R. Stather (1870-1908)

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Robert Stather of London was registered as a reed organ maker in 243 Caledonian Road, London (1878), 202 Liverpool Road (1882) and 187 Seven Sisters' Road, Finsbury Park, listed in the London Post Office directory at the latter address as a piano maker. He established his business in 1870 as a harmonium and piano maker and trade supplier. By 1914 he was listed as an organ repair man and piano maker in London N4, in 1921 as a reed organ maker and repairer at Seven Sisters Road, and in 1932 the company still as a piano dealers.

Just to avoid confusion: Finsbury Park, originally named Albert Park and created in the 1850s, is in Harringay, North London and not in Finsbury. Seven Sisters Road (named after seven trees) is an extension of Camden Road and runs through Islington, Hackney and the borough of Haringey created in 1965 along the south east edge of Finsbury Park.

The premises at no.187 appear to be a 3 storey shop with possible brick workshop behind on the corner of Pooles Park. Now looking at old OS maps, a piano factory is located rear of 221-33 Seven Sisters Road along Fonthill Road and Goodwin Street. This actually seems to be the location of piano manufacturers Witton and Witton nos.141-9 Fonthill Road. The building is still there and today houses a number of shops and other businesses. A proposal for refurbishment was submitted for planning consent in 2020, but this does not appear to have been carried out.

So it is quite possible that Stather was mostly a dealer, at least later on, in fact we have evidence of both Estey, D.W. Karn and Hillier reed organs with the Stather shop label. At one time in 1910 he was advertising as the oldest Methodist musical instrument house. Bill Kibby notes that pianos with the Stather label were probably bought in.

The London Gazette of 27/11/1908 carried the following notice. Notice is hereby given that the partnership hertofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Alfred James Stather and Richard John Guy, carrying on business as Manufacturers and Importers of Pianos, Organs and Harmoniums at 187 Seven Sisters-road, Finsbury Park, London N., under the style or firm of ``ROBERT STATHER'' has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the 24th day of November 1908. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said Alfred James Stather. Dated 24th day of November, 1908. Alf. J. Stather, Richard J. Guy.

Maybe this is when all manufacturing ceased, but Stathers were however still advertising second hand instruments in 1910, and advertising pianos in the United Methodist journal around 1926.

Robert Stather (b.1842-d.1933) was the son of James Stather (b.1806) and Elizabeth Blanshard (b.1811) both of North Cave, near Hull where Robert was born. They had 4 other children. Robert moved to London and married Emma Jane Long (b.5/2/1850-d.1954) from St.Pancras in 1874. They had 9 children including Ethel Ruth and Robert W. Stather. Emma lived to the age of 104.

The 1881 Census list the following: Robert Stather, timber merchant and harmonica maker (b.1843); Emma J., wife (b.1850); with children Alice (b.1869), Edith (b.1871), Robert W. (b.1875), Albert E. (b.1877) and Alfred J. (b.1879).

The London Gazette of 21/4/1933 contains the following notice: ALFRED JAMES STATHER, Deceased. Pursuant to the Trustee Act, 1925. All persons having claims aginst the estate of Alfred James Stather, late of ``Fairview'', Tolmers Road, Cuffley, Herts. and of 187 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, London N4, musical instrument manufacturer, who died on 10th day of February 1933, and whose will was proved on the 4th day of April 1933, in the principal probate registry by Mrs. Elisa Ellen Stather and Herbert Holmes Stather (executors), are required to send written particulars thereof to the under-signed by the 3rd day of July next, after which date the executors will distribute the deceased's estate, having regard only to valid claims then notified. The executors will continue to carry on the business carried on by the deceased at 187 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park N4, under the trading name of ``Robert Stather''. Dated this 21st day of April, 1933. H.B. Wedlake Saint and Co., Cloudesley House. Finsbury Park N4, solicitors for the executors.

So this was A.J. Stather, we need to find out more about the family and business...

Olive Ethel Ashley (b.16/9/1906-d.26/5/2016) at the age of 109 was Dunstable's oldest resident. Olive was born in in Tottenham, N.London. She was the oldest of seven surviving children of Ethel Ruth Stather (b.4/12/1884-d.1967) born in Islington and William Thomas Ashley (b.1874-d.1957). William and Ethel had married in 1903 and had 9 children. Music played a big part in the family. Ethel's father Robert Stather was the organ and piano manufacturer. Two pianos remain within the family and an organ is said to be in Milton Keynes museum. The most important part of Olive's life was her faith. She cared for her mother for ten years after her father died. In 1979, she moved from London to Dunstable where she joined the Salvation Army, who welcomed her warmly.


There are a few harmoniums carrying the Stather label, but they were believed to be of French manufacture, probably by Alexandre. However this one, for sale on e-Bay Feb'2010, definately looks English. It is identical to the earlier Stevens instruments, so quite possibly was made by Stevens.


Another, slightly larger, was sold at auction in Mar'2011 and had previously been in a Methodist church in Wicken.


1M, e-Bay *9816

However this next one does have the Stather manufacturer's label and pre-dates the ones with the ``royal letters patent'' designation.

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Stops are Sourdine, Cor Anglais, Expression, Diapason, Tremolo. Keys are ivory.

The following picture shows a small reed organ by Stather. According to Ian Thompson this would be the same specification as the Oetzmann reed organ, see Chapter 25.2.


Another one is shown in these photos which was for sale on e-Bay May 2005 in Dorset. This is bigger and has a nicely made oak case.

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It probably has the same specification as the one noted below.

Norfolk Museums Collections

A 1M instrument with mirror is in the Norfolk Museums Collections on display at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. It is said to have been purchased in 1917 for £12-10/- and used by the donor's mother Mrs A. Shinn in methodist chapels. It has a round adjustable stool.

ROS DB entry 1322

ROS DB entry 1322 is a small parlour organ with FFF-f'' range and stops: Bass Coupler, Diapason 8', Dulciana 8', Vox Humana, Melodia 8', Oboe 8' and Treble Coupler. It is said to have been built in 1890.

e-Bay *7141 1M/4:5

A small reed organ by Stather appeared for sale in Nov'2006, in Lincolnshire. This looks very nice and the seller sent me the specification: Bass Coupler, Sub Bass 16', Bourdon 16', Gamba 8', Principal 4', Viola 4', Diapason Bass 8', Vox Humana, Dulciana 8', Diapason Treble 8', Voix Celeste 8', Oboe 8', Flute 4', Clarionet 16', and Treble Coupler. It needed a few repairs, but I hope it went to a good home.

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e-Bay *2640

Advertised in Mar'2012, looks more like a conventional American organ with 10 stops. Others are known with similar fretwork.

Elliott Collection

There is said to be a Stather instrument with 30 stops and a ``superb sound'' in the collection of Mike and Joan Elliott.

Private Collection 1M/1:1

Ivan Furlanis reports an instrument in a private collection, see https://sites.google.com/site/ivanfurlanis/home/harmonium/stather-reed-organs. It carries the Finsbury, N.London address.

The top list is Bass Coupler, Diapason Bass 8', Dulcet Bass 8', Vox Humana, Dulcet Treble 8', Diapason Treble 8', Treble Coupler

1M eBay *7908

This instrument appeared for sale in March 2017 from a knowledgable vendor in Holbeach, near Spalding. Lillian had bought the instrument from a Lincolnshire church c.1995 and believed it to have been made c.1905. There is even a video which indicates a good sound and potential for restoration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDOp_Y3YN4I.

The specification is Forte Bass, Sub Bass 16', Dulcet 8', Principle 4', Diