateur who has made a few instruments, but is mostly
engaged in repairing.
BLAIR, JOHN, Edinburgh : 1790-1820. He worked
on the Stradivari model and turned out a number of instru-
ments of good workmanship and fair tone. Honeyman is of
opinion that he was the teacher of Matthew Hardie, and
there is certainly a close resemblance between their work.
He used handsome wood as a rule, but his varnish was a
spirit one of poor quality. No label, but he usually wrote
his name across the table on the inside.
BLAIR, WILLIAM, Crathie : 1793-1884. He made
many instruments on various models. The workmanship
is generally good, but the tone is harsh and metallic. He
baked his wood, and used a hard spirit varnish. He was a
noted character, well known in the North as " The Queen's
BLYTH, WILLIAMSON, Edinburgh: 1821-97. A
most prolific maker of wretched things shaped somewhat like
a violin, but which do not possess any of the usual qualities
of that instrument. It is said that he could turn out fairly
decent work when he had the inclination, but he rarely got
into that mood.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 109
BOLLES, , London. A celebrated maker of lutes
and viols in the seventeenth century. Mace tells us that
he had seen a bass viol of his make which was valued at
100. That was an extraordinary price for an instrument
in those days.
BONE, PHILIP J., Luton. He makes mandolines and
BONN, J. EDWIN, Isle of Wight. Born at Fermoy,
Ireland, in 1861 . He was educated at the Ledbury Grammar
School, and was intended for the medical profession, but
he abandoned medicine and practised for some time as
analytical and consulting chemist. Eventually he entered
the violin trade, and is now established at Brading as dealer
and maker. He is specially careful in the selection of his
material, and the workmanship and tone are good. He
uses an amber varnish of his own manufacture. Mr. Bonn
has established a wide reputation in the South of England
as a reliable dealer, and maker of various specialities for the
violin. Facsimile label :
BRAD1NC. ISLE OF WICHT. /frffi
BOOTH, CHARLES, Burnley.
BOOTH, WILLIAM, Leeds : 1779-1858. He began to
make violins in 1809, and continued to make and repair
till 1856. He followed the Amati model chiefly, but I have
seen one violin of his make which was somewhat after the
Long Strad pattern. Fairly good work and tone. Label :
BOOTH, WILLIAM, Leeds: 1816-56. Son of the
preceding maker, but a much better workman than his
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
father. He died June i, 1856, and was buried in Burman-
tofts Cemetery. He made a good number of instruments on
a modified Strad model. The varnish is a golden brown
colour. Tone rather small but pleasing.
BOOTH, W., Salford. I have not seen any of his work.
BOTHWELL, WILLIAM, Aberdeen : 1870-1885. He
made many fiddles of no particular model and of no great
BOUCHER, , London : 1764. Nothing known of
BOWLER, ARTHUR, London. He worked ten years
ago at 1 8 Milner Square, Islington, but I know nothing of
his present whereabouts. He is a native of Thame, Oxford-
shire, and a nephew on his mother's side to the late Georges
Chanot. He was principal workman to Mr. J. A. Chanot
for some time, but started business on his own account in
1899. He adopts the Stradivari model, and turns out
instruments which for finished workmanship and good tone
will compare very favourably with the best work produced
Facsimile label :
BOYLE, W. F., Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow : Contem-
porary. A retired Church of England clergyman who has
made violins en amateur for many years. He was born at
Enniskerry in 1860, and served there as Curate for some
years after he was ordained. He has a wide knowledge of
the violin and its literature, and has the necessary mechanical
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS in
skill to apply that knowledge to the construction of the
instrument. He is specially interested in the varnish
problem. He makes beautiful instruments, which have a
large and telling tone.
BRECKINBRIDGE, JOHN, Glasgow: 1790-1840.
He made several good violins on the Amati model. The
wood is of excellent quality and beautifully figured. Varnish
pale brown or yellow. The tone is clear and sweet. Label
BRIGGS, JOHN WILLIAM, Glasgow. A contem-
porary professional maker and repairer. He was born at
Wakefield in 1855, and was a pupil of William Tarr, of
Manchester. He has made a large number of violins, violas,
and violoncellos, on various models, but mostly on an
original model, which has a nice outline and a moderately
pronounced arching. The wood is carefully selected and
well seasoned. He has made several facsimile copies of
some of the more notable Stradivari and Guarneri violins,
the workmanship being faultlessly finished, and the tone
very fine indeed. The construction of these beautiful copies
must have cost the maker a great deal in time, energy, and
patience. Mr. Briggs had the largest exhibit of instruments
at the Glasgow Exhibition, and in many respects the best.
The wood of the backs and ribs of the instruments shown was
exhibited as violin timber at the Paris Exhibition of 1880,
and also at Vienna in 1890, where it was awarded a gold
medal. The wood of the tables was three hundred years
old, and had been obtained from an old church in Warsaw,
Poland. Facsimile label :
IT2 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Mr. Briggs, I believe, has acquired sole proprietary rights
in Whitelaw's celebrated amber varnish, and has bought the
whole of the large stock left at the inventor's death.
BRISCOE, D., Channel Islands. Nineteenth century.
His work is said to be very good.
BROAD, J. M., Almondsbury, Glos. A gentleman
amateur who has devoted considerable time and thought to
the study of violin construction, and especially to the
mystery of the old Italian varnish. He has made one or
two violins on an original model, more by way of testing
certain theories than as a serious attempt at violin making.
His sound knowledge of theoretical and practical chemistry
has enabled him to make a varnish which for pate, lustre,
and transparency it is not possible to excel. Unfortunately
it is not for sale.
BROOKFIELD, EDWARD & SON, Southport : 1872-
1898. They made violins and bows, and repaired very
extensively. The work of both father and son is said to be
very good, but I cannot say, as I have not seen any of it.
BROWN, , Huddersfield : about 1870.
BROWN, ALEXANDER, Glasgow : 1855-60. Stradi-
vari model. Good work and tone, it is said, but I cannot
say. Handwritten label.
BROWN, ANTHONY, London and Australia : 1850-
75. Pupil of John Morrison. He did not make many
violins, but he was celebrated for his guitars, of which he
made a large number both in this country and in Australia.
He worked in Rosamond Street, Clerkenwell.
BROWN, JAMES, Spitalfields : 1755-1834. Started
violin making in 1804, under Thomas Kennedy. Ordinary
work ; tone fairly good for orchestral purposes.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 113
BROWN, JAMES, Norton Folgate : 1786-1860. Son
and pupil of the previous James Brown. He made very
many bows, and also instruments after his father's death.
BROWN, JAMES, London : 1813-34. Son and pupil
of the preceding. He made only a few instruments.
BROWNE, JOHN, London : 1730-45. He worked at
the sign of the " Black Lion " in Cornhill. He copied
Stainer and Amati, and turned out a great deal of work of
fairly good workmanship, but of poor tone.
BRUCE, ARTHUR, Belfast. A present day maker of
considerable ability and skill. A violin made by him on an
original model, designed by the Rev. Father Greaven, is of
good workmanship, and has a lovely tone.
BRUTON, JAMES, Thornbury, Glos. : 1800-62. He
is mentioned in a booklet by Mr. J. Spencer Palmer, of
Thonrbury,but I have failed to trace any of his instruments.
BUCKMAN, GEORGE HATTON, Dover. He was
born in Snargate Street, Dover, October 23, 1845, and now
lives at Kearsney, near Dover. He worked as a professional
maker for many years, but has now retired. He was not at
any time financially dependent on his profession, so that he
was able to devote ample time and abundant care to the
construction of his instruments. He has made a large
number of violins on the Strad and Joseph models. Some
of the Guarneri copies have been made after a fine Joseph
which was owned by C. M. Gann, Esq., of Canterbury :
these are all made of exceptionally fine wood, and the
workmanship is accurate and beautifully finished down to the
smallest detail. The Strad copies are of rather full dimen-
sions, the principal measurements being 14%, 6f , and 8f .
The height of the ribs in one specimen was ij, diminishing
to i^, but as a rvjle it is ij throughout, I do not know any
H4 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
modern maker who has copied Joseph Guarnerius with
greater skill, and I know of only two or three who have
copied him with equal skill. The scroll and the sound-holes
are generally the trouble. Somehow our copyists (although
they reproduce the outline of the /' s correctly enough) fail
to produce the same mental effect : there is something about
the Gothic quaintness of the great master which defies
imitation. That something is not the mere type, it is the
archetype the ideal which struggles for expression in
matter and form. But Mr. Buckman has come as near the
real thing as it is possible, I believe, for a copyist to come.
Very many of his Strad copies have the back cut whole, with
the curl running at an angle of about forty-five degrees to
the longitudinal axis of the instrument, giving a very pretty
effect when viewed in certain lights.
Fleming considered that the work of this artist was to be
classified with the best that is produced in the British Isles
to-day, and with this opinion all must agree who have seen
and tried it. Mr. Buckman may not be much known to
the public, but that is because he eschews publicity, pre-
ferring, like many an artist before him, " To have one
fiddle friend in his retreat, whom he may whisper Solitude
is sweet." Label :
GEO. H. BUCKMAN,
BULLBRIDGE, JOSEPH MATHER. I do not know
his period or his work, but instruments of his are occasionally
advertised for sale in the music papers.
^ BYROM, GEORGE, Liverpool. He works at 10 Cases
Street, opposite the Central Station, as a professional maker
and repairer, and has been in the trade twenty-eight years,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 115
There is another Byrom, a brother, also established some-
where in Liverpool as a professional maker. I regret I
know nothing of the work of either. They are said to be
clever craftsmen, but whose time is mostly occupied in
CAHUSAC, . London : about 1780-1810. Fleming,
in an article in " The Bazaar " gives his period as 1780-88,
but instruments of his are known dated 1796 and 1799.
Little or nothing is known of him personally, except that he
was for some little time associated with the sons of Ben-
jamin Banks. There is little doubt in my mind now that
the work of Cahusac has been much undervalued. Fleming
in the article referred to describes it as "a poor class of
work, thinly wooded, with black varnish, somewhat scarce,
but of little or no value." This writer is so just and honest
a critic that I can but conclude that he had not seen any of
the better class instruments made by Cahusac. A violin
dated 1796 owned by Mr. R. P. Cardell, of Birkdale, South-
port, was made of fine wood, and covered with a dark amber
varnish which is perfectly transparent, the workmanship
being faultless, and the tone equal, sonorous, and responsive.
I have seen three other violins of his make, which were of
fine workmanship and tone. Messrs. George Withers and
Sons have in their collection a nice example of his work. It
is a pity that these old makers should be hastily judged on
insufficient evidence. Label printed :
OPPOSITE ST. CLEMENT'S CHURCH,
17 LONDON 96
CAIRNS, P., Portobello, Edinburgh. He makes violins
on what he calls " the acute angle principle." 1 saw two of
n6 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
these instruments recently at a music shop in Nicolson
Street, Edinburgh. The workmanship was beautiful, but 1
cannot say what the tone was like.
CAKIN, FRANCIS, Edinburgh.
CALOW, F. W., Nottingham. Son and pupil of the late
William Calow. He is established in business at Sussex
Street, as a professional maker and repairer. He makes
double basses principally, which are on the viol model, with
Guarnerian sound-holes. He stamps his name on the back
below the button.
CALOW, WILLIAM, Nottingham: 1847-1910. He
was born at Tansley, near Matlock, Derbyshire, and was the
son of Thomas Calow, who also made a few instruments.
He made violins, violas, and a large number of double basses,
gaining a considerable reputation for his larger instruments.
One double bass which 1 saw was well made, and had an
immense volume of tone of good quality. He used oil
varnishes mostly, but he occasionally used a thin spirit
varnish for his double basses ; colours : orange, and nut-
brown. He was considered a first-class repairer. Facsimile
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 117
CANNON, JAMES, Dumfries. An amateur who has
made several nice instruments on the Strad model. He
uses Whitelaw's varnish. Label handwritten.
CARR, JOHN, Falkirk. He was born at Berwick-on-
Tweed, in 1839. He na< ^ a music shop in Falkirk, where he
also had a good connection as a teacher of the violin. He
was a pupil of Robert Harvie and James Thompson, and
made about seventy instruments.
CARROLL, JAMES & SON, Manchester. I am not
sure whether the father is living and working, but father
and son were working some years ago in Great Jackson
Street, Hulme, and had made up to that time about five
hundred instruments of one sort and another. I have seen
only two or three violins bearing their label, but I have seen
several of their make bearing forged labels of third-rate old
Italian makers. Who inserted the spurious labels into these
fiddles I cannot say. The workmanship of the instruments
I have seen was good, and ^ the tone large and respon-
Facsimile label :
James Carroll, Maker,
CARTER, JOHN, London : 1780-90. He worked
mostly for John Betts, and only occasionally on his own
account. He was an excellent maker, and helped consider-
ably to swell the. fame of Betts. I have seen one violin of
his make, on the Amati model, which had a moderately
powerful but beautifully sweet and responsive tone. The
n8 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
varnish is usually of a golden brown tint, thinly laid on.
VIOLIN, TENOR, AND BASS MAKER,
WYCH STREET, DRURY LANE,
CARTWRIGHT, W. J., Yeadon, Leeds.
GARY, ALPHONSE, London.
CHALLONER, THOMAS, London. Some time in the
CHANNON, FREDERICK WILLIAM, London. He
works at present at 54 Wells Street, Oxford Street, as a
professional maker and repairer, but up to about two years
ago he lived in Plymouth, where he had been established for
many years as a professional maker. He was born at Totnes,
in 1862, and apprenticed in early life as a cabinet maker.
He made such rapid progress at his trade that at the age of
twenty-one he became foreman of one of the largest cabinet
shops in Devonport, with about thirty men and apprentices
under his charge. At the age of twenty-five he commenced
business on his own account, and he was appointed at the
same time technical instructor in carving and carpentry to
a local institution.
He commenced to make violins in 1887, first as a hobby,
and during spare time : in a year or two he resolved to give
up all other work and devote the whole of his time and energy
to the art of constructing and repairing violins. That he
decided wisely is abundantly proved by the very beautiful
work he now produces. He is in the foremost rank of
present day makers, and it is a pity that so much of his time
is taken up with repairs.
Repairing is, of course, of great importance, demanding
intelligence and skill, but it is a loss that craftsmen with a
F. W. CHANNON.
To face p. 118.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 119
special gift for designing and making have to devote the best
energy of their life to it.
In his earlier work Mr. Channon adhered strictly to the
grand Strad model, but latterly he has worked on a model of
his own, the principal measurements of which are I3f f , 6-f ,
4if > 8 i ( the three last Actions may, of course, be expressed
in 32nds.). The sound-holes are 3 inches, and the C's 3^-
inch long. The thickness of the back is T 3 ^ diminishing to
J, and the table is J all over. The outline of this model is
simple and graceful, the curves of the C's as they approach
the corners being not quite so pronounced as in the Strad
model, and the linear difference in the width across the upper
and lower bouts is not so great as in the grand Strad. Viewed
as a whole the outline is well balanced, and the curves easy
and proportionate. The scroll and sound-holes are of
Stradivarian character, beautifully designed and placed,
and the corners are full without being obtrusive. There is
a sense of gentle restraint about the model that is very
pleasing to the trained eye. Violin makers, especially
beginners, frequently break out into original models, and
where the hand and the eye have not been severely trained,
there is little control over the curves. To produce a perfect
model (using the word model here to include outline and
arching) due regard must be paid to five cardinal principles :
unity, repose, symmetry, purity, moderation. Only he who
is able to combine these five principles and to express them
in forms can design a perfect violin model. Symmetry and
moderation are often lacking in the corners of modern
fiddles. There was much solidity and withal moderation
and repose in the quaint and quiet corners of old Maggini.
When Stradivari waked those corners out of their slumber
in his own work, he did all that pure art dare do. Many of
his imitators have added two pairs of miniature wings to
their instruments, and the result is grotesque.
Mr. Channon has not only succeeded in producing a
beautiful model : he also produces a fine tone. After all,
the tone is the chief thing, and all the skill and care lavished
120 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
on the workmanship would be energy wasted if the tone did
not come out rightly. Artists who use his instruments say
that the tone is rich and mellow, easy to get, and equal on
all the strings. The following facsimile is that of the label
used by the maker while working in Plymouth ; the word
" London " being substituted for " Plymouth " in the one
H A N N ON.
PLY M OUT H.
CHANOT, G. A., Manchester. This artist has been long
established as a professional maker and repairer in Man-
chester, and is justly esteemed for his integrity and affability
in business and for his ability as a craftsman. The Chanots
are Anglo-French, but have been so long settled in this
country as to become regarded as almost pure-bred Britons.
Their better class work is of a high order (I am speaking of
the Chanots generally), and 1 have seen violins made by
Georges Chanot (" Old " Chanot, as he was familiarly called)
of London, that could with truth be described as modern
" classics." I have also seen instruments with the label
of one or other of the Chanots in them which were hardly of
more than average merit. The disparity is due to the vary-
ing ability and experience of the workmen who made them,
for they were not all made by the Chanots themselves. All
the principal firms of the country employ workmen to make
instruments for them, and they put their trade labels in
these instruments. This may not be a practice which has
much in it to recommend it, but such are the business
methods of to-day, and it availeth naught to quarrel with
G. A. CHANOT.
To face p. 1 20.
VIOLENT AND BOW MAKERS 121
The Chanots have a lineage reaching back to the middle
of the eighteenth century, probably earlier, for there was
one of that name, an instrument maker, living and working
in Vignon, Provence, towards the end of the seventeenth
century, who may not unreasonably be supposed to have
some connection with the Chanots of Mirecourt of a genera-
tion or two later. Franc, ois Chanot, who was born at
Mirecourt in 1788, was the first to experiment scientifically
with" the view of learning something of the acoustics of the
violin, and he it was that paved the way for the researches
of Dr. Felix Savart. Georges Chanot, of Paris, grandfather
of the present Chanot of Manchester, and of London, was a
maker, expert, and dealer of European repute. His instru-
ments are rising in value annually, and will probably reach
a considerable figure in the future. Obviously, the Chanot
tradition is of some importance to the student of violin
literature, and to neglect it is to leave out one of the most
fascinating chapters in the history of violin progress in this
country. For, be it remembered, the Chanots have exerted
an influence upon other violin makers of their time to an
extent which is not, perhaps, realized by the rising genera-
tion of professional and amateur makers. To begin with,
they were the trainers of quite a number of men who became
first-class artists, but of more importance still is the indirect
yet wider influence they wielded through their work. For
a considerable slice of the second half of last century,
Georges Chanot was almost the only really first-class and
properly trained violin maker in this country. William
Elsworth Hill and George Hart (senior) made few new
instruments, and there were only the Withers (father and
sons) and some two or three besides. Chanot came to
London to work under Maucotel in 1851, full of enthusiasm
for his art ; in 1858 he started business on his own account,
and it was not long before he was recognized as facile
princeps of the small band of fiddle makers in this country.
For many years before he became a dealer of some importance
he was a maker of really great importance. His new fiddles
122 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
were bought, played upon, and appreciated. I do not think
I am over-estimating his influence when 1 say it was great.
Whether his abilities were of such high order as to stamp
him as a genius may very well be questioned, but he was
industrious, and it has been well said that : "If you have
great talents, industry will improve them ; if you have but
moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency.
Nothing is denied to well-directed labour : nothing is to be
obtained without it." (Sir Joshua Rynolds, Discourse on
The revival of violin making in England dates from about
the time when Chanot (plre) had reached his high water
mark. In 1882 Mr. Heron-Allen became his pupil, and
shortly after gave to the readers of Amateur Work Illustrated
that brilliant series of articles which has been reproduced
in book form under the title of Violin Making : As it Was
and Is. Various influences gathered into one force at this
juncture, and these articles (which embodied the Chanot
tradition) acting like a telegraph wire conducted them in the
right direction, so that the art was " fanned into a flame out
of the embers of its dead self."
This is a most interesting period in the history of violin
making in Britain. All real revivals are interesting, whether
in art, literature, or religion. We have watched the flowers
of winter wither and die, but behold ! out of their mould
comes the crop of another spring, flower by flower at first
a laughing primrose or a timid violet by-and-by a joyous
chorus of purple heather : that is what we see in the English
violin world in the eighties of last century, and the fiddle
fancier looks back admiringly upon it.
A large number of instruments have been turned out by
the Manchester firm. Mr. Chanot may not be the actual
maker of all of them, because some years ago he employed
several skilful craftsmen, but all the work reaches a high
standard of excellence. Some of the violins are quite equal
to the best work of " Old " Chanot. I tried one last year
which had been made about ten years ago, and it had a
(" Old " Chanct.)
To face p. 122.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 123
large, clear, and mellow tone, with an unmistakable Italian
ring about it. The instrument was on the grand Strad
model, varnished golden red.
Another member of the family has a business in London,
but I have not seen any of his work. Facsimile label :
Z X A i 0. i A A A A A. A A. .1 Ail' 22.214.171.124
G.A*C D HA 8 NOT.
VIOLIN, VIOLA,VIOLONCELLO & |||3f,|im
BOWMAKER RESTORER, ^SlSIJffvJP
MANCHESTER, A.D. \QQb.. 5SR3ffl
CHRISTIE, JAMES, Dundee. Born at Arbroath in
1857. He nas made a good number of violins on the models
of Stradivari and Guarneri, considerably modified according
to his own ideas. The workmanship is good, and the tone
large and bright.
CHRISTIE, JOHN, Kincardine-on-Forth. He died
about 1859. He made a large number of instruments on
the Amati and some on the Strad models. The workmanship
and tone are very good. His work would be excellent if he
had used oil varnish.
CLARK, JAMES, London : 1770-95. A pupil of
Matthew Furber. He worked in Turmill Street, Clerkenwell.
Average work and tone.
COLE, JAMES, Manchester : nineteenth century. He
was a pupil of William Tarr, and worked afterwards with
George Craske. I have not seen any of his work and
cannot say anything about it, but old Tarr did not entertain
a very high opinion of his abilities. He used a label in his
early work, but for his later work he used a punch stamp.
COLE, THOMAS, London : 1670-90. He made lutes
and viols chiefly, and it is not certain that he made any
violins. One or two tenors have been seen.
124 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
COLLIER AND DA VIES, London : about 1770-80.
COLLIER, SAMUEL, London : 1740-60. He worked
at " Corelli's Head/' London Bridge. I have seen one
violin of his make, on the Stainer model, varnished dark
yellow, with a small, husky tone.
COLLIER, THOMAS, London : about 1775. Perhaps
the partner of Davies (Collier and Da vies), or a son.
COLLINS, WILLIAM HENRY, London. He was born
in the parish of Marylebone in 1860, and he works (or did
work ten years ago) at 21 Poland Street, W. He has made
a good number of violins on the Strad and Guarneri models,
and he also repairs a good deal, but I am not aware whether
he has adopted violin making and repairing as a profession.
The work is beautifully finished throughout, and the tone
is of a very good quality. Facsimile label :-
WILLIAM HENRY COLLINS,
COLVILLE, DAVID, Cupar : 1845-85. He made many
instruments on the models of Amati and Stradivari. I saw
and tried one of his Amati copies years ago : it was well made,
of beautifully figured wood, and had a pure and sweet
tone. He was a born artist, and had he led a less chequered
career would have produced still better work. He visited
New Zealand, Australia, Canada by turns, and never settled
down in one place or at one thing long. No label, but written
in pencil across the back :
COLVIN, GAVIN, Sunderland : 1841-1910. A native
of Lerwick, Shetland. He made a number of violins on
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS
CONNOR, ANTHONY, Newcastle. Now living I
CONWAY, WILLIAM, London : 1740-50.
COOPER, HUGH WILLIAM, Glasgow. Born 1848,
and as far as I know, is still living. Up to ten years ago he
had made fifty violins, or thereabouts some on the Strad
and some on the Joseph model. The later ones were of
excellent workmanship and tone. Facsimile label :
HUGH W. COOPER,
76, DUMAS STREET,
CORSBY, , Northampton : 1780. Double-basses
CORSBY, GEORGE, London : 1785-1800. Principally
a dealer, but made a few violins on the Amati model, of
average merit. Probably a brother of the Corsby of
CRAIG, JOHN, Edinburgh. Born at Myreside, Forfar-
shire, in 1860, and is probably still living and working. He
is a joiner by trade, and only makes violins during spare
time, but his work is excellent. The model is original and
shows that the designer is gifted with the artistic instinct.
It is a pity he does not take up the craft professionally.
He produces a good tone, and his work will improve with
age and good use. Facsimile label :
126 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
CRAMOND, CHARLES, Aberdeen : 1800-33. A pro-
lific maker, much of whose work is of considerable merit.
He worked on an original model, the outline of which differs
only slightly from that of Amati, but which has the arching
considerably increased. The wood is usually of good
quality, but it is often of a plain figure. The varnish is
a spirit one ; colour, yellow to dark brown. The tone is
rather small, but clear, sweet, and responsive. He left
many of his instruments too thin in wood, and these have not
improved with age and use. Label printed : -
CRASKE, GEORGE, Bath, Birmingham, Stockport,
and elsewhere : about 1791-1889. Craske's father is
supposed to have been of foreign extraction, if he was not
actually a foreigner. Out of the three thousand odd instru-
ments that he is said to have made, 1 have seen about a
score that I knew for certain to be his work. Doubtless I
have seen a good many more which were made by him, but
which are now ascribed to somebody else. The material of
very many of his instruments is beautiful, and the work-
manship fine, but the tone is often disappointing. He was
a pupil of " Old " Forster, and he made many instruments
for dementi, and for Dodd, the bow maker. Besides
copying Guarnerius his usual model he made several
clever copies of Amati and Stradivari, from templets and
measurements taken from a Strad and an Amati owned by
Sir Patrick Blake, of Langlam Hall, Suffolk. Whilst in
Birmingham, he is said to have been once engaged by
Paganini to do some repairs to his violin.
Craske worked in Salford, amongst other places, for about
twenty years, and lived the life of a recluse during the whole
of that period, allowing no one to enter his workshop except
Mr. George Crompton, his friend, who became his successor
in business. He lived retired at Bath for many years before
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 127
he died, in affluent circumstances. He died in November,
1889, at the advanced age of ninety-eight. He was a man of
striking appearance and unique personality. " His head
was exactly the same shape and measure as Shakespeare's "
so writes Mr. George Crompton. How he knew I cannot
CROSS, NATHANIEL, London : 1700-51. Some
suppose that he was a pupil of Stainer, but that is mere
conjecture. His instruments, although made on the
Stainer model, are sufficient proof, one would think, that he
never received a day's training in the great atelier at Absam.
From 1700 to 1720 (before he entered into partnership with
Barak Norman) they are rather plain and tasteless, large and
highly arched, with short, blunt corners, and an exaggerated
fluting round the edge, forming the purfling bed. From 1720
on the work improves very much, greater attention being
paid to accuracy of detail, and both outline and arching
being considerably modified, but he never got rid of the
acute fluting round the edge. He cut some excellent scrolls.
He used a soft, elastic varnish, varying in colour from light
yellow to light brown. The tone although frequently small
is usually firm, clear, and mellow. He marked his instru-
ments on the back inside with his initials and a ^ above.
After he entered into partnership with Norman the label
BARAK NORMAN AND NATHANIEL CROSS,
AT THE BASS VIOL IN ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD,
LONDON, FECIT 172.
CROSTON, J., Leigh, Lancashire. An amateur maker
CROWTHER, JOHN, London : 1750-1810. He worked
in Haughton Street, Clare Market, and occasionally for
John Kennedy. Stainer and Amati models. Work of
CUMMING, ANDREW, Portpatrick. Poor work.
128 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
CUTHBERT, , London : seventeenth century.
He was chiefly a maker of viols, and is not supposed to have
made many violins. I have never seen any of his work.
CUTHBERT, JAMES, Hownam, N.B. A school-
master, now living, who has made a few instruments en
CUTTER, EDWIN, East Compton, near Bristol. Born
at Kingsland, Herefordshire, in 1866. He is a wheelwright
by trade, but has made a considerable number of violins
during spare time. The outline is original, a little bold and
squarish in appearance. He uses native sycamore for the
back and ribs. The workmanship is very good, and the
tone is powerful. With a better model and material he
would doubtless produce very good work.
DALGARNO, THOMAS, Aberdeen : 1860-70. Work-
manship and tone fairly good. He left the majority of his
instruments thin in the wood, and the tone will not therefore
continue to improve.
DALTON, B., Leeds. I know nothing of him.
DARBEY, GEORGE, Bristol. He lives at Cremona
House, Perry Road, where he has a music warehouse, and a
large, well-appointed atelier. He is one of the best pro-
fessional makers and repairers in Great Britain at the present
time. He was born at Taunton, in 1849, and came to
Bristol in early life with his father, who established a cabinet
factory there. As soon as he had completed his education,
he was put to the bench, and trained as a wood carver and
cabinet maker a splendid foundation for the career he was
to adopt later, when left to the exercise of his own free will.
He has been established in Bristol as a maker and repairer of
To face p. 128.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 129
stringed instruments and bows for nearly forty years, and
his long, and in many respects unique experience, joined to
his extraordinary skill as a craftsman, has won for him a
reputation which extends as far as Britain itself, and prob-
ably further. Speaking of his skill as a repairer Fleming
says : " there is probably no man in this country with a
more complete knowledge or a higher reputation in the art
of restoring old instruments. Some of his work that I have
seen I do not hesitate to place in line with the finest efforts
of modern French artists and that is saying not a little "
(Vide " The Bazaar, The Exchange and Mart," May 25 :
Judging by what I have seen of Mr. Darbey's work, I
thoroughly concur with this verdict. I regret that my
acquaintance with this maker's new work is so limited that
it does not enable me to form a proper estimate of his
abilities and of the qualities of his instruments. 1 cannot
therefore do better than again to quote from Fleming, who
says : " Nothing that has passed through my hands for
many years approaches this specimen [one of Darbey's
violins] in regard to beauty of workmanship or quality of
tone. In both respects it is difficult to speak too highly
of it. The purity and responsiveness of the tone are alto-
gether remarkable. With the lightest touch it leaves the
instrument as freely as with a full stroke, and as that may
be called the ideal of tone production no more need be said
on that point."
Mr. Darbey has made a few instruments on the models of
Amati, Gagliano, and Guarneri, but his favourite model is
the grand Strad, and to this he has strictly adhered for
He has made a large number of bows. Of these I have
seen not a few, and need only say that I consider them
superb. In this branch of his art, Mr. Darbey has succeeded
in giving unqualified satisfaction to such players as Sarasate
and Wilhelmj. He employs no assistance of any kind : he
has no pupils and no workmen. All the work, including the
130 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
making of the purfling, the fittings for the bows, etc., is made
by his own hands, so that instrument and bow alike, from
start to finish, are the handiwork of George Darbey.
He uses a beautiful oil varnish of his own make, the colour
of which is mostly orange red. Facsimile label :
George Darbey, Cremona House,
Bristol. Anno 100 (GDj
^-*n^>^. C&ks*j<4rtS' M ^^^^^ X
DAVIDSON, KAY, Huntly : 1860-75. Rather poor
work, with a loud, harsh tone.
DAVIDSON, PETER, Forres : 1834-86. Born at
Speyside, and went to the United States some years ago,
He was only an amateur, but made a number of very fair
instruments. He wrote " The Violin : Its Construction
Theoretically and Practically Treated," a very interesting
but wholly unreliable work. He was an excise officer, and a
DAVIDSON, WILLIAM, Edinburgh: 1827-1902. Made
a large number of instruments of fairly good workmanship
DAVIS, RICHARD, London : 1775-1836. He was for
some time in the employ of Norris & Barnes, and in 1816, at
the death of Norris, he succeeded to the business. He did
not make many instruments himself, but employed others
to work for him. The few instruments he made are not on
any particular model, are indifferently made, and have a
rather loud, piercing tone. He carried on a very consider-
able trade in old instruments. He retired towards the end
of his life, leaving the business to William Davis. He died
at Bussage in 1836, and was buried in Bisley Churchyard.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 131
DAVIS, WILLIAM, London : about 1790-1850. Cousin
to the preceding Richard Davis, and his successor in busi-
ness. He did not make many instruments, but employed
Charles Maucotel and others to work for him. He sold his
business in 1846 to Edward Withers, and retired to Bussage.
DAY, JOHN, London : eighteenth century. He copied
old Italian instruments closely, and sometimes turned out
very good work.
DIJARLOVE, MARK, Leeds: 1810-20. He made a
few copies of a Stradivari violin which came into his posses-
DEARLOVE, MARK WILLIAM, & CHARLES
FRYER, Leeds : 1828-65. Dearlove employed others to
work for him, such as Gough, Absam, Fryer, etc. Fryer
he eventually took into partnership, and the instruments
which have their joint label are fairly well made, on various
models, but mostly on that of Stradivari. Label printed :
DEARLOVE AND FRYER,
MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MANUFACTURERS,
BOAR LANE, LEEDS, 1836.
DEIGHTON, J. R., Newcastle-on-Tyne. Living and
working now, I believe, but I am not certain, and I know
nothing of his work.
DELANY, JOHN, Dublin : 1795-1810. He followed
the Amati model, and was very successful in producing a
good tone. I saw one of his violins many years ago in
Waterford, which was well made, rather small, and had
a clear and sweet tone. The back was of plain wood, cut
on the slab. It had rather wide sound-holes, and corners
that were a trifle blunt. There is a fine example of his work
in the National Museum of Science and Art, Dublin. The
Rev. Father Greaven, who knows more about Irish violin
makers than anybody else, says that he " was a fine maker
132 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
and a very erratic genius. He was by trade a cabinet maker,
and showed the true artist in wood work." The Republican
spirit was strong in Delaney, as in most Irishmen at that
time, and he gave expression to it in his label, which ran :
MADE BY JOHN DELANY,
IN ORDER TO PERPETUATE HIS MEMORY IN FUTURE AGES.
LIBERTY TO ALL THE WORLD, BLACK AND WHITE.
DENNIS, JESSE, London : 1795-1860. Pupil of John
Crowther, and for some time workman to Matthew Furber.
Very few instruments of his are known, but Mr. P. Pettitt,
musical instrument dealer, of Iden, Sussex, reports that he
has seen a well-made violoncello of his make.
DEVEREUX, JOHN, Melbourne : nineteenth century.
Before he emigrated he worked for some time with B. Simon
DEVONEY, FRANK, Blackpool and Canada. He made
many instruments before he emigrated, which were on an
original model, strongly built but rather roughly made.
They were covered with a reddish amber oil varnish of his
own make. They have a powerful but rather harsh tone.
DEWARS, WILLIAM, Brechin, N.B., but now of
Minneapolis. He is a native of Brechin, and was born in
1878. The instruments he made before he emigrated were
DICKENSON, EDWARD, London: 1750-90. He
worked at the " Harp and Crown/' in the Strand. Inferior
work on the Stainer model.
DICKESON, JOHN, London and Cambridge : 1750-80.
An instrument of his make, on the Amati model, was owned
by a Mr. Jenner, of Bath, a few years ago. It had very
pretty wood, light brown varnish, and a small, silvery tone.
FECIT IN CAMBRIDGE, 1778.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 133
DICKIE, WILLIAM, Rotherham. He died about
twelve or fifteen years ago. I have not seen any of his
instruments, but the late Mr. James Smith, of Ashcroft
House, Wentworth, near Rotherham, formerly well-known
in musical circles, thought rather highly of them, and said
they have a good tone.
DICKSON, GEORGE, Edinburgh. A doctor, a clever
amateur, and the maker of a beautiful amber oil varnish.
He died about seven years ago, at an advanced age.
DICKSON, JOHN, London : 1725-60. Possibly the
same as the John Dickeson noticed above.
DITTON, , London : about 1700. Mention is made
of a violin by him in the list of musical instruments in the
collection of Tom Britton.
DODD, EDWARD, Sheffield and London : 1705-1810.
He died in London at the advanced age of 105. He lived in
Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, and was buried in St. Bride's
Churchyard. He considerably improved the form of violin
DODD, JOHN, London : 1752-1839. He was born in
Stirling ; he died in Richmond workhouse, and was buried
at Kew. He has been styled the English " Tourte," and
much of his work justifies the application of that title to him.
But a great deal of his work, it must be admitted, is not for
a moment to be classed with the work of the great Francois
Tourte. Had he lived a more virtuous life he probably
would have made bows of more uniform excellence. Many
of his bows were made in haste, and sold for a few shillings,
to replenish an empty larder and to quench a great thirst.
His frequent bacchanalia brought many troubles on his own
head, and much annoyance to those who interested them-
selves on his behalf. He came nigh unto utter destitution
many a time, and had it not been for the kindness of Dr.
Selle and Mr. Richard Platt, of Richmond, he would have
134 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
prematurely ended his days on the roadside. He ended
them in the workhouse as it was.
He was a pupil of his father, the Edward Dodd previously
noticed, and he improved so much upon the work of his
father, and upon the work of everybody else in England in
those days, that his bows have maintained an undiminished
reputation down to the present time. His method of cutting
his bows was primitive, and it has not been adopted by any
great bow maker since his time. He cut the bow in a curve
out of a block, and thus dispensed with the usual plan of
cutting it straight and bending by heat. In his case, a
roundabout way became a shorter cut. I have seen a fair
number of Dodd bows, and I am convinced that all I have
seen were cut in this manner.
Dodd's name was stamped on all sorts of bows some of
them wretched enough in the middle of last century, and
his fame has suffered much in consequence. But his work
has suffered more than his fame, for there are hundreds of
mongrel " Dodds " about, some with genuine heels, others
with genuine heads, and not a few patched up in divers ways.
The owner of a genuine Dodd bow, of anything like full
length, made in his best style, and in good preservation, has
a treasure he can well be proud of.
