J.W. Reed (c.1877-99)

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John William Reed was a harmonium and reed organ manufacturer of Handel Works, Hanover Street, Islington, London. He lived at 17 Colebrook Row, Islington in 1895. Later labels show Gerrard Street.

There is reference in The London Gazette 1/2/1895 to J.W. Reed Harmonium and Pianoforte Manufacturer as being a joint executor with John Wills (an estate agent in Camden Town) of the will of Sarah Baugh of Holloway, London.

He seems to have been a manufacturer of high quality and innovative instruments. This advert was published in the ``United Methodist Free Churches Magazine'' in 1884.


I am grateful to Brian Stevenson of Kentucky for publishing the full story of Reed's life and work [183]. He also has a link to my older Web site. Some of the following text is therefore taken from his Web article.

J.W. Reed was born in Manchester during the late summer of 1843. His father, William, was a Wesley Methodist minister. The Reeds evidently moved frequently, presumably due to William's ministry. John's sister Ellen, 3 years younger, was born in Helstone, Cornwall. The 1851 census shows that the Reeds were then living in Barnsley. In 1861, they lived in Islington, Middlesex, near London, very close to a large number of pianoforte and reed organ makers.

John was employed in the insurance industry early on. At the time of his marriage in 1867 at the age of 23 Reed was a superintendant of agents. His wife, Mary, was the daughter of Marmaduke Miller, a hat manufacturer and Methodist minister. The Miller Memorial Church, in Tottenham, is named after Rev. Miller. John and Mary's first son, John Marmaduke Miller Reed, was born in 1868, and the Reeds lived with the Millers until at least 1871 according to census records.

By 1877, they lived in a separate home at 27 Clarence Street, Islington. That year, John Reed joined both the Quekett Microscopical Club and the Royal Geographic Society. The Reeds also had their second son, Alfred Arthur John William Reed. Alfred's christening record indicates that John Reed had made a career change between the time of the 1871 census and 1877: he is now a ``pianoforte maker''. The construction of pianofortes, harmoniums and reed organs and repairs of damaged instruments, was to be Reed's occupation until the end of his life.


J.W. Reed was elected to the Council of the Quekett Microscopical Club in 1879 and served through 1881. He was elected as Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in March 1881. Reed was evidently an ardent microscopist interested in natural history and very often exhibited slides at Quekett meetings.

Between the time of the 1881 census and Reed renewing his Quekett membership for 1882, the family moved to 17 Colebrook Row, Islington. The musical instrument factory was then located on Hanover Street.

Between 1889 and 1891, the Reed family moved again from Islington across the Thames to Dorking, Surrey. The 1891 census recorded John, Mary and 14 year old son Alfred as ``boarders'' in the home of Stephen Wilkins, a boot maker and Baptist minister. John Reed was listed as being a ``pianoforte manufacturer'' and an employer of workers. The reason for this move from a private home with ``live in servant'' in 1881, to a boarding situation in 1891, is not known, but suggests possible financial setbacks for the business.

Labels on his later instruments say ``J.W. Reed and Sons, London''.

John William Reed died between late October and early Nov'1899 at the age of 56. The report of the 17/11/1899 Ordinary Meeting of the Quekett Microscopical Club states The Secretary said that most of the members were probably aware that since their last meeting they had lost in a very sad way one of their most useful members, Mr. J.W. Reed. The Club had been indebted to him in many ways: he had rendered them considerable service at their soirees by securing a most excellent band free of all cost; and he had also read papers, amongst which those on Pyrenean plants and on the fungus diseases of plants would be particularly remembered. They would all miss him very much, and his loss as a member of their Committee would also be much felt. The President said that at the meeting of the Committee that evening a vote of condolence and sympathy with the family of Mr. Reed had been passed, and he was sure that this would meet with the concurrence of the Club as a whole.

He was clearly a very talented Victorian.

Pressure Organs (and harmoniums)

For reference one instrument with serial no.24691 and keyboard no.1884 is dated 1872 (unlikely?) another has serial no.43503.

e-Bay 2004

A small harmonium appeared for sale on e-Bay in 2004 in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey listed as Harmonium 1800's. We estimate it was made around the late 1800's to the turn of the century and it has the name on a lovely gold plaque, which states:


it also says:


Another smaller label states:


The size is around 41'' wide is 14'' deep and stands about 32'' high, it has 61 keys and said to be made of yew or similar to this wood.

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Another small Reed harmonium shown in the above pictures was advertised several times. Whilst the label states that Reed was a manufacturer, it is quite likely that some of these instruments are French and assembled in England.


I have seen photographs of several others in various conditions.