DODD, EDWARD & THOMAS, London : 1830-43.
Pupils of Bernhard Fendt. Thomas died at an early age, and
Edward was accidentally drowned, in 1843.
DODD, THOMAS, London : 1786-1823. He was a son
of Edward Dodd, of Sheffield, previously noticed. He did
not make many instruments himself, but employed very
clever workmen to do so for him. He was first of all a bow
maker in Blue Bell Alley, Mint Street, South wark, and
became a violin maker and dealer in 1798, opening a shop
in New Street, Covent Garden, which he removed in 1809
to St. Martin's Lane. Later on he added another sail to his
craft, and became a harp and pianoforte maker. The
instruments which have his label are mostly the work of
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 135
John Lott and Bernhard Fendt. These were excellent
enough workmen in themselves, but the spirit of Dodd
brooded over them whilst fashioning these magnificent
instruments. Dodd was an enthusiastic connoisseur, with
a mind steeped in Italian lore, and he brought his knowledge
to bear upon the work at every turn. It is impossible to
say how much of the work beyond the varnishing was
actually his own, probably very little. With two such clever
men to carry out his instructions, there was no occasion for
him to handle the gouge and chisel. When the instruments
were completed " in the white," Dodd overhauled them
carefully and then varnished them himself. His varnish is
excellent. It is quite equal to that of Benjamin Banks, and
he applied it more skilfully than Banks was sometimes wont
to do. It ranges in colour from golden amber to deep
golden red, and it is rich and transparent. He kept its
composition as a great secret, and was careful to let no one
see him make or apply it. The ingredients were, however,
only the ordinary and well-known gums and resins, mixed
in better proportions and more methodically than was
customary then. Most of the varnishes of the early part of
the nineteenth century were hard, inelastic, and lustreless
enough, and Dodd's oil varnish showed to great advantage
by contrast with them.
Instruments bearing Dodd's labels are of various models :
Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati, Bergonzi, Stainer, etc., but are
of uniform excellence as regards finish and tone. He used
two kinds of labels :
VIOLIN, VIOLONCELLO, AND BOW MAKER,
NEW STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
92, ST. MARTIN'S LANE.
Perfect copies of Stradivari, Amati, Stainer, &c. Note. The only
possessor of the recipe for preparing the original Cremona oil varnish.
136 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
DODDS, EDWARD, Edinburgh : 1817 till about 1890.
He worked at i Charlotte Place, as a professional maker
and repairer, and made about three hundred instruments.
I have not been fortunate enough to see one instrument
of his make, but I was assured by the late Dr. Dickson that
they are of excellent workmanship and tone.
DOLLARD, , Dublin. Mentioned by Father Grea-
ven as a contemporary and follower of Thomas Perry.
DORANT, WILLIAM, London : 1800-20. He worked
at 63 Winfield Street, Brick Lane, Spitalfields. Average
DUFF, WILLIAM, Dunkeld : 1810-82. A gamekeeper
on the Athole estate, and an amateur fiddle maker. Rather
poor work and varnish, but the tone is sometimes of fair
DUGHLEY, JOHN, Leicester : 1850-70. Poor work.
DUKE, RICHARD, London : 1750-80. There are no
reliable biographical particulars of this great artist. I have
searched numerous records, registers, and transcripts for
the dates of his birth, marriage, and death, but could dis-
cover nothing that I was quite sure referred to him. A
Richard Duke, son of Richard and Catherine Duke was
baptized in the parish of S. Giles, Cripplegate, on June 10,
1709, and the entry may, or may not, refer to him. The
name of Duke I found to be common enough in the registers
and diocesan transcripts of old London parishes appertaining
to the eighteenth century, and it was quite hopeless in the
absence of some definite clue to look for the information 1
Duke adopted the Stainer and Amati models, and one or
two writers say that he made a few violins on the Strad
model, but these are so few in number that they may be
considered a, negligible quantity. Jt has been said that
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 137
" imitation is the sincerest form of flattery " ; if that is so,
then Duke is the most sincerely flattered of all the old
English makers. His fame in the eighteenth century was
greater even than the fame of Banks. The reason for this
is not far to seek : he made the best copies of Stainer that
were ever produced in this country, and as Stainer was the
ruling idol, naturally the instruments which most nearly
approached his model would have the preference. In this
way Duke won his laurels. The Duke cult was at the
heyday of its popularity when Banks and Forster were
turning out their best Amati copies. For some reason or
another Richard was strongly prepossessed in favour of the
German model, and he did not copy the Italian model as
often nor as felicitously as he might have done. For
example, the soundholes of his Amati copies differ very little
from those of his Stainer copies. Not that he put inferior
work into his Amati copies, as Banks was doing when
copying Stainer ; on the other hand, his workmanship is
always fine, whatever he did or whomsoever he copied, but
he had drunk more deeply of the German than of the Italian
spirit. In the opinion of connoisseurs to-day the Amati
copies may be the more valuable, but there is not the
slightest doubt in my mind that Duke and his patrons did
not share in the same view. His patrons were mostly
rich and well-to-do people. Many Duke violins are in the
possession of county people at the present time : I know
several. Fleming expresses the opunion that genuine Duke
instruments are extremely rare. I am of the opinion that
there exists a larger number of genuine Duke fiddles than
there does of Banks and Forster ("Old") fiddles put
together ; but they are not to be found in dealers' shops,
they are fossilizing in dust heaps in the garrets of country
mansions. There were hundreds of fine amateur players
among the gentlefolk of those days, when the facilities for
attending music halls, opera houses, etc, were so few and far
between. Vivid sidelights are thrown on the manners and
customs of society by the gossipy diary of old Samuel
138 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Pepys : these are concerned with a century earlier, it is
true, but the habits of the people had not materially changed
in the middle of the eighteenth century. Pepys enters in
his Diary under November 21, 1660 : "At night to my
violin (the first time that I have played on it since I came to
this house) in my dining-room, and afterwards to my lute
there, and I took much pleasure to have the neighbours come
forth into the yard to hear me."
It will be admitted, 1 think, with regard to the workman-
ship of Duke, that it evinces consummate ability and skill.
The finest examples of this artist are not a whit inferior to
those of Banks, except as regards model and varnish, and
in one particular, at least, they are superior, viz., in the
carving of the scroll, but this remark applies to only the
very finest of them. Duke was a busy man and did not
always have the time at his command to make his best.
Banks and Forster worked more at leisure, and the former
was helping to create a taste for better things a task which
generally has a modifying effect on the relation between
demand and supply. I do not understand why it is thought
that Duke's Stainer copies are not quite so good as his
Amati copies. I submit that they are as good intrinsically,
and better copies. Duke was too thoroughly imbued with
Stainer ideas to allow room in his mind for anything else.
There is no perceptible difference in the tone, be the work
German or Italian in character. It is a responsive, silvery,
mellow tone in either case.
Duke's varnish is elastic, tender, and transparent, but it
lacks " fire." If I were asked to give an imaginary pen-
picture of the man, I should describe him as thick-set,
broad-browed, keen-eyed, and dignified-looking, and as one
who had a very correct but somewhat cold taste in matters
artistic. That is the sort of man I see in my mind's eye
hard at work fashioning these chaste, sober, broad-chested
Fine specimens of Duke's work rarely come into the
market ; when they do, they fetch a fair price. Violins
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 139
in good condition sell at anything between 25 and 35.
Needless to say, the market is flooded with counterfeit
" Dukes." With the exception of the great Stradivari I
do not think anybody has been counterfeited so often ;
certainly not in this country.
As far as is known, Duke had only three pupils, his son
Richard, John Betts, and Edward Betts. He often branded
his instruments under the button " Duke, London/'
(I)- RICHARD DUKE,
LONDINI, FECIT 1760.
(2). RICHARD DUKE,
Both of these were usually hand-written, but No. 2 was
sometimes printed. The following was always printed :
(3)- RICHARD DUKE.
NEAR OPPOSITE GREAT TURNSTILE,
DUKE, RICHARD, London: about 1770-85. Son
and pupil of the preceding. The few instruments of his
make which remain show that he was greatly inferior to his
father as a craftsman. He branded his violins similarly to
his father, and usually left them unlabelled.
DUNCAN, , Aberdeen : about 1760.
DUNCAN, GEORGE, Glasgow: 1855-92. He was
born in 1855, an ^ left this country for America in 1892.
140 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
There appears to be little doubt that he has made some
magnificent instruments, on the models of Stradivari and
Guarneri, and varnished with a beautiful oil varnish of a
golden red or orange red tint. He was awarded a gold
medal for a case of violins at the London Exhibition of
Inventions and Music in 1885. The tone of his instruments
is large, rich, and beautifully clear and responsive. He had
made about forty violins before he left this country, all of
them of the highest standard of excellence.
DYKER, GEORGE, Drumduan, Forres, N.B. An
amateur now living who has made several beautiful violins
on the Strad model. He uses excellent wood, and the
workmanship is faultless. The artist hand is seen in every
detail of the work, and the tone is fine. I have never seen
better work by an amateur. Scotland is peculiarly for-
tunate in possessing a large number of talented craftsmen
who employ their spare hours in " moulding ribs, carving
heads, and shaping fiddles."
DYKES, GEORGE LANGTON, London, contemporary.
He is a son of the well-known violin collector and
expert, Mr. Harry Dykes, of 61 New Bond Street, and was
born in Leeds, October n, 1884. After receiving a sound
education, which included a working knowledge of French
and German, he became a pupil in violin making of the late
Paul Bailly, of Mirecourt and Paris, and was early initiated
into the mysteries of the craft. His rare gifts enabled him
in a short time to master the science and art of fiddle con-
struction, and although he is still a comparatively young
man, it is doubtful whether any one in this country, even
among his seniors, possesses a profounder knowledge of the
subject in all its branches than he does. Apart from a
regular apprenticeship, served under a master, he has had
the immense additional advantage of the sound expert
knowledge and long experience of his father to draw upon.
His opportunities, moreover, have been almost unique, for
G. L. DYKES.
To face p. 140.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 141
some of the finest instruments in existence have passed
through the hands of the Messrs. Dyl^es and Sons, whose
establishment is of world-wide reputation.
Mr. Dykes made his first violin in his early teens, and he
had completed quite a considerable number of instruments
by the time he had attained his majority. The workman-
ship, as was naturally to be expected, is of a high order, and
the tone of a very fine quality. Latterly, he has turned his
attention to antique instruments of the viol tribe, being
specially interested in the viol d'amour, which instrument he
thinks is likely to be revived in the near future, both for
orchestral and chamber purposes. Most of his time, how-
ever, is taken up with the business of the establishment,
more especially in superintending the important work carried
out in the repairing and making department.
Mr. Dykes is a born artist ; he lives, moves, and has his
being in an atmosphere of art, and he venerates art for its
own sake. Fine art, Ruskin tells us, " is that in which the
hand, the head, and the heart of man go together " : if so,
I know of no one who can lay better claim to-day to the title
of High-Priest of Fine Art than this enthusiastic devotee of
the fiddle cult.
EADIE, J., Glasgow : nineteenth century. I have not
seen any of his instruments, but the late Dr. Dickson, of
Edinburgh, had seen a number of them, and said they were
very well made and had a good tone.
EGLINGTON, ; about 1800.
ELLIOT, WILLIAM, Hawick : contemporary. He was
born at Kirton, in the parish of Cavers, about four miles
from Hawick, in 1862. After receiving a sound elementary
education as most Scottish children do he was appren-
ticed to the joinery trade. His forbears, as far back as their
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
history goes, were all connected with the joinery, carpentry,
or wood-carving trades, so that heredity may be said to
count for much of the penchant which Elliot showed early
in life for chisel, gouge, and calipers. He made his first
violin in 1885, and since then he has been steadily making,
having completed up to date just over a hundred instru-
ments. A great deal of his time is taken up with repairs,
and he is consequently unable to make as rapidly as he
would like to. The greater number of his violins are on the
Strad and Joseph models, but latterly he has been making
on an adapted model of his own. All his work reaches a
high standard of excellence, and his later instruments are
exceedingly fine. The work, both inside and outside, is
finished with a degree of precision and delicacy which it is
not possible to surpass. He is remarkably successful in
producing a fine tone. It has all the characteristics of the
old Italian tone, saving only the mellowness which comes
with age and judicious use. The work of this artist is
bound to come to the front. Fascimile label :
ERVINE, ROBERT, Belfast : contemporary. One of
the small band of present day makers who is doing all it
can to maintain worthily the fine traditions of Ireland for
art and craft work. I have not seen any of his work, but
I have it on the best authority possible that of the Rev.
Father Greaven that it reaches a high standard of excel-
lence. Father Greaven in a letter to me describes it thus :
" Ervine submitted one of his latest violins to me for my
inspection, and I have it now by me. It was made for Mr.
Crymble's firm, Musical Instrument and Music Dealers, of
Wellington Place, Belfast. It is a beautifully constructed
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 143
instrument ; the workmanship both inside and outside
being faultless. The model is that of the Betts' Strad, and
may be described as being more graceful than massive. The
scroll is of moderate proportions, and is beautifully cut.
The instrument is covered with a transparent, warm light-
brown varnish. The tone is sweet and penetrating, with
just a suspicion of newness which will naturally mellow down
with age and use. The violin is a most creditable and
artistic piece of work.
Mr. Ervine has made a large number of instruments, and
also repairs extensively. Facsimile label :
EVANS, RICHARD, Anglesey and London : 1730-65.
While he was in Wales he made several crythau (plural of
crwth) and a few violins. He removed to London about
1750 , and made only violins thereafter. Vide also Appendix
EWAN, DAVID, Cowdenbeath. Born in 1838. He has
made a large number of instruments of good average merit
on the Strad model.
EYLES, CHARLES, Bedford : contemporary. He was
born in London in the early fifties. He received a good
education, at the completion of which he was articled to a
pianoforte maker. Later, he studied art in London and
Paris, and he exhibited pictures for several years at the
Royal Academy and other important exhibitions. He took
up the study of violins as a hobby about the year 1886, and
has made a hundred instruments up to the present time,
several of which are owned by well-known players. The
144 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
outline is that of Stradivari or Guarneri, but nothing more
than the outline is copied, the maker being of the opinion
" that no copyist can ever excel or even equal the original,"
and that it is better therefore he should allow his inventive-
ness and imagination to work unfettered. I have seen only
one of his instruments, and do not therefore know his work
well enough to be able to give a description of it in general.
The violin I saw and tried was beautifully made, and had a
wonderfully bright, sweet, and pleasing tone. It appears
from press notices and the opinions of several eminent
artistes that Mr. Eyles has made quite a number of violins
which have an extraordinarily clear and mellow tone for
new instruments. He is particularly careful in the choice
of his wood, and he patiently covers the instruments with
thin coats of tender, elastic, and transparent oil varnish.
EYLING, THOMAS, Gloucester: 1800-20. Fairly
good work on the Amati model. Tone small but pleasing.
FENDT, BERNHARD, London : 1756-1832. He was
born at Innsbruck, in the Tyrol, died in Aylesbury Street,
Clerkenwell, and was buried in Clerkenwell Churchyard.
An exceedingly clever craftsman who entered the employ of
Thomas Dodd, q.v.
FENDT, BERNARD SIMON, London : 1800-52. He
was a pupil of his father, and learnt his trade in the workshop
of John Betts. He worked with Farn for some time, and
later became a partner of George Purdy. Other biographical
particulars are given in the various books on the subject ;
it suffices to say here that he was as clever and ingenious a
workman as ever handled gouge and calipers in this country,
and, in my opinion, as unscrupulous as he was clever. He
made scores of counterfeited " Strads " and " Josephs."
Hart says that he made some hundreds of copies of Guarneri
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 145
alone. These were not all " fakes/' it is true, but very
many of them were, and they have been sold time and again
as the genuine work of the masters whose forged labels they
All the Fendts were counterfeiters, more or less generally
more, not less and in so far as they departed from the paths
of " righteous dealing," they deserve nothing but the
execration of posterity and the contempt of the historian,
their cleverness notwithstanding. Cleverness does not atone
for fraud. I have seen it stated somewhere that the Fendts
were the creatures of circumstances, and could not very well
help themselves : a species of apology which, doubtless,
every utter er of counterfeit coin in our own day could
advance with equal plausibility. Fiddle-makers, like every-
body else, are all creatures of circumstances for who is
complete master of his environment ? but they are not all
forgers all the same. The clever forgeries of the Fendts,
more especially those of Bernard Simon and of Jacob, have
deceived hundreds of fiddle fanciers from time to time : they
have deceived even experienced experts. For example, to
name one instance out of a large number of cases which 1
could cite, the very clever counterfeit " Strad " owned by
the late James Smith, Esq., of Ashcroft House, Wentworth,
and which was the work of Jacob Fendt, had been certified
by two experts to be genuine so the owner informed me in
a letter under date of May 7, 1904 ! When I review in my
mind the work of the Fendts, I cannot but wail with Scott :
" Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive ! "
FENDT, FRANCIS, London and Liverpool. Fourth
son of Bernhard Fendt.
FENDT, JACOB, London : 1815-49. Third son of
Bernhard Fendt, and in some respects the best maker of
the family. What I have said above of the work of Bernhard
Simon applies equally to the work of this maker. It is
146 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
matter of profound regret that enthusiasm for the instru-
ments of these artists is held in check by the knowledge that
" they ever dissemble and often deceive."
FENDT, MARTIN, London. Son of Bernhard Fendt.
He worked for Betts.
FENDT, WILLIAM, London: 1833-1852. Son of
Bernard Simon, and a very clever workman. His violas
and double basses were celebrated.
FENWIGK, - , Leith. His instruments are occa-
sionally advertised for sale, but I have never seen one.
FERGUSON, DONALD, Huntly, Aberdeenshire. Work
of average merit.
FERGUSON, WILLIAM, Edinburgh: 1790-1820.
Fairly good work and tone.
FERRIER, WILLIAM, Dundee : contemporary. Fairly
FINDLAY, JAMES, Padanaram : 1815-96. He was
born at a farm near Brechin, in Forfarshire. He made about
five hundred instruments, mostly on the Guarneri model.
His wood as a rule is plain, and the varnish a spirit one,
thinly laid on, but the tone is frequently very good.
FINGLAND, S., : contemporary, apparently.
FIRTH, G., Leeds : 1830-40. Ordinary work.
FLECK, WILLIAM, High Wycombe : 1852-1914. A
doctor of medicine, and a very clever amateur violin maker
and player. He was born at Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ire-
land, and died at High Wycombe early in 1914, where he
had been in practice for thirty years, and where he had
filled important positions, such as town councillor, Justice
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 147
of the Peace, etc. He made a number of instruments,
including violins, violas, and one violoncello, on the Stradi-
vari and Guarneri models, all of very beautiful workman-
ship. Dr. Fleck was a keen connoisseur, and a man of wide
reading and very refined artistic tastes.
FLECK, ETHEL, High Wycombe : contemporary.
She was the wife of the Dr. Fleck previously mentioned, and
not only assisted him with the varnishing of his instruments,
but has made several violins herself, all the work from the
fashioning of the rough blocks to the last finishing touches
being her own unaided effort. She continues to make, and
to take a deep interest in the violin, and in other branches
of art. She follows the Stradivari model, and the work-
manship is beautifully and delicately finished.
FLEMING, J., : nineteenth century.
FORD, JACOB, London : 1780-95. He worked on a
model which very closely resembles that of Stainer. He
evidently had Stainer in his mind, but he had also seen and
handled Amati copies, or perhaps he had seen genuine
" Amatis," and had been somewhat influenced by them, so
that he had become unsettled in his ideals. The workman-
ship is excellent, and the wood very carefully chosen. The
varnish is an oil one, of light or deep amber colour. His
margins are wider than is usual in Stainer copies, and the
edges are nicely rounded and solid looking. The tone is not
a large one, but is of a very good quality. Altogether Ford
was a superior maker, and the few examples of his art which
remain to-day should be more highly valued than they are.
FORSTER, JOHN, Brampton : 1688-1781. The first
member of this celebrated family to make fiddles. Messrs.
148 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Sandys and Forster in their History of the Violin give a
somewhat lengthy account of various Forsters, Foresters, or
Fosters who were anciently connected with the northern
counties, but whether these were ancestors of John Forster
they are not prepared to say. It is not very material
whether they were or not. This first Forster to come
across the path of the violin historian made only an occa-
sional instrument, on the Stainer model, of rather rough and
FORSTER, SIMON ANDREW, London: 1801-70.
He was a son of William Forster (1764-1824), born May 13,
1801, and died February 2, 1870. He worked at Frith
Street, and also at Macclesfield Street, Soho. He is more
famous as the collaborator with William Sandys of the work
referred to above than as a violin maker. All his work that
I have seen reflects little or no credit upon the great name of
Forster. He was a pupil of his father, of his brother, and
of Samuel Gilkes. He worked sometimes on the Stradivari
and sometimes on the Stainer model, but always arched his
instruments in a grotesque manner. I am not sure that he
did not sometimes bake his wood, as the tone is often of a
S. A. FORSTER,
VIOLIN, TENOR, AND VIOLONCELLO MAKER,
NO. -- LONDON.
FORSTER, WILLIAM, Brampton : 1714-1801. He
was a son of John Forster, and, like his father, made and
repaired an occasional fiddle. The workmanship is a little
better than his father's, but the tone is about the same. His
instruments are unpurfled, and spirit varnished.
FORSTER, WILLIAM, Brampton and London : 1739-
1808. He is known as " Old Forster," and is the greatest
maker of the family, and one of the greatest of all the old
British makers. Haweis says he was " the greatest maker
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 149
in all England " (Old Violins, p. 126), but I cannot concur
with his opinion. He was born in 1739, baptized on May 5
of that year, and died on the I4th December, 1808. He may
be described as the British counterpart of the great French
maker, Vuillaume, since like him he was characterised by a
degree of shrewdness, versatility, and worldly wisdom above
his compeers. When French players wanted a Stradivari
or a Guarneri fiddle, Vuillaume met their demands and
sold them those new-old instruments which set the Seine
on fire : similarly Forster, when the British public wanted
Stainer copies, or Amati copies, immediately supplied them
with their requirements : he was always equal to the occasion
and never disappointed his customers. Where the analogy
fails is that Forster, in addition to his versatility, possessed
that other and sometimes inconvenient gift called conscience.
Forster never " faked," and never attempted to pass his
new instruments as " Old Masters."
Had Forster lived among more discerning people, that
would demand Stradivari copies, his work would rank to-day
beside that of Vuillaume. He was a " Jack of all trades,"
and master of more than one. By turns a spinning-wheel
maker, gun-stock maker, cattle driver, publisher, fiddler
he could manage to eke out a living at any one of them. As
a violin maker he rose from being a humble Cumberland
repairer to the rank of instrument maker to the Court. He
ought to have been England's greatest maker, and would
have been but for this many-sidedness, and the indiscrimina-
tion of his countrymen. His artistic work at Brampton was
confined to the repairing of old instruments, and the making
of a fiddle now and again on the Stainer model. In 1759 he
came to London, and after meeting with some reverses,
entered the shop of one Beck, of Tower Hill, where he
remained for about two years making fiddles. In 1762 he
set up on his own account at Duke's Court, whence he
removed to St. Martin's Lane. From this place he again
removed to 348 Strand, where he remained for the rest of his
150 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
He followed three models : Stainer, A. & H. Amati, and
He appears to have followed Stainer exclusively from
1762 to 1772, but at the latter date he put aside that model,
never to take it up again. From 1760 to 1790 the influence
of Banks was felt far and near, and British players were
awaking to the superior merits of the Amati model. Forster
was still a young man of only thirty-three, and had the
better and longer half of his life before him. When he
turned his back on the German he was in possession of his
full strength and able to swim fast with the flowing tide.
It was not so with Duke, who had less than a third of his
life to live when the star of Nicolas Amati appeared on the
horizon. Now was Forster's chance.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
Forster might have reached the broad sea of artistic
fame had he not paused by the way. He dallied with the
model of A. and H. Amati, and gave up much time to
musical enterprise of one kind and another, which, although
profitable enough both to him and to the public, kept him
from looking steadily on. If Forster had been a man of one
ideal, and had kept that ideal steadily in view, posterity
would have rewarded him by conferring upon him the title
which has been given to Banks. As matters stand, he must
rest content with perhaps a third place on the list at least
that is my opinion. His Stainer copies are very good, but
do not compare for finished workmanship and tone with the
instruments of Duke. The Amati copies are on an alto-
gether higher level. When copying A. and H. Amati he
was at his very best, and the result shows what he was
capable of when at his best. But the tone of these copies
is rather small and glassy. One beautiful specimen 1 have
seen and tried : it was made of fine wood, with maple of
narrow, regular, and well-defined curl, very pretty to look
VIOLONCELLO BY "OLD" FORSTER.
To face p. 150.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 151
at, and varnished with dark, golden-amber oil varnish of
excellent quality. Its principal dimensions were
Length of body . . . . . 13 H inches.
Width across upper bouts . . .
Width of C's . . ; 4 -> .
Length of fs . . \, f >^ f > , 2f
Depth of lower ribs , V t .' , ij
upper . I& , ;
His Nicolas Amati copies are very faithful, but I do not
think they could be palmed off as " originals." The violon-
cellos are finer than the smaller instruments. Here delicacy
of detail is not so necessary, and solidity and rugged grandeur
show to better advantage. His larger work is of moderately
full proportions, not usually so large as the larger-sized
violoncellos of Banks. But he varied his model a great
deal, sometimes widening the waist, sometimes flattening
the upper bouts, narrowing the width all over, lengthening
the body, or even modifying the arching. The departure
from the lines of N. Amati is occasionally so considerable as
to almost constitute a different model.
The tone of the violoncellos is excellent, and was greatly
appreciated in England before the finer Italian instruments
had been brought here. It will yet be appreciated, and to a
far greater extent, when we think it worth our while to
coax the old veterans out of the sullen silence into which
they have been obliged to retire. There are not many
fraudulent " Forsters " about : I have not seen any, but
have heard of one or two. Of the number of " Old Forster "
instruments still in existence it is difficult to form an esti-
mate : one thing is certain, they are becoming fewer every
year. Quite a number of them found their way to America
during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The
average price for the violoncellos from 1890 to 1900 was 23,
but it is higher now, and will be very much higher a few years
152 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Those varnished dark amber were preferred a hundred
years ago, but the red ones are more in favour to-day. The
amber ones which I have seen were not so well stocked with
wood as the red ones. Probably the greater thickness of the
latter placed them at a slight disadvantage when new, which
is the very reason why they are the better sort to-day. He
is said to have used fossil amber for the basis of his varnish
on his later instruments, in the solution of which he was
assisted by the chemist, Delaporte. There is a close resem-
blance between the said varnish and that made some time
back by the Messrs. Caffyn, of London. Forster made only
four double basses, three of which were for the private band
of King George III. Labels :
IN 8T. MARTIN'S LANE, LONDON, 17.
VIOLIN, VIOLONCELLO, TENOR, AND BOW MAKER.
N.B. The above instruments are made in the best manner, and finished
with the original varnish ; and a copy of every capital instrument in
England may be had.
FORSTER, WILLIAM, London : 1764-1824. " Young
Forster " was a son of the great Forster. He was born
January 7, 1764, and died July 24, 1824. He maintained
to some extent the traditions and reputation of his father,
but failed, or did not try, to maintain the same standard of
excellence throughout. His work varies more in quality
than does that of any maker, past or present, that I am
acquainted with : some of it is no better than factory work,
and some is fully as good as the best of his father's.
Haweis says there was an erratic vein in the Forster
family, which in the great Forster took the shape of " amaz-
ing versatility," but in the younger members of the family
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 153
degenerated into " speculative eccentricity." Be that as it
may, it is certain " Young Forster " was capable of great
things, and it is equally certain that he made but indifferent
use of his capability.
One of the finest instruments by this maker that I have
seen is a violin owned by Charles Bartlett, Esq., of Woodhill,
Portishead, near Bristol. It is made of beautiful wood, on
the N. Amati model, and covered with a brownish red
varnish of excellent pate ; and of perfect transparency and
lustre. It has a clear, sweet, and responsive tone.
The following is a facsimile of the label in Mr. Bartlett's
Violin Violoncello Teror df" BcwinaJter
FORSTER, WILLIAM, London : 1788-1824. He was
the eldest son of the previous Forster, and his work (the
little there is of it) has much the same characteristics. He
was a pupil of his father, and of his grandfather.
FRANKLAND, , London : 1780-90. He was prob-
ably a pupil of one of the Forsters, and he worked for
' Young Forster " for some time. Ordinary work.
FRYER, CHARLES, London and Leeds : 1820-40. He
was for some time partner with W. M. Dearlove, of Leeds.
Very little of his work appears to be known.
FURBER, DAVID, London. Period unknown, but
probably about 1760-80. He was a pupil of John Johnson,
and made many instruments of pretty much the same
characteristics, on the Stainer model. He was the first
fiddle maker of the rather long line of Furbers,
154 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
FURBER, HENRY JOHN, London : about 1825-68.
He was a son and pupil of John Furber. He made a large
number of instruments, on different models, but mostly on
that of Stradivari. Hart says that he was an excellent
workman, but I cannot say that I like his instruments very
much : perhaps it has not been my fortune to see the best
FURBER, JAMES, London. Eldest son of Matthew
Furber, senior. I doubt whether he was an actual maker,
and not merely a dealer. I have never seen any instruments
which were supposed to be his work, and I do not know of
any one who has.
FURBER, JOHN, London : about 1810-45. He was
the third son of Matthew Furber, senior, and a pupil of his
father and of John Betts. He made a large number of
instruments on the grand Amati model, and a few copies of
the " Betts " Stradivari, when that famous masterpiece
was in the possession of Betts. His work is excellent in
every respect. I have seen a great deal of his best copies,
and I must say that I considered some of them superb
examples of the copyist's art. A specially fine specimen had
the wood of the back of broad " flame," with the curl
slanting very slightly towards the lower end of the instru-
ment. The varnish was golden red, mellow, tender, and
not too thickly laid on. The tone was particularly fine.
Some of his Amati copies are a little too much grooved near
the edge, but they are very fine nevertheless. His violins,
when in fine condition, realize as much as 25 to-day, and
will sell at a higher figure at no distant date. Furber
worked for John Betts at the Royal Exchange, and many of
the fine instruments which have the label of Betts were his
work. His own label ran :
JOHN FURBER, MAKER,
13 ST. JOHN'S ROW, TOP OF BRICK LANE,
OLD ST., SAINT LUKE, 1839.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 155
FURBER, MATTHEW, London : 1730-90. Son and
pupil of David Furber. Very little of his work is known.
He died in 1770, and was buried in Clerkenwell Churchyard.
FURBER, MATTHEW, London: 1780-1831. Son
and pupil of the preceding, He made a large number of
instruments, some of which are very good. His violins are
frequently advertised in catalogues of old instruments.
FURBER, WILLIAM, London : about 1820-40. 1
have seen only one violin with his label, which was very well
made, but had a rather harsh tone.
FURLOUGH, HENRY, Bath: 1800-20. Very fair
work, on the Amati model.
FURNOW, WALTER, Cheltenham : about 1800.
Stainer model, with a much exaggerated arch.
GARDEN, JAMES, Edinburgh: nineteenth century.
An amateur who made a few violins.
GARDENER, , Stokescroft. Violins of his make
have been advertised in the papers, but I know nothing of
him or his work.
GASKIN, G. H., .
GASKING, G. K., Shortlands : contemporary. Pos-
sibly there is an error here, and " Gaskin " and " Gasking "
may be one and the same individual. I know nothing of
their, or his, work.
GAY, WILFRED, Bristol: contemporary. A clever
amateur who lives at 37 Brynland Avenue, and a pupil of
Mr. Henry Lye, the veteran violin maker of Camerton. He
has made several excellent instruments.
156 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
GIBBS, JAMES, London : 1800-45. It is not certain
that he made any instruments on his own account, but he
worked for J. Morrison, G. Corsby, and S. Gilkes.
GILBERT, JEFFERY JAMES, Peterborough : con-
temporary. He was born at New Romney, August 16, 1850,
and is a son of Jeffery and Eleanor Langley Gilbert. He is
a lineal descendant of an old Kentish family, one of the most
notable members of which, in recent times, was Sir Jeffery
Gilbert, " The accomplished exchequer baron." He was
educated at Crockley Green Grammar School. Mr. Gilbert
is a professional maker, and belongs to the very elite of the
craft, the workmanship, varnish, and tone of his instruments
giving him a place among the few who occupy the innermost
circle of present day makers.
Although of a musical and artistic turn of mind, he had
reached manhood before he had entertained any thoughts
of becoming a violin maker. The thought that he could
construct an instrument had no sooner entered his mind,
however, than he found himself fast in the grip of the
" fiddle disease." The purely mechanical part of the work
never gave him any trouble, but he soon recognized that it
required something more than an expert use of carving tools
to fashion a great violin. Fortunately for him, he made the
acquaintance about this time of several eminent connois-
seurs and experts, notably that of the late Charles Reade,
the late George Hart, Dr. John Day, and Mr. George Withers,
all of whom took an interest in him and gave him useful
advice from time to time. Charles Reade was specially
kind, and not only imparted to him valuable knowledge,
but kept in touch with him down to the time of his death.
Mr. Gilbert has made, up to date, about three hundred
instruments, including violins, violas, violoncellos, and
" viola -altas." He is not a rapid worker, and has not made
more than about eight instruments in any single year, but
the amount of patient attention he devotes to each instru-
ment is extraordinary indeed. " Every instrument that is
VIOLIN BY GILBERT.
To face p. 156.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 157
worthy the name," he remarked to me, " has individuality
and a temper all its own, and must be studied as you would
a child, if you would form a thing of beauty, that will sing
with the voice of melody."
He works on original models, the principal measurements
of which are :
Length of body . " < . . '. 14 inches.
Width across upper bouts . . . ^ 6J
middle ' * . ' . 4$
lower . . 8
Depth of lower ribs . . . ij
top .... i&
Length of fs . 3*
Length of body . . . . . 14
Width across upper bouts . . , 6f
middle . . 4^
lower . . . 8J
Ribs and /'s same as (a)
Length of body . . . . .16,
Width across upper bouts . . 7f
middle 5j >
lower . . . 9
Depth of lower ribs . . . . ij
upper . if ,
Length of body . . . . . 17
Width across upper bouts . . 8J ,
middle 5f ,
lower . . 9^
Depth of ribs ^ inch more all over than in those of viola.
Length of sound-holes for viola and viola-alta is 3$ inch.
158 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Length of body ..... 29! inches.
Width across upper bouts . . . I3f
middle . 9!
Depth of ribs 4$-
Length of /'s . . 5ft
The outline of each of these models is very pure. The
scroll is a masterly bit of carving, and is in the best Italian
style. The width from boss-edge to boss-edge is i-ft- inch,
and the depth of the peg-box at the deepest part is | inch,
diminishing to | inch at the throat. The scollop is nicely
rounded and projects only just enough to give piquancy to
its outer line. The curves of the volute are most delicately
scooped at the base, and the fluting at the back of the box
gives the correct balance in lines of subdued boldness. The
button is nearly semicircular, strong, and in keeping with
the contour of the instrument. The edges are fairly full,
being neither too rounded nor yet in relief, but turned in a
manner that gives " definity " to the outline of the fiddle.
The sound-holes are Stradivarian in character, and are cut
with extreme delicacy, even the little notches coming in for
an artistic " touch."
The varnish on Mr. Gilbert's later instruments is of the
finest quality : it is brilliant, elastic, and transparent, the
colours ranging from light amber to a very deep and rich
red. It is, of course, an oil varnish, but " not linseed, nor
any other heavy oil, which destroys all that is good in
colour," so Mr. Gilbert informs me.
The tone is of a beautiful quality : it is large, clear, rich,
Mr. Gilbert's instruments have gained the following
awards : International Exhibition, Crystal Palace, 1884,
Silver Medal, being the highest award ; International
Inventions Exhibition, London, 1885, Silver Medal ; Inter-
national Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1890, Gold Medal.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 159
Facsimile label :
Fecit. Anno MDCCCXCIX.
GILGHRIST, JAMES, Glasgow : 1832-94. An ama-
teur maker who was by trade a philosophical instrument
maker. He made eighty-six instruments of every descrip-
tion, of very good workmanship and very fair tone.
GILKES, SAMUEL, London : 1787-1827. He was a
native of Morton Pinkney, Northamptonshire. His work
is greatly appreciated by the best judges. There is not a
great deal of it, but what there is justifies the opinion that
if Gilkes had lived a few years longer he would be accounted
to-day one of England's greatest violin makers. He died a
comparatively young man, just as he was beginning to give
the world the fruit of ripened talent. The Amati and
Stradivari copies he made from about 1820 to the time of his
death are excellent in every way. He was a pupil of Charles
Harris, to whom he was also related, and he worked for a
few years with William Forster. Label :
VIOLIN AND VIOLONCELLO MAKER,
34 JAMES STERET, BUCKINGHAM GATE,
GILKES, WILLIAM, London: 1811-75. He was a
pupil of his father, whom he succeeded in business. He
made many double-basses and other instruments, which
are of about average merit.
GIRVAN, THOMAS, Edinburgh : nineteenth century.
160 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
GLENDAY, JAMES, Padanaram : nineteenth century.
GLENISTER, WILLIAM, London : contemporary.
He was born at Chenies, Bucks, in 1850, and lives at 23
Beak Street, Regent Street, W. Although only an amateur,
he has made a large number of violins, violas, and violon-
cellos, which he advertises for sale in the music papers.
He has made violins on the models of N. Amati, Guarneri,
and Stradivari, but latterly makes on the Strad model
exclusively. Mr. Towry Piper in reviewing his work in
the issue of " The Strad " for June 1915, says that " so far
a-s tone is concerned these instruments [i.e. Glenister'sJ will
bear comparison with any new fiiddles I have tested in recent
years, one of the white examples, made in 1914, being quite
remarkable for the beauty and quality of its tone." I
examined about twenty of Mr. Glenister's instruments at
his shop quite recently, and must say that I consider both
workmanship and tone to be excellent. Facsimile label :
GLENNIE, WILLIAM, Aberdeen: contemporary. He
works with Mr. John Marshall (q.v.), whose business he has
practically managed for the last few years. He is an excel-
GLOAG, JOHN, Galston : contemporary. An amateur
who has made a number of good violins.
GOODMAN, JAMES, Brentford : nineteenth century.
GORDON, , Stoneyford, Ireland: nineteenth cent-
ury. The Rev. Father Greaven mentions him in the
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 161
following brief statement : " well-known about the North
are violins by the philanthropist Gordon, of Stoneyford.
They possess a good strong English tone, though the work-
manship is rough."
GORDON, , about 1830-40. Dr. Richard Hum-
phreys, of 6 Cressington Park, Liverpool, has a violin of his
make, dated 1838, with his name stamped on the back under
the button, and the date written in ink inside. He says it
is a well-made instrument.
GORRIE, J., : nineteenth century. Instruments
of his make have been advertised in catalogues of old violins.
GOTHARD, P., Huddersfield : nineteenth century.
GOUGH, JOHN, Leeds : about 1820. He worked for
Mark William Dearlove.
GOUGH, JOHN, Thornbury, Glos. : 1803 till about 1870.
He is mentioned in a booklet by Mr. J. Spencer Palmer, of
Thornbury, who says that he had the reputation of being a
fine maker. The Messrs. Hill have a copy of his label. I
have made a careful but fruitless search in Bristol and its
neighbourhood for information respecting him. Mr. C.
Benson, of Cardiff, has a fine example of his work.
GOUGH, WALTER, Leeds : about 1820-40. Related,
perhaps, to John Gough, of Leeds. Indifferent work.
GOULDING, , London : about 1800. Fairly good
GRAY, JOHN, Fochabers, N.B. : 1860-75. He did
not make many instruments.
GREGSON, ROBERT, : contemporary. Ten
years ago he worked in Blackburn as a professional maker
and repairer, but I do not know his present whereabouts, nor
have I seen any of his more recent work. I have heard that
his later work is very good,
i6a BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
GRIME, HAROLD, Accrington : contemporary.
GUITON, R., Cork : contemporary. An excellent
amateur who has made several beautiful violins on the
models of Stradivari and Guarneri. The quality of his
workmanship and the tone of his instruments are of so fine
a description that it is a pity he does not devote the whole
of his time to the craft.
GWYTHER, HENRY, Gloucester: 1830-50. Rather
rough work, but tone very fair.
HALL, WILLIAM H., Oldham : contemporary. He
has made a number of beautiful instruments on the models
of Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari. The tone of the only
violin of his make which I have tried was not large, but it
was bright, responsive, and sweet.
HAMBLETON, JOSEPH, Salford : about 1850. Fair
HAMILTON, WILLIAM, Uddingston : contemporary.
A consulting engineer by profession, who makes violins en
amateur, and who has produced some excellent copies of
Gasparo da Salo.
HAMILTON, W. T. R., Edinburgh : contemporary.
HANDLEY, HENRY, Worcester. I do not know
whether he is alive, but he was carrying on business a few
years since as a professional maker and repairer. He has
made a large number of instruments on the Guarneri model.
Those I have seen were carefully made, and had a good tone.
HARBOUR, , London: 1780-90. He lived in
Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn, and later in Southampton
Buildings, Holborn. Very ordinary work,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 163
HARDIE, ALEXANDER, Maxwelltown : 1797-1855.
He did not make very many violins, but the few there are
left show that he was a skilled workman.
HARDIE, ALEXANDER, Galashiels : 1811-90. He
made violins on his father's (the Hardie previously men-
tioned) model, which is a sort of cross between the models
of Stainer and Amati. Fair work.
HARDIE, JAMES, Edinburgh : 1800-56. This Hardie
was not related to any of the other makers of the same name.
Amati and Strad models considerably modified. Very good
HARDIE, JAMES & SON, Edinburgh : contemporary.
Mr. Hardie, senior, was born at Aquhedley, in the parish of
Ellon, Aberdeenshire, January i, 1836, and is probably the
oldest professional maker and repairer now living and
working in the country. He is a son of William and Mary
Hardie, and is one of thirteen children. His mother died
only a few years since, at the advanced age of 103. Hardie
comes of a good stock, and is himself hale and hearty,
although bordering on eighty. I saw him in his workshop at
99 Nicolson Street only a short time ago, when he was busy
at work over a difficult and delicate bit of repair. He must
have been a powerful man in his day. He is tall, well-
built, and in spite of his years, stands erect, and looks good
for another ten or fifteen years' work. He is a shrewd man,
genial and kind-hearted, with a fund of anecdote and quaint
humour ready at his command. He looks at you over his
spectacles as you enter his shop with a half-enquiring, half-
doubtful smile, and a twinkle in his eye : the smile broadens
and the twinkle becomes a flash as some waggish remark of
yours evokes a smart repartee. You pull out of your case
a fine fiddle, and instantly the humour is metamorphosed
into eagerftess, and the face is lit up with excited admiration.
Such is James Hardie. There are not many fiddle makers
of his stamp left. He belongs to a past generation, and his
old-time ideas, his trustfulness, and his kindliness sometimes
place him rather out of joint with the age.
164 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Hardie had the advantage of a first-class education, and
was probably intended for the scholastic profession, since
he. went through a course of training at the Normal College,
Edinburgh. But his grandfather's workshop at Dunkeld
had greater attractions than Normal College, and fiddle
heads were prettier than algebraic symbols. He played at
fiddle making at the age of nine : he made a complete
instrument at the age of fifteen. Vacations found him, not
at his books, but behind the bench at old Peter Hardie's
workshop, with sleeves tucked up, " shooting " joints.
Before he was twenty-one he had made a number of violins,
and a few violoncellos. In 1862 he was married to Elsie
Milne Davidson, and he shortly afterwards went to Edin-
burgh, where he started business as a professional maker
and repairer. Here he has been for upwards of half-a-
century, wedded to art and toiling for a livelihood. The
lot of the professional maker is not an easy one in modern
times, and it happens but rarely that his lines are fallen in
pleasant places. There have been periods of his life when
Hardie had to struggle hard for bare existence, and the bur-
den he had to carry was not a light one there were thirteen
children to feed, clothe, and educate. But he worked hard
and struggled on. For many years he produced two new
instruments every week, and there were repairs in addition.
It had to be done, for otherwise the wolf would be at the
door. Naturally these fiddles were not of a very high order,
many of them were, as he expressed it, " rattled up in haste,
and sold for a few shillings, to keep the pot boiling." But
there came better days and better work. From about the
year 1880 to 1900 Hardie produced on the average only about
a dozen new instruments per year, and the quality of the
work reaches a much higher standard. There are fiddles of
his make which for excellence of material, workmanhip,
and tone are unsurpassed. This is saying much, I know,
but not too much. I have a violin of his make now before
me, completed in 1895, on the Maggini model, which for
grandeur and purity of tone is rarely equalled and never
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 165
excelled. Mr. Honeyman in his Scottish Violin Makers
remarks that " Har die's best work will bear comparison
with that of any living Scottish maker/' and further that
Hardie " has the rare power of producing violins which have
a large and telling tone," and that " the mantle of Matthew
Hardie has fallen upon his shoulders," and I thoroughly
agree with him. According to the strictest account Hardie
has made in all well over two thousand instruments, includ-
ing violins, violas, 'cellos, and basses. About two hundred
of these are of the best material and in his best style. The
models are Stradivari, Guarneri, and Maggini. He has a
decided preference for the Maggini model, and as far as my
experience of his work goes, nearly all his best instruments
are on that model. These are double purfled, and in some
instances ornamented on the back as well.
One or two of his sons hav*e assisted him from time to
time with certain minor parts of the work, but not one of
them is actually a maker. Mr. William Hardie made one
violin some years ago, but he never took the tools in hand
again. The varnish is of his own make, and has fossil
amber for its basis : it is of two colours, golden amber, and
He has exhibited instruments on several occasions. At
the Edinburgh International Exhibition, 1886, he gained a
bronze medal ; at the Glasgow Exhibition, 1886-7, an
honourable mention ; and at the International Exhibition,
Edinburgh, 1890, a gold medal. Facsimile label :
,. MAOC BT
3ames 1bart>te & Sons,
166 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
HARDIE, MATTHEW, Edinburgh : ^755-1826. He
was born in Edinburgh in the year 1755, he died in St.
Cuthbert's Poorhouse, August 30, 1826, and was buried in
Greyfriars* Churchyard. His remains were laid to rest in
the portion of the churchyard allotted to paupers. I
visited this celebrated churchyard a year ago, and the exact
spot of Matthew Har die's grave was pointed out to me by
one of the keepers : it is in one of the corners of the first
enclosed block in the portion of ground known as the
Covenanters' Prison. There is not a stone nor a brick to
mark it. " Modern Athens," that is justly proud of its
famous sons, and that has erected a hundred-and-one
monuments to their memory, cannot afford to put up a
plain head-stone over the remains of Scotland's greatest
violin maker ! The neglect need not concern us very much,
for it may be that if the shade of old Matthew were con-
sulted on the matter it would exclaim with Cato : "I had
rather it should be asked why I had not a statue than why I
had one/' That would be quite in keeping with the manner
of the old humorist when he tabernacled in the flesh.
Matthew Har die has been named the " Scottish Stradi-
vari," and not without justice. His work is excellent, and
deserves much more attention than has been given it by
English connoisseurs and writers. It has been said that he
copied the Stradivari model exclusively, but that is wrong,
he copied Amati too. I have both seen and handled numer-
ous genuine examples of his Amati copies. It is quite
possible that he had abandoned Amati during the last few
years of his life, for I do not remember seeing any copies of
this model that were made after about 1810. Except as
regards varnish the Amati copies will compare very favour-
ably with the work of Benjamin Banks. His tone is larger
than that of Banks, but what it gains in quantity it some-
times loses in quality.
He must have been a prolific maker, and his fame had
spread far in his own day. His instruments found their way
to the south of England, to South Wales, and even to the
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 167
west of Ireland early in last century. A beautiful violin
on the Amati model was for over fifty years in the possession
of the Barham family, at Trecwn, in far away Pembroke-
shire. I saw this fiddle many years ago, and have a vivid
recollection of its beautiful workmanship and fine tone.
In my time I have seen about thirty violins of this maker,
the majority of which were, so far as my memory serves me,
on the grand Amati model. I do not think his Stradivari
copies show better work, but they are of course more
valuable to-day by reason of their greater volume and finer
quality of tone.
Matthew Hardie made no attempt at creating an original
model, as far as I am aware : he endeavoured to copy Amati
and Stradivari as faithfully as possible, but he sometimes
bordered on originality in spite of himself. His strong
personality refused to be altogether tied down to curves and
figures. Look, e.g., at the sound-holes of the Amati copies,
and the scrolls of the Strad copies. The quaintness of the
one and the sauciness of the other are evidence of a mind
that did as it listed. It has been said that Hardie made
many cheap instruments, into which he put poor wood, and
which he did not purfle, in his early days. It is quite
possible, though I have never seen a poor instrument of his
make. Most great makers have turned out indifferent work
at one period or another of their life. Art is very much the
creature of circumstances. There are artists living to-day
who are capable of great things, did circumstances but
allow them to procure the best material and devote time to
the fashioning of their fiddle idols. Like Michael Angelo,
who saw his " David " in the rough block of marble, they
see " Strads " in the unhewn timber, but have not the
means to buy the tree. Hardie must have been sometimes
badly off for timber, if it be true that he used to work up odd
pieces of wood, old, weather-beaten, half-decayed paling
slabs, and such like material.
It is true that much of his maple is of plain figure, but it
is not necessarily inferior wood on that account. Some old
168 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Italian fiddles with a grand tone have backs that are almost
In his best instruments the workmanship is very fine.
The scrolls, as I have remarked, although copies, have
the stamp of genius upon them. The buttons are usually
longer and more oval than those of Amati and Stradivari.
The sound-holes in the Strad copies are just a fraction short,
but are of good outline and clean-cut. The margins are
moderately full, but the edges might be slightly stronger
than they are. The modern taste has improved upon that
of the old makers in respect to the strength of the edges.
Hardie's varnish is a spirit one, thinly laid on, varying in
colour from pale amber to yellow-brown or yellow-red.
He was a great artist, and a great enthusiast. His
enthusiasm was of the contagious sort : quite a coterie of
cultured men gathered around him, who became in time
infected with the fiddle fever. Among them were Peter
Hardie, of Dunkeld, his cousin, and a student at the Edin-
burgh University ; David Stirrat, John Blair, George
M' George, Alexander Yoole, a solicitor, and others. Matthew
Hardie was himself an educated man, and his society
was sought by these men as much on account of his cultured
humour as on account of his ability as an artist. Many a
congenial hour did these men of like passions pass together
in the little atelier in Low Calton. What a pity a Sir
Joshua was not there to delineate on canvas with his sym-
pathetic brush those faces radiant with the joy of the fiddle,
or a Boswell with his faithful pen to draw for posterity
word-pictures of those unique personalities !
MATT. HARDIE & SON, EDINBURGH,
MATTHEW HARDIE, EDINBURGH,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 169
The last two figures of the date are handwritten.
HARDIE, PETER, Dunkeld : 1775-1863. He was a
son of Dr. Hardie, an army surgeon, and was probably born
abroad. He died in November 1863, and was buried in
Dowally Churchyard, Perthshire. He was known in the
north as " Highland Hardie," and was a man of powerful
physique and striking appearance. His model was a cross
between that of Stainer and of Amati. The tone of his
instruments is usually good.
HARDIE, THOMAS, Edinburgh : 1800-58. A son of
the great Matthew Hardie. He followed the model of his
father, but resorted to the deleterious method of baking his
wood, and his instruments, although beautifully made, have
a very poor tone.
HARE, JOHN, London : about 1700. Work resembles
that of Urquhart.
HARE, JOSEPH, London : 1700-40. He made a good
number of instruments on the Stainer model. The work is
good, and the varnish of excellent quality.
HARKHAM, , London : about 1760-90.
HARRIS, CHARLES, London and Adderbury : 1770
till about 1830, but there is no certainty. While in London
he worked in Cannon Street Road, Ratcliffe Highway.
He is one of our fine old makers, but there is comparatively
little of his work left, that is to say, of work bearing his
own label. He foolishly sold his birthright for a mess of
pottage, in other words, he sold his instruments unlabelled
170 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
to the trade, and thus deprived himself of the credit which he
ought to have got for excellent work. He made instruments
chiefly on the Amati and Stradivari models. His 'cellos
were highly prized and eagerly bought during his lifetime,
and are very much valued to-day. I have recently seen
some half-a-dozen of his violins, all Strad copies, the work-
manship of which I considered excellent and the tone very
fine. Charles Close, Esq., of Leeds, owns a magriificent
viola of his make, and Mr. R. Waters, of Penarth a fine
FECIT IN CANNON STREET,
HARRIS, CHARLES, London : 1795 to about 1840.
Son and pupil of the above. He worked for John Hart for
some time. Very good work, but it bears no comparison
to that of his father.
HARRIS, GRIFFITH, Swansea: 1810-40. 1 have
seen only one violin of his make, which was fairly well made.
HARRIS, JOHN EDWARD, Gateshead-on-Tyne : con-
temporary. He was born at Wednesbury, near Birmingham,
in 1862, and commenced violin making in 1894. He is at
present established in the music business at 37 and 41 Nile
Street, Gateshead-on-Tyne, and is a professional maker,
repairer, and manufacturer of amber oil varnish. He has
made about forty instruments up to date, on various models.
I have seen only one violin of his make, which was on the
To face p. i?i.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 171
Strad model, of handsome wood, well made and beautifully
finished. Those who are better acquainted with his work
say he is a very careful maker, and that his instruments are
HARROD, ROBERT, London and Oxford : about
1810-30. High model, dark varnish, workmanship good.
I recently saw a viola of his make, which was evidently
copied from one of Duke's violas ; it was made in St. Peter's
Churchyard, Oxon, 1812. It had a very fair tone.
HART, JOHN THOMAS, London: 1805-74. A pupil
of Samuel Gilkes. He did not make many instruments, but
attained great reputation as repairer and connoisseur. He
brought together many remarkable collections of Italian
instruments, such as the Coding, the Plowden, and a large
part of the Gillot, etc. I have never seen an instrument
bearing his label, and cannot say what his work was like.
14 PRINCES STREET, LEICESTER SQUARE,
HART, GEORGE & SON, London: contemporary.
Mr. George Hart, who is established at 28 War dour Street,
as a violin maker, bow maker, repairer, dealer, and expert,
is a son of the late George Hart, the well-known expert, and
author of various works on the violin, and was born near
Warwick on January 4, 1860. He was educated at Grove
House School, Highgate, at which the Rev. Mr. Tough was
then headmaster (who was a pupil of the great Dr. Chalmers,
of Disruption fame) and after completing the usual course
here he was sent to Paris to finish his studies. On June 17,
1882, he was married to Miss Katherine Jepson de Betham,
daughter of John de Betham, Esq. He has three children
two daughters and a son, named Katherine, Irene, and
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Mr. Hart is not, of course, an actual maker, but he employs
a large number of skilful and experienced English and
French workmen, and the firm turns out a very considerable
number of instruments annually. These instruments,
naturally, like all work produced by these large firms, are
of various kinds and qualities, but the better class instru-
ments reach a high standard of excellence, and will bear
comparison with the finest work of some of the more famous
workshops of the Continent. The personal supervision and
genius of Mr. Hart is evident in every department of the
work, especially in the choice of material for the more expen-
sive class of instrument.
The Messrs. Hart make a special feature of their facsimile
copies of old Italian masterpieces. Some years ago I had
one of these " new-old " violins down for inspection : it was
an exact copy of the famous " D'Egville " Joseph, and so
close an imitation that it was almost impossible to distin-
guish it from the original. The skill and patience which
had produced this facsimile were not of the ordinary kind.
The tone of the fiddle was remarkably clear, rich, and
resonant, for a new instrument. The following is a facsimile
of the label put into it :
EXACT COPYOF'THE D'ECVILLE"
OUARNEFM. DATE. 173*.
HART & SON.
-e**e53 MAKERS. o-e^>-
2.Wardour Street, W
Messrs. Hart have made a special feature also in recent
years of case making. Many of the violin cases they have
made are extraordinarily elaborate and costly, and are
beautifully designed and finished. Some are of satin wood,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 173
inlaid with silver filigree work, others are richly carved and
silver mounted. The makers themselves have spent as
much as 70 or So on a single case, exclusive of the time
and labour devoted to the making of it.
Quite recently they also commenced to specialize in bows,
and their work in this department is now recognized as being
of exceptional merit.
It is pretty generally known that Mr. George Hart is a
connoisseur and expert of undoubted ability. His oppor-
tunities, of course, have been great. Nearly all the famous
instruments of the world have passed through his hands,
such as the " Dolphin," " Belts," " Emperor/' and " Pagan-
ini " Stradivaris ; the " Leduc," " Vieuxtemps " Guarneris,
etc. His present collection of instruments is a very large
one, containing several fine specimens of the work of the
old masters. In addition to the knowledge he has gained
from personal connoisseurship extending over a period of
nearly forty years, he reaped the benefit in early life of his
father's vast knowledge and experience. The late George
Hart was without a doubt one of the greatest authorities
on the violin in all Europe. His works : " The Violin : Its
Famous Makers and their Imitators," and " The Violin and
its Music," will remain classics for all time. Facsimile
HARVEY, ERNEST, Penarth, Cardiff : contemporary.
An amateur who has made several instruments on the Stradi-
vari and Guarneri models, of very good workmanship and
174 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
HARVIE, ROBERT, : nineteenth century.
HAWKES, , Coventry : eighteenth century.
HAYNES & CO., London: contemporary. Chiefly
HAYNES, JACOB, London: c. 1750. He made
fairly good copies of Stainer.
HEAPS, ALFRED WALTER, Sydney N.S.W. : 1854
to about 1906. He was a son of John Knowles Heaps, of
Leeds, and was apprenticed to Handel Pickard, of Leeds, in
1869, with whom he remained till 1874. In 1876 he obtained
an appointment in Sydney as manager of the musical
department of a wholesale house. He soon relinquished
this post, and devoted the rest of his life to violin making
and repairing. His work is said to be very fine.
HEAPS, JOHN KNOWLES, Leeds : nineteenth cen-
tury. He made very good instruments.
HEARNSHAW, FRANCIS, Nottingham: contem-
porary. I have not seen his work.
HEATON, WILLIAM, Gomersal, near Leeds : 1827 to
about 1906. He made a large number of instruments on the
Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari models, some of which
reached a high standard of excellence. Mr. Arthur Broadley
thought very highly of his violoncellos, and gave him a great
deal of work from time to time. A 'cello built specially to
his order was said to be a very fine instrument, with a large
and telling tone. Facsimile label :
HILL TOP, GOMERSAL.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 175
HEESOM, EDWARD, London : 1745-55. Stainer
model ; indifferent work.
HENDERSON, DAVID, Aberdeen : nineteenth cen-
tury. Very poor work.
HESKETH, THOMAS EARLE, Manchester : contem-
porary. He was born in Manchester, August 14, 1866, and
was apprenticed to Mr. G. A. Chanot in 1885, for five years.
In 1891 he commenced business on his own account as a
professional maker and repairer, and he worked for many
years in Lower Mosley Street. I believe he is still working
in Manchester, but am not certain of his whereabouts. He
is one of the best of our modern makers, and his instruments
are in great demand and highly appreciated by orchestral
and other professional players. He has made a large
number of instruments on the following models : Amati,
Stainer, Ruggeri, Maggini, Guarneri, and Stradivari, the
greater number being on the two last models.
He also works on an original model, the principal measure-
ments of which are :
Length of body . . . * " . 14 inches.
Width across upper bouts . -. , 6JJ
middle ? . . ' v 4^
lower . , . 83**
Length of C's . . ... f .. .
f's >..- . . - ;.. .
Distance between f's at upper turns . if
Depth of ribs ij inch diminishing to . i^V
He has made several magnificent violas on a model closely
approximating to that of A. and H. Amati, one was to the
order of Mr. Rawdon Biggs, of Halle's, the Brodsky, and
other quartettes, and is considered by its owner a superb
instrument. Its principal dimensions are :
176 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Length . . . . 4 / ;-T3fr i6f inches.
Width, tOp . . . . ., ;..-. ?.,.: 7J
centre . 5j
bottom . . . ,<;.>; > 9f
Depth of ribs I-& diminishing to . . i^-
He has made excellent violas on the Strad model, I5| in.,
and a few on the Ruggeri model, i6J in., and on one the
Maggini model, 15 J in.
The violas of this maker are much valued for their excel-
lent qualities, the tone having the depth and richness of
colour which distinguish the best tenors of the old masters,
and being wonderfully free from the nasality which too often
characterises modern work. His wood, workmanship, and
varnish are faultless. He has a considerable store of wood
which was once the property of Craske, who is said to have
bought it at Forster's sale. Much of the maple is of rather
plain figure, but its tonal properties are of the best. A
Vuillaume-Strad model violin which I once tried had a
beautiful tone. It had a back cut on the quarter, made of
wood with a fairly wide and very well marked curl. The
varnish was a tender and elastic oil one, of rich, dark golden
amber, which lit up the " flame " of the wood so that it
appeared like watered silk seen through a sheet of stained
glass. The fiddle was the work of an artist. Facsimile
Thomas Earle Hesketh
Manchester Fecit I900 1
HIGSON, DANIEL, Ashton-on-Ribble : 1849 to about
1906. He made many instruments on an original model.
HILL, HENRY LOCKEY, London : 1774-1835. He
was a son of Lockey Hill, a grandson of Joseph Hill, and
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 177
the father of William Ebsworth Hill. He was a pupil of
his father, and worked for some time with John Betts. Later
he became partner with his father and brothers, and con-
tributed largely by his excellent work to make the name of
Hill one of the greatest in the history of violin making in this
country. The workmanship and tone are generally mag-
nificent sufficiently so in a number of his best instruments
to furnish the forger with an excuse for extracting the
maker's label (if there was one) and substituting another
bearing a more honoured name. I have seen several
Lockey Hill violoncellos with an Italian " passport/' A
renowned 'cello player uses one at the present time, with a
" Stradivari " label. It is of the same measurements as the
Strad 'cello sent by Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia to John
Betts in 1810, to be sold in this country, and is in all respects,
except as regards the varnish and purfling, a perfect copy
of that celebrated instrument. The varnish, although of
excellent quality, is not to be compared with that of Stradi-
vari, and the purfling, which is carefully inlaid, is not in
the manner of the master. Any one carefully examining
the mitring at the corners will perceive the difference.
Careful comparison will reveal the similarity of this speci-
men with the known Lockey Hill violoncellos. Some years
ago I saw a violin by this maker, made on the N. Amati
model, with a slab back of beautiful figure, which had
a moderately powerful and very sweet tone. The
colour of its varnish resembled the brownish-purple tint of
the bark of birch in autumn. Hill frequently used a light-
coloured varnish, which is perfectly transparent and elastic.
I have seen only one of his violas, which was on a modified
Amati model, with a widened waist, and not over-pronounced
arching. The tone of this instrument was large and sonor-
ous on the lower strings, but not quite so full and clear on
the upper strings. The scroll was in the best Italian style,
and the sound-holes well designed and carefully cut. Alto-
gether the work of Lockey HiJl is very fine, and it is a pity
there is not more of it,
178 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
HILL, JOHN, London : c. 1794. Nothing known of
him except that he apparently worked in Red Lion Street,
HILL, JOSEPH, London: 1715-1784. He worked
at "Ye Harp and Hautboy," in Piccadilly, under Peter
Wamsley, where he was a fellow-apprentice with Benjamin
Banks : he worked also in various other places, and was
assisted by his sons William, Joseph, Lockey, and Benjamin.
Haweis says that he " was proud to trace his descent from
the Mr. Hill mentioned in Pepys' Diary as being employed
to alter his lute and viall " (Old Violins, p. 137). It is
rather curious that I cannot discover in my copy of this
celebrated Diary any reference at all to any " Mr. Hill " as
having been employed by Pepys to repair his instruments.
The " Mr. Hill " referred to so frequently by Pepys was a
merchant, and not a musical instrument maker. I have
read the Diary very carefully, and have marked all the
references to the " Mr. Hill " in question, but have not
happened on the information given by Haweis. I
should much like to have the particular entry where Haweis
got his " facts " from pointed out. Albeit it is not very
important whether Joseph Hill was descended from the
" Mr. Hill " mentioned in the Diary or not, his fame rests
not on his descent but on his fiddles. That he was a very
capable craftsman does not admit of doubt. I have quite
recently seen three instruments of his make one 'cello and
two violins which were of beautiful workmanship and tone.
One of the violins, on the Amati model, is now with me, and
is made of excellent wood and varnished pale amber. It
is rather on the small side, its length being I3|| -, but it has
a round, clear and beautifully sweet tone. It would be
difficult to find a fiddle with a tone more suitable for drawing-
Joseph Hill's violoncellos and double basses have been
long admired for their excellent tone.
WILLIAM EBSWORTH HILL.
To face p. i?9-
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 179
HILL, WILLIAM, London : 1740-80. Son of the
above Joseph Hill. His work is said to be very good, but
I have not seen any instruments which could with certainty
be ascribed to him, and cannot therefore say what they are
HILL, W. E., & SONS, London : contemporary. The
period of Willim Ebsworth Hill is 1817-95 ; the present
members of the firm are : William Henry, born June 3,
1857 ; Arthur Frederick, born January 25, 1860 ; Alfred
Ebsworth, born February, 1862 ; and Walter Edgar, born
November 4, 1871. The name of William Ebsworth Hill
is almost as well known in the violin world as that of the
great Stradivari himself. There is nothing extraordinary
about this, for next in importance to the greatest maker is
the greatest restorer, and it will be readily admitted, I
think, that William Ebsworth was the greatest restorer this
country has ever produced, and one of the greatest in all
Europe. He was a pupil of his elder brother, Joseph, and
he worked for a time with Charles Harris, at Oxford, whom
he left in 1838, returning in that year to London and settling
down, first in Southwark, then in Wardour Street, and
finally in New Bond Street. I cannot discover that he made
very many new instruments, but such work as he did make
was of a high order of merit. Miss Stainer in her Dictionary
of Violin Makers says that " he exhibited some very beauti-
ful violins of carefully finished work and an excellent viola
of large pattern, with full round tone, in London, in 1862,
obtaining special commendation and a prize medal." But
if he was not a prolific maker, he was the most indefatigably
industrious restorer of old instruments that has ever been
known, and his skill, patience, and trustworthiness in this
branch of the art deserve to be, and will be, ever held in the
greatest esteem by all lovers of the " King of instruments."
Violin repairing in his hands became violin restoration, and
he raised what had hitherto been regarded in this country as
a humble craft to the dignity of fine art.
I have already said something of violin restoration in the
i8o BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Introduction, but I really only touched the fringe of the
subject. It is a topic on which another volume might be
written, and it might be written not only with advantage
but with a touch of the " human " about it, by making
William Ebsworth Hill the pivot on which the information
turned. In addition to possessing a vast knowledge of
violins, and unsurpassed skill in their restoration, he had an
interesting personality. The Rev. H. R. Haweis, who knew
him intimately, has given us a vivid pen picture of the old
craftsman under the appropriate heading of " A Vignette of
W. E. Hill " in his Old Violins (pp. 133-145). I have not
the slightest doubt that the picture he draws is a. faithful
one, and that Hill was very different from ordinary mortals
that he was, in fact, cast in a mould by himself, and strangely
unique. The description given by Beatrice Harraden of
Paul Stilling is in many respects applicable to him. " Paul,"
she says, " was one of those strange beings born aloof, and
with no mental approach to a normal condition of thought
or circumstance. He had a rare gift, the passion of which
had absorbed him from his earliest years. He knew the
whole subtle secret of violin-making ; and they said at
Mirecourt, where he was sent to have his training, that he
was a born fiddle-maker of unerring instinct. His birth in
the nineteenth century was an injustice to him. He should
have been born in the seventeenth century and taken his
place at the luthier's bench side by side with Stradivari
or Guarneri. But his spirit held undoubted communion
with them ; and life, which had denied him many privileges,
had conceded to him the joy of knowing that he was indeed
their fellow-craftsman and belonged by birthright to their
order " (Interplay, p. 21).
The distinguishing trait of his personality seems to have
been his extraordinary intuition " unerring instinct " is
the right term for it. He knew the work of the masters,
and knew it with the infallibility of direct vision. He
remarked once to Haweis that there were days when he
could not tell. But they were not many, and the fact that
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 181
there were any such days at all is proof that his knowledge
was intuitional rather than intellective, for had it been of
the demonstrative the two and two make four order, he
would always have been able to tell, or, at least, to pretend
to tell. And had it been of the intellective order he would
have differed little or nothing, perhaps, from the crowd of
fiddle experts who rely more on the mathematics of their
trade than on its psychology.
Hill had all the qualifications of a great restorer : he had
a perfect knowledge of violin construction, skill, patience,
ingenuity, reverence, and the " artistic sense." It is not
necessary to dwell at length on each of these qualifications,
but I would point out as an instance of his profound reverence
for the work of the masters the fact that he appreciated the
absence of precision in an old instrument, and never at-
tempted to rectify it, as an ordinary repairer would certainly
do, for the sake of appearances. Some of the old makers, it
seems certain, built their instruments without a mould, with
the result that the curves are not always true, and the halves
of the instrument (on either side of the longitudinal axis) not
in exact contra-facsimile. This absence of precision in old
art and craft work often imparts a pleasing tone to the
general effect, but it requires the artistic sense to appreciate
it. Hill both appreciated and reverenced it.
His reverence is further shown by his very sparing use of
fresh material in his restorations. No artist ever deplored
more deeply the necessary renewal of parts which could not
be re-set. He restored faithfully because he preserved
faithfully. And this is the essence of all true restoration of
art work. Imitation of old work may be tolerably faithful,
but it is not old work, and it cannot be referred to as such ;
it is like the lifeless body, the spirit has taken its flight, and
has left but the vague semblance of what it once was. And
if haply any life-like spirit is infused into the reproduction,
it is not the spirit of the old, but the spirit of a new life ;
and bears the impress of the mind, not of the ancient artist,
but of the modern.
i8a BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
There are two virtues which a restorer must possess they
are the background of reverence, as it were these are
self-control and self-denial. A writer on Christian Art
observes that " not only political but aesthetical regenera-
tion is inseparably dependent on self-denial and self-con-
trol." This is literally true of the art of restoring violins.
There are hundreds of old instruments in existence which
have been repaired, or rather impaired, by bunglers who
could not resist the temptation of " trying on " some of
their " patents," or of discarding an old rib or two, or even
the table, and substituting brand new work of more " scienti-
fic " construction. It can with truth be said of these old
wrecks as Ruskin said of Fra Giocondo's loggia that they
" have been daubed and damned by the modern restorer."
1 had not the privilege of knowing the great William
Ebsworth in the flesh, but I know him in the spirit, and I
know him in his works. There is no name in fiddle lore for
which I feel a profounder respect, and there is nothing in
fiddle craft that I admire more than his beautiful restora-
The Messrs. Hill i.e. the present firm are makers,
repairers, experts, and authors of several works on cele-
brated violin makers and violins. Naturally, they have a
great reputation. To say that they are worthily maintain-
ing the reputation of their father is at once to say too much
and too little. It is saying too much because no individual,
or combination of individuals, can, in my opinion, ever
equal the wonderful work which William Ebsworth Hill
accomplished as a restorer of classical instruments. That
work, whether viewed from the point of view of quantity or
quality, stands unrivalled. Nor can any individual, or
combination of individuals, ever again have the same
opportunity of learning the mind of the great Italian masters
as he had. The opportunity he enjoyed has visited the
world only two or three times. It came once when Tarisio
trudged the dusty roads of Italy : it came again when the
pedlar sold his ill-gotten ware to the luthiers of Paris : it
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 183
came the way of William Ebsworth when the husky veterans
needed doctoring. Whoever says the same opportunity is
now, or will come again, knows little of history, and is more
sanguine than wise.
It is saying too little because the sons are more business-
like than their father. By all accounts the father was as
notable an example as might be found anywhere of the man
who " took no thought for the morrow." He was not a
spendthrift, nor a waster, nor an epicure, but merely an
artist who was so absorbed in his work that he had not room
in his mind for pounds, shillings, and pence.
The present establishment is thoroughly up-to-date in its
business methods, and is, without a doubt, the most success-
ful first-class violin concern in all the world to-day. The
advertisement at the end of their volume Antonio Stradivari
is a fair indication of the nature and extent of the business
carried on by the enterprising sons of the king of British
violin restorers. It runs : " Messrs. William E. Hill & Sons
come of a family who for generations have been engaged in
the making of violins and kindred instruments. Carrying
on the traditions they have inherited, they have devoted
their attention to the improvement and perfection in this
country of their art in its various departments ; with the
result that they have now at their service a highly trained
and skilled staff, while at the same time they have organized
and brought up their works at Hanwell to such a degree of
completeness and efficiency as enables them effectively to
meet the demands which have been so long pressing upon
them, and to deal promptly with all calls which may hence-
forth be made upon them. In their endeavours to revive
a craft in the exercise of which England once held a position
of repute and distinction, Messrs. W. E. Hill & Sons have
been aided by one salient advantage. They have had
through their hands nearly all the most famous violins of
the world ; and they have not failed to avail themselves
of their unique opportunities of studying, with a view to
reproduction, the characteristics and details of these instru-
184 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
ments. They can therefore offer copies of the most cele-
brated Stradivaris, such as the ' Messie/ the ' Tuscan,'
the ' Betts,' the ' Alard,' the ' Rode/ the ' Viotti, 1 etc.
The price of these instruments is 35." There is nothing of
the ordinary trade " puff " about this, and the business is
exactly such as it is described. Haweis concludes his
account of the present establishment by saying that it is
" when considered in all its branches, the largest individual
violin-dealing industry in the world."
The firm also make fine bows, cases, and all fiddle acces-
sories " on a scale hitherto unattempted in this country."
Their bows have a great reputation, and are used by many
distinguished players. They are violin and bow makers by
royal appointment to H.M. the King, H.M. the King of
Italy, H.M. the King of Portugal, H.M. the Ex-Queen
Regent of Spain, H.M. Queen Maria Pia of Portugal. They
have won the following awards for exhibits of instruments
and bows : Prize Medal, London, 1862 ; Sole Gold Medal,
Society of Arts, 1885 > Gold Medal, Inventions Exhibition,
London, 1885 ; Gold Medal, Paris Universal Exhibition,
1889 ; Diplome d'Honneur, Brussels International Exhibi-
They have one of the largest and finest collections of
stringed instruments in the world, the collection embracing
some of the best of our old British fiddles. I was very
courteously allowed to inspect the collection a short while
ago, and was greatly impressed by the wonderful wealth of
art it displayed. The Messrs. Hill are the authors of several
important works, a list of which will be found in the Appen-
HILTON, THOMAS JAMES, Gorleston : contem-
porary. A professional maker, repairer, and player. He
was born in 1868, and commenced violin making about
twenty years ago, since when he has completed forty-seven
violins, some on the Strad, and some on the Bergonzi model.