Thomas Reilich Orgel- und Harmoniumwerkstatt

The Web site of Thomas Reilich shows details of a full restoration of a small 3 stop Reed harmonium from around 1870. This instrument is in Germany. The stops are Sourdine, Expression, Tremolo


e-Bay *4503

This one, with no stops, was advertised in Okehampton during Dec'2017.


Another almost identical one was advertised in Newton Abbot during Apr'2014 (*e6897).

Reed Organs Web site no.341 2M

This 2M instrument with the John Reed label appeared for sale on Chris Hampson's Web site during 2017. It was advertised by the owner in North Wales.

The stop list is not definitive as many of the labels have fallen off, it is thought to be: Forte, Sourdine, Dulciana, Bassoon, Clarion, Bourdon, Cor Anglais, Manual Coupler, Full Organ, Expression, Flute, Clarinette, Fifre, Oboe, Dulciana, Principal, Violoncelle, Tremolo, Forte

It measures 41'' x37'' x48''h.


Its clearly suffered from being stored in a damp location, but if restored, this could be an amazing instrument similar to the Schiedmayer that I once played regularly.

e-Bay item *1638

This harmonium, advertised in Goole in Aug'2012, carries a rather different label. It had originally been in a Weslyan chapel, but was donated to the Parish church when the chapel closed. It has an interesting style, being similar to the Hillier instruments but with American Organ shape stop knobs.

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e-Bay *3168

Advertised in Stock-sub-Hamdon during Apr'2015.


A similar, but earlier one with 7 stops and better condition, was advertised in Exeter during Feb'2007 (*e9930 and *e4046).

e-Bay *3417 1M

For sale from The Dream Vault in London N4 Dec'2021. A well finished 1M harmonium with 8 stops (one missing). Some bits of the case seem to be also missing.

Suction Organs

Reed also made suction reed organs.


Nothing further is known of the following which seems to be a rather unusual suction instrument (*e8359).


Reed Organs Web site no.379 1M

This 1M instrument was also on Chris Hampson's Web site Feb'2020 then located in South Edinburgh.

The instrument is similar in style to some of the others and has 14 stops: Forte, Viola, Bourdon, Melodia, Diapason, Echo, Octave Coupler, Vox Humana, Octave Coupler, Dolce, Dulciana, Flute, Clarinette, Violetta


e-Bay *9787

Another instrument by John Reed appeared on e-Bay in Cornwall during Dec'2006. It has a richly finished cabinet and the following stops: Melodia, Diapson, Echo, Vox Humana, Dolce, Dulciana, Flute.


Milton Wainwright's Reed pipe top organ

Milton Wainwright of New Zealand published a description with photographs in the ROS quarterly [196]. This one also has a pipe top. We also don't know the list of stops, but Milton notes that it was sold through the retailer John Smith of Coatbridge.

HVN-0088 1M Handel Organ 1M5:6

Another pipe top organ is shown on the Harmoniumnet Web site photo ©Klaas von Boggelen. This is from the database of the Harmonium Vereniging Netherlands, entry number HVN-0088. It is said to have been made in 1872 and serial no.1884.

It is referred to as a Handel model from 1872, and the stops are as follows: Forte, Seraphone, Dulciana, Celeste, Diapason, Dolce, Octave Coupler, Vox Humana, Octave Coupler, Echo, Melodia, Flute, Dulciana, Viola, Clarinette, English Horn.


I have seen photographs of two of these almost identical.

Mr. Ferguson's 1M

Photos of a similar one, but without the fancy top, were sent to me by Nigel Ferguson in Jan'2020. He had discovered it while clearing his late Father's garage. The stops are Forte, Viola, Bourdon, Melodia, Diapason, Echo, Octave Coupler, Vox Humana, Octave Coupler, Dolce, Dulciana, Flute, Clarinette, Violette.

e-Bay *9840

This instrument served in the Zoar Chapel, Mertyhr Tydfil. Unfortunately it was thrown out during a re-furbishment in late 2009 and found its way onto e-Bay in Feb'2010.


The shaped panels on the front of the instrument and other decoration, including the lattice work sound vents, seem to be typical of Reed.


e-Bay *0168

For sale in Aug'2013 in Huntingdon.


e-Bay *9140

This one appeared for sale in Aug'2014 and has the Boyd of London shop label in addition to the Reed Handel Works label.


HVN-0450 1M

Is probably another one sold by James Cooper, New North Road, Islington. Serial no.5639 possibly 1886?

HVN-0528 1M

Another one in Netherlands, but no information available.

East Midlands Cinema Organ Association 3M

A 3-manual organ by J.W. Reed is listed on their new Reed Organ Museum Web site:

Rob Allan