A great deal of his time is taken up with repairs, and he
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 185
makes only three or four new instruments in the year. The
work is carefully finished, and the tone is excellent.
HIRCUT, , London : c. 1600.
HOLLARD, GEORGE, Compton-Dundon : 1812-94.
Made a few fiddles, and did a little rustic repairing. He
played the fiddle at the local parish church for many years,
and was a " character " in his way.
HOLLOWAY, JOHN, London : 1775-95. He worked
at 31 Gerard Street, Soho. Indifferent work.
HOPKINS, , Worcester : nineteenth century.
Fairly good work, but he artificially seasoned his wood.
HORRIDGE, WALTER PERCIVAL, Stamford : con-
temporary. Born in York, March 2, 1875. An amateur
who makes lovely violins on the Strad model. He is a
professional wood carver, and his skill in the use of keen
edged tools is manifest in the beautiful workmanship of his
instruments. He is a pupil of Mr. A. L. Scholes, of Rushden.
HOSBORN, THOMAS ALFRED, London : c. 1630.
A maker of lutes and viols.
HOSKINS, JAMES, Camerton, Somerset : early nine-
teenth century. Average work, of no particular model.
There is a fairly well made 'cello of his still in use in the
little village of Camerton.
HOWARD, H. H., . I have seen his name as a
violin maker somewhere, but cannot trace it.
HOXBY, THOMAS, York : nineteenth century.
HUDSON, GEORGE, Skegness : contemporary. A
son of Richard Hudson, well-known in parts of Lancashire as
" Dick o' New-laith," a famous country fiddler. He has
i86 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
made over a hundred instruments, on various models, of
good and careful workmanship.
HUME, A., Peterborough : contemporary. A pro-
fessional maker and player. I have not seen any of his
HUME, CHARLES DAVID, Hawthorne, Melbourne :
contemporary. A native of Liverpool, who emigrated to
Australia about twenty years ago, and who is said to be a
very good maker. He obtained a Diploma of Merit for a case
of violins at the Bendigo Exhibition in 1903.
HUME, RICHARD, Edinburgh: c. 1530. A famous
viol and lute maker.
HUMPHREYS, RICHARD, Carnarvon: c. 1760. A
repairer of crythau (plural of cribth) and the maker of rustic
HURLEY, ARTHUR, Tondu, Glamorgan: contem-
porary. Has made a few violins on an original model.
INGRAM, DAVID, Edinburgh: 1800-10. Average
INGRAM, HENRY, Durham : c. 1820. Very few of his
instruments have been seen.
INGRAM, WALTER, Bristol: c. 1830. Very neat
work, but baked wood, and poor tone.
IRESON, FRANK HERBERT, Bishop Auckland:
contemporary. An amateur who has made a number of
nice violins on the model of Walter H. Mayson.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 187
JAMES, STEPHEN, Bristol : c. 1800. Average work.
JAMIESON, THOMAS, Aberdeen: 1830-45. Fair
work and tone.
JAY, HENRY, London : c. 1640-60. A maker of
viols. His work was considered excellent. Mace's refer-
ences to it are well known.
JAY, HENRY, London : 1746-68. A maker of kits
chiefly. His work was very neat, and the varnish of good
quality. The tone of one of these kits which I tried some
years ago was clear and sweet. He is said to have got 5
for a kit a remarkable figure, equivalent to about 10
to-day. He made violoncellos for Longman & Broderip.
MADE BY HENRY JAY,
IN LONG ACRE, LONDON, 1750.
JAY, THOMAS, London : c. 1690-1720. He made a
number of instruments of superior workmanship, which had
a rather small but pleasing tone.
JENKINS, THOMAS, Haverfordwest : 1819-90. He
made a number of instruments on various models, of good
workmanship and tone. He played the 'cello regularly for
many years in S. Martin's church, and he possessed a clear
alto voice of wonderful compass.
JOHNSON, JOHN, London : 1750-60. Fair work-
manship. The tone although not large is clear and pene-
trating. A very high-arched violin, with thin, dry, yellow
varnish had the following label :
MADE BY JOHN JOHNSON,
17 LONDON 55.
i88 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
JOHNSTON, JAMES, Pollokshields : nineteenth cen-
tury. Alexander Murdoch, in a little work entitled : " The
Fiddle in Scotland," has the following note on his work :
" An amateur who has turned out some of the best speci-
mens of recent violin making in Scotland. Mr. Johnston has
a fine taste for, and a genuine admiration of, the fiddle, as
well as a superior practical genius for its construction. He
is the possessor of a very valuable Strad violin.''
JONES, , Barnstaple : contemporary.
JONES, DAVID, Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan : 1760-
1840. A most ingenious man who made clocks, mechanical
toys, artificial teeth, and fiddles, and other curious things.
A full account of him and his numerous inventions appeared
in the " Merthyr Express " some years ago.
JONES, JOHN, Port Dinorwic,N. Wales: 1833-1906.
An amateur who made a few fiddles of no particular model.
The workmanship was rough, but the tone was not so bad.
He played the 'cello for many years at the parish church of
KELMAN, JAMES, Aberchirder, N.B. : nineteenth
century. Commonplace work and tone.
KENDAL, GEORGE, : contemporary.
KENDLE, PHILLIP, Hereford: c. 1820. Average
KENNEDY, ALEXANDER, London : 1695-1785. Very
fair work on the Stainer model.
KENNEDY, JOHN, London : 1730-1816. A nephew
of Alexander Kennedy. Indifferent work.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 189
KENNEDY, THOMAS, London: 1784-1870. He
was a prolific maker, and it is said that he made at least
two thousand instruments of all sizes. The workmanship
is good, but the tone is not of equal merit, being often harsh
and metallic. A violin with a birch back and yellow varnish
had the following label :
KIRKWOOD, ROBERT, Edinburgh : nineteenth cen-
tury. A goldsmith, and a clever amateur who made a
number of lovely violins.
KNAPTON, , London : c. 1830.
KNIGHT, ALFRED, Worcester : 1800-10. Ordinary
LANCASTER, ARTHUR CATTON, Colne, Lancas-
shire : contemporary. He was born at Bishop Auckland in
1869, and works now at 5 Smith Street, Colne, as a pro-
fessional maker and repairer. He has made a number of
violins, a few 'cellos, and one double bass, on the Stradivari
and Guarneri models. The workmanship is beautiful, and
the tone bright, sweet, and responsive. A violin made to
the memory of the late W. Hartley, band master to the
ill-fated Titanic, was made of very fine wood, carefully
finished in every detail, and covered with oil varnish of
excellent quality. It had a large and telling tone. Hartley
and Lancaster at one time played first violins in the Colne
Orchestra, and Lancaster played the violin at his friend's
funeral. The work of this maker is bound to come to the
igo BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
LAUGHER, WILLIAM, Redditch : 1830 to about 1906.
A manufacturer of steel and plated pins by trade, who made
a number of violins as a hobby.
LEWIS, EDWARD, London: 1695-1730. A magni-
ficent old maker, whose work is, unfortunately, very rare.
I have seen only three violins of his make, one of which was
on a model approximating to that of Maggini, the wood,
workmanship, and tone being very fine indeed. The
varnish was an oil one, of a rich golden-red colour, perfectly
transparent, and elastic. No label of his is known.
LIGHT, EDWARD, London : 1780-1805. A lute and
harp maker chiefly : he made very few violins.
LINDSAY, , Newcastle-on-Tyne : contemporary.
LINDSAY, DAVID, Edzell, N.B. : contemporary. An
amateur who has made about forty violins of good work-
manship, on the models of Stradivari and Guarneri.
LINDSAY, MICHAEL, H., Stockton-on-Tees : 1837
to about 1906. He was a professional maker and repairer,
and made a large number of instruments, chiefly violins,
on the Strad model. He used excellent wood, and a very
fine amber oil varnish of his own make. The work is care-
fully finished all over, and the scroll especially is well carved
in the best Italian style. The tone is not very powerful,
but is of a very pleasing quality. Lindsay had a paralytic
seizure in 1902, which put a period to his making, and
during the few remaining years of his life he was unable to
do anything beyond a little repairing. He won a medal for
an exhibit of violins at the Liverpool Exhibition some years
ago. He was a real artist, and his instruments will improve
with age and careful use. Facsimile label :
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 191
LISTER, JOHN, Leeds : 1720-30. Very ordinary work
on the Stainer model.
LOGAN, JOHN, Biggar, N.B. : contemporary. An
excellent amateur maker and repairer. He has made a
considerable number between fifty and sixty I think
of violins on the Joseph, Strad, and Maggini models. His
work is beautifully finished, and it is a pity he is not able to
devote his whole time to the craft. Label :
AB1NCTON, N.B., 1895.
LOMAX, JACOB, Bolton : contemporary. He worked
at ii Durham Street, where he also carried on the business
of pawnbroking, but I have an idea that he has left Bolton
and that I saw him in London recently.
LONGMAN & BRODERIP, London : 1750-73. They
were dealers, and not actual makers. They bought all sorts
of instruments, into which they put their trade label.
LONGSON, , London.
LOTT, GEORGE FREDERICK, London : 1800-68.
He was the eldest son of John Frederick Lott. A very
clever workman, and a very clever imitator too clever,
indeed. He worked for many years with Davies, of Coven-
LOTT, JOHN FREDERICK, London : c. 1800-1871.
He was the second son of John Frederick Lott, senior, and
was born in London about the year 1800. He is the hero of
Charles Reade's " Jack of all Trades : A Matter-of-fact
Romance." He was an exceedingly clever craftsman, and
a man, as Hart says, of " strangely varied talents." There
is no doubt about it, and among the variety of talent he
displayed was one for brilliant forgery. Some of his skilful
192 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
counterfeits have deceived the ablest judges. I can only
reiterate what I have said before that all the talent and skill
a craftsman of this sort has will not atone for a life of fraud.
LOTT, JOHN FREDERICK, London : c. 1795-1853.
He was born in Germany in 1775, and it is supposed that he
came to London about 1795. He died there in 1853, and
was buried in the Churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.
He was a cabinet maker at first, but under the influence of
Fendt he before long discarded that trade for the more
congenial one of violin making. In 1798 he obtained work
with Dodd, for whom he made those violoncellos and double
basses which helped to swell the fame and fortune of the
Englishman. The work of Lott, more especially his basses,
was of the highest order, and it is the unanimous verdict of
experts that it will bear comparison with the best Italian
work. Hart sums up his merits briefly by saying that " he
was certainly the king of the English double-bass makers/'
LUTON, GEORGE, Leicester, c. 1840. Fairly good
LYE, HENRY, Camerton, Somerset : contemporary.
He was born at Camerton in 1832, and has lived there all his
life. He was for fifty-six years employed as carpenter on
the Camerton Court Estate, and during these long years he
devoted all his spare time to the construction of violins.
An article on " Camerton Court and its History," which
appeared in The Bristol Times and Mirror for June 6,
1914, contained the following reference to Lye : " Camerton
Court, a mansion built and occupied by Mr. John Jarrett,
and after his death by the Misses Jarrett . . . Miss A. M.
Jarrett found great pleasure in wood carving, while Miss
Emily Jarrett, who was more musically inclined, was an
accomplished organist and violinist. Several violins and
violas were made and supplied to her by Mr. Henry Lye. . . .
This remarkable old gentleman, although over eighty-two
years of age, can still see to read without glasses. His work
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 193
at the Court ended about three years ago, but he is still
busy at his favourite hobby, and has a number of his violins
waiting for purchasers." Mr. Lye is now in his eighty-
fourth year, but (thanks to splendid health, a steady nerve,
and keen sight) is still able to wield the gouge. He has
made a large number of violins, and a considerable number
of violas and violoncellos. The instruments are solidly
built, the workmanship of uniform excellence, and the
tone large, bright, and responsive.
MACGREGOR, , Glasgow: nineteenth century.
Said to have been a good maker.
M'GILL, JAMES CAMPBELL, Arran : nineteenth
century. Fairly good work.
M'INTOSH, JAMES, Blairgowrie : 1801-73. Good
work. He used spirit varnish, but it is put on so thin
that the tone is not materially injured. A Mr. Case, of 14
Park Avenue, Handsworth, Birmingham, owns the finest
specimen of his work that I have seen. It has a back cut
on the slab, with a rather thick neck and sound holes that
are rather straight and stiff : the model approximates to
that of Amati. There is a character about the work which
is rather striking, and the tone of this fiddle is certainly good.
He made about two hundred and fifty instruments, including
violins, violas, and violoncellos.
MACINTOSH, JOHN, Galston, N.B. : contemporary.
An artist and antiquary who makes violins en amateur.
M'INTOSH, WILLIAM, Dundee : contemporary. Very
MACKINTOSH, , Dublin.
194 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
M'GEE, , Belfast : nineteenth century.
M'GEORGE, GEORGE, Edinburgh : 1796-1820. A
pupil and follower of Matthew Hardie who made excellent
instruments. He used a spirit varnish which is of a slightly
better quality than that of Hardie. There does not appear
to be much of his work left.
M'KENZIE, MALCOLM, Dumbarton, N.B. : 1828
to about 1904. Made many instruments, of average merit.
M'LAY, WILLIAM, Kincardine-on-Forth : 1815 to
about 1890. Very poor work.
M'NEILL, JOHN, Edinburgh : contemporary.
M'NEILL, , Dublin : early nineteenth century.
M'NICOLL, ALEXANDER, Padanaram : nineteenth
century. Indifferent work.
M'SWAN, JOHN, Partick : contemporary. An ama-
teur who has made a number of violins of about average
MAGHIE, JOHN FISHER, Dalston : contemporary.
Said to be a good maker, but I cannot say, as I have not seen
MALLAS, ALEXANDER, Leith : 1826-91. Mr. Honey-
man says his violins are well made, with a good tone.
MANN, JOHN ALEXANDER, Glasgow: 1810-89.
It appears from the numerous letters that I have received
in reference to my remarks upon this maker's work that I
have very much under-estimated the ability of Mann and the
merits of his instruments. It may be that I have, and
that the following remarks which I cull from " The Fiddle
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 195
in Scotland," by Alexander G. Murdoch, give a more just
estimate of his work : " Mr. Mann settled in Glasgow as a
musical instrument maker and machinist. This would be
about the year 1845, at which date his direct professional
connection with fiddle making and repairing first began.
In this fine field Mr. Mann found excellent scope for the
exercise of his superior genius and taste. A mind of so
much vigour and wealth of invention would not long remain
a mere copyist in the make and repair of violins. Impelled
by sincere artistic instincts, he made a long, patient, and
careful study of the delicate construction and complex
acoustics of the instrument, and his previous knowledge of
chemistry which had been a study of his youth had made
him perfectly acquainted with all the gums and solvents
used in the manufacture of violin varnish. In this way Mr.
Mann soon became a deft worker, . . . and as years in-
creased, his fame spread, till latterly he has come to be
recognised as one of the most distinguished of our present-
day fiddle makers. Widely known as a maker, he is equally
celebrated as a repairer of valuable old violins. In this
respect he has had an unsurpassed experience. In the
course of his professional career, some of the finest and most
valuable of our old historic violins have from time to time
been submitted to his judgment and inspection, or left in
his skilful hands for repair.'* Mann was a personal friend of
J. B. Vuillaume, whom he used to visit regularly at Paris
once a year. The fact is, if I must give expression to my
honest conviction, these visits were more than friendly
visits, and had for their primary object business of a definite
nature. I believe many of the instruments bearing Mann's
labels were supplied him " in the white " by Vuillaume,
Charles Jacquot, or some other Parisian makers whom he
used to meet at Vuillaume 's table. Some of Mann's work
has a very striking resemblance to some of Vuillaume's.
Albeit, I have not the slightest doubt that Mann was
singularly gifted, and that he has made many violins of the
196 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
MANN, T. H., Cardiff and Bedford : contemporary.
A very gifted civil engineer who has made about thirty
instruments, of very beautiful workmanship and good tone.
Hie has given much time and thought to the theory of the
construction of stringed instruments, and is a keen art
MANUEL, EVAN, Merthyr Tydfil : early nineteenth
century. He made many fiddles and a few Welsh harps.
I have seen only one violin of his make, which was on the
Stainer model, high-arched, rather well made, but with a
tone inclined to be harsh and shrill.
MARLAND, JOHN & SEPTIMUS, Hurst: nine-
teenth century. Very fair work.
MARNIE, JOHN, Padanaram : nineteenth century.
MARSHALL, JOHN, London : 1750-60. Fairly
good work on the Stainer model.
MARSHALL, JOHN, Aberdeen : contemporary. He
was born in the parish of Methlick, Aberdeenshire, in 1844,
and has been established in Aberdeen nearly half-a-century
as a professional maker and repairer. He has made upwards
of three hundred instruments, including violins, violas,
and violoncellos, of excellent workmanship and tone. He
has followed the Amati, Guarneri, Stradivari, and Gagliano
models. For many years now he has worked on the model
of a beautiful Alessandro Gagliano which he had through his
hands for repair, and of which he took careful measurements.
I examined quite a number of these at his workshop in
Woolman Street, about a year ago, and thought them
solidly constructed and well finished instruments. Mr.
Marshall is highly respected throughout the north of Scot-
land as a skilful repairer and conscientious man, and the
practical evidence of this respect is the abundance of work
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS
which he always has in hand. For the past nine years he
has been assisted by Mr. William Glennie, a maker and
repairer of undoubted ability. Facsimile label :
Marshall died on March 16, 1919.
MARTIN, , London. Little or nothing is known of
MARTIN, HENRY, Nottingham: c. 1800. Fairly
good work, which would be better but for the exaggerated
MAYSON,STANSFIELD, Manchester : contemporary.
Son, pupil, and successor of Walter H. Mayson. He has
made about twenty instruments on his father's model,
which are of good workmanship and tone. It is too soon
to predict whether he will attain the excellence of his father,
but he has undoubted abilities.
MAYSON, WALTER HENRY, Manchester: 1835-
1904. He was born at Cheetwood, near Manchester, on
November 8, 1835, an d was tne fourth son of Mark and
Elizabeth Mayson. His father was a descendant of an ancient
Cumberland family, and in the days of his prosperity owned
considerable property in Keswick. His mother's maiden
name was Green, and she was a daughter of William Green,
the painter, whose work was so highly esteemed by Professor
Wilson ("Christopher North"), Hartley, Coleridge, and
William Wordsworth, the poet.
198 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Mayson was educated at the celebrated school of Thomas
Whalley, where he early gained distinction at English com-
position, his essays being often selected by the headmaster
for public reading before the school. At the age of seventeen
he was apprenticed to a firm of merchants in Manchester,
with whom he served five years. During this time he
devoted his spare hours to the pursuit of music and litera-
ture, and he contributed verses and occasional essays to the
periodicals and local press. He made his first fiddle in 1873,
and very shortly afterwards he resolved to give up his post
(he was now in a good position with a large firm of mer-
chants) and to devote his life to the art and craft of violin
making. From this time to the end of his life he steadily
made at the rate of about two instruments per month. The
total number he made reached the high figure of eight
hundred and eleven, all entirely made by himself, with the
exception of the last instrument, which was only half
finished when the hand of death was laid upon him. Of
these, twenty-seven were violas, twenty-one violoncellos,
and the rest violins. As far as I can gather from Mayson 's
correspondence, and from my own observation, about one-
fourth of the total number of instruments made by him are
of his better class, the rest being of a lower some of them
of a much lower grade of excellence. It is very unfortu-
nate that this fine artist was during the greater part of his
life entirely at the mercy of circumstances circumstances
over which he could possibly have no control, and for which
he was not at all responsible. I am morally certain of one
thing, that Mayson never turned out a poor instrument
from his hands by choice or by neglect. But he was poor,
and at times very poor, so that he was often obliged to put
inferior material into his instruments, and often inferior (or
less finished) work too, and thus to sacrifice to the need
of the moment much of his fame with posterity. It is
when we contemplate the cruel lot of a genius like May-
son that the truth is borne in upon us that poverty is a
VIOLIN BY MAYSON.
To face p. ic
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 199
But Mayson's best work is magnificent. It will bear
comparison with the finest work produced in modern times
by any maker in this or any other country. In his earlier
days he made a number of instruments on the models of
Stradivari and Guarneri, but his strong mind refused to bend
for long to the mind of another artist, even though he were
a Stradivari, and he struck out on original lines. The
principal measurements of his original model for violins
Length of body . * " ./ . ^ 14^ inches.
Width across upper bouts . 6| ,,
middle . . V 4$
lower . '. , 8i
Depth of ribs at lower bouts . ? . ij
upper . ,.-. ii
Length of sound-holes . . 3
Distance between /'s at upper turn . if
The arching is slightly more pronounced than it is in instru-
ments of the grand Strad pattern.
Mayson made about a dozen instruments with carved
backs, that is, with landscapes, flowers, or figures carved
thereon in bas-relief. The relief is only one-fortieth of an
inch, and the effect is wonderful in so slight a cutting.
Fine as these are, however, as works of art, I do not think
they represent the finest success of Mayson for tone, probably
the inequality of thicknessing due to the carving affected
the tone detrimentally it certainly could not improve it.
Mayson worked at various places, first at " The Polygon,"
Lower Broughton, next in Burton Arcade, Deansgate,
Manchester, where he remained for some time, and made
many instruments ; he removed thence to Croft House,
Newby Bridge, at the foot of Winder mere, where he remained
for six years, and made much of his best work. From
Newby Bridge he went back to Manchester, opening a shop
at 62 Oxford Street : here he worked for several years.
200 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
In 1899 he opened a workshop at 256 High Holborn, London,
but this venture turned out a disastrous failure, and he was
obliged once more to turn his face towards Manchester.
Broken in fortune and bruised in spirit the poor artist's
health gradually gave way, and a paralytic seizure at the
close of the year 1904 completed a work already commenced
by adversity. He died in his seventieth year. Facsimile
Each instrument was named, and the label was worded
accordingly. Mayson was awarded medals at Cork, in
1883 ; Inventions, London, 1885 ; and Melbourne, in 1888.
Many tributes were paid to his genius in his lifetime by men
who knew his work well, and the press was lavish in its
praise of the old craftsman when he had laid by for ever his
gouge and calipers.
Mayson published several works, including " Colazzi,"
"The Heir of Dalton," "The Stolen Fiddle," "Violin
Making," etc., and he left a number of others in manuscript.
MEARES, RICHARD, London : 1660-80. A maker of
lutes and viols.
MEARES, RICHARD, London : 1675-90. Son of the
preceding. He made a few violins, but left the trade soon
after the death of his father.
MEEK, JAMES, Carlisle :> contemporary. He was
born at Cleator, Cumberland, in 1862, and has been working
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 201
as a professional maker and repairer at 15 Tait Street,
Carlisle, for twenty years. He has made fifty- three instru-
ments up to date, nearly all violins, some on the A. and H.
Amati model, but the majority on the Strad and Guarneri
models. Most of his time is taken up with repairs, and he
can make only two or three violins in the course of a year.
His work is beautifully finished, and his material selected
with scrupulous care. A violin of his make on the A. and
H. Amati model which I saw and tried some years ago was
one of the most delicately and exquisitely finished objects
I have ever handled. The wood of its back was of narrow
but definite and perfectly regular curl, and the instrument
was covered with a golden amber varnish of wonderful
" fire." The tone was not large, but it was sweet and
responsive. Mr. Meek has a high reputation as a repairer
of all kinds of stringed instruments. Facsimile label :
MEIKLE, ROBERT, Lesmahagow : 1817-97. Ordinary
MEGGISON, ALFRED: Manchester: c. 1800.
Workmanship very fair, but high arching.
MENTIPLY, ANDREW ADAM, Ladybank, Fife:
contemporary. An amateur maker and repairer of con-
siderable ability and skill. He has made a large number of
violins, some on the Strad model, but the majority on an
original model, which is of rather l^rge dimensions, with
somewhat peculiar sound-holes. The tone is very good.
MENZIES, JOHN, Falkirk : 1820-31. His work is
said to be fairly good.
202 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
MEREDITH, L., London: c. 1720-50. Mr. W. M.
Groundwater, of Salford, Manchester, had a fiddle through
his hands in 1910 labelled : " L. Meredith, St. Paul's
Churchyard, London, 1734," which he described as being
rather large and somewhat on the lines of Maggini, with
deep ribs, and covered with brown varnish, rather thick in
pate. The tone was fairly good.
MERLIN, JOSEPH, London : 1765-80. Stainer
model, fairly good work, but rather poor tone. The varnish
is mostly dirty yellow or brown of an inferior quality. His
mechanical pegs for violins and 'cellos were in demand at
one time. Label :
JOSEPHUS MERLIN CREMONAE EMULUS,
NO. 104, LONDINI, 1779, IMPROVED.
69 QUEEN ANN STREET EAST, PORTLAND CHAPEL.
MIER, , London : c. 1780.
MILLER, , London : c. 1750. Little or nothing is
known of him.
MILLER, or MILLAR, Belfast : contemporary appar-
ently. The Rev. Father Greaven gives his name in his list.
MILLER, ALEXANDER, St. Andrews : 1813-77. A
pupil of Thomas Hardie. The work is very good, but the
tone often disappointing. At his death Miller left a large
stock of excellent wood, which was bought by Mr. John
Logan, of Biggar.
MILLER, JOHN, Dundee : contemporary. His work
is said to be very good.
MILNE, PATRICK G., Aberdeen : contemporary. He
was born at Aberdeen in 1873, and works there now at 16
Guild Street as a professional maker and repairer. He is
one of the best of present day Scottish makers. He has
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 203
made a few violins on the Guarneri model, but nearly all his
later work is on the grand Strad pattern. He is very par-
ticular about the material he uses, and only puts wood into
his instruments which thoroughly satisfies him as to its
proper seasoning and acoustical qualities. All the work is
executed by Mr. Milne personally, and every detail is
scrupulously attended to and beautifully finished. The
varnish is an oil one, the colour varying from light orange
to dark red : it is of excellent quality and perfectly trans-
parent. He has made about fifty violins and a few violas
and violoncellos. His instruments are well liked by pro-
fessional players. Much of his time is taken up with repairs.
Facsimile label :
MINER, D. BROWN, Dunfermline : contemporary.
MITCHELL, GEORGE, Edzell : 1823-97. Average
MITCHELL, JOHN, Dunfermline : contemporary.
MITCHELL, , Captain, Toronto, Canada : con-
temporary. Very glowing accounts of his work have
appeared in the Canadian press.
MOFFATT, W. J., . His violins are occasionally
advertised in catalogues of old instruments, but I cannot
say when or where he worked.
MOLYNEUX, , Dublin: c. 1800. A very fine
violin of his make is in the Dublin Museum, which is quite
Italian in character. Father Greaven thinks he was a
foreigner who had settled down in Dublin in early life.
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
MONK, JOHN KING, Lewisham, and Blackheath :
contemporary. He was born in 1846, and is a descendant
in the direct line of General Monk, of Commonwealth fame.
He has carried on business for many years as a professional
maker and repairer, and is considered a clever and con-
scientious craftsman. He has made a large number of
violins on a model which closely approximates to that of
the grand Strad. He uses excellent material, and a lustrous
oil varnish of fine quality, ranging m colour from pale amber
to deep golden red. He is of an inventive turn of mind, and
has introduced and put on the market, I believe, some
" patent improvements," such as the " triple bar system/'
the " Maggini bass bar," etc. All lovers of classical methods,
and adherents to the old traditions, look with suspicion
upon these innovations, and not without very good reasons.
Mr. Monk, however, makes instruments of the orthodox
type, and his best work is excellent in every way. Facsimile
McnTOK* Suftact. 8.W
MORGAN, JAMES, Edinburgh : 1839 to about 1906.
A cabinet maker who made a number of excellent violins
and other stringed instruments during spare time.
MORGAN, WILLIAM, Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven :
contemporary. He was born in 1844, and has been keeper
of the celebrated castle of Dunnottar for many years, and a
professional violin maker for the last ten or dozen years.
He has fitted up a workshop in a part of the romantic old
ruins of the castle by the sea, and there, to the wild music
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 205
of the waves, he muses and carves and fashions his fiddles.
Morgan is a " character " of an old-world type, with a mind
steeped in ancient lore, and a memory packed with reminis-
cences and quaint anecdote. The old ruins are to him a
palace, and fiddle making a golden dream. He has made
about a hundred violins, some of which are on the Stradivari
and Guarneri models, but the majority on that of Alessandro
Gagliano, with the arch slightly reduced. The workmanship
is characterised by masculine strength and a kind of pleasing
ruggedness rather than by delicacy and finesse. The
remarkable thing about his work is the fine tone he obtains.
All his instruments that I have tried have a large, brilliant,
and sonorous tone. There is no mistaking its quality it
is such as we always associate with the name " Italian."
When time and use have had their mellowing effect upon it,
nothing better will be desired nothing better will be
Facsimile label :
MOORE, ANTHONY JOHN, Sunderland : contem-
porary. An artist by profession, who has taken up violin
making as a hobby. I have not seen any of his recent work,
but some of his instruments are said to have a beautiful tone.
MORRIS, J., BATH: nineteenth century. I know
nothing of him or his work. A violin of his make was sold
206 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
at Messrs. Puttick & Simpson's sale on June 8, 1906, which
was well made and had a good tone.
MORRISON, ARCHIBALD, Glasgow : 1820-95. He
worked in Great Hamilton Street, where he had a music
shop, and where he made a large number of fiddles of all
sorts. His shop was a rendezvous of fiddle enthusiasts and
players, who were known about Glasgow as " Morrison's
MORRISON, JAMES, Dunfermline : nineteenth cen-
MORRISON, JOHN, London : 1760-1^827. He worked
mostly for the trade.
MORTIMER, JOHN WILLIAM, Cardiff: contem-
porary. Born at Gomersal, near Leeds, in 1857. He is a
pupil of William Heaton, Gomersal, and he received some
instruction also from W. J. Cartwright, of Yeadon. He has
been established in Cardiff for about fifteen years as a
professional maker, repairer, and double bass player. Mr.
Mortimer is unique amongst violin makers : he has seven
sons, all professional players, each of whom plays upon an
instrument of his father's make. This surely constitutes
a record, and it is worthy of remark that every member of
this wonderful family is a musician and an artist of un-
doubted ability. Mr. Mortimer has made a considerable
number of instruments, including violins, violas, 'cellos,
and double basses. His larger instruments are noted for
their full, sonorous, and responsive tone. One double bass
which I have seen was made of exceptionally fine and beau-
tifully figured wood : it had an immense tone of excellent
quality. His smaller instruments, which are on an original
model, are very carefully constructed, and have a large and
telling tone. The violas are made in two sizes, the larger
one being i6J inches long, with widths of 8, 5|, and 10
inches. , He has used various varnishes, such as Whitelaw's,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 207
Briggs', and on some of his larger instruments an amber
varnish of his own make.
Having been trained originally as a cabinet maker and
wood carver he is very skilful in the use of keen-edged tools,
and his repairs show the practised hand of the qualified
craftsman. Being the only properly trained repairer within
a radius of thirty or forty miles, and living as he does in a
populous centre and in a very musical city, nearly all his
time is taken up with repairs. He is an intelligent and
conscientious man, an ardent musician, an excellent
bassist, and a painstaking and capable craftsman.
MURDOCH, ALEXANDER, Aberdeen : 1815-91. Said
to have made a large number of instruments.
MURPHY, BARTHOLOMEW, Cork : 1780-1830.
MURPHY, JOHN, Cork : c. 1820-50. Possibly a son
of the preceding.
MURPHY, DENNIS, Dublin : c. 1830.
MURRAY, DAVID, Gorebridge : contemporary. An
amateur of considerable ability, who has made several
MURRAY, JAMES, Dumfries : contemporary.
MURRAY, JOHN BROWN, Clarebrand : contem-
porary. An amateur who has made several good violins.
MUST, FREDERICK, Shrewsbury : c. 1800. Amati
model with a much exaggerated arch.
MYERS, CHARLES, Hereford : c. 1820. I have seen
his name in a catalogue of old instruments.
MYLES, FRANCIS, Cardiff: c. 1840. Rather poor
208 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
NAYLOR, ISAAC, Headingly, Leeds : 1775-90. A
pupil of Richard Duke, many of whose characteristics he
reproduced in his work.
NEWCOMBE, GEORGE, Leicester : nineteenth cen-
NEWTON, ISAAC, London: 1775-1825. He made
mostly for the trade, particularly for Betts. Fairly good
NICHOLAS, EDWARD, Bristol : c. 1800. I have seen
his name in a catalogue of old instruments.
NICOL, THOMAS, Glasterlaw : 1840 to about 1910.
He made about seventy or eighty violins on the models of
Stradivari and Guarneri. Careful work.
NICOLSON, JAMES, Stirling : 1770-90. His name
appeared in a Scottish catalogue some years ago.
NISBET, WILLIAM, Lint Mill, Prestonkirk : 1828-
1902. An extraordinarily versatile man, of whom the Rev.
G. Marjoribanks, Vicar of Stenton, wrote as follows in the
Haddington Courier : " It is not too much to say that in
whatever direction Nisbet has turned his energies he has
always excelled . . . he is a man possessed not only of rare
technical skill, but of such accurate and extensive informa-
tion, gathered mainly from personal observation and study
in the fields of natural history and science, whether as
photographer, wood-carver, carpenter, basket maker, violin
maker, the productions of his genius and labour have been
equally appreciated, etc." He made a hundred and
twenty violins, some on the Maggini and some on the Amati
model. The workmanship is excellent, and the tone very
good. He was awarded two bronze medals for an exhibit
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 209
of instruments at the Edinburgh International Exhibition
NOBLE, HUGH, Dundee : contemporary. An amateur.
NOLTON, CHRISTOPHER, Bristol: c. 1810. His
name has appeared in catalogues.
NORBORN, JOHN, London : c. 1720.
NORDEN, RICHARD, Crewe : 1830-50. Average
NORMAN, BARAK, London: 1688-1740. He was
a pupil of Thomas Urquhart, and worked first in Bishopsgate
and afterwards in St. Paul's Churchyard He worked on
the Maggini model, which he however modified in some
respects. No violins of his are known. He is supposed to
have been the second violoncello maker in this country. His
instruments are of very full proportions, and the work is, as
a rule, beautifully finished. The varnish is usually dark
brown or dark amber, and is of excellent quality. The
tone is powerful and sonorous. He became partner to
Nathaniel Cross about the year 1715, and both worked at
the sign of the " Bass- Viol."
NORRIS, JOHN, London : 1739-1818. A pupil of
Thomas Smith, and for some time partner with Barnes.
OLDHAM, THOMAS, Tewkesbury : c. 1820.
OLIVER, JAMES, Reading : 1810-40. He used baked
O'MAHONY, JAMES, Mitchelstown, Ireland: con-
temporary. A contractor and builder by trade who has
210 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
made about sixty violins during spare time. His work is
nicely finished and his instruments have a good tone.
OMOND, JAMES, Kirbuster, Stromness : 1833 to
about 1907. He was originally a schoolmaster, but had to
give up that profession through a break-down in health. He
picked up watchmaking and repairing, and a few years later
violin making and repairing, and to the latter craft he
adhered to the end of his days, eventually becoming a
professional maker of some importance. He made in all
about three hundred instruments, including violins, violas,
and violoncellos. He worked on the Stradivari and Guarneri
models, but these models in a number of his instruments
were considerably modified. Some of his Joseph " copies "
could hardly be described as copies at all. The work is
very carefully finished throughout, and the tone is moder-
ately powerful and of a good quality. He would have
obtained a larger tone if he had given his plates a greater
taper. His fiddles are overstocked with wood. It is a wise
provision to leave plenty of wood in a new instrument, but
a great error to leave too much almost as great as leaving
too little. Omond obtained four diplomas of merit and
bronze medals at various Exhibitions.
ORCHARD, JOSEPH, Worcester: 1840-50. His
name has appeared in old catalogues.
ORTON, PHILLIP, Hereford: 1845-60. Ordinary
work of no particular model.
OSBORNE, HENRY, Sherborne, Dorset: c. 1860.
OSMOND, WILLIAM, Evesham : 1810-35. He made
a few fairly good instruments, and a good number, appar-
ently, that can only be described as rough, amateurish work.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 211
OTTLEY, JACOB, Bristol : c. 1800. I have seen his
name in catalogues of old instruments more than once.
One instrument advertised was described as having a large
and fine tone.
OUTRAM, FREDERICK, : early nineteenth
century, apparently. I saw a violin with his name written
in ink on the wood, a few years back, which was a well-made
instrument with a good tone.
OWEN, JOHN WILLIAM, Leeds: contemporary.
He was born in Leeds, May 28, 1852, and is the only son of
William and Hannah Owen. His mother, whose maiden
name was Rimmer, was a professional designer of fancy
work, and was considered to be without a rival in the
northern counties in that department of art and craft.
Owen received early education at an elementary school in
his native town, but it was discontinued at a stage which
made it necessary for him to supplement it by attendance
at technical classes in the evenings later on in life. He was
apprenticed to the engineering profession, but his health
giving way he was obliged to relinquish that profession and
to seek lighter work. During a long illness he had attempted
violin making as a means of whiling away the idle hours,
and succeeding beyond his expectation he resolved to adopt
the craft as a profession as soon as health permitted. He
acquired a theoretical knowledge of violin construction from
books, and a practical knowledge from expert workmen, and
from an extended visit to one of the larger workshops in
He commenced as a professional violin maker and
repairer in 1884, and since then he has completed about two
hundred instruments, including violins, violas, and violon-
cellos, and his list of repairs (of which he keeps a strict
record) is an extraordinary one, standing at just over five
He works on the Stradivari and Guarneri models, also on
212 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
an original one, the principal measurements of which are :
Length of body . . . . .14? inches.
Width across upper bouts . . 6f
middle . 4!
lower . 8J
Length of C's ..... 3
>t / * . . .3 >
Depth of ribs i J inch diminishing to. .
The outline of this model is very pure, and every individual
part is in perfect keeping with the whole. The margins are
full and the edges strong, slightly raised, and beautifully
rounded. The scroll is an exquisite piece of carving, and in
the best Italian style. Every detail of the work, both inside
and outside, is finished with scrupulous care. The mitres
of the ribs were geometrically true in all the instruments
examined by me, having facets of nearly a millimetre in
width a mode of finishing this little detail which I con-
sidered to be more suitable to the model than the " knife-
edge " facet. The sound-holes were clean cut, but there was
nothing mechanical about them, as there is, e.g., about many
of the better class modern French work, in which the sound-
holes appear as though they had been cut or punched out
with one blow with an f-shaped tool.
Mr. Owen is particularly successful in obtaining a fine
tone. A violin of his make which I have, and which has
been in regular use for the last fifteen years, has developed
a very responsive, broad, and brilliant tone, and it is a tone
which is improving steadily every year.
His violoncellos are specially liked. The late Mr. Van
Biene, Mr. Arthur Broadley, Mr. David Dixon, and other
well-known 'cellists have written in the highest terms of
their merits. Mr. Owen is an enthusiast in and for his art.
To an outsider he would doubtless appear as one that has
no room in his soul for anything save fiddles. He lives in
his workshop all the year round, and every day of the year,
VIOLIN BY OWEN.
To face p. 212.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS
except Sundays, when he seeks a little relaxation in the
form of long walks during the day and some music in the
evening. He is not an enthusiast of the kind Matthew
Arnold had in his mind when he wrote that " unfortunately
few people who feel a passion think of learning anything
from it " : Mr. Owen has learnt a great deal he has learnt
that there is much in life worth living for, and that in art,
especially, the good, the true, and the beautiful are worth
possessing for their own sake. There can be little doubt
that his instruments will be much valued in time to come.
Facsimile label :
The date is not on the label, but" is inscribed on the bare
wood after the maker's autograph.
OXLEY, JOSEPH, Cambridge : c. 1800. His name
appears in an old list (1884) of instruments for sale.
PAMPHILON, EDWARD, London : 1670-90. A fine
old maker in many respects, and if he had worked on a
better model his work would rank higher than it does. His
model is a sort of cross between the Brescian and Tyrolese
types, the outline, scroll, double purfling, being Brescian,
but the arching distinctly Tyrolese, and often an exaggera-
tion of even that pattern. He used an oil varnish of good
214 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
quality, ranging in colour from pale amber to light brown.
The tone of his instruments is not large, but it is clear,
sweet, and responsive.
PANORMO, EDWARD, London : nineteenth century.
He was a son or grandson (it is not certain which) of Vin-
cenzo Panormo. He worked in London and in Ireland.
PANORMO, GEORGE, London : nineteenth century.
PANORMO, GEORGE LEWIS, London : c. 1810-40.
He was the second son of Vincenzo Panormo, and worked
in Oxford Street, and afterwards in High Street, St. Giles-
in-the-Fields. He was an excellent bow maker, but did
not reach the same high standard in violin making as his
PANORMO, JOSEPH, London : c. 1800-30. He was
the eldest son of Vincenzo Panormo, and worked in New
Compton Street, and later in King Street, Soho. He was an
excellent craftsman, and his violoncellos had a high reputa-
tion at one time. Very few of his instruments are left, or
(which would be nearer the mark) very few of them are
now known as his work.
PARKER, DANIEL, London : 1700-45. The informa-
tion which is usually given about this maker is misleading,
and most writers content themselves with repeating early
errors in almost the same words. Hart, Haweis, and Miss
Stainer, give his period as 1740-85, and Fleming as 1715-85.
As a matter of fact there are undoubtedly genuine examples
of his work still in existence bearing the dates 1700, 1708,
1712, 1719, 1726, and 1732. The earliest which I have
actually seen and tried is dated 1712, a specimen which has
been pronounced genuine by the Messrs. Hill, and the
Messrs. Hart, and which I also think genuine, all except the
scroll. Mr. Richard Hilton, of Derby House, Matlock
Bridge, is (or was, ten years ago) the owner of this interesting
VIOLA BY PARKER.
To face p. 215.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 215
and early example of Parker's art. I have in my possession
a very beautiful violin of his make, on the Strad model, and
in his best style, bearing a label dated 1719. This is genuine
in all its parts, and is of excellent workmanship and tone.
What is considered to be the finest Parker violin in existence
is owned by Clarkson Close, Esq., The Poplars, Newton Park,
Leeds. This is on the " Long Strad " model, with rich
golden red oil varnish, of fine pate and lustre. This instru-
ment is considered by the Messrs. Hill to belong to the year
1700, or thereabouts. It is not dated, and it is impossible
to be certain when it was made, but I certainly think it
resembles the instruments made in 1726 and 1732 much
more than it does the instruments made in 1712 and 1719.
It has been surmised that Parker was a pupil of Pamphilon,
or of Urquhart, or of both, but on what grounds I quite fail
to understand, as there is not the remotest similarity between
his work and the work of either of these makers. It is
not necessary to suppose that he was a pupil of anybody,
for he was a born artist, and endowed by nature with a
special aptitude for the use of fine-edged tools.
His work is thoroughly British in character : it is solid,
chaste, and very " correct " i.e. correct in the sense in
which the word is used when it is applied to the poetry
of the classical school. I do not think the work of any of
our old makers reflects so clearly the spirit of the eighteenth
century as does that of Daniel Parker. I may be rather
fanciful, but I look upon him as the Pope of old British
fiddle makers, that is to say, what Alexander Pope was to
the rest of the poets, that was Daniel Parker to the rest of
the old fiddle makers. Pope is not our greatest poet, nor
is Parker our greatest luthier. There is not one of our old
makers whose work has interested me more, and I have been
at pains to seek out his instruments and to carefully examine
them when I have come across them. Art, to my mind,
reveals the spirit of an age quite as fully and clearly as
literature does. Who that is familiar with the works of
Hogarth will deny that they tell us quite as much about
216 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
the state of society in the eighteenth century as the writings
of Johnson, Addison, Steele, Lamb, Swift, etc., do ? An old
fiddle is certainly not expected to tell as much as an old
picture or an old book does, but it tells a lot to the man who
knows how to interpret its language. Old William Ebs-
worth Hill used to say that he could tell from the internal
organism of the fiddle the kind of tool that had been used in
fashioning it. And the connoisseur imagines that he can
see in the contour, curves, and style of a fiddle the reflection
of the face of the age in which it was constructed : that is,
if the instrument is a good example of the work of a typical
I see in Parker's work that " correctness " which I see in
the poetry of the " classical " school. There is about it the
same sense of solidity, sanity, and mathematical exactness
that is observable in the writings of Pope and his numerous
satellites and imitators. We know nothing about the man
except what is recorded in his work, but that is enough to
inform us that he was an artist of great ability, with tastes
(moulded and regulated in the manner of the age) that were
strictly chaste and coldly " correct."
He copied Stainer, N. Amati, and Stradivari, but his Strad
copies are far and away his best work. The tone is always
fine, and in some instances almost equal to the tone of
Bank's best Amati copies. The plates of the violins are well
stocked with wood, and with due care the instruments may
be expected to last in first-class condition another hundred
years at least. Comparatively few of his instruments have
his own label in them : he made principally for the trade,
and it is not improbable that he sometimes sold his fiddles
" in the white." It does not matter whose labels these fine
old instruments carry, they are easily recognized by the
expert who has made a study of the work of the old English
PATERSON, JAMES, Edinburgh: 1834-98. A
cabinet maker by trade, who made a number of violins on
the Guarneri model, and a few on the " Count Cessol "
VIOLIN BY PARKER.
To face p. 216.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 217
Strad model. He obtained a bronze medal for a case of
violins at the Edinburgh Exhibition, 1890.
PATRICK, WILLIAM, St. Andrews : contemporary.
PAYNE, R., South Shields : contemporary.
PEARCE, GEORGE, London : 1820-56. He worked
for S. A. Forster.
PEARGE, JAMES & THOMAS, London : 1780-1810.
They were brothers, and had their workshop in Peter Street,
Saffron Hill. Indifferent work.
PEARGE, WILLIAM, London : nineteenth century.
Average ability, but he managed to obtain a bronze medal at
the International Exhibition, London, 1885.
PEMBERTON, EDWARD, London : c. 1660. Little
or nothing is really known of him. The legend of the " Earl
of Leicester " violin has been laid to rest, and it would be
of no interest to revive it again.
PERRY, JAMES, Kilkenny : c. 1780-1800. He was
a cousin of Thomas Perry, of Dublin, and a protege of the
Ormonde family, of Kilkenny Castle, so Father Greaven
informs us. He made a large number of instruments, of
rather rough workmanship, but of excellent tone.
PERRY, JOSEPH, Dublin : c. 1800. Probably another
cousin of Thomas Perry. He is said to have made a large
number of instruments of excellent workmanship and tone.
The Rev. Father Greaven says that some of his violins are
almost on a level with the work of Benjamin Banks. This
is saying a very great lot, and it deepens my regret that I
have not seen any of his work.
PERRY, THOMAS, Dublin : c. 1757-1818. A new
light is thrown on the life and work of this celebrated old
2i8 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
maker in an interesting article published in the " Museum
Bulletin " of the National Museum of Science and Art,
Dublin, for July, 1911, by one of the Assistant Keepers,
Mr. A. McGoogan. The article is the result of a very
painstaking research, and the violin world is greatly indebted
to Mr. McGoogan for this timely and valuable contribution
to the literature of the leading instrument. I reproduce
here a large portion of the article for the benefit of those who
take more than a passing interest in the history of British
violin makers : that will be more satisfactory and more honest
than if I were to paraphrase or condense it and claim any
credit for myself. Mr. McGoogan writes : " It is a pity
that research, which has done so much towards illuminating
the history of the Irish harpsichord and pianoforte makers
of the eighteenth century, has done so little to place the
life-story of Thomas Perry, the great violin maker of the
same period, on a firm foundation. At present there is
nothing better to rely upon than the unscientific records of
tradition. Even the country of Perry's origin is not known
for certain. Guesswork has assigned his birth to the year
1767, but circumstances show that he must have been born
at least ten years earlier. It is said that, like Molyneux,
his Dublin predecessor in the art of violin making, he was of
Huguenot descent. It is also stated that he was related to
Claude Pierray, a noted violin maker who flourished in
Paris. . . . Allied with the tradition that associates him
with Claude Pierray of Paris is another of a contradictory
order which would have us believe that Thomas Perry was
originally a pupil of Duke, the London marker. The only
foundation for this assertion lies in the fact that Perry's
earlier violins, the instruments he made before coming to
Ireland, are distinctly of the contemporary English type.
According to the traditional account (which is unassociated
with any particular date), Thomas Perry, on first coming to
Dublin, set up in business in a house near Christ Churchyard,
in a locality long since altered beyond recognition. Be that
as it may, the first definite trace of Perry in Ireland at a
VIOLIN BY PERRY.
To faceup. jzi8.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 219
specific address occurs in 1787, when his name is recorded
in Wilson's Dublin Directory as a musical instrument maker,
of No. 6 Anglesea Street. Year after year his residence is
given at that address until 1803, when he removed to No. 4
in the same street, and there remained until the period of his
" Tradition accounts for the great difference between the
riddles made in England by Thomas Perry and those after-
wards made by him in Ireland by the plausible assertion
that his Dublin-made instruments were modelled on a rare
old Italian violin lent him by the Duke of Leinster. There
can be little doubt that he followed here the Amati model,
but, even if we accept the Leinster story it does not account
for his knowledge of that mysterious, rich, golden amber
varnish he employed, and to which much (but of course not
all) of the fine quality of his violins was due. Accustomed
to receive a good price for his instruments, sometimes as
much as 20, he was particularly careful in the selection and
seasoning of the wood. For the belly of his violins he
usually chose a delicately-grained Swiss pine wood, making
the back and sides of maple. Although he now ranks as one
of the best of the later eighteenth century instrument
makers, his reputation is wholly posthumous, and of com-
paratively recent date. Connoisseurs have awakened to his
merits, and his violins, already valuable, are found to
command a steadily-increasing price, more particularly as
comparatively few of them appear to be extant. The
National Museum is in possession of five notable examples
of his work' ; a quartet, formerly the property of Sir Francis
Cruise, and a double bass viol, whose value may be esti-
mated when it is said that no other Perry instrument of that
class can now be traced.
" It has been occasionally stated that the firm of Thomas
Perry was altered during his lifetime to Perry & Wilkinson,
that Perry took into partnership a quondam apprentice of
his named William Wilkinson, who had married his daughter
Elizabeth. This is not the case, the firm remained ' Thomas
220 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Perry ' till his death, which took place, as a transcript of
his will in the Public Record Office shows, in 1818, and not
in 1830, as is frequently stated. From the period of his
death until at least 1831 (according to the evidence of
Wilson's Dublin Directory) the business was carried on at No.
4 Anglesea Street, under the name of ' Perry & Wilkinson.'
From 1831 to 1834 the same Directory gives only the name
of William Wilkinson in connexion with that establishment.
But, on referring to Pettigrew and Dalton's Dublin Directory
for the next few years, we find that from 1834 till 1838 the
firm was known again (if indeed any change had previously
taken place) as ' Perry & Wilkinson/ In 1839 the business
disappears altogether from Anglesea Street, but in that,
and the following year, we find a William Wilkinson, musical
instrument maker, trading at No. 5 Essex Quay, and residing
at No. 5 Rosanna Place, Portobello. Tradition, however,
says this was not Thomas Perry's son-in-law. Connoisseurs
have frequently noted the bewildering inequality in Perry's
violins without ever divining the reason. The whole thing
is due to a lack of historical knowledge and to a bunching
together of violins made by Thomas Perry before 1818 with
violins by Wilkinson, trading as ' Perry & Wilkinson/ after
that date. There can be little doubt that after Perry's death
the standard of quality was seldom, if ever, maintained.
. . . The fact is, Perry and Wilkinson were never in actual
partnership. The terms of Perry's will clearly demonstrates
this. Here we have at once the secret of the inequality of
maKe, of ' the considerable diversity in the style of copying
the model ' [noticed by Fleming], and of the difference in
the varnish. Responsibility for the inferiority of Perry &
Wilkinson's violins must not therefore be saddled upon
Thomas Perry. Wilkinson was apparently more artisan
than artist, and after Perry's death there was a painful
lowering of the standard. Once these facts are grasped
there will be a notable appreciation of Perry violins and a
corresponding depreciation of those manufactured by Perry
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 221
The importance of Mr. McGoogan's discoveries will be
appreciated at its true worth by all admirers of real Perry
instruments. Owners of old violins labelled " Perry &
Wilkinson " will, however, have a rude shock, for many of
them will now learn with painful surprise that the great
Perry had absolutely nothing to do with the construction
of their treasures. It was high time the truth was dis-
covered, and the artist receive his due, for there can be no
two opinions as to the merits of Perry's instruments, they
are in the first rank of British violins of the old school.
My knowledge of his work is, unfortunately, not very
extensive it is limited to some half-a-dozen violins -but it
carries me to a point where I must accept without hesitation
the verdict of the Rev. Father Greaven, that Perry was " an
artist of the first order/' This learned Priest and keen
connoisseur has made a special study of Perry's work, and
he declares it to be of " careful construction and beautiful
finish," and he says the tone of nearly every fiddle he has
tried is " wonderfully responsive, sweet, and mellow." We
are glad to learn on the same reliable authority that " there
is a large number of Perry violins scattered through Ireland/'
It is to be hoped they are in safe hands.
PETRIE, THOMAS, Brixton : c. 1890. Principally
a double bass maker.
PHILIP, WILLIAM, Westfield, Bathgate, N.B. : con-
temporary. A beginner who already makes a very nice
instrument, and who, if he persevere, will probably become a
first class craftsman.
PHILIPS, DAVID, Haverfordwest : 1745-1815. A
pupil of Henry Whiteside. Amati model, with an exagger-
ated arch and scoop.
PHILLIPS, JOHN, Ynysybwl, Glamorgan: contem-
porary. He was born in the parish of Llanpumpsaint,
Carmarthenshire, in 1863, and is a joiner and wood carver
222 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
by trade. He commenced to make violins in 1898 as a
hobby, and latterly he has turned his attention seriously to
the craft, and contemplates taking violin making and
repairing up as a profession. He has great natural abilities,
is an adept at all kinds of wood carving, and has strict tastes
in all matters artistic. He has made a number of violins
on the Strad model, which are of excellent construction, and
have a good tone. He will make a splendid addition to the
small band of Welsh violin makers.
PHILLIPSON, EDWARD, Norton, Grosmont, Here-
ford : contemporary. He was born in Alvingham, Lin-
colnshire, in 18*59, an d i s a Wesleyan evangelist by calling.
He has made about twenty violins en amateur. He takes a
keen interest in every branch of art, is very skilful in the
use of keen-edged tools, and makes beautiful instruments.
PICKARD, HANDEL, Leeds : nineteenth century.
PINE, , London : nineteenth century.
PLANE, WALTER, Glasgow : 1804-79. Strad model.
The workmanship is good, but the varnish is a hard spirit
one, and the tone loud and metallic. He is said to have
made a few superior instruments, but I have not seen
anything by him which could be described as " superior."
POWELL, ROYAL AND THOMAS, London : 1770-
1800. They were brothers who did most of their work for
William Forster & Son. Careful work, but rather weak tone.
PRESTON, , London : c. 1720.
PRESTON, JAMES, - - : 1 have seen his name in
catalogues, but know nothing of him.
PRESTON, JOHN, York : 1780-1800. He was capable
of good work, but most of his instruments show carelessness.
The tone is often very good.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 223
PRICE, , London : contemporary. Said to be an
excellent bow maker. A pupil of Tubbs.
PRIESTLEY, A. W., Leeds : nineteenth century.
PRIESTNALL, JOHN, Rochdale : 1819-99. Origin-
ally a joiner and pattern maker, he became a good maker
and a very skilful repairer. He made altogether three
hundred violins, thirty violas, six 'cellos, and eight double
basses, all of good workmanship and very fair tone. His
work has one serious drawback, the varnish is too soft, and
has never dried properly at least it has not dried on a
specimen which I see occasionally, and which was made
thirty years ago. He stamped his name on the back of his
instruments under the button, and the number is punched
on the button itself a very tasteless method.
PYGROFT, ERNEST, Manchester: c. 1874. His
fiddles have been advertised from time to time, but I have
not seen any of them.
RAE, JOHN, Battersea : contemporary. He was born
at Macduff, N.B., October 31, 1847, and is the eldest son of
James Rae, and a grandson of John Rae, of Forglen, Turriff,
a famous maker of bagpipes. He is employed in the Natural
History department of the British Museum, and makes
violins during spare time. He made his first fiddle as long
ago as 1869, and since 1883, when he got his present appoint-
ment, he has made two or three new instruments every year.
His work is solidly constructed and beautifully finished.
Some of his violins are of rather massive proportions, and
their plates left rather thick in wood, but the quality of the
tone is exceedingly good notwithstanding: I think its
quality would be still better if the thickness of the plates
were slightly reduced, and the taper slightly increased. Mr.
224 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Rae's instruments have a handsome appearance, and there
is a striking boldness of character about them which is very
refreshing and pleasing. His wood is magnificent. He has
used Calif ornian pine (Sequoia gigantea] for the tables of a
number of his violins. The blocks were cut from a tree
which had reached the height of 276 feet, and which was over
thirteen hundred years old when it was cut down in 1872.
The " reed " of this pine is very narrow, and of great regu-
larity, and its acoustical qualities are surprisingly good.
Facsimile label :
JOHN RAE, Maker,
RAEBURN, ALEXANDER, Leven, Fife: contem-
porary. Very good work.
RAEBURN, GEORGE R., West Calder : contemporary.
He was born at Largoward, near St. Andrews, in 1846. He
has made about seventy instruments on the Strad and
Joseph models. The work is good.
RAEBURN, JOHN, Largoward : nineteenth century.
He was born in the parish of Carnbee, in 1833, and was the
eldest brother of the Raeburns previously mentioned. He
made over a hundred violins on various models, of fairly
good workmanship and tone.
RAMSAY, WILLIAM, Biggar : contemporary. He
has made a few violins on the Strad model.
RAYMAN, JACOB, London : c. 1620-50. He was
born in the Tyrol, and came to England about 1620, and
worked first in Blackman Street (London), then at Bell
Yard, Southwark. In all probability he was the first maker
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 225
of violins in this country, at any rate, he was the first of
whom we have any account. His violins were quaint
looking, but the workmanship was very neat (with the
exception of the inlaying of the purfling) and the tone was
clear, responsive, and silvery.
RAWLINS, , London : c. 1770-80.
REED, B., Durham : contemporary.
RICHARDS, EDWIN, London : nineteenth century.
RILEY, HENRY, Birmingham : contemporary. I have
not seen his work, but it is said to be very good.
RIMBAULT, H. E., Cardiff : contemporary. A gentle-
man amateur who has just commenced to make violins.
His wide knowledge and skill will doubtless enable him to
make beautiful instruments.
RINGWOOD AND WHEATLEY, Dublin: early
nineteenth century. Principally dealers, I think, who
employed others to make for them.
RITCHIE, ARCHIBALD, Dundee: 1833-1902. He
made about a hundred and fifty violins on the model of
Joseph Guarnerius, slightly enlarged. The instruments
look heavy, although the workmanship is beautifully
finished. His instruments have been much praised in certain
quarters, but I am not struck with them. If fine cabinet
work were all that is necessary to make a fine fiddle, then
nothing better than these instruments could be desired.
But there is too much body and too little " soul " about
ROBERTS, ALEXANDER, Luthermuir, Laurencekirk,
N.B., contemporary. Born at Primrosehill, Fettercairn, in
1873. He is a maker of reeds for Highland bagpipes by
trade, and a maker of violins during spare time only. He
226 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
has made about twenty violins, which are beautifully
finished, and have a large and telling tone.
ROBERTS, JOHN, Shrewsbury : c. 1690. A rather
small violin, on the Stainer model, with very dark varnish,
and a small, sweet tone, bearing his label, was through my
hands a few years ago.
ROBERTS, LEWIS, Morriston, Swansea. He was
born at Morriston in 1868, and died there in 1917. He was
the only Welshman whose efforts in violin making have
assumed any very definite proportions. The Welsh are a
very musical nation, and it is often a puzzle to outsiders
why they have so sadly neglected the orchestra and the study
of the violin. The explanation probably is that* they have
devoted all their time to and concentrated all their efforts
on the development of vocal music. But a better day has
already dawned upon Wales, and the rising generation of
Welsh musicians is now turning its attention to instrumenta-
Roberts made a large number of violins, and executed
some rather important repairs from time to time. Most
of his instruments are on an original model, but for the last
two or three years of his life he worked on the Strad model
exclusively. In his earlier work he evinced too strong a
tendency to depart from the traditional methods, but
latterly he had abandoned all eccentricities, and had settled
down to serious work. The instruments of the last three
years of his life are excellent in every way. Wood, work-
manship, varnish, and tone give them a place in the front
rank of modern British work. Roberts was of an inventive
turn of mind, and had made a very ingenious calipers-drill
a tool which at once drills the plates and determines the
graduation of their thicknesses. All the tools specially
required for the craft he had made for himself. He was an
" original " in every way, and a dreamer of dreams. Whilst
working for the future he lived in the past. In spirit he
belonged to the days when artists cut their own timber,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 227
made their own varnish, and sat on three-legged stools
producing tone-poems for all time. He won the gold medal
in the violin making competition at the Royal National
Eisteddfod of Wales held in Neath in 1918. He was without
doubt a genius, and his early loss is much to be deplored.
ROGERS, , Ballymacarett, Ireland: contemporary.
He is mentioned in Father Greaven's list.
ROMNEY, GEORGE, Dalton and London : 1734-1802.
This was the celebrated artist, who ranks third in the roll
of England's great portrait painters. In early life he was a
cabinet maker and wood carver, and he made a number of
violins, which he ornamented with carved figures. It
would be beside the purpose to give biographical particulars
here : these are too well known, but the following facts
relative to his violin making will be interesting, and perhaps
new to many. They are taken from George Romney, by
Arthur B. Chamberlain. " To some extent," observes this
biographer, " Romney retained his love of the sister art
throughout his life. Up to the last he kept a violin of his
own making in his studio, and now and then played upon
it when thinking out the design for a picture, finding in
music, as others have done, a stimulus to his imagination."
Mr. Chamberlain also quotes the following paragraph from
Cumberland, one of Romney's earlier biographers, with the
caution, however, that the tale is an exaggeration. " Smit-
ten also with an embryo passion for the concord of sweet
sounds, which he had probably never heard but in his dreams,
he conceived the idea of transplanting the arts of Cremona
to his native town of Dalton, and began a manufactory of
violins, which he disposed of to the rural amateurs, who
were, perhaps, as little instructed in the use of these instru-
ments as he had been in the formation of them" (p. 15).
ROOK, JOSEPH, Carlisle : c. 1770-1852. He did not
make many instruments. He was appointed vicar-choral
at the cathedral, Carlisle, in 1807, which post he held till
228 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
1840, when a retiring pension was given to him. A Mr.
Herbert Hodson, of 26 Barclay Road, Croydon, Surrey,
owned a 'cello of his make in 1912, which he said was well
made and had a good tone.
ROSS, DONALD, Edinburgh : 1817 till about 1905.
He made about fifty violins on the Maggini model.
ROSS, JOHN, London : c. 1560-1600. A maker of
lutes and viols.
ROWLEY, A. G., Cardiff : contemporary. He is not
actually a maker, but he has varnished many instruments
for other makers with a very beautiful varnish of his own
make He has studied the varnish problem for many years,
and though he may not have solved the " riddle of Cre-
mona/' he has certainly succeeded in producing a varnish of
wonderful lustre and transparency.
RUDDIMAN, JOSEPH, Aberdeen: 1760-1800. I
have not seen any of his work. Mr. Alexander Wilson,
advocate, of Aberdeen, has a violin of his make, which is said
to be of good workmanship and tone.
RYLANDS, JOHN, Bristol : c. 1800. His name has
appeared in lists of old instruments.
SABY, H. H., Cape Town, S. Africa : contemporary.
He was born at Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, in 1860,
and emigrated to South Africa in 1890. He is a pupil of
the late W. Calow, the violin maker, of Nottingham, with
whom he remained for five years. He is established as a
professional maker and repairer at 75 Plein Street, Cape
Town, where he has worked up a fine business connection
and won for himself a great reputation as a first-class maker
and repairer. His violins are said to be beautifully made,
and to possess a large, brilliant, and responsive tone. At
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 229
the Industrial Exhibition held in Cape Town in 1904-5, he
was awarded a gold medal for general excellence and for
repairs. 1 have not seen any of his violins, but judging
from numerous press and other reports they are of great
SAUNDERS, S., Twickenham : 1840. He was alive
and working a few years ago, but I do not know whether he
is alive now. He was an amateur who made a large number
of violins of considerable merit, some of which were on the
" Long Strad " model. He was awarded a silver medal for
an exhibit of four violins at the Surbiton Industrial Exhibi-
tion, held in li
SAXON, JOHN, Stockport : nineteenth century.
SCHOLES, ARTHUR, L., Rushden, Northants : con-
temporary. A maker, repairer, and dealer, who was born
at Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1870, and whose earlier years
were spent in journalistic work. He made his first instru-
ment in 1888, and shortly after adopted violin making as a
profession. He has not made a large number of instruments,
his time being mostly occupied with repairs, of which he
always has an abundance in hand. He follows the Strad
(Dolphin) and Guarneri patterns, and he has made a few
violins on an original model. His work is excellent in every
way material, varnish, and workmanship evincing a
thorough knowledge of the craft, and perfect skill in the
handling of tools. I have tried only one violin of his make,
which was a fine instrument, with a large and brilliant tone.
This maker has undoubted abilities, and ought to produce
important work. Facsimile label :
ARTHUR L. SCHOLES,
230 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
SHAW, JOHN, London: c. 1650. A viol maker.
SHAW, J., Manchester : contemporary.
SHAW, THOMAS, Cove, Scotland : contemporary.
An amateur of good average ability.
SHEPHERD, H. G., Brighton : contemporary.
SHEPLEY, GEORGE, Bristol : 1830-40. Poor work.
SHERDON, DANIEL, Gloucester: 1845-60. High
arch, and poor work.
SHROSBREE, HENRY JAMES, Adelaide, S. Aus-
tralia : contemporary. He was born in London in 1858, and
followed a seafaring life from 1872 to 1880, voyaging to
Adelaide for the second time in the latter year, when he
entered the service of Sir E. T. Smith, with whom he
remained till his retirement from business. Shortly after,
he took up violin making and repairing. Judging from
various notices which have appeared in the Australian press
from time to time, and from many private letters which I
have received, in reference to his work, there can be no
doubt that Mr. Shrosbree's instruments reach a very high
standard of excellence. It has not been my good fortune to
see any of these instruments, and I therefore can express no
opinion as to their merits. The editor of Music (Adelaide),
referring to this maker's success at the Century Exhibition,
held in Adelaide, in 1900, remarks thus : " The commenda-
tory references we have from time to time made to Mr. H. J.
Shrosbree's skill as a luthier, have been very amply confirmed
by the judges for musical instruments . . . the exhibit
comprised his Nos. 7 and 8 violins, his recently constructed
viola, and some assorted bridges. With their brilliant
coatings of oil amber varnish the instruments certainly make
a splendid show, and the awards given are as follows : first
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 231
for violins, first for viola, first for musical appliances (bridges,
etc.), and a special prize for the best exhibit of its group."
Facsimile label :
James Sjjr0&lrm. fariebal
Sk tttslrafis; touj 18
SIMPSON, JAMES & SON, London: 1780-1800.
Probably not actual makers, but merely dealers who
employed others to make for them.
SIMPSON, THOMAS, Birmingham: contemporary.
Born at Burnley in 1866. He worked at Handsworth for a
few years, but is now settled at Birmingham as a professional
maker and repairer. He has made a number of violins on
an original model, but his later instruments are on the Strad
model, and show much better work. The wood is of fine
quality, and the workmanship is carefully and beautifully
finished. One of his violins which I tried recently had a
particularly full and brilliant tone.
SINCLAIR, WILLIAM, New Pitsligo. An amateur
who was living a few years ago, and possibly is still living,
who had made a good number of violins of fairly good work-
SKEFFINGTON, WILLIAM KIRKLAND, Glasgow .
contemporary. Average merit.
SMILLIE, ALEXANDER, Glasgow: contemporary.
Born at Hallside, Cambuslang, in 1847. He has worked at
various places in Glasgow as a professional maker, repairer,
and dealer. He has made a large number of violins, violas,
and violoncellos, on the Stradivari and Guarneri models. I
have not seen any of his more recently made instruments,
but they are said to be superior in every way to his work of
232 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
ten years ago : if that is so, they must be exceptionally
fine. His instruments many years ago ranked, in my
opinion, with the best that are made in Great Britain to-day.
The wood was of the very best description, and the crafts-
manship in every part of the work showed the mind and skill
of a born artist. The tone of all his violins which I have
tried is very sonorous and brilliant, possessing that subtle
something which we call the Italian quality.
Mr. Smillie has never exhibited any of his instruments,
the spirit of rivalry being quite foreign to his genial nature
and unassuming manner.
Facsimile label :
SMITH, , Wetherby : contemporary.
SMITH, ALBERT, Tomalosset, Enniscorthy, Ireland :
contemporary. An amateur who is said to have made some
SMITH, A. E., Maldon : contemporary. 1 have not
seen his later work, but it is said to be very good.
SMITH, ALEX. ROWLAND, Edinburgh : nineteenth
century. Stradivari and Guarneri models. Good tone.
SMITH, HENRY, London : c. 1630. A maker of viols.
SMITH, JASPER, London : nineteenth century.
SMITH, JOHN, Glasgow: contemporary. Born at
Fauldhouse, Linlithgowshire, in 1859. He worked for some
years at Falkirk, and he has lived in different parts of
Glasgow, and elsewhere. He works on various models, but
chiefly on an original one, which is of very full proportions
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 233
and rather massive in appearance. The work is beautifully
finished and the varnish carefully laid on and well polished.
His scrolls are magnificently carved. The tone is large and
incisive, and will no doubt be of excellent quality when age
and use have mellowed it.
SMITH, JOHN HEY, Burnley : contemporary.
SMITH, JOHN, Whitchurch, Salop : nineteenth cen-
SMITH, JOHN, Teddington, Middlesex : contemporary.
An amateur who has made a few violins of very good work-
manship and tone. He is capable of important work.
SMITH, NATHANIEL, Bristol : 1830-40. Indifferen
SMITH, PYE, Hereford: c. 1850. Model and work-
manship very good, but tone very thin.
SMITH, THOMAS, London : 1745-90. A pupil and
successor of Peter Wamsley. Some writers have bestowed
great praise on his violoncellos, but I am of opinion they
have never tried them. Such as I have tried had a hard,
rasping tone. The workmanship is not bad, although the
varnish is rather poor stuff, of a dirty amber, or brownish
yellow colour. He used various labels.
SMITH, W. F., Edinburgh : contemporary. Average
SMITH, WILLIAM, Hedon : 1780-1805. Poor work.
SMITH, WILLIAM, Leeds : contemporary. Rough
SPIERS, STEWART, Ayr : 1805-70. Fair work and
234 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
SPIGER, JOHN, London : c. 1667. It is not at all
certain that he was a violin maker.
SPIGER, WILLIAM, London : c. 1860-70.
STANLEY, ROBERT A., Manchester : contemporary.
I am not certain whether he works in Manchester at present,
but he was there a few years ago. He is a pupil of James
Barrow, of Salford, and of James Cole, of Manchester. He
has made over two hundred instruments, including violins,
violas, 'cellos, and double basses. I have not seen his work
of the last ten years, and have no information as to what it is
STEPHENS, G. B., Bristol : c. 1780. Very fair work.
STIRRAT, DAVID, Edinburgh : c. 1810-20. This is a
magnificent old maker. His work is quite equal to that of
Matthew Hardie, and had he lived a few years longer and
produced anything like the number of instruments Hardie
did, I have little hesitation in saying that the title of
" Scottish Stradivari " would have been his and not Har die's.
Mr. Honeyman says that Stirrat followed the model of
Stradivari : this may be generally true, but in three instru-
ments which I have seen, the model only approximated to
that of the grand Strad. The finest Stirrat fiddle in exist-
ence, I think, is owned by Dr. George Raimondi Young, late
of 784 Park Avenue, New York, and now of Vevey, Switzer-
land. The outline of this instrument is pure, and the
curves well balanced and very graceful. The principal
measurements are :
Length of body 14 inches.
Width across upper bouts . . 6J
middle . 4&
Length of sound-holes . . .
Depth of ribs i J inch diminishing to ,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 235
The workmanship is finished with extreme care and
delicacy, and if the fiddle had been covered with the right
varnish it would easily pass as an old " Italian." The
varnish is evidently a spirit one, very thinly laid on, of a
dark reddish-brown tint : it has not penetrated any distance
into the wood, and it is not in sufficient thickness to materi-
ally affect the tone. The tone is moderately powerful, and
wonderfully clear, bright, and mellow, very suitable for
solo work in small halls and drawing-rooms. Mr. Honeyman
says that Stirrat was " described as a delicate-looking man,
with curly hair and thin white hands," and that he died
" at an early age, just when he promised to become a greater
maker than his master" (Matthew Hardie). That nature
had endowed him with some of her choicest gifts is very
evident from the few instruments of his make that still
remain. It is not certain that he used a label. In the
violins 1 have seen he inscribed his name, place, and date on
the bare wood with a hard pencil. I am indebted to the
courtesy of Dr. Raimondi Young for the following facsimile
of the inscription in his violin.
STONEMAN, H., Exeter : contemporary. Born in the
parish of Zeal Monachorum, in the county of Devon, March
27, 1856, and now working as a professional maker, repairer,
and dealer, at 3 Union Terrace, St. Sidwells, Exeter. He
was apprenticed to the joinery trade, and worked for an
ecclesiastical building firm in Exeter for about twenty-four
years, for the last five of which he was their foreman. During
236 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
spare time he studied the construction of the violin, and did
some repairing now and again. He gradually acquired a
thorough knowledge of the craft, and resolved to give up his
post as foreman joiner and become a violin maker and
repairer. This was fifteen years ago. By diligent applica-
tion he has now reached a high degree of proficiency in his
art, and is recognized as the best repairer in the South- West
of England. He is undoubtedly a very clever and skilful
craftsman. I have seen some of his restorations, and con-
sider them equal to anything done by the most skilled
repairers of London or Paris : they are not mere clever
joinery work, but restorations in the true sense of the word.
He has not made many new instruments, his time being
almost entirely occupied with the sister branch of the craft.
The few he has made are on the Stradivari model, and are
carefully constructed and beautifully finished. Mr. Stone-
man is highly respected for the transparency of his character
and for his uprightness as a man of business.
STOTT, GEORGE T., Liverpool : contemporary. I
have not seen any of his work.
STREETS, JAMES, Sunderland : contemporary. An
amateur who produces excellent work. A viola of his make
which I saw and tried some years ago might pass for the
work of an experienced professional maker.
STRONG, JOHN, Somersetshire : c. 1650. An old
viol maker, who is thought to have lived somewhere in the
neighbourhood of Bristol.
STRONG, MATTHEW, Huddersfield : nineteenth
STURGE, H., Bristol and Huddersfield : 1800-60. A
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 237
TARR, WILLIAM, Manchester: 1808-91. Born in
Manchester February 21, 1808 ; died there July 10, 1891,
and was buried (with secular rights) in the Southern Ceme-
tery, on St. Swithun's day. He was apprenticed when about
sixteen to a cabinet carver, and made such rapid progress
and became so expert a workman that at the age of eighteen
he purchased his indentures from his employer for 100, and
at once commenced work as a journeyman. He commenced
violin making as a hobby, but gradually relinquished joinery
and took up the craft as a profession. He made double-
basses principally, but devoted a great deal of his time also
to repairing. He worked till he was about eighty years of
age, and completed two hundred and six basses, besides a
number of violins, violas, and 'cellos. His eldest son
assisted him in the business till his eighteenth year, when he
left home. Another son, Joseph, was also a violin maker,
and assisted his father for a time. His youngest son,
Shelley, who is in business in Manchester, was a skilful
maker, and helped the old man for many years. Tarr, it is
said, built a number of organs, and took out several patents
for his inventions in the organ line.
On the occasion of a certain musical festival held in
Dublin, where Tarr was one of the performers, all of the nine
basses in the orchestra were of his make. He was an
excellent musician, and was for twelve years one of the
bassists at the " Gentlemen's Concerts," Manchester. He
was for some time organist of a church in New Orleans, where
he lived during a few years' stay in the United States.
During the latter part of his life he became a prominent
socialist, secularist, and anti-vaccinator.
He was a conscientious and a diligent worker, and for
the long stretch of sixty years was devoted uninterruptedly
and whole-heartedly to his art. He certainly was the most
prolific double bass maker we have had in this country.
TAYLOR, B., London : c. 1750. Very fair work.
238 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
TAYLOR, EDWARD, Hull : nineteenth century.
TENNANT, JAMES, Lesmahagow : nineteenth cen-
THOMAS, WATKIN, Swansea : 1849 to about 1908.
He made about sixty or seventy violins, a few violas, and
one or two 'cellos. He was capable of good work, and some
of his instruments have a very good tone. He was very
erratic, and would never settle down to steady work.
THOMPSON, , Manchester : nineteenth century.
THOMPSON, ROBERT, London: 1749-64. He
worked at the sign of the " Bass- violin," in St. Paul's
Churchyard. Rather ordinary work on the Stainer model.
THOMPSON, CHARLES & SAMUEL, London : c.
1780. Sons of the preceding, and his successors in business.
THORLEY, N., Failsworth, Manchester : c. 1800-30 or
later. He made several very good 'cellos, besides other
instruments. He was a member of Halle's orchestra.
THORLEY, T., Manchester: nineteenth century. A
son of the preceding. He made a number of violins and a
few 'cellos. Fairly good work.
THORNE, W. H., Tottenham : contemporary. An
amateur who has made only a few violins, some with very
peculiar sound holes.
THORNLEY, , Oldham : nineteenth century.
THOROWGOOD, HENRY, London: c. 1760. No
instruments of his are known.
TIFFIN, MILLER, Carlisle : contemporary.
VIOLIN BY TOBIN.
To face p. 239.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 239
TILLEY, THOMAS, London : c. 1770.
TOBIN, RICHARD, Dublin and London : 1777-1841.
A pupil of Thomas Perry, and an artist every whit as great
as his master, if only he had his full due. Nearly all his
finest instruments, however, are either without labels, or
(as is oftener the case) have somebody else's labels in them,
so that the poor maker has been robbed of the credit that
justly belongs to him. Tobin never was, apparently, in a
position to set up business on his own account, and he was
often in very straitened circumstances, whether through his
own neglect and folly, or through lack of patronage, or what,
it is impossible now to say. He was employed by Perry, by
Betts, and by others, and when not so employed made a few
instruments which he disposed of to the trade. He became
an apprentice of Perry somewhere about 1800-2, and
remained with him about eleven years. He went to London
in 1813, and found his way to the workshop of " Old "
Betts, with whom he remained for most of the time till his
(Betts') death in 1823. Betts discovered in Tobin a
craftsman after his own heart, and both acknowledged and
recompensed his superior abilities.
The few instruments which have been recognized as the
undoubted work of Tobin are acknowledged to be of a
very high order of merit i.e. " very high " relatively to the
work of the old English school. I know of three Tobin
violins, of the grand Strad model, which I consider to be
superior in point of workmanship to anything ever made in
this country. These have had very little playing, and their
tone is consequently somewhat undeveloped : with careful
handling for a few years, I am confident they would reveal
tonal qualities of exceptional beauty. In all matters except
the varnish I consider these instruments to be entitled to a
place beside the old Italian violins. The varnish also is very
good, particularly good for that period (1820-40), but of
course it has not the " fire " of the old Italian varnish. No
varnish of the old English period ever has that suffused,
240 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
golden glow that limpid fire of amber which the Cremonese
varnish has, and it was hardly to be expected that one
British artist should succeed where every other British artist
had failed. I am not sure that Tobin's varnish was always
of his own making, it varies both in colour and pate. While
working for others he would naturally use his employer's
Hart said very many years ago that " in cutting a scroll
[Tobin] was unequalled amongst English makers." The
observation is perfectly just, but it has possibly taken the
eye of the connoisseur away from other beautiful features of
Tobin's work, and the more so since every subsequent writer
on old British violins has repeated the remark parrot-like.
Tobin's scrolls are not finer than his outline, his curves,
or his sound-holes. Any one who has carefully examined a
fine example of his art, and who has the capacity to appre-
ciate subtle differences of style, will have observed how the
curves of the plates " melt " and " flow " into the gentle
channel near the edges. I saw quite recently a fine orange-
red " Tobin," and when I looked at its surfaces through its
beautiful varnish I could not but think that Hogarth's
" line of beauty " and Burns' " lily dipped in wine " were
both in the back of that fiddle the one in the form, and the
other in the colour.
Sandys and Forster say that Tobin during the latter part
of his life kept a shop in West Street, Soho. I have searched
old directories and records in vain for any evidence of this,
and I do not think it is correct. If he had a shop at all, it
was evidently of so modest a pretence as to altogether escape
the attention of directory compilers. He possibly sold a few
fiddle oddments, and exposed one or two of his instruments
in the window for sale, but that could hardly be called
" keeping a shop." Whatever it was that he " kept," it
failed to keep him, poor man, for he ended his days in the
Shoreditch poorhouse. Like the great John Dodd and
Matthew Hardie, he found rest and peace in a pauper's
To face p. 241.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 241
TOLMIE, G., Hanwell : contemporary. A gentleman
amateur who has made a few violins of excellent workman-
ship and tone. One of his instruments which I tried about
a year ago had a beautiful tone.
TORRING, J., London : 1800-10. He repaired chiefly.
TRIMNELL, JOSEPH HENRY, Birmingham:
1840-1904. Average ability.
TRINGHAM, HENRY, Shrewsbury : 1835-1860.
Model and workmanship very fair, but tone hard and
TROTMAN, WILLIAM, Hereford : c. 1850. Small
TRUEMAN, RICHARD, Bath: 1820-30. A pretty
little instrument of his make on the A. and H. Amati model,
which I saw a few years ago, had a sweet tone.
TUBES, JAMES & SON, London : contemporary.
James Tubbs is a son of William Tubbs, a bow maker, and
was born in Rupert Court, March 25, 1835. His name has
been a " household " word among artists and bow collectors
for a generation or more, and Tubbs has long won for himself
the title of " the Modern British Tourte." He is a pupil of
his father, with whom he remained working till about 1860,
in which year he commenced business on his own account
in Church Street , Soho, where he remained till 1864. From
Church Street he removed to High Street, Marylebone, and
from there to King Street, Soho, where he worked for a few
years. In 1872 he removed to his present address, 94
Wardour Street, and here he has " laboured and toiled " for
upwards of forty years, producing those gems of the bow
maker's art for which the name of Tubbs has so long been
famous. He is in his eighty-fifth year, but still hale and
hearty in spite of his great age, and in the full possession of
all his faculties. He was busy at work on a violin bow when
242 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
I called upon him on August 5, last year (1919), and seemed
to be almost as active and as keen as he was twenty-five years
ago, when I first made his acquaintance. He certainly
looks good for another ten years' work. He is a man of
medium height, of rather spare but wiry figure, very shrewd
and somewhat reticent and incommunicative in his manner.
He seldom speaks except when spoken to, and his answers
are usually brief and categorical. The enthusiast or scribbler
who enters the little shop at 94 Wardour Street, with the
intention of " drawing " its occupant is certain to go away
a disappointed man. Tubbs is invulnerable, and criticism
or praise are equally lost upon him. On one point only is it
possible to rouse his susceptibility : if you confuse his name
with that of any other bow maker of the name of Tubbs, you
are likely to drop in for a warm time of it. He is a " charac-
ter," is James Tubbs. He is a man of the good old school,
plain, simple, straightforward, with a rather crusty exterior,
but with a solid heart and plenty of sober sense. He is very
different from the typical business man of to-day, who is
essentially a man of the world, with often a slice of the flesh
and the devil thrown in.
' Up to about six or seven years ago, Mr. Tubbs made at the
rate of seven to ten new bows per month. He must therefore
have made altogether between four and five thousand bows,
of one sort and another. These are all of uniform excel-
lence as regards workmanship and finish, though they
possibly may not be of the same excellence as regards
material. In so large a number it would be extraordinary
if the wood were absolutely of the same high standard of
perfection. But the best of these bows (and a large per-
centage of them have the very finest material) are, in my
opinion, equal to the bows of Francois Tourte, Voirin,
Peccate, Henry, or any other great bow maker, past or
present. Opinions differ, of course, but that is my honest
opinion. To appreciate the fine qualities of a Tubbs bow
one must be accustomed to the use of it. One who has used
a French bow for a number of years does not take kindly to
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 243
a " Tubbs " at first : there is something about the " feel "
of it (as the expression goes) which puzzles him, and he
loses, or imagines that he loses, perfect control over the
movements of his bow arm. When 1 read (or heard some
artist or other remark) something to this effect years ago I
thought it could hardly be possible, but when I tried the
experiment for myself I found it was possible enough. The
fact is, the balance of a Tubbs bow is rather different from
that of any other bow, and therefore affects the muscular
action of the arm differently.
But there is not the slightest doubt about it, the balance
of a " Tubbs " is scientifically arranged that is to say, it
is the correct balance for an arm of good average strength,
and whose muscles have developed normally. Mr. Tubbs
makes his bows on the principle of proportion and balance
laid down by the late W. S. B. Woolhouse, the eminent
mathematician and well-known musical enthusiast, who held
that the primary essential of a perfect bow is that its weight
and proportions (diameters) are so arranged that the stick
vibrates with absolute uniformity throughout its whole
length. Woolhouse's contribution to the science of bow
making is very valuable, but I am rather inclined to think
that it tended to obscure the importance of another great
factor in the making of a good bow, viz. the putting in of the
" spring " or cambre. To determine the depth and sweep
of the curve is a much more difficult problem than to deter-
mine and arrange the graduation of diameters. A gauge will
help to obtain the correct proportions, but the eye and the
feeling of resistance alone must fix upon the quantity and
sweep of the curve.
Mr. Tubbs was assisted for many years by his son Alfred,
a very skilful workman and an excellent repairer, who died
in November, 1912. He has no assistant now, and is there-
fore not able to make many new bows, and he is obliged to
curtail the amount of repairs he undertakes. He obtained
a gold medal for an exhibit of bows at the Inventions Exhibi-
tion, London, 1885.
244 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
TUBES, WILLIAM, London : c. 1814-1878. Father
of the preceding. He made many bows, principally for the
dealers, and his work was said to be very good. He was a
son of Thomas Tubbs, also a bow maker. There were, and
there are to-day, several other members of the Tubbs
family connected with the bow-making branch of the craft,
but I know nothing of them or their work.
TURNER, WILLIAM, London : c. 1650. A maker of
TUSON, ROBERT, Gravestown : contemporary.
TWEEDALE, CHARLES L., Weston, Otley, Yorks :
contemporary. He is the vicar of Weston, but since he
advertises his violins for sale he is treated here as a quasi-
professional maker, and not as a mere amateur. He was
born at Stainland, near Halifax, and is a son of Dr. Thomas
Tweedale, surgeon, and of Mary, daughter of Charles Gates,
an engineer, of Cranshawborth, Rossendale. Both his
grandsires were amateur violin makers, and one of them, Mr.
feenjamin Tweedale, made several violins of excellent
workmanship and tone, and was an enthusiastic devotee of
the violin and the leader of all the oratorios and concerts in
his neighbourhood. Mr. Tweedale has been interested
from his youth in the arts, crafts, and sciences, and it was
his father's intention to make an engineer of him. Mr.
Tweedale senior died in 1885, an d Yung Tweedale turned
his energies into another channel. At that time he became
deeply interested in astronomy, and he ground and polished
the specula for his own reflecting telescopes up to ten
inches in diameter. With these instruments he did a good
deal of work, and independently discovered the triple tailed
comet of 1886 (comet /). Just about this period one of
Benjamin Tweedale's violins came into his possession, and
he taught himself to play upon it. He soon became more
interested in its construction than in playing, and he pro-
cured Heron-Allen's book, and under the charm of that
work commenced to make a fiddle, and he did not rest
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 345
satisfied till he had finished two. All scientific and research
work was now laid aside, for it was suddenly resolved that
he should enter Durham University and study for the
Church. In due course he graduated at Durham, and was
ordained to the curacy of Hyson Green, Nottingham, in 1891.
In 1901 he became vicar of Weston, Otley, and in 1908 he
re-commenced his violin researches, which, however, he had
never completely relinquished. The varnish problem came
in for a large share of attention, and Mr. Tweedale claims
to have discovered an oil varnish " which is equal in all
respects to that of the great Cremonese luthiers."
He has had in his hands for the purpose of study and
comparison several fine " Strads," such as the " Tuscan,"
" Cessol," " Amherst," " Prince," " Paganini," and a
number of " Josephs," and he claims that he is " now able
to make instruments which are worthy to compare with these
in tone, and equal to the very best of them in varnish."
Whether Mr. Tweedale's varnish is " equal in all respects "
to the Cremonese varnish is a matter upon which there may
be more than one opinion, but there can be no differences of
opinion, 1 think, as to the quality of his more recent varnish :
it is of excellent pate and of wonderful " fire " and trans-
parency. The varnish he made some years ago is not for a
moment to be compared with it.
He has made a large number of violins some on the
Strad, Joseph, and Maggini lines, but the greater number on
an original model. The outline of the original model is full,
and bold, suggestive rather of masculine strength than of
feminine gracefulness and delicacy. The scroll and sound-
holes are also very original in design, and are evidence (if
evidence were wanting) of the strong, clear-thinking brain,
and of the skilful hand which is able to carry out the dictates
of that brain. All the work is beautifully finished, both
inside and outside, even to the minutest detail. The tone
of his later instruments is of a very fine quality : it is large,
responsive, and brilliant, and perfectly equal on all the
246 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
In addition to his artistic work, and the care of a country
parish, Mr. Tweedale has contributed many articles on
scientific and psychical subjects to various magazines and
papers. He has made a notable contribution to psychical
research in his book : " Man's Survival after Death " a
work which has run into several editions, and has had a
Facsimile label :
TWEEDY, J., Acklington : contemporary.
TWEMLOW, S. P., Sandbach, Cheshire : contemporary.
An amateur who has made a number of violins of beautiful
workmanship and tone. He is well-to-do, and therefore
able to procure the very best material, and to devote an
abundance of time to the construction of each instrument.
He is preparing for the press a work on violin making.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 247
URQUHART, ALEXANDER, Invergordon : contem-
porary. An amateur who turns out an occasional violin
of good workmanship and tone.
URQUHART, DONALD, Tain, N.B., contemporary.
Born at Balblair, near Invergordon, in 1859. He has made
a considerable number of violins on the grand Strad model,
which are of very beautiful construction, with a moderately
powerful, sweet, and responsive tone. He is the maker of a
fine oil varnish, a large stock of which he has recently dis-
posed of to Mr. William Glenister, of London.
URQUHART, THOMAS, London: 1650-80. One
of our early old makers, the best part of whose work is the
varnish, which very closely resembles the Italian varnish.
I have seen one violin of his make, which was much arched,
and had a sweet but small tone.
VAUGHAN, DAVID ROBERT, Chester: contem-
porary. Strad model ; fairly good work.
VIGKERS, RICHARD, Bath: c. 1870. Very fair
workmanship, but poor model.
VIOLIN MAKERS' GUILD. This is a Guild or school
of violin making established at 35 South End Road, Hamp-
stead, London, N.W. Its full title is " The British Violin-
Makers' Guild," and it is described in the pamphlet explana-
tory of its object as " The only all British manufactory
producing violins, violas, violoncellos, and basses at com-
petitive Continental prices." Its managing director, Mr.
Albert J. Roberts, in a letter in the press writes that
" arrangements are being made for the employment of
348 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
disabled soldiers and sailors," and that " there are also
vacancies for improvers and a few articled pupils desirous of
learning the art of violin-making under the guidance of a
skilled staff of English, French, and Russian instructors, now
engaged." I visited this institution, or factory, in August
of the year 1915, when the managing director was
good enough to take me over the workshop, and to explain
to me that the Guild had two definite objects in view : (i)
to teach violin making, and (2) to produce a high-class
factory violin at a price that would enable them (the Guild)
to compete successfully with the foreigner. Every patriot
will agree that the objects are very sensible and praise-
worthy. There is not a shadow of doubt about it, the
factory fiddle has come to stay. The connoisseur may
fling his scorn and utter his malediction, but the British
public will smile at him and purchase its thirty shilling fiddle.
Well, since there must be factory fiddles, let those used in
Britain, I say, be of British manufacture. I express myself
thus in all sincerity, firm believer in universal brotherhood
though I be, for my sense of brotherhood does not bid me
love my neighbour (the foreigner) better than myself (i.e. my
The time is propitious for the founding of an industry of
this description, and all its promoters need to make it a
success is organization, concentration, co-operation, and a
reasonable belief in themselves.
VOYLE, BENJAMIN, Swansea : 1860-70. Average
VOYSEY, HUBERT, Hereford: c. 1840. I quite
recently saw a kit with his label in it.
WADE, JOSEPH, Leeds : nineteenth century.
WADE, WILLIAM, Leeds : nineteenth century.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 249
WALKER, H. J., Whitby : contemporary. His work
is said to be fairly good.
WALKER, HECTOR M., Liverpool : contemporary.
Some years ago he made a few violins experimentally, for
the purpose of testing certain theories, but I do not know
whether he makes now.
WALKER, J., Birmingham : contemporary. Born at
Brailsford, in 1876. He works at 8 Broomfields, Solihull,
as a professional maker and repairer. He has not made a
large number of instruments, most of his time being occupied
with repairs. His instruments are carefully finished, and
covered with a beautiful amber oil varnish of his own make.
He is said to be an excellent repairer.
WALKER, WILLIAM, Mid-Calder : contemporary.
An amateur who has made a good number of violins of
excellent workmanship and beautiful tone. He follows the
Stradivari and Guarneri models, and shows such great
ability and skill that it is a pity he does not devote his whole
time to the craft.
WALTON, WILLIAM, Preston : contemporary. Born
at Longton in 1860. He follows the Stradivari and Guarneri
models, and has also made a number of violins on an original
model. His work is of a high order, and finished with
extraordinary care. His scrolls are of a vigorous design and
carved very beautifully. The tone is large, brilliant, and
perfectly equal and responsive. His work places him in line
with our first-class professional makers.
WAMSLEY, PETER, London: 1715-51. An old
maker whose work has been much praised by some, and
whose violoncellos at one time were held in considerable
esteem. 1 cannot say that I particularly like his work,
nearly all the instruments of his make (especially the violins)
that I have seen being worked much too thin in the plates.
250 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
The finest " Wamsley " that 1 am acquainted with is a viola,
dated 1734, owned by the Messrs. George Withers and Sons.
WARD, - , Dublin : c. 1750-1800. A fine violin of
his make, on a model closely approximating to that of the
grand Strad, is in the Dublin museum. He was an artist
of undoubted ability, and it is a pity that little or nothing is
known of him. Father Greaven mentions him, but is unable
to give any particulars.
WARDLAW, RICHARD, Cardiff: 1890-1900. An
amateur of average ability.
WARRIGK, A., Leeds : contemporary. Born at Read-
ing in 1863. He is a pupil of Mr. G. A. Chanot, of Manchester,
with whom he served an apprenticeship of six years, from
1884 to 1890. He works on various models, but chiefly on
the two principal classical ones. He has made a large
number of instruments of all sizes, and he has an extensive
repairing business. He uses excellent material, and the work
is beautifully finished throughout. The varnish is of his
own make, and has much the same characteristics as the
varnish traditionally associated with the house of Chanot.
It is made in four colours : yellow, reddish-yellow, brown-
red, and ruby. He was awarded the sole gold medal for a
case of violins at the Leeds International Exhibition in 1895.
ELEVE DE CHANOT.
WARRICK, REGINALD, Northampton: 1880-1902.
An amateur of average ability.
WATSON, FRANK, Rochdale : contemporary. Born
at Rochdale in 1866, where he has been established for about
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 251
twenty-five years as a professional maker and repairer. He
has made about a hundred and fifty violins, and a few violas
and violoncellos. The work is carefully finished throughout,
and the tone is powerful, and very good for orchestral
purposes. He is said to be a very skilful repairer.
WATSON, JOHN, Lerwick, Shetland : contemporary.
A Presbyterian clergyman who has made about fifty violins
of good workmanship and tone. The outline of his instru-
ments is rather quaint, otherwise the work is faultless. Mr.
Watson was obliged to retire from the active work of the
ministry last year through failing health.
WATT, ALEXANDER STOCKS, Inverkeithing : 1859
to about 1906, or a little later. He made a few instruments
of beautiful workmanship. A copy of the " Cessol " Strad
was a wonderfully faithful facsimile of the original. He was
a man of an ingenious and inventive turn of mind.
WEAVER, SAMUEL, London : 1780-1800. Ordinary
WHITAKER, HENRY, Plymouth : c. 1875.
WHITE, JOHN, Camerton, Somerset : c. 1840-50. He
made a number of violins and violoncellos of good average
merit, some of which were in use in village churches in the
neighbourhood of Camerton before the advent of the har-
monium or small organ.
WHITEHEAD, , Cork : c. 1800-30. A maker of
WHITELAW, JAMES, Glasgow: 1852-1904. The
celebrated discoverer of the amber oil varnish which bears
his name. (Vide Introduction.)
WHITESIDE, HENRY, Liverpool and Solva, Pem-
brokeshire : 1749-1824. He was the builder of the first
252 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Smalls lighthouse, and made a large number of musical
instruments, including spinets, harpsichords, and violins.
One of his violins, which is on a model approaching to that
of Stradivari, is in my possession : it has a beech back, and
a powerful but rather hard tone. He was a remarkable
man and a clever craftsman. He died at Solva in 1824, and
was buried at Whitchurch, Pembrokeshire.
WHITMARSH, EMMANUEL, London: nineteenth
century. A prolific maker. There is, or was very recently,
a maker of this name in London, but I do not think he is the
Whitmarsh whose work was largely advertised many years
WHITTAKER, BUTTON &, Leeds: 1805-30. Chiefly
WIGAN, DAVID, Shrewsbury : 1890-1904. An ama-
WIGHTMAN, GEORGE, London : c. 1760.
WILKIN, G. H., Hull : contemporary. An amateur.
WILKINSON, S. B., Leeds. I am not certain whether
he is now living : I have come across his name somewhere,
but can give no particulars.
WILKINSON, WILLIAM, Dublin : c. 1818 to about
1839. He was a son-in-law of Thomas Perry, and carried
on business under the name of " Perry and Wilkinson,"
although Perry had absolutely no hand in the making of the
instruments which bear the dual name (vide " Thomas
Perry "). The instruments which are labelled " Perry and
Wilkinson," and which were really the work of Wilkinson
or of his assistants, are much inferior to the work of Thomas
WILKS, ALFRED, Manchester : 1890-1904. An ama-
To face p. 253.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 253
WILLIAMS, ALFRED, Cheltenham : 1840 till about
1910, or a little later. He made a large number of violins
on various models.
WILLIAMS, BENJAMIN, Aberavon : 1768-1839. He
made about eighty violins on the Duke-Amati model. Very
good workmanship. Tone rather small but of good quality.
WILLIAMS, O. R., Manchester.
WILSON, , Whitby : c. 1820.
WILSON, J. J. T., London : contemporary. A bow
maker, who works principally for the trade. He worked
for some time with James Tubbs, and later with C. E. Tubbs.
I do not know that I have seen any of his bows, but they are
said to be very good.
WILSON, JAMES L., Greenock : contemporary. An
amateur who has produced excellent work. He won a gold
medal for an exhibit of violins at the Greenock Exhibition
held in 1893. His instruments have a beautiful tone.
WILTON, JAMES, Whitby. I do not know whether
he is alive, but he was working up to eight or ten years ago.
WISE, CHRISTOPHER, London : c. 1656. Chiefly a
maker of viols.
WITHERS, EDWARD, London: 1808-75. He was
born in London, December 23, 1808, and died there Decem-
ber 19, 1875. He bought the business of R. & W. Davis,
31 Coventry Street, Haymarket, in 1843, and set up in that
year as a professional maker and repairer, although he had
had little previous training. He soon became an expert
craftsman, and long before the end of his career was recog-
nized as one of the best makers England had produced in
the nineteenth century up to that time. He followed the
Stradivari and Guarneri models exclusively, and made a
254 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
large number of instruments, including violins, violas, and
violoncellos. The set of instruments known as the " Wither 's
quartet," now in the possession of the Messrs. Withers, of
Wardour Street, are among the finest instruments ever made
in this country. One of the violins of this set has been sold
and re-sold twice for the sum of 50 : its purchaser on one
occasion being Mr. L. d'Egville, who presented it to Wil-
helmj. Its companion violin was sold at first for 30, but
it realised later no less than 120 so the late Mr. E. Withers
informed me. That seems an enormous sum for an English
fiddle of the nineteenth century. The tenor was sold for
40, and the violoncello for 150.
Maucotel and Boullangier worked under Edward Withers
at one time : these were clever workmen, and were of great
assistance to the Englishman at a time when the fame of
his instruments had created a greater demand for his work
than he, working alone, could supply. Withers died at the
age of sixty-seven, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.
Facsimile label :
WITHERS, EDWARD AND SONS, London. Mr.
Edward Withers, the father, was born in London, October
22, 1844, and died there, May 10, 1915. He was the eldest
son of the preceding Edward Withers, and was trained by
his father, and by Jack Lott. He commenced business at
31 Coventry Street, in 1856, which he removed a few years
later to the present address of the firm, 22 Wardour Street.
He worked with his father for about twenty-five years,
To face p. 254.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 255
during which time he made a large number of new instru-
ments, and executed nearly all the principal repairs that
were entrusted to the firm. Like his father, he copied
exclusively the two principal models, and never attempted
in any way to modify the measurements, outline, and curves
of Stradivari and Guarneri, believing that the evolution of
violin models had reached its culminating point with these
two masters. He made altogether about three hundred
instruments, including violins, violas, and violoncellos.
All these are made of very choice wood, and constructed
with the utmost care. The work is beautifully finished, and
the varnish is of excellent quality and rich appearance.
On June i, 1893, he was appointed by Royal Warrant
violin maker to H.R.H. the late Duke of Saxe-Coburg-
Gotha, then Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr. Withers played the violin, viola, and 'cello, and was
passionately devoted to classical music. He frequently
had quartet and symphony parties at his private residence,
" Elm wood," Atkins Road, Clapham Park. His sons, who
now carry on the business, are : Edward Sidney Munns,
born in 1870, Sidney Bernard, born in 1873, and Douglas
Sidney, born in 1879. The three have received a thorough
grounding and practical training in their art, and are clever
craftsmen. Facsimile label :
L on d on.
WITHERS, GEORGE AND SONS, London: con-
temporary. Mr. George Withers is a son of Edward Withers/
senior, and a brother of the late Edward Withers, of Wardour
256 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Street. He and his sons are dealers in a large way of busi-
ness, whose establishment at 22 Leicester Square is familiar
to every connoisseur and virtuoso in the country. All of
them are practical violin makers, but Mr. Withers, senior,
has neither made nor repaired any instruments these many
years, the business occupying the whole of his time. His
two sons (who assist him in the business) received their
training in Mirecourt, and one of them, Mr. Guarnerius
Withers, is an excellent craftsman, and has made a few
violins quite recently.
This firm is justly celebrated for its long, honorable, and
successful record : its reputation is second to none. To have
business dealings with the Messrs. Withers once is to esteem
them for ever after as men who are actuated by the highest
WINRAM, JAMES, Edinburgh : contemporary. A
clever amateur maker and professional teacher of the violin
who has made a number of beautiful instruments. He is a
born artist, and would doubtless make his mark as a pro-
WOOD, G, F., London : nineteenth century. Very
WOODING, J. T., Swansea: contemporary. He is
said to be a good maker and an excellent repairer. I have
not seen any of his work, and cannot express an opinion as to
WOODNEY, H., Manchester : nineteenth century.
WOODWARD, - , Birmingham : c. 1820. I am not
certain, however, as to his period, and I know nothing about
WORDEN, JAMES, Preston : 1839 to about 1908, or
a year or two later. He was a descendant of the Wordens
of old Worden Hall, and his mother was descended from the
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 257
Plessingtons, of the Dimples, an old Lancashire family, who
gave to the Roman Catholics their last British martyr the
Rev. J. Plessington, who was executed in the year 1678.
He made about sixty instruments, on various models.
The work is good and careful all over, and the tone of a
quality which makes it very suitable for orchestral purposes.
WORNUM, , London : c. 1794. Nothing is known
WRIGHT, DANIEL, London : c. 1745.
WRIGHT, EBENEZER, South Shields: nineteenth
century. Average ability.
YATES, RICHARD. He worked in Manchester ten
years ago, but I do not know whether he is still there, or
whether he is still making violins. The only violins of his
make which I have seen were early efforts, but they showed
YOOLE, WILLIAM, St. Andrews: 1806-68. He
received some instructions from Matthew Hardie, and was
at one time a sort of collaborator with Tom Hardie, but
only as an amateur. He was Town Clerk of St. Andrews.
YOUNG, JAMES, Edinburgh : c. 1880-1904.
YOUNG, JOHN, London : c. 1700. No instruments
of his have been seen, but we learn from the curious
verses of Purcell that he was a maker.
YOUNG, G. RAIMONDI, Vevey, Switzerland. A
well-known scientist and medical doctor who has made
about a dozen violins of beautiful workmanship and tone.
He is a keen connoisseur, and an enthusiast in all matters
BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
appertaining to the violin. He hopes to devote a great
deal of time in Switzerland to his beloved hobby of violin
making. His knowledge and wonderful skill are a sufficient
guarantee of the excellence of his future work.
YOUNGMAN, M., Halifax. He worked there ten years
ago, but 1 do not know whether he is there now. His work
was carefully finished, and one of his violins which I tried
had a very good tone.
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND BOW
A List of Present-Day Makers, and a few Old Makers recently
A DICTIONARY OF VIOLIN AND BOW
ALLWOOD, , Sheffield; c. 1800. He is said to
have been an excellent craftsman.
ANGELL, S. E. He lived at 29 Gillingham Road,
Cricklewood, London, N.W., and died there November 26,
1918. He made a number of instruments, and was con-
sidered a good workman.
AUBREY, PHILIP, Gloucester; c. 1830-50. Poor
material and very ordinary work.
BARRETT, KERSHAW, Oxenhope, Yorks. Uses ex-
cellent material and follows the Strad model mostly. Good
workmanship : varnish of a light golden brown colour of
good quality. He is particularly successful in obtaining a
large, responsive, and mellow tone.
BEAMISH, JOHN, London. An excellent amateur,
who is working for the Peasant Arts Guild, which has its
headquarters at 17 Duke Street, Manchester Square. He
commenced to make violins as a hobby only a year or two
ago, but intends to devote much time to it in future, and
ought to succeed well, since he is an adept in the use of
BEE, F, C, f Shiremoor, Northumberland. Contem-
262 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
BERRY, PETER, Kirkcaldy, N.B., where he was born
in 1879. He works on an original model, and has made a
number of instruments of beautiful workmanship. The
design of his scroll is original, and the button is cut in the
form of a shoe. The material is excellent, and the varnish,
which is an oil one of a dark golden brown tint, is of good
quality. The tone is moderately powerful, of a reedy
quality, even, and very responsive. The maker is a talented
BIRCH, THOMAS, Hereford; c. 1850. Average
BIRD , RICHMOND HENRY, Liverpool. He was born
at Walsall, Staffordshire, in 1869, and has been employed
for the last six years by the Messrs. Rush worth and Dreaper
to do their violin repairs, and to make their high-class
instruments to order. Up to the present (1919) he has made
a hundred violins, nine violas, and eighteen violoncellos,
following usually the Stradivari or Guarneri model. The
workmanship is beautiful, every detail of the work both
inside and outside being finished with the utmost accuracy,
and pointing unmistakably to the master mind and the
cunning hand. Particular attention is paid to the gradua-
tion of the thicknesses of the plates, the maker being of the
opinion that the secret of the Italian masters lies in that
part of the work. Mr. Bird maintains that after long
meditation and innumerable experiments he has finally
unravelled the mystery of the Italian tone, and affirms
confidently that he can reproduce accurately the tone of
any particular instrument of the classical period. That is
a bold claim to advance, and will probably evoke rebuke if
not ridicule from the critics. But whatever theory (or
" fad," as some would call it) this maker may hold, and
whatever the critics may say, it is certain that he is in the
front rank of modern British violin makers 1 , and that his
work will bear comparison with the best that has been pro-
duced in modern times. He is certainly right in his funda-
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 263
mental principle that the best modern work is that which
most accurately reproduces the salient features of the best
work of the Italian masters. Acting on this principle, Mr.
Bird sets out to copy as accurately as his knowledge and skill
enable him, the grand instruments of Joseph and Antonio.
And well does he accomplish the task. I recently examined
two violins of his make, one varnished and one " in the
white," which were exact reproductions, as far as wood and
workmanship went, of a Strad of the grand period, and it
must be admitted that they were instruments which I think
the white-aproned master himself would have readily
admitted to the fellowship of his own. The tone was
powerful, brilliant, even, and reedy. It had fine carrying
power, and an inexhaustible reserve, since it did not give
out or " break " even with the vigorous use of a 'cello bow.
BLIGHT, R., Exeter : c. 1830. Very good work.
BROWN, J., West Marsh, near Great Grimsby. He was
alive and working a few years since.
BUXTON, HENRY, Chester : c. 1845. Stainer model ;
BUXTON, JAMES, Bristol : c. 1830. A repairer, and
probably a maker of no particular repute. A few years ago
I saw an old violin bearing a partially obliterated label
which had a name like Buxton, or something similar, of
BYRON, HUMPHRY, Oxford : c. 1800-20. A violin
recently seen bore the label : " Humphry Byron, fecit in
Oxon. 1810," and was on the Amati model, varnished golden
brown. It was well made and had a sweet tone.
BYRTH, WALTER, Nottingham : c. 1800. Whether
he was a maker or only a repairer it is impossible to say.
264 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
BYTTLE, J., Swansea : c. 1850. Probably only a
BYWATER, HENRY, Bristol : c. 1800. A rather nice
looking violin was recently picked up in a curiosity shop
bearing the label : " Made by Henry By water, in Bristol,"
without a date. The maker had evidently the work of
Richard Duke in his mind, and the varnish was very similar
to and quite as good as that used by Duke, but the tone was
not equal to the workmanship, and certainly not to be
compared with that of the old English maker.
GOAD, ALBERT, Redruth, Cornwall : contemporary.
He was born at Camborne, Cornwall, in 1884, and is now
established at Mount Pleasant, Redruth Highway, Redruth,
as a professional maker. As far as I am aware he is the only
Cornish maker now living and working in his native county.
Cornishmen like their first cousins the Welsh are by instinct
and temperament an art-loving people, but like them also
have neglected to a great extent the art of violin making.
How to account for this neglect a neglect which amounts
to aberrancy is more than I care to attempt. The efforts
of this maker (if they meet with the success they deserve)
will go a long way towards supplying the short-comings of
Cornwall. Mr. Coad is a disciple of the late Walter H.
Mayson, of Manchester, and has adopted that celebrated
maker's outline, arching, and thicknesses, and his work
shows that " the spirit of the master doth rest on the dis-
ciple." He uses handsome wood of the finest quality, and
makes only four or five instruments per year, devoting much
time and the greatest care to the construction of each one.
The work is beautifully finished, every detail evincing the
good taste of the born artist and the perfect skill of the
trained craftsman. Some connoisseurs would perhaps find
fault with this maker's work on the score of excessive
thickness in the plates, and I have no doubt the thickness
might be very slightly reduced without injury to the robust-
ness ancj brilliancy of the tone, But it is always safer to
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 265
err on the side of excess of thickness than otherwise : there
is a remedy for that, but there is no remedy for deficiency
of timber. Many instruments of the modern French
school are too thin in the plates ; they sound clear and
responsive now, but these qualities are obtained at the
expense of " stamina," and the instruments will have been
played out a hundred years hence. Mr. Coad is particularly
successful in obtaining fine tonal results. The tone of one
of his violins which I tried recently was large, brilliant, and
very easy to produce : it had the clear " ring " of a first-
class old instrument, and was exceptionally free from the
harshness which usually mars the tone of a new fiddle.
Work of the description produced by this maker is bound
to come to the front and to win recognition.
The label is hand-written, and each instrument has an
inscription written on the back on the bare wood.
CLARK, WILLIAM, Exeter: c. 1800-20. Several
violins of his make have been seen, bearing a written label.
They were unpurfled, but were otherwise well made, and
had a good tone.
COCKGROFT, - -, Rochdale : c. 1860.
GOCKMAN, F. G., London : contemporary. He works
at 31 Springcroft Avenue, East Finchley, but whether as
an amateur or a professional maker I cannot say.
COLLINGWOOD, JOSEPH, London: 1725-1750.
He worked at the " Golden Spectacles," London Bridge, and
labelled his instruments : " Joseph Collingwood, Londini,"
adding the date. He made a large number of instruments
on the Stainer, Strad, Amati, and a few on the Joseph
models. This is another old maker who has received scant
justice, or no justice at all, at the hands of connoisseurs
and writers on the violin. The reason is not far to seek :
Collingwood' s labels have been extracted wholesale from his
violins, and other labels, bearing more imposing names, have
266 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
been inserted in their place. Collingwood's best work is in
every way worthy of a place beside the finest work of
Banks, Forster, Duke, and Parker.
Charles Challenger, Esq., of Tiverton, St. Andrew's Park,
Bristol, had an Amati copy by Collingwood, covered with an
orange-coloured oil varnish of great lustre and transparency,
and with a beautiful tone, which equalled, if it did not sur-
pass, the very best work which ever came from the hands of
" One swallow does not make a summer/' and perhaps to
have made one fine violin does not constitute a man a violin
maker, but it certainly shows what he is capable of. But
the fame of Collingwood does not rest on the merit of the
solitary example just named ; there are other fine specimens
of his handiwork in the country. Dr. Broad, of Almons-
bury, Gloucestershire, has, or had, one. This gentleman,
who is a keen connoisseur, has seen several of Collingwood's
fiddles from time to time, and says they were all beautifully
made, possessing a remarkably sweet and mellow tone. A
few years back a fine Amati copy, with golden brown
varnish, was knocked down at Puttick & Simpson's for 35.
This specimen was in Collingwood's best style, and it had all
the characteristics of Italian work. More than likely by now
it has had its legitimate label removed, and one bearing a
clarum et venemUle nomen inserted instead.
CONKERTON, E. R., Newark : contemporary. Has
made some excellent violins and violas.
DA VIES, VINCENT, Erwood : contemporary. Accord-
ing to reliable report, he has made several beautiful instru-
ments, but I have not seen any of his work.
DAVY, WILLIAM, Bolton, Lancashire. A litterateur
who devotes his spare moments to the making of violins and
violas, and has produced some instruments with a wonder-
fully fine tone. His outline and model are original, showing
a marked divergence from the traditional type, but there is
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 267
nothing outre or grotesque about them. Mr. Davy does not
aim at a high degree of finish, but concentrates his knowledge
and skill on producing instruments with a grand, rich, and
DIXON, - ALFRED T., London : contemporary. A
violinist who makes violins en amateur. I have not seen any
of his work, but it is said to be excellent.
DUNCAN, JAMES, Cluny, Aberdeenshire, where he
was born, in 1871. He has made up to date twenty-nine
violins and one double-bass. A violin which I examined
recently was on an original model, but most of his instru-
ments are on the Joseph model, after Honeyman's drawings.
The workmanship is much above the average, and the
material used is selected with great care. He uses varnish
of his own make, which is an oil one, of good quality, and
perfectly transparent. The tone of the instrument I tried
was large, rich, and free.
DUNLOP, ALEXANDER, Broxham, Linlithgowshire :
contemporary. Strad model slightly modified. Good
material, varnish, and workmanship. I have seen only one
specimen of his work, and this had a beautiful tone.
EVANS, ISAAC PROBYN, Merthyr Tydfil : con-
temporary. He has made a few violins on the Amati and
Guarneri models. He is a keen connoisseur and a good
FARRELL, WILLIAM JAMES, London: contem-
porary. He was born in South Shields in 1870 ; and he now
works at 181 Caledonian Road, where he carries on the
business of making and repairing, and trades as Farrell &
Co., dealing in violin wood, accessories, etc. As a youth
he showed aptitude for the use of keen-edged tools, and a
predilection for wood carving, so that when he decided later
on to take up violin making as a hobby, he found that he
268 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
required very little instruction in the technical part of the
craft. He has a sound, practical knowledge of timber,
which he has gleaned during his travels abroad, and more
especially during a sojourn in the forests of West Africa, for
which he paid dearly, having four times contracted malaria
fever. He works principally on the Strad and Guarneri
models, but his instruments cannot be described as " copies "
in the strict sense of the word, since they show departures
from the classical models in several little matters of detail,
such as, e.g., the scroll, which is of an entirely different
pattern from the classical scroll, and, indeed, from any scroll
I have ever seen before. The wood used by Mr. Farrell, as
was naturally to be expected, is of the finest description, and
the varnish, which is of orange tint, is also of excellent
quality. The tone of the violin I tried was robust, respon-
sive, even, and carried well. Mr. Farrell is a keen artist,
and has in preparation a work on violin construction, in
which he deals principally with the vexed question of
" How to reproduce the Italian tone.' 1
FEAR, HARRY, Handsworth, Birmingham : contem-
porary. He was born at Brixton in 1878, and commenced
to make violins en amateur in 1912, since when he has com-
pleted about a dozen instruments. He is particularly
successful in obtaining a rich, mellow tone.
FISHER, GEORGE, Cheltenham : c. 1820. 1 saw
recently a violin bearing this name and date, which had
rather a good tone.
FLETCHER, JOSEPH, Hitchin, Herts : 1810-25. A
violin bearing this label was fairly well made and had a good
FOUCHER, FELIX, London: 1888-1917. Son and
pupil of Mons. Georges Foucher, a French maker and expert
who has been resident in London for many years. He lived
at 25 Wingate Road, Ravenscourt Park, W. On March 20,
To face p. 269.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS
1916, he enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment, and was sent
to France ten weeks later, where he was killed in action on
August 24, 1917. He made two hundred and fifty violins
and two violoncellos. The workmanship, more especially
of his later instruments, is beautiful, evincing the artist mind
and the trained hand in every turn of the chisel and gouge.
The number of instruments he completed is very large for
one so young, but there is not the slightest evidence of
hurry in any of the violins of his make that I have seen. He
was a born artist, and by his early death Britain has lost
one who would have greatly helped to bring lutherie to the
highest degree of perfection in this country. I recently had
the opportunity of seeing and trying three of his violins ;
one was a magnificent copy of a Gagliano, and another an
exact copy of a B. S. Fendt, but not (I observed with
satisfaction) bearing a fraudulent label. The imitation was
clever enough in the case of the latter to deceive (had such
been its intention) an experienced connoisseur. Wood and
varnish had been matched to perfection, and marks of wear
reproduced most minutely. To my mind the time and
energy expended on a facsimile reproduction of this kind are
wasted, and the result serves no purpose other than as a
demonstration of cleverness. Extremely clever young
Foucher was without a doubt, and it is gratifying to think
that he did not spend many of his precious moments
(moments that were all-too-brief, alas) in wanton exhibitions
of mere cleverness, but that he consecrated the best part of
his time to the production of genuinely artistic and unsophis-
Facsimile of label :
270 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
FOUCHER, GEORGES, London : contemporary.
Brother of the preceding. I have not seen any of his work,
but he is said to be a promising young artist.
FOX, ISAAC, Canterbury : contemporary. He was
born in Loath, Lincolnshire, in 1856, and is established at
4 Upper Bridge Street, Canterbury, as a gun, rifle, and
cartridge manufacturer. He has made violins and violas
for many years, as a hobby, and his work reaches a high
standard of excellence. He uses very beautiful wood, and
the workmanship and tone are exceedingly good.
FOX, RICHARD, EnfieldTown, London : contemporary.
He is established at 10 Fyfield Road as a pianoforte dealer
and tuner, and makes violins during leisure time. His
instruments are said to be excellent, both as regards work-
manship and tone. I have not seen any of his work, but I
have seen specimens of his varnish, which is beautifully
brilliant, and of the very finest quality. He has experi-
mented in violin varnish for a long number of years, and he
has certainly succeeded in producing a mixture of rare
FULTON, HENRY, Liverpool : c. 1800. A very well
made violoncello with this label was recently for sale in a
second-hand shop in one of the arcades in Liverpool.
GOFTON, ROBERT, Whitby Bay: 1844-90. He
made about thirty violins and a number of banjos. He was
a clever craftsman, and some of his instruments show
beautiful work. He was a cabinet maker by trade, and made
instruments during spare time. One who knew him describes
his work in a quaint manner thus : "He could make a
lovely fiddle, and when he had finished it you would just
think it had grown on a tree."
GRAHAM, R., Cadoxton, Barry : contemporary. He
is a native of Brompton, Cumberland, and a pupil of James
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 271
Meek, of Carlisle. He has made only a few violins, which
show excellent workmanship, and evince undoubted talent
for the craft.
GRAY, JOHN, Sunderland : contemporary. I have
not seen any of his work, but it is said to be excellent.
GREENWOOD, G. W., Rochdale : contemporary. He
was born in Rochdale on March 4, 1885. He is a professional
maker, and a pupil of T. E. Hesketh, the well-known violin
maker of Manchester, with whom he served a five years'
apprenticeship. He has not made many instruments as
yet, his time being taken up with repairs, but he hopes to
devote himself to the more interesting (if less profitable)
side of the craft in future. The workmanship of the one ex-
ample of his work which I have seen was magnificent, every
part of the instrument being beautifully finished. The tone
was firm, responsive, and of the reedy quality which is only
found in high-class fiddles. This maker ought to produce
work that will help materially to enhance the fame of the
rising generation of British violin makers.
GRIFFITHS, A. V., London : contemporary. He is
said to have made some excellent instruments.
GUNTER, HENRY, Scarborough: c. 1850. Fair
work, but poor wood and harsh tone.
HANCOCK, GEORGE, Stoke-on-Trent : contemporary.
He was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, in the year 1851. He
commenced as a professional repairer in 1886, but did not
make his first violin till 1909, since when he has completed
about a dozen instruments. He follows the Strad and
Joseph models, and a specimen of his work which I saw and
tried recently was of beautiful workmanship and had a very
fine tone. This maker is a born artist, and it is a pity that
his other business does not allow him to devote more time
to that of making.
272 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
HARROD, ROBERT, Exeter : c. 1784. A violin was
recently seen bearing his label : " Made and sold by Robert
Harrod from London. In St. Peter's Churchyard, Exon.
HARVEY, E. VICTOR, Dinas Powis : contemporary.
He is a son of Mr. E. Harvey, the violin maker, of Penarth,
and a very promising beginner.
HARVEY, EUGENE, Dinas Powis : contemporary. A
brother of the preceding, and a talented and promising
HAY, JAMES, Guildford, Surrey : contemporary. He
was born at Farm of Hilton, Forfarshire, April 23, 1869, and
has been trained as an electrical and mechanical engineer,
in which profession he is now acting as a consultant. An
amateur of great ability and skill, who has made several
lovely instruments on an original model.
HAYNES, H. C., Southsea : contemporary. He was
born at Great Malvern, in 1867, and is now established at
" Bonniecot," Goldsmith Avenue, Southsea, as a professional
maker and restorer. He comes of a musical stock, and has
taken a keen interest in music, musicians and instruments,
from his youth up. He is a brother to the well-known
Prof. Battison Haynes, sometime examiner to the Royal
College of Music, and the Royal Academy of Music, and a
nephew of William Haynes, the widely known organ recital-
ist. He has worked professionally as a violin maker and
restorer for twenty-five years, and has made a considerable
number of violins, but his time is principally taken up with
repairs. His model is original, approximating to that of
Joseph Guarnerius. The workmanship is good, but Mr.
Haynes' chief aim is perfection of tone rather than elegance
of construction, and it must be admitted that he is remark-
ably successful in obtaining a large, even, responsive, and
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 273
HAXTON, GEORGE, Glasgow: contemporary. He
was born at Kingskettle, Fifeshire, October 19, 1878, and
began to make violins about ten years ago, following the
Strad and Joseph models. Up to the present he has
completed thirty-five instruments, of excellent workman-
ship and tone. A Joseph copy recently seen by me was
beautifully finished, and had a large, rich, and mellow tone.
This maker is a born artist, and in the front rank of Scotland's
present day luthiers.
HENDERSON, JOHN, Broxburn, Linlithgowshire :
contemporary. He was born at Dundas, in the parish of
Dalmeny, Linlithgowshire, on November 13, 1842, and has
been established at Janefield Cottage, Broxburn, for a long
period as a professional maker and repairer. He is a man of
unique personality, and possessed of astonishing versatility.
A literary friend has furnished me with the following account
of him : " His first connection with craftsmanship was as a
blacksmith's apprentice, but about nine months sufficed to
quench his aspirations in that direction. He next tried
farming, and became an expert ploughman. In the year
1861 he won the second prize at the Mid and West Lothian
ploughing competition, and in the same year he won the
first prize at a similar competition at Currie. His next
venture was as a pit engineman, and after about eight years
at this work he obtained employment with the Oakland Oil
Co. as engineer. Afterwards he served with the Broxburn
Oil Co. for thirty-two years, but becoming possessed of
extensive property he retired some years ago, since when he
has devoted the greater part of his time to violin making
and repairing : but not all, for he is also an expert florist.
His violins are noted more for their wonderful tone than for
their workmanship. They have obtained first honours at
various industrial exhibitions held in Edinburgh and Glas-
gow for their tone. Mackenzie Murdoch, the ' Scottish
Paganini,' Mr. Will Findlay, Mr. Andrew Bartholomew, and
other celebrated Scottish artists, have played upon them, and
pronounced them to be equal to the best modern instruments
274 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
for tone. Although advanced in years he is surprisingly
youthful, and brimming over with pawky humour, good
sense, and the milk of human kindness."
HODGSON, , Alverstone : c. 1877. His name has
appeared recently in advertisements.
HOYLE, EDWARD, Todmorden, Yorkshire : contem-
porary. He was born at Carr-house Fold, Cross-stone,
Todmorden, April 17, 1841. He was trained as a cabinet
maker, and began to make violins in 1881, since when he has
completed seventy-three, following various models according
to the dictates of his fancy. He uses a varnish of his own
make, which is an oil one, of various shades, but mostly of
dark brown, and of good quality. The workmanship, as was
naturally to be expected in the case of one who had been
trained in the use of edged tools, shows nothing of the 'pren-
tice hand, but is highly finished throughout. The tone is
powerful, and of good quality even, free, bright, and
HUMPHREYS, ROBERT, Timberland, near Lincoln :
contemporary. He was born in the year 1859, an d began to
make violins in 1888. He follows the Strad and Joseph
models, and turns out three or four instruments every year,
which are of excellent workmanship and have a large and
telling tone. He is very careful in the selection of his
material, and every detail of the work is accurately finished.
Age and careful use will greatly improve his instruments.
IRWIN, E. J., Bradford, Yorkshire : contemporary.
He was born in Bradford in 1875, and commenced to make
violins in 1913. He has made about twenty instruments,
all of good, honest, solid workmanship, and varnished with
Anderson's amber oil varnish. The tone is very good.
J'ANSON, EDWARD POPPLEWELL, Leeds and
Manchester : c. 1840-75, or a little later, perhaps. Unfor-
tunately, there is no certainty as to when and where he was
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 275
born, nor as to his period of work, date and place of death,
etc. In some books he is said to have learnt his craft from
William Booth, junior, on what authority I do not know.
It does not matter much where he learnt or from whom,
since he was undoubtedly an extremely clever artist, if not
a genius, and would have shaped his destiny under almost
any circumstances. The great man, be he philosopher, poet,
artist, or what not, moulds his environment and develops
even by antagonism : he can say with Topsy : "I 'spect I
growed. Don't think nobody never made me." There can
be no doubt as to the ability of J'anson, the instruments
that still have his label in them (few though they be in
number) bear abundant testimony to his consummate skill.
Mr. Charles Holt, of Leicester, a keen and an experienced
connoisseur, who owns a fine example of his art, writes :
" The most perfect J'anson fiddle I have ever seen, and
certainly one of the finest instruments I have seen in my life
(and I have seen not a few) was that sold at a sale at Puttick
& Simpson's in 1908. It was dated ' Leeds 1854,' and was
knocked down to a dealer at a very high figure. I dare
assert that that fiddle was the grandest that English art has
ever produced." And with regard to the specimen that he
himself owns, Mr. Holt writes : " It is beautifully made,
and its tone is extraordinarily large and at the same time
ravishingly sweet. I recently bought what is probably the
finest Gennaro Gagliano in existence, in immaculate condi-
tion, and gave two hundred pounds for it, but the J'anson
puts it absolutely out of court. I have examples of Maggini,
Grancino, Andreas Guarnerius, Ceruti, etc., and have been a
fiddle fancier for upwards of thirty years, yet saw I never a
fiddle (except the very best of Stradivari or Giuseppe
Guarneri) to come up to the J'anson for grandeur and purity
of tone." Mr. Holt was good enough to send this violin
down for my inspection a little while ago, and I certainly
am obliged to confess myself in agreement with him. The
conviction has been growing upon me of late that if we only
possessed as many examples of the work of Tobin, J'anson,
276 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
Collingwood, and one or two others, as we do of the work of
Banks, Duke, Forster, Parker, etc., that we should have to
revise our estimate of the relative merits of our English
makers. Doubtless there are a goodly number of Tobins,
J'ansons, etc, in existence, but they have lost their identity,
and are " sailing about under the Italian flag." Once upon
a time it was said that " the poor ye have always with you " :
to the devotees of the fiddle it would be more appropriate
to say, " the rogue ye have always with you." Of course, it
must not be forgotten that the majority of the instruments
of such men as Tobin have borne false labels from the start,
that is to say, they have carried a trade label, or the
employer's label, and not that of the actual maker. Misap-
propriation is another besetting sin of the fiddle trade.
Some of the finest of our present day artists are lost to their
own generation and to posterity because in the struggle for
existence they have " to knuckle to," and sell their birth-
right for a mess of pottage to their more fortunate brethren ;
in plain words, they are obliged to sell their instruments
unlabelled to the trade.
The label in Mr. Holt's violin runs :
Edward P, I'aitso-a . Fecit.
The two last figures are filled in with a pen.
JERMY, ARTHUR, Kingsland, London : contempor-
ary. He is a professional maker and repairer, and is said
to be a clever artist. I regret I cannot say anything about
his work, as I have not seen any of his instruments. He
was born at Old Ford, London, in 1867, and has been
established at 6 Crossway, Kingsland, for a number of years.
JERVIS, FRANK, Belfast : c. 1800. This is another
old maker about whom little or nothing is known, Two
To face p. 277.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 277
violins bearing his label have been recently seen, one of
which was on the Amati model, very well made, and with a
beautiful tone. The varnish was of excellent quality, and
of a dark golden brown colour, lustrous and transparent.
It was evidently the work of one who was a master of the
KEENAN, EDWARD, Dublin : contemporary. He was,
born in the village of Clonolvy, in the parish of Ardcath,
Meath, Ireland, on the i8th of July, 1876, but his parents
belonged to Dublin, where Keenan has also lived from his
infancy. He lives at 5 Spencer Street, North Strand, and is
a professional maker and repairer. At the age of sixteen he
was apprenticed to a large firm of coach builders, and he
progressed so rapidly that at twenty-four he was appointed
foreman wheeler to the Messrs. Potter & Co., North Wall,
Dublin, who have a large export trade in wheels of every
description. He was married at the age of twenty, and has
seven children living. He commenced to make violins as a
hobby at an early age, and the mysteries of the craft exercised
so weird an influence over him that he felt irresistibly drawn
more and more towards violin making as a profession. He
read all the literature on the subject that he could get hold
of, and made a point of " interviewing " every fine fiddle
inside or that passed through Dublin, so that he gradually
stored up a mass of information that enabled him, by-and-
by, to wield gouge and callipers to some purpose. He
succeeded in producing a passable instrument almost from
the start. In his studies he has received material assistance
from Robert Cathcart, Esq., of Lurganbrae, Shankill, Co.
Dublin, whose profound knowledge of the subject, and wide
experience as a connoisseur, have proved a good substitute
for a regular apprenticeship at an atelier. Mr. Cathcart had
in his keeping during the period of the war a fine Strad, of
the golden period, and he was good enough to furnish Mr.
Keenan with an accurate set of tracings of this instrument a
few years ago, from which he (Keenan) now makes all his
278 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
beautiful Strad copies. The owner of this particular Strad
is Captain Joshua Watson, of Herbert Park, Dublin, who
entrusted it to the care of Mr. Cathcart till the end of the
war. Three years ago Mr. Keenan made a copy of the
Strad for Captain Watson, and concerning this fiddle Mr.
Cathcart writes me : "It has the best tone of all that he
has ever made. I had it for a couple of weeks before Captain
Watson was demobilised, and I found I could pick it up
immediately after playing on the Strad for some time, and
play on it with pleasure, and I think that a very severe
test, especially as the Strad (called the ' Vieuxtemps-
Hause ' in one of the old documents connected with it) is a
magnificent instrument and in perfect condition." I
recently had here for inspection another copy of this Strad,
made by Mr. Keenan for Captain Oakley, of S. Africa, and
in my honest opinion the instrument summed up in itself all
the excellent qualities that a copy can ever claim to possess.
The art of the copyist cannot possibly, I think, reach greater
perfection than it has reached in this instance. Material,
varnish, finish, and tone proclaimed it to be ne plus ultra.
This is not extravagant, but just praise. The luthier's art
has been under a cloud in Ireland for well-nigh a century,
but the strong rays of the sun have been piercing through the
cloud during the last few years, and already the art is
shaking her wings and preparing for another flight. The
home of Celtic art, the land of the Perrys, of Tobin, Delaney,
Dollard, Molyneux, etc., is yet capable of noble things.
There is even now a considerable number of native violin
makers, some of them men of great talent and skill, and it is
not hazardous to prophesy that the Emerald Isle will have
her own school of violin making before many more decades
Mr. Keenan has made a few violins on the Joseph model,
and several on an original model, and he won the first prize
with one of these at an exhibition held in 1913 in connection
with the Royal Dublin Society. But it is since he adopted
the Strad model that he has made the great strides which
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 279
have brought him so far towards the summit of his ambition,
and he will be well advised if he adheres to this model to the
end of his journey. It is to be hoped that he will be patron-
ised sufficiently well in his native land to enable him to
dispense with repairing and devote the whole of his time to
Facsimile of label :
| V EDWARD KEEN AN, V
KNIGHT, FRANK R., Reigate : contemporary. He
was born in 1870, and commenced to make violins in 1917.
A violin I recently examined showed that he had made
wonderful progress in the art in a short space of time. The
instrument had a fine tone, due principally, I think, to the
very choice quality of the pine in the table.
LAMB, JOHN, Shiremoor, Newcastle-on-Tyne : 1823-
1903. He made a considerable number of violins, of various
models. Some of his better class work is not without merit.
LAMB, JOHN, Shiremoor : contemporary. Son of the
preceding John Lamb, born in 1855. He has made about
thirty violins and two violas, on no particular model.
LEADER, JAMES HENRY, Bristol : c. 1830-40. I
recently saw a quaint-looking old fiddle bearing this label :
it was well made, of good material, and had a very fair tone.
LEAKE, H., Huntley : c. 1820. A rather crude look-
ing old fiddle, with a very good tone, had his MS. label
in it. The material was excellent, a fact which probably
accounted for the good tone,
280 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
LEE, PERCY, London : contemporary. He is estab-
lished at 6 Ashford House, Ashford Road, N.W., as a
professional maker, and viola player, and is considered by
some of the principal London dealers to be one of the ablest
representatives of the modern British school of violin
making. He was born in Huddersfield in the year 1871,
and is the fourth son of the late Mr. Joseph Lee, woollen
merchant, and sometime organist and choirmaster of St.
John's Church, of that town. He was educated at the
private academy of Mr. W. E. Thomas, a Welshman, whose
school at that time enjoyed a high reputation in the district.
He came to London at the age of seventeen, when he was
apprenticed to the firm of Messrs. George Rogers and Sons,
pianoforte makers, where he got his first insight into the
mysteries of fiddle construction, and became interested in
the study of acoustics. Soon after he had served his
apprenticeship he joined the ranks of the musical profession
as a viola player, and discarded pianoforte making. He
next took a course of instruction in violin making at the
warehouse of Messrs. Haynes, of Grays Inn Road, and soon
acquired a high degree of proficiency in the craft. His
output of instruments is not great : having more than one
string to his bow he is not entirely dependent on making, and
is able to devote extra time and care to the construction of
each fiddle. The bulk of his production consists of violas,
for the making of which he (as a viola player) considers he
has special aptitude and fitness.
In the opinion of artistes who play upon Mr. Lee's violas
the instruments possess a remarkably fine tone, and are
magnificently made and beautifully finished.
Mr. Lee has recently turned his attention to mediaeval
and pre-renaissance instruments. A viol d'amour which he
finished about six months ago, and which is figured here, is
worthy in every way to be placed beside the finest example
extant of the old viol maker's art. Mr. Henry Saint-George,
who was perhaps our greatest living authority on these old
instruments, spoke very highly of it.
VIOL D'AMOUR BY LEE.
To lace p. ^o.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 281
It may be remarked here that an effort has been made
within these last few years to revive certain mediaeval and
post-mediaeval types of stringed instruments, but the
effort, I think, is only a passing whim, and can result in no
real advantage. Crazes of the kind break our every now
and again. In Wales we have tried hard to revive interest
in the triple harp, and we have even tried to revive the
clumsy crwth, but what availeth it, the hand of the clock
will not be put back ! Haweis very pertinently remarks
that " there is something inexorable about the consensus
of posterity. Individuals may chafe under it, and writers
may try to reverse its verdict. You even have crazes for
the revival of neglected poets, painters, and musicians, but
you will never succeed in pushing from their pedestals the
great gods whom posterity has once decided to bow down
to." And if this is true of individual men and things, how
much more true is it of types, which Represent the maximum
effort of nature and art, and which are being eternally
evolved from the less to the more perfect ? Violin makers
should not take a plunge back into mediaevalism, but should
endeavour to catch a glimpse of the age to come and see
visions of the fiddle that is to be unless, indeed, they think
the fiddle type is already perfect. That Mr. Lee is an artist
of exceptional talent is manifest, and posterity will thank
him if he devotes his time and energy to the construction of
high-class violas. He has ample scope in this direction for
his powers. To begin with he might profitably devote some
time to the study of the problem of dimension and cubic
capacity, for, strange as it may seem, there is yet a diversity
of opinion among the best makers as to what the length,
widths, and depth of the perfect viola should be. The
matter has been settled long ago as far as the other instru-
ments are concerned, but both makers and players are in as
fidgetty a mood as ever about the viola.
LIGHT, GEORGE, Exeter. Period probably the last
quarter of the eighteenth century. Only one or two violins
282 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
bearing his label have been seen, but these showed very
careful work, and had a sweet and mellow tone, lacking in
LINDSAY, WILLIAM HENRY, Cardiff : contemporary.
He has made only one or two instruments.
LOCK, GEORGE HERBERT, M.A., Shrewsbury:
contemporary. He was born at Dorchester in 1850, was
at Cambridge from 1869 to 1873, and since that date has
lived in Shrewsbury, where he was mathematical master
(at the well-known Shrewsbury School) from 1873 to 1904,
when he retired.
He has made violins as a hobby for many years, and has
completed fifty-one instruments altogether, including two
violas and three 'cellos. The workmanship is excellent, and
the tone large, brilliant, and remarkably responsive. He is
a very clever amateur.
LONSDALE, W. P., Preston : early part of the nine-
MARDON, J. C., Exeter : c. 1850. It is not certain
whether he was a maker, or only a repairer.
MATHER, - , Swan wick : early part of the eighteenth
century. A 'cello of his make has been seen, which was of
handsome wood, well made, and had a very fine tone.
M'NEILL, JOHN, Edinburgh : contemporary. He was
born at Tranent, Haddingtonshire, in 1848, and made his
first violin about twenty years ago, since when he has
completed twenty- two instruments. His time is principally
taken up with repairs, and he greatly regrets that he has not
had the opportunity to perfect himself in the art of making,
albeit he has made some good fiddles, which have a powerful
and responsive tone, very useful for orchestral purposes.
M'Neill is said to be a skilful repairer.
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 283
MILLINGTON, ERNEST, Borrowash : contemporary.
A clever amateur who has made a few instruments by way
of experiment, with the object of discovering, if possible, the
secret of the Italian tone.
MOWBRAY, DAVID G., Leith : contemporary. Born
at Melrose in 1868. Commenced to make violins eight years
ago, and has completed several on the Strad and Joseph
models, but devotes most of his time to repairing. An
excellent craftsman, that would eventually produce import-
ant work if he devoted all his time to making.
MURRAY, ALEXANDER, Morpeth. Period, about
the middle of the nineteenth century. He made a con-
siderable number of violins, one of which is owned by
Councillor Lawson, of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, which is said
to have a good tone.
NANCE, S. E., Penarth, Glamorgan : contemporary.
A native of Padstow, Cornwall, who settled down in business
in Wales many years ago. He is keenly interested in the
theory of violin making, and has made about forty instru-
ments on an altogether original pattern.
NELSON, GEORGE, North Seaton, near Blyth, in
Northumberland : contemporary. I have not seen any of
his work, but 1 have reliable evidence that it is of consider-
able merit, and that some of his violins have a remarkably
fine tone. Unfortunately he has been an invalid for a long
time and unable to work.
NOON, T. M., Cardiff : contemporary. An amateur
who has made a splendid beginning.
OPIE, A. J., Portsmouth : contemporary. This very
clever amateur is by training a scientist, but by nature an
artist, and is the first of the name who for the last five
generations has not been trained as an artist. He is em-
ployed by the Admiralty as a specialist in testing and
284 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
designing the various forms of fighting ships, both above and
below the water, and by the greatest good fortune he has
been trained under Froude, the first and leading authority
in the world on the mathematics of naval architecture. He
has made a number of violins on an original model, which are
of beautiful workmanship and have a very fine tone.
PAGE, ARTHUR LEWIS, Uxbridge : contemporary.
He was born at Midhurst, W. Sussex, in 1879, and com-
menced to make violins in 1912. He follows the " grand "
Strad model, using material of excellent quality, and a
varnish which looks like Whitelaw's, of golden or orange
red colour. He has made only a few violins as yet, but
hopes to produce them more rapidly in future. The work
is excellent, and the tone large, brilliant, and responsive.
RICHARDSON, ARTHUR, Crediton, Devon: con-
temporary. He was born at Stavely, Derbyshire, in 1882,
and he now lives and works as a professional maker at
Butts Park Cottage, Park Road, Crediton. After receiving
a good education he was apprenticed to the wood-carving
and pattern-making trade, and when he had finished his
training he was acknowledged to be an exceptionally intelli-
gent and clever craftsman. Before he settled down at
Crediton a few years ago, he travelled about a great deal,
in the pursuit of his calling, and he made it a point to study
works of art of every description, wherever he went, includ-
ing painting, sculpture, architecture, and especially wood
carvings. He had rare opportunities, and made the fullest
use of them. In addition to being an expert wood carver,
he has displayed great talent as a wax modeller, and some
of his original designs are works of art. Needless to say,
he is also a good draughtsman.
This kind of early training, based upon a sound general
education, is, I verily believe, the best possible introduction
to the art and craft of violin making. I consider it to be
superior to a regular apprenticeship served in an atelier, after
the Continental fashion, which usually begins at the age of
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 285
fourteen, or even earlier in many instances, with the scantiest
knowledge of even the rudiments of science, and with barely
the skill to draw straight lines and simple curves. Violin
making, it should be borne in mind, is a science and an art
combined. A science teaches us to know, and an art to do.
It is a science in so far as it investigates the necessary prin-
ciples and forms of construction, and thus teaches us to
understand how the principles are discovered and the
knowledge of them applied : it is an art when it is occupied
in framing a number of practical rules, and in giving to
material certain definite forms. It is a delusion to think
that violin making is only a kind of glorified carpentry or
cabinet making. Many violin makers regard it as such,
with the result that they never (except perhaps by accident)
produce a great violin a violin which is at once a work of
art and a great musical instrument. When a violin maker
tells me that his chief ambition is to make a fiddle that is
beautiful to look at, I cannot help thinking that his know-
ledge of the craft is somewhere in the neighbourhood of
zero. Another tells me that he simply works for tone, and
cares nothing for appearance, and I hear something whisper
to me : " He has not the skill to make a thing of beauty,
but he would if he could." The conclusion of the whole
matter, and my apology for this digression, is this : let him
who aspires to be the Stradivari or the Guarneri of the future
train his brain to think, his eye to see, and his hands to do.
Mr. Richardson went through a long course of rigorous
training, and the result is manifest both in the fine tone and
in the graceful lines of his instruments. As to tone, the
result of the Cobbett competition, in which Mr. Richardson's
violin won the first prize, is sufficient guarantee of excellence.
And the workmanship is equal to the tone. One notable
feature of the construction is the careful graduation of the
thicknesses of the plates. Another is the discrimination
shown as to the proper quantity of wood that should be
left in the plates. Mr. Richardson works his plates neither
too thin nor too thick. To work them too thin is, of course,
286 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
a fatal mistake, but there is a school of violin makers to-day
which apparently thinks it impossible to err on the side of
thickness. It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that it
is a big mistake to leave too much wood. A well-known
writer on the violin has been preaching the thick plate
doctrine so indefatigably that he has converted a host of
makers to his views, many of them against their reason,
but he has won no converts among the cognoscenti, and the
error of the doctrine is sufficiently demonstrated in its
practice. Reason and experience abundantly confirm the
verdict pronounced by Hyacinth Abele long ago : "If the
wood is too thick, the tone will be poor and without any
ringing quality ; if the wood is too thin, the tone will be
hollow and tubby " [" The Violin and its Story," in " The
Strad " Library, p. 98].
Mr. Richardson has two models : the grand Strad, and a
model of his own, which may be described as the grand Strad
slightly modified in outline. Every detail of his work is
finished with elaborate care, and there is that grandeur,
refinement, and what the French call etat de repos, about the
completed instrument, which gives it a distinct individuality,
and is very pleasing to the eye of the connoisseur.
This maker is on the sunny side of forty, and therefore a
comparatively young man, and I venture to predict that,
given health and a little encouragement, he will produce
work that will not only contribute to maintain the traditions,
but will raise the status of the craft in Britain.
RITCHIE, ALEXANDER, London : contemporary
An amateur who has made only a few instruments, but whose
work shows such extraordinary talent that it commands
attention. I recently examined a specimen of it, and
entered the following remarks in my notebook : " A most
faithful and accurate copy of the grand Strad model. Excel-
lent material, beautiful workmanship, varnish a soft, elastic,
transparent, and brilliant mixture very similar to Urqu-
hart's varnish. Tone large, reedy, responsive and ringing.
A born artist, and as dexterous a craftsman as any now
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 287
living/ 1 He was born of Scottish parents in the year 1888,
at Battersea, in the county of London, and now resides at
34 Surrey Lane, Battersea Park, S.W. He is an engineer by
profession, a clever draughtsman, a violinist of repute, and
a man of solid learning. It is to be hoped he will make many
ROBINSON, WILLIAM, London : contemporary. He
works as a professional maker, and violin case maker, at
68 Rochdale Road, Plumstead, S.E. His life story, related
in his own words, has a touch of pathos and quaintness about
it that makes it interesting. He says : "I was born in the
village of Avebury, Wiltshire, in the year 1873, but am much
younger than my years would suggest. My father died when
I was two years of age, leaving a widow and four children to
fend for themselves. We were poor, so that I had to labour
on a farm at an early age : sometimes I was sent to mind the
sheep on the downs, but never went without pieces of wood
and my pocket knife, to make toys with, and nicknacks. I
spent my coppers, not on sweets, but on the empty boxes
which had contained them : these 1 converted into rustic
fiddles, for the country lads to play on. I toiled through
weary years up to manhood, and dreamed of the time when
I should make a real fiddle, and I am happy that I have lived
to see my dreams come true." Mr. Robinson was appren-
ticed to the saddlery trade, and he followed this occupation
till recently. He has designed and makes a speciality of a
beautiful kind of solid leather violin case, for which he gets
more orders than he can execute. His violins (of which
there is not a large number as yet) are beautifully con-
structed, and players think highly of their tonal qualities.
Mr. Towry Piper, in an article devoted to him in The Strad
for April, 1919, concludes his remarks thus : "I cannot
help regarding this maker as quite unusually gifted. He is
still in the prime of life, and if he continues to produce work
of this class he should go far, and obtain wide recognition
in the fiddle maker's calling." I thoroughly agree with
this eminent expert.
288 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
ROGERS, GEORGE, Conlig, Co. Down, Ireland : con-
temporary. An excellent member of the small but growing
band of modern Irish makers. He has made a number of
fine instruments on the Stradivari model. It is worthy of
remark that the majority of Irish makers have a decided
preference for the Strad model, whereas Scottish makers
have a penchant for the Joseph model. Perhaps the national
temperament has something to do with the respective choice.
The Irish are fervid, sympathetic, and responsive ; the
Scotch dour, persistent, and practical. With the exception
of Italy there is no soil in the world more rich in art pro-
ductibility than Ireland. The country which produced the
fine old artists of a century ago is capable of even greater
things, and when the Emerald Isle is regenerated and its
sorrows forgotten, the melody of fiddles that are yet unmade
will gladden the land. Artists of the type of Mr. Rogers
will hasten the coming of the new age.
SIMPSON, FRANK THOMAS, Dunmow, Essex:
contemporary. Born in the parish of Great Saling, Essex,
in 1887. He works on the Strad model, also on an original
model, with flat arching, and other differentiating charac-
teristics. He is particularly careful in the selection of his
material, and has had the rare good fortune to pick up
choice bits of maple and pine where, it is difficult to
imagine, in these days of timber famine. The thicknesses
are very carefully graduated, and the work is carefully
finished and beautifully varnished. The tone is large and
telling. He is a very capable craftsman, and if he were to
adhere to the Strad model, and to copy every detail scrupu-
lously, he would produce fine work.
SOWERBY, A. L., Manchester : contemporary. He
has made violins en amateur for a number of years, and has
lately opened business at 87 Fitz George Street, as a pro-
fessional maker and repairer. I have not seen any of his
more recent work, but his earlier work evinced a very special
aptitude for the craft, and augured well for a successful
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 289
career. Mr. Sowerby has a thorough knowledge of the
history of the craft, and of the principles of riddle construc-
tion, and there is no reason why he should not make his
STEDMAN, ROYSTON, Leyton, Essex : period, about
the middle of last century. Mr. Charles Holt, of Leicester,
reports having seen a viola of his make, which was of
excellent workmanship, and had a very fine tone.
STOCKDALE, WILLIAM, Acklington, Northumber-
land : contemporary. He has made a number of violins
on various models, the later ones being on that of Guarneri.
I have not seen any of them.
STURDY, ALFRED. An old fiddle, ascribed to the
middle of last century, had this name on a label, without
date or name of place.
TAYLOR, STEPHEN OLIVER, Leicester: contem-
porary. I am indebted to Mr. Charles Holt, the violin
connoisseur, of Leicester, for particulars respecting this
maker, and I take the opportunity here of thanking him for
his valuable assistance. Mr. Holt writes : " Regarding
Stephen Oliver Taylor, I must first of all say that he is the
son of Mr. Stephen Taylor, the well-known organ builder,
and that he is himself an organ builder first, and a violoncello
maker after. But he is, nevertheless, a consummate artist.
He has been brought up from childhood among fiddles, and
all kinds of woods, etc. His 'cellos are really the finest
things in the way of new instruments that I have seen or
heard. They are built on the lines of Giuseppe Guarneri's
violins, with the long Gothic sound-holes, and the effect is
very striking, altogether harmonious, and pleasing to the
eye. I have played on several of these 'cellos. They are
all made of beautifully figured wood in fact, it is extremely
handsome in the back and ribs and their appearance is
2QO BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
grand and majestic. The tone is all that could be desired
full, round, and as mellow as that of any old instrument I
have met with. The scrolls, too, are quite remarkable for
their bold, yet exquisite carving ; in fine, the conception of
the whole design is the quintessence of vigour and ele-
Mr. Taylor has secured a large stock of extremely old wood,
of the finest acoustical qualities, figure, and grain, and he
husbands it with the greatest care, and values it above
rubies. It seems that he does not make to sell, nor can he
be prevailed upon to part with any of his work : he loves the
art for its own sake.
TAYLOR, ROBERT, Leicester : contemporary. He
is a professional maker and repairer, and has his workshop
at 5 Ann Street. Mr. Holt writes respecting him : "He is
not related to Mr. Stephen Oliver Taylor, mentioned above,
and has not had the same advantage of being trained to
woodwork, albeit he is a splendid craftsman, and is turning
out some excellent fiddles. He pays special attention to
that very important part of fiddle construction, viz., the
graduation of the thicknesses of the plates, and his success
in obtaining a good tone is to be attributed largely to his
sound knowledge of timber, and of the principles of acoustics.
I have been able to offer him advice, from time to time,
during the various stages of the work, and I must say that
I have found him to be a most intelligent, diligent, and
patient worker. He is full of enthusiasm for his art, and I
certainly think he ought to reach a high standard of excel-
Mr. Taylor submitted a violin for my inspection some time
ago, and a careful trial of this instrument enables me to
endorse the foregoing remarks. There was very little in
the workmanship to justify criticism, and the tone was
THOMPSON, , Felkington, Northumberland,
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 291
TILLER, C. W., Boscombe, Bournemouth : contem-
porary. An exceptionally clever amateur, who has made
several violins, the last of which, finished a year ago, was of
very fine workmanship and tone. He is a joiner by trade,
but he shows such talent that it is a pity he is not a pro-
TYE, J., London : period, about the middle of last
century. A decent workman, but his sound-holes are the
most absurdly grotesque of all that I have ever seen. His
label runs : " Made by J. Tye, 37 Agnes Street, York Road,
WALKER, HENRY, Stoke-on-Trent : contemporary.
Born in Leeds, in 1876. A modeller by profession, and he
has made a 'cello, a viola, and several violins as a hobby,
which are said to be good.
WILD, FRANK, Rochdale, Lancashire : contemporary.
He was born in Rochdale in 1869, and is a tool maker by
trade, and makes and repairs violins only during spare time.
He has completed about a dozen instruments on the Amati-
Strad, and grand Strad models, the later ones of which are
of excellent workmanship, with a large, bright, even, and
responsive tone. He is a very enthusiastic and capable
WILLIAMS, R. J., Llandudno, N. Wales : contemporary.
A very clever amateur who has made about thirty instru-
ments, including violins, violas, and one 'cello. He won
the silver medal for the second best violin at the Royal
National Eisteddfod of Wales, held in Neath in 1918.
WILSON, FRED, Chelmsford : contemporary. A well-
to-do, enthusiastic amateur who has made a number of
violins of exquisite workmanship and beautiful tone.
WILSON, JAMES, Belkington, Scottish Borders.
Towards the end of last century. He made several violins
on the long Strad model.
292 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
WILLIAMS, THOMAS, Edgbaston, Birmingham : con-
temporary. He was born at Langley Green, Worcestershire,
in 1864, and lives now at 93 Lee Bank Road, Edgbaston.
Although he considers himself only an amateur maker, his
work reaches a high standard of excellence, and would bring
no discredit to the best professional maker in the country.
His last effort is a facsimile of a Lorenzo and Tommaso
Carcassi, and is a very clever bit of work. He is a born
artist, and it is a pity he does not take up the work pro-
WITHERS, JOSEPH, London: contemporary. The
life story of this " Grand Old Man of the Gouge " should
be given as it is related by himself in a letter to me, dated
March 18, 1919. He says : " I was born at Poplar, London
East, on the 28th of May, 1838, and was the only boy in a
family of seven children. My father and mother were born
in London, as were also my grandfather, grandmother, and
great-grandmother, on my father's side. My mother's
people were Scotch, hailing from Aberdeen, At the age
of seven I was sent to a day school, which I attended till I
was fourteen, when I was apprenticed to my father, who was
a shipwright, working for Messrs. Green at their shipbuilding
yard at Blackwall. I worked at first on gunboats which
were being built for the government at the time of the
Crimean war, and I also worked on the first armour-plated
vessels ever constructed. On August i, 1860, my father
met with a fatal accident, and my mother and young sister
then had no one to look to for support but me, so I had to
take my father's place in the home. I kept on working at
my trade in the shipyard till 1879. I commenced to make
violins as a hobby at the age of eighteen, and received some
instruction from a maker named Lambert, who had worked
with James Brown, of Spitalfields. In the year just named
I exhibited a violin at the Westminster Industrial Exhibi-
tion, and was awarded the first prize for musical instruments.
This Exhibition was on a large scale, and was held in a
VIOLIN AND BOW MAKERS 293
temporary building in Queen Victoria Street, Westminster,
from May i till September. The judges spoke so highly of
my violin that I thought it afforded me a favourable oppor-
tunity to start as a professional maker. I acted on the
impulse, and set up business at 158 Caledonian Road, N.,
and I am pleased to say I have never had cause to regret it.
From the time 1 started my career as a professional maker I
never missed an opportunity to improve my knowledge of
the violin, and I diligently applied myself to the acquiring
of perfect skill in the use of the tools peculiar to the craft.
I was a regular visitor at the great Exhibition of stringed
instruments held at South Kensington in 1872, and paid
the closest attention to the famous riddles gathered together
there. The ' Messie ' Strad fascinated me above all the
other instruments ; it held me spell-bound, and it was with
difficulty that I could tear myself away from it. That
fiddle has pursued me all through my life since I first saw
it, and haunted me in all my dreams. I have worked at my
fiddles under its spell, and have tried to catch some of its
spirit in order to imprison it in my work. Up to the present
I have made about a hundred and fifty violins, twelve
violas, and a few violoncellos. I am now nearly eighty-one
years of age, but my sight is as clear, and my hand as steady,
as they were fifty years ago, thanks to the life I have lived,
without alcohol or tobacco in any shape or form. The
number of instruments I have made is small, considering the
long years I have laboured, but that is because I have been
busily occupied with repairs all the time. I shall not make
many more fiddles : my material has been used up, and my
work has been done/'
The last violin made by Mr. Withers is on the table before
me now, and as I look at its pure outline and graceful curves
I can but admire and wonder. The scroll is of bold design,
symmetrical, with easy flowing lines, and justly proportioned
to the body of the instrument, whilst the purfling is inlaid
v /pnbrokenly and evenly without a tremor. One looks in
vain for the slightest evidence of old age in any little detail
294 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
of the work. The tone has a rich reedy quality that is not
often heard in a new instrument, and it is sweet, even, and
Facsimile of label :
Aged 80 Years
London, A. D. 1918 .
WORTHINGTON, JOHN, Hereford : c. 1820. Exag-
gerated Stainer model ; fair workmanship and tone.
WOULDHAVE, - -, North Shields : c. 1870. I am
not certain whether he was an actual maker, or merely a
dealer. Some of the instruments which have his label are
WRIGHT, PETER, Gloucester : c. 1840-50. Probably
only a repairer.
The magnificent quartet of old English instruments
shown in the frontispiece is owned by J. E. Smith, Esq., of
BaySwater, London. The violins are by Daniel Parker and
Richard Duke, the viola by Benjamin Banks, and the
violoncello by " Old " William Forster. The instruments
are typical examples of the old English school, and in excel-
lent condition. The Parker violin is, I think, one of the most
superb specimens of this fine old maker's work in existence.
I have seen altogether about twenty of his fiddles, but none
that would quite match this one. It is of the Long Strad
model, with a lovely orange-red varnish of excellent quality.
It has the quaint droop of the upper corners so characteristic
of Parker in his happy moments. It is figured here by itself
as an example of the " craft-poetry " of British genius.
The other instruments of this set are also each notable in
its own way, but space will not allow of a detailed description.
The quartet must be seen before its excellence can be fully
The following is a list of some of the more important
English books on the violin, and is intended as a guide to the
student who is desirous of acquiring a fairly wide and
accurate knowledge of the instrument and its literature.
The author has in preparation, and hopes to publish shortly,
A Complete Bibliography of the Violin, including British and
Foreign works, as well as " Violin Schools " and books of
BROADHOUSE, JOHN. Facts about Fiddles. Vio-
lins old and new. London, n.d. (1879) : W. Reeves. 8vo.
DAVIDSON, PETER. The Violin : Its Construction
theoretically and practically treated, etc. London : F.
Pitman. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, 1881. Small 8vo.
[There were four editions of this work, the first of which
was published in 1871. It is now very scarce.]
ENGEL, CARL. Researches into the Early History of
the Violin Family. London, 1883 : Novello, Ewer & Co.
F&TIS, FRANCOIS JOSEPH. Notice of Anthony
Stradivari the celebrated Violin-maker, known by the name
of Stradivarius. Preceded by Historical and Critical
Researches on the Origin and Transformations of Bow
Instruments, and followed by a Theoretical Analysis of the
APPENDIX B 299
Bow, and remarks on Frangois Tourte, the author of its
final improvements. Translated by John Bishop, of Chelten-
ham. London, 1864 : R. Cocks. Large 8vo.
FLEMING, JAMES M. Old Violins and their Makers :
Including some References to those of Modern Times.
Illustrated with facsimile of tickets, sound-holes, etc.
London, 1883 : L. Upcott GiU. Cr. 8vo.
FLEMING, JAMES M. The Fiddle Fancier's Guide :
A Manual of Information regarding Violins, Violas, Basses,
and Bows of Classical and Modern Times ; together with
Biographical Notices and Portraits of the most famous
Performers on these Instruments. London, 1892. Haynes,
Foucher & Co. 8vo.
GROVE, SIR GEORGE. A Dictionary of Music and
Musicians. Edition 1912, edited by J. A. Fuller Maitland,
M.A., F.S.A. London, Macmillan & Co., 5 volumes.
[There are several important articles on the violin, violin
makers, violin literature, etc.]
HART, GEORGE. The Violin : Its Famous Makers
and their Imitators. With numerous wood engravings from
photographs of the works of Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati, and
others. London, 1875 : Dulan & Schott. Large post 4to.
Second edition, greatly enlarged, 1884.
New edition, 1909. Large post 4to.
There are also four Popular Editions of this work : Cr. 8vo.
[This is the most important and reliable of all the books
treating on the violins of the various schools of the classical
period, but it scarcely touches on modern work.]
HAWEIS, REV. H. R. Old Violins. In the " Collector
Series." London, 1898 : George Red way. [A very instruc-
tive and interesting book.]
300 APPENDIX B
HERON-ALLEN, EDWARD. Violin-Making, as it
Was and Is : being a Historical, Theoretical, and Practical
Treatise on the Science and Art of Violin-Making, for the
use of Violin Makers and Players, Amateur and Professional.
With upwards of 200 Illustrations by the Author. Pre-
ceded by an Essay on the Violin and its Position as a Musical
Instrument. London, 1885 : Ward, Lock, Bowden, & Co.
Demy 8vo. [This is the best book on violin-making that
has ever appeared in any language.]
HILL, W. E. & SONS. Antonio Stradivari : His Life
and Work. London, 1902. 4to.
Second edition, 1909, 8vo.
[This fine monograph will remain for all time the Standard
work on Stradivari.]
HILL, W. E. & SONS. Gio. Paolo Maggini : His Life
and Work. London, 1892. 4to.
HONEYMAN, WM. C. The Violin : How to Choose
One. Edinburgh, 1893 : E. Kohler & Son. Cr. 8vo.
HONEYMAN, WM. C. Scottish Violin Makers : Past
and Present. Edinburgh, 1899 : E. Kohler & Son. Cr.
READE, CHARLES. A Lost Art Revived. Cremona
Violin and Varnish. Four letters descriptive of those
exhibited in 1872 at the South Kensington Museum, also
giving the data for producing the true varnishes used by the
great Cremonese makers. Reprinted from the Pall Mall
Gazette by George H. M. Muntz, Birchfield.
Gloucester, 1873 : John Bellowes. Large 8vo pamphlet.
SANDYS, WILLIAM, AND FORSTER, SIMON
ANDREW. The History of the Violin and other Instru-
ments played on with the Bow, from the remotest times to
the present. Also an account of the principal makers,
APPENDIX B 301
English and Foreign, with numerous illustrations. London,
1864 : J. R. Smith, Addison and Lucas. Demy 8vo.
STOEVING, PAUL. The Story of the Violin. London,
1904 : The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd.
" THE STRAD " LIBRARY. About a dozen or more
exceptionally useful handbooks have been issued in this
series. London : " The Strad " office.
THE WELSH CRWTH
That the crwth (crwth proper, as distinguished from
crwth trithant, or three-stringed crwth} was a popular instru-
ment in Wales for hundreds of years is abundantly evident
from the numerous references to it in the Welsh bardic
remains. The bulk of these references belong to the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, a good number to the seventeenth,
and a few to the first half of the eighteenth century. I have
made a long and diligent search for references to the crwth
in the literature and unpublished manuscripts of the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, and I hope before long to
publish the result of this interesting labour in a volume on
the Musical Instruments of the Welsh. Mr. Heron-Allen is
correct in his statement that " the crwth existed in Wales
to comparatively recent times," but is in error when he says
that it disappeared about the year 1801. There was a
family of crwth players in the Gwaun valley, near Fishguard,
living down to 1827. The last member of the family, who
was called Shams y Crwthwr (Demetian dialect James the
crwth player) died at an advanced age in the year named,
and was buried in the churchyard of Llanuchllwydog. There
was a crwth player, bearing the bardic name of y Crwthwr
Mwyn (the meek crwth player) at Carmarthen in 1810.
There were several eminent crwth players scattered about
Wales back in the middle of the eighteenth century. Here
is a list of crwth makers, most of whom were also performers
upon the instrument :
Dafydd ap Sh6n Forus, Trefnewydd, c. 1690.
APPENDIX C 303
Dafydd Sion, Gwrecsam, c. 1700.
Dafydd ap Roberts, Trallwm, c. 1675.
Dafydd Emwnt, Melin If an Dda, c. 1680.
Dafydd If an, Trefriw, c. 1700.
Shon Offeiriad, Aberhonddu (John the Priest, Brecon),
William Rhys, Llanymddyfri, c. 1680.
Shon Grythor, Abertawy, c. 1690.
Tomos Morgan, Caerfyrddin, c. 1675.
I have discovered the names of only two makers of the
eighteenth century, Richard Williams, and Richard Evans,
both of Anglesey, but probably some of the above lived on
through its first quarter, if not longer. Gradually the " wee
fiddle " found its way to the Welsh hills, and drove out its
quaint but cumbersome cousin, the crwth. It was a case of
the survival of the fitter. The native instrument had
disappeared completely by about 1830. Most of the
crythau in use in the eighteenth century were probably made
in the previous century, and many of them were possibly
much older, so that it is not surprising to find that only a
few of them are now extant. One of these is in the South
Kensington Museum, another is owned by Sir John Williams,
Bart., M.D., a third was the proprety of the late Colonel
C. Wynn-Finch, and is at Voelas Hall, North Wales, and a
fourth is in the Municipal Museum at Warrington. Of
these by far the most perfect and interesting specimen is the
one at Voelas Hall. The late Alderman Edward Samuelson,
of Liverpool, in a little pamphlet which he printed for private
distribution in 1892, gives an interesting account of it. He
says : "On closely examining it, I arrived at the conclusion
that it had originally been strung with wire, judging from
the minuteness of the holes in the tailpiece and the iron
string-wrests resembling those of a lyre or harp. It seems
probable that it had been manipulated in a manner similar
to the latter instrument, for it was at first designed to carry
twelve strings, though some subsequent owner had modified
it by filling up the holes of half-a-dozen of the string-
304 BRITISH VIOLIN MAKERS
wrests. Further evidence is found in the bridge, con-
structed to carry twelve strings, nearly level and very low.
The tail-piece and finger-board appear to have been intro-
duced after the strings were reduced in number. There is
a traditional record of a certain Crwthyr [sic : it should be
crythor] named Morgan, who is said to have played on this
instrument, in Carnarvon or at Newborough, early in the
present century, but there is no record of how he played it,
and, in the absence of any mark showing friction at the
part where the chin usually rests, I am disposed to think
that, if used as a bowed instrument, it was played from the
knee, after the manner of the viol da gamba or viol d'amour,
and in that case there would be no difficulty in playing
pizzicato passages on the two harp strings appended at the
side of the finger-board, and about which there seems to be
much mystery. The available information is, however, so
slight that I am not disposed to dogmatise, and it is quite
possible to hold either that it was played in the way I
describe, or that it was played in a manner resembling the
guitar an instrument which we will do well to remember
was immensely popular throughout England early in last
century, and indeed, until the all-devouring pianoforte drove
it from the field. One thing I am pretty sure of is, that the
crwth, in its original form, was not held and played in the
same way as the modern violin."
The Voelas Hall crwth is figured in " Musical Instruments :
Historique, Rare, and Unique/' by A. J. Hipkins.
An instrument somewhat resembling the crwth is still in
use among the Basques of the Pyrenees. The late T. H.
Thomas, the well-known artist and antiquarian, of Cardiff,
saw a strolling minstrel boy in the streets of Mentone in the
summer of 1880 playing upon what looked like a crwth, but
minus the wings. The minstrel played the accompaniment
to a quaint, plaintive melody which was sung by a little girl
with a lovely voice.
A serious attempt was made years ago by Alderman
Samuelson (already referred to) and others who were
APPENDIX C 305
interested in Welsh musical instruments, to revive the
crwth. The Alderman gives an account of his efforts in the
pamphlet just quoted from : " It seemed to me," he writes,
" after my study of the ancient crwth, that it possessed
features which it would be worth my while to attempt to
reproduce in such a modified form as would render it suitable
to modern use. So I commissioned a practical violin maker,
in the person of my young friend John Byrom, of Liverpool,
a former pupil of G. A. Chanot, a musical instrument maker
of some eminence, to construct for me an instrument on the
lines of yr hen grwth Cymreig, less rude in outward form, yet
in essentials the same. He has carried out his instructions
skilfully, and here is the result. It has a compass equal to
the violin and the tenor combined, and has a tone which
may be described as approximating to that of the viol
d'amour or viol da gamba. It is capable of great range of
style and effect, and lends itself admirably, for example, to
such compositions as Stradella's ' Chanson d'Eglise ' (Pieta
Signore), already arranged for violin, harp, and organ ;
etc. . . . and many other compositions of a similar charac-
ter. In short, here is one of our old national musical
instruments reconstructed, capable of effective use in modern
music, and only wanting enthusiastic young Welsh musicians
to make it their own. I hope sincerely that some such may
be led by my experiment to give it a trial."
This hope, earnestly and confidently expressed, was never
realized, and the strenuous effort to revive one of the old
national instruments of Wales came to nothing.
LEGENDARY ORIGIN OF STRINGED
Keltic legends about the origin and development of
stringed instruments have escaped the attention of writers
on the violin, and yet they are as interesting in themselves,
and as valuable to the antiquarian, as are the legends of
ancient Greece, Egypt, or India. In addition to the mytholo-
gical stories given in chapter V the following are note-
worthy : they are taken from the " History of Down and
Connor/' by the Rev. Father James O'Laverty, P.P.,
(1) " There once lived a man, Cuil, and his wife, Canoch-
lach Wor, and the wife conceived a hatred to him, and she
was fleeing from him through woods and wildernesses, and
he was always following her. One day the woman came to
the seashore of Camus [Professor O 'Curry thinks this is the
mouth of the Bann], and she heard the wind making music
through the sinews of a whale's skeleton, and the sweet
sounds lulled her into a deep sleep. Her husband, per-
ceiving the effect of sweet sounds, cut a tree in the woods and
formed from it a musical instrument (emit or clairseach)
and put strings on it, in imitation of the sinews of the whale's
skeleton. Thus he formed an instrument to calm the angry
temper of his wife, and that, says the legend, was the origin
of stringed instruments.
(2) " The emit, or clairseach, was invented, as saith the
legend, by Daghda, the great King or demi-god of the
APPENDIX D 307
Tuatha-de-Danaan, who ruled about eighteen hundred years
before the Incarnation. This instrument was capable of
giving forth three classes of music one sort which would
put the audience to cry, lament, and shed tears ; another
sort which caused them to laugh with their mouths so wide
open that all but their lungs were visible ; and the third
cast them into a deep sleep from that hour till the same
hour next day."
The following is a characteristic legend, which, according
to Professor O'Curry, belongs to the earliest Gaelic mytho-
(3) " And it came to pass that Fraech went to solicit the
hand of the princess Findaber, the daughter of the queen
Maev, of Connaught. He obtained from his fairy aunt a
retinue, among whom were three players of the emit (or
clairseach), each with the appearance of a king, both as to
his dress and his arms and steed. And this was the condi-
tion of these musical instruments : there were bags of the
skins of otters about them, ornamented with coral (partaing),
with an ornamentation of gold and silver over that, lined
with snow-white roebuck skins, and these again overlaid
with black-grey strips of skin and linen cloths as white as the
swan's coat, wrapped around the strings. The cruits (or
clairseachs) were of gold, and silver, and bronze, with
figures of serpents, and birds, and greyhounds upon them."
(4) There is a legend of an Irish saint who made a stringed
instrument, to which he added a string at every new moon,
till he had obtained a perfect instrument of thirteen strings,
upon which " he made sweet sounds and gave praise unto
This is the legendary way of accounting for the develop-
ment of stringed instruments. There are two or three
similar stories relative to the saints in Welsh folk-lore.
(5) Here is a characteristic story, of a different type, from
the folk-lore of South Pembrokeshire (" Little England
beyond Wales"). There lived an old couple at a place
called Sudden Pits, who rose from the depth of poverty to a
3 o8 APPENDIX D
high degree of affluence in one night, and this is how the
happy change came about. At a late hour one winter night,
when the goodman of the house had retired to rest, his wife
heard somebody approach the door and suddenly strike up
on a fiddle. The music was sad and weird, like the soughing
of the wind in the chimney : it gradually grew louder and
louder, till the very house shook with the storm of sounds.
The old man came down and timidly opened the door.
There, a few paces away, stood a minstrel, a small man with
long hair and beard as white as wool, playing upon a very
large fiddle, and tearing away at the strings with a monstrous
bow, as though he were bent upon waking the dead that
slept in the churchyard near by. At last he stopped, and
beckoned to the goodman to fetch a mattock, making
motions with his bow to convey his meaning. The goodman,
with fear in his heart and trembling in every limb, brought
the mattock and proceeded to dig at a spot indicated by the
strange little man, who stood by, occasionally grinning and
showing a mouthful of large, phosphorescent teeth. After
digging hard for an hour or more, he came upon a large iron
chest, which, upon being opened, was found to be filled with
gold coin and precious stones. The little man, no sooner
than he beheld the treasure, whipped his fiddle to his chin
and struck up a martial strain, which increased in volume
and velocity till the very bell in the church tower rang, and
the trees shook, and doors and windows rattled. The
commotion had not lasted a minute when, tearing down the
hill, there came a carriage drawn by two huge boars, and
driven by two monster greyhounds : into this the minstrel
jumped and galloped away, leaving the mystified old couple
to the enjoyment of their wealth.
There are several versions of this fairy tale, all differing
in detail, but relating practically the same thing, about the
In my remarks on the preservation of instruments I have
laid stress on the importance of giving valuable old violins
periods of rest. The question has been discussed time and
again whether old fiddles ever get " played out," and it has
been answered with equal confidence affirmatively and
negatively. The question is really one which can be deter-
mined tentatively. The Messrs. Hill (whose unrivalled
opportunities for the study of old instruments claim for
them a respectful hearing at all times), asseverate that it is
possible to wear out the tone of old violins. I will again
quote their words : " To close one most earnest word.
Instruments by continual use are apt to become weary.
They may even virtually be killed. Give them rests. We
feel it a duty to urge most strongly that fine instruments
should not be brought to premature death by ceaseless use/'
(Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work, p. 239).
The Rev. H. R. Haweis appears to hold the same view.
He says : " The witchery of the violin for collectors is
perhaps more difficult to explain. Very often these fanciers
don't play, and still more often they seem to have an
objection to other people stringing up their treasures and
playing on them. It is the construction, not so much the
sound of the violin, that deprives the collector of his senses ;
but we ought to be very thankful to these monomaniacs, for
without them there would be few masterpieces still extant ;
through them the violin goes into a period of Devachan, or
enforced rest." (Old Violins, p. n.)
3io APPENDIX E
Mr. Paul Stoeving is emphatic on the matter ; he says :
" I should like in this connection to vindicate the rich ama-
teur and violin collector, who is commonly chidden because
of his withholding such priceless treasures from the hands of
the professional, who can put them to better viz., their
proper use. Save for such temporary confinement, consider
how few of these old instruments would have stood the
continual, merciless strain and strife of professional life to
which they are now subjected. I do not know whether it
is a real fact, but it is affirmed that some of the best Stradi-
vari violins have already been played out, worked to death,
left a mere wreck of their former self as far as tone is con-
cerned. I can almost believe it, for I know from experience
that a violin, when played on for hours at a stretch, will get
tired, and the voice husky like an over-worked singer ; only
rest will restore the tone to its usual brightness and respon-
siveness." The late Dr. Joseph Joachim in a letter to me
dated from Gastein, August 13, 1898, writes : " It is an
undoubted fact that old violins if over-played become
fatigued. I find it necessary to keep three or four in use, so
as to give my favourite instrument periodical rests. Why
continual playing should produce fatigue is more than I can
say ; there are many theories about the mystery, but no
I have corresponded with several eminent professors and
virtuosi on the subject, and one and all are agreed that old
violins become weary if over-worked. Experience seems,
therefore, to leave no doubt at all about the matter.
Now, here are some very difficult and interesting problems
to solve. Why should over-work produce fatigue in dead
matter ? Why, indeed, should it be called over-work, if the
instrument with which it is produced, or on which it is
performed, is dead ? What are the determining factors
of fatigue ? Where is the boundary line of reasonable
work ? Why does rest restore the tone i.e., where the
harm is not irreparable ? At what point of over-work
does the injury to the tone become irreparable ? What is
APPENDIX E 311
it that happens at that point ? And, finally, why is restora-
tion impossible when a certain stage of fatigue has been
These, and many more such problems, are awaiting
It would be well if, in tackling these questions, scientists
endeavoured to satisfy themselves first on the most vital of
them, viz., Why should over- work produce fatigue or
weariness in dead matter (violins) ?
In current theories it seems to be taken for granted that
thereis a fundamental difference between living and " dead "
cells, and that, therefore, the question of violin fatigue is
not one of exhausted vitality or of subtle electrical condi-
tions, but one of purely physical change. But may it not
be that too much has been taken for granted, and that,
consequently, enquirers after the truth have set off on the
wrong track ? Is there really a fundamental distinction
between what we term " living " and " dead " matter, or,
if you prefer, between matter and mind ? Is not the
hylozoistic view more rational " that mind of some kind
exists not only in man and the higher and lower animals,
not only in the protists present and past, not only in the
colloids, crystalloids and chemical compounds antecedent
to the latter, but in the very molecules and atoms them-
selves ? " Perhaps the poet who sang that
"Winds, waves, and flames, trees, reeds, and rocks
All live ; all are instinct with soul "
had a truer conception of the constitution of the universe
than he who regards mind and matter as antitheses.
There are innumerable facts which suggest that the
difference between living and non-living matter is not one
of kind but merely of degree, such as e.g., the affinity in
chemical composition between haemoglobin and chlorophyll,
the uniform effect of actinic rays in the so-called three
kingdoms of nature, etc,
There would be no harm done if theorists tried another
312 APPENDIX E
track. If for " cellular incohesion " they substitute " decen-
tralization of mind " they might arrive at some sort of
agreement, and bring us at least a little nearer to a solution
of the mystery. As bearing on this fascinating subject, I
would refer the reader to a very lucid article in the pages of
The Hibbert Journal, vol. xiii, No 3 " Mind and Matter :
A hylozoistic view/' by Fleet-Surgeon C. Marsh Beadnell,
R.N., where he will find a long passage on memory in the
WOOD AND TONE
It is remarkable how little we know about the tone
qualities of various kinds of wood. Hundreds of thousands
of experiments have been conducted with a view to (a) a
re-discovery of the Italian varnish, or (b) the discovery of a
good substitute ; but comparatively few with the object
of arriving at a fuller and more accurate knowledge of the
sound properties of timber. For a generation or more it
has been taken for granted that the only suitable kinds of
wood for violin making are maple and pine. Not a few
luthiers, I suspect, appear to be oblivious of so elementary
a fact as that the names " maple " and " pine " are species
terms, each including a large number of varieties. There
are between fifty and sixty varieties of maple (acer), and
quite a long list of varieties of pine (pinus) twenty-eight in
the United States alone and if we add the firs (abies) the
number is very considerable indeed.
Which variety of maple, and which of pine, did the
Italian masters use ? I do not think the question, simple
though it appear, can be answered with anything like cer-
tainty. M. Mangin observes that the old masters used a
kind of pine called " azarole " (which another French
writer, M. Simontre, identifies with pinus epicea), but where
does he get his information from ?
In standard theoretical works the whole subject is dis-
missed summarily by saying that the best maple for violin
making grows on the southern slopes of the Carpathians and
in some parts of the Eastern Alps, and that the best pine
3i4 APPENDIX F
comes from Silesia, La Valteline, Les Orisons, Le Simmen-
The fact is, nobody knows where the best varieties of
maple and pine grow, nor even what are the best varieties.
Indeed, I do not think sufficient is known on the subject of
violin acoustics to warrant even the belief that maple and
pine are the best possible woods for tone. We have fallen
into the pernicious habit of taking too many things for
granted, whereas in strict scientific inquiry nothing should
be taken for granted. Within the area covered by this
subject there remains an unknown region, waiting the advent
of a curious explorer. Dr. Felix Savant did splendid work,
but he only just entered the borderland.
I am well aware that violin makers have from time to
time tried various kinds of wood, and that experiments have
been made with different metals, glass, leather, etc., but
sporadic tests and experiments by unlettered men are not
likely to' lead to any great discovery. The subject demands
a deep and persistent scientific study, extending over many
years and over many countries. Woods from all parts of
the world, from different soils, of different varieties, and
of different species, ought to be tried in endless combina-
tions, the results being carefully tabulated, to enable us to
arrive at definite results. This is, of course, largely a
question of time and money, but an abundance of both has
been sacrificed in the pursuit of that ignis fatuus, the Italian
ON THE USE OF THE NAMES "FIDDLE"
Within recent years the word fiddle has fallen almost
completely out of use in polite speech, and writers also show
a tendency to discard it. Some people use the word to
designate instruments of an inferior class, reserving the word
violin for those of the better sort, or for classical instruments.
Fiddler and violinist are treated in the same way, except
that the former appears to have even a greater stigma
attached to it than has the word fiddle. There is a fashion
in the use of words even as there is in ladies' hats, but in
the case of the names under discussion it signifies nothing
really to the historian and etymologist, for both words mean
precisely the same thing. In all probability they come
from the same root.
Fiddle is the modern form of the O.E. fidele andfithele ;
A.S. fiftele, and sometimes viftele. The word is akin to the
Danish vedel, O.H.G. fiedel, M.G. fiedel, and Icel. fiftdla. All
these forms appear to be ultimately connected with the late
Latin vitula, which is of uncertain origin, but which in all
probability comes from the early Latin vitulari, to celebrate
a festival, originally to sacrifice a calf. [Vitulus a bull-
calf ; vitula a cow-calf]. Vitula was the goddess among
the Romans who presided over festivals and rejoicings.
Violin (with all its Romance equivalents) is the Italian
diminutive of viola, derived from viol, which (according to
the accepted etymology) is also derived from vitula, just like
3i6 APPENDIX G
fiddle. Veal [O.E. veel, O.F. veel, M.F. veaii] and vellum,
vituline, are, of course, cognate words.
The disappearance of t in viol (viola and viula] is in
accordance with one of the sound-laws which govern the
passage of popular spoken Latin into the Romance dialects,
whereby a medial consonant between two vowels is gener-
ally syncopated, as, e.g., magistrum in modern French
becomes maitre ; securum = sur ; rotundum = rond, etc.
If the above be the correct etymology of the words fiddle
and violin (and the weight of scholarship is in its favour), it
seems a hard fate which has overtaken the former name.
There is no reason why fiddle should fall into disfavour.
Let us hope that another generation will have a truer appre-
ciation of history and a keener sense of the fitness of things.
The poor word crowd has had to go by the board long ago,
but it was quite a respectable word, being related to the
Gaelic cruit and the Welsh crwth.
It is remarkable how, in the growth of language, names
and words which once were considered fitting and polite
have come to indicate something which is offensive ; take
e.g., the words gossip, vulgar, clown, pagan, silly, etc. If
to the list of degraded words must eventually be added the
word fiddle, that will be when ignorance is allowed to sit in
judgment at the gates of elegance.
CLIMATE AND TONE
That climate has a great deal to do with the quality of the
tone of violins is a fact that does not appear to need demon-
stration, nevertheless it has been questioned. My own
observations, extending over a quarter of a century, and the
testimony of others who have interested themselves in the
subject, enable me to say very explicitly that the fiddle
(unlike the great Samuel Johnson) is much affected by the
weather. Two things establish the fact : (i) A damp or
variable climate affects detrimentally the tone of old
instruments. There is nothing (unless it be accident or
theft) that artistes who own fine old fiddles so much dread
as damp, murky weather, and the foul, over-heated atmo-
sphere of a concert room. Dr. Joachim once told me that his
Strad positively refused to sing in a humid room. The more
perfect the constitution of the fiddle, and the sweeter its
voice, the more is it affected by climatic changes. For
this reason it is probable that we rarely or never in this
country hear the great Strad and Joseph at their best.
(2) A warm climate helps to mature new instruments.
I have seen instruments that were made by British makers
twenty to twenty-five years ago, which had been for a
number of years in a warm climate some in India, some in
British East Africa, Egypt, and Italy the tone of which
had matured wonderfully. It will suffice to name one
instance. In the year 1895 the late James Hardie, of
Edinburgh, made specially to my order a fine violin on the
Maggini model : he made also a similar instrument to the
3i8 APPENDIX H
order of a gentleman who went in that year to East Africa,
taking the fiddle with him. Some time ago this latter
instrument came into my possession, and I had the oppor-
tunity to judge of the effect of nearly twenty years of
tropical heat on the constitution and tone of the fiddle. It
was very marked : the wood had aged in appearance, the
glint of the varnish had been much softened, and the tone
had developed a maturity which an existence of fifty years
in England would not have given it. There is now a vast
difference in the tone of these two Hardie fiddles.
Can we in this country, is the question, with our grey
sky and grumpy climate, ever hope to impart to our new
fiddles a full and perfect maturity ? I fear not. We can
import wood from Alpine hill and Croatian dale ; we can
reproduce the graceful lines of Strad or Joseph ; we may
yet succeed in adorning our work with Cremona ruby ; but
one thing remains for ever beyond our grasp the maturing
warmth of the generous climate of the fair land of Italy.
Printed in Grtat Britain for ROBBBT SCOTT, PublitJier, PATKKNOSTER Row, LONDON, B.C.
by BTJTLBB & TANNKB, FBOMK
Morris, W Meredith
British violin makers
2d ed. rev. and enl.
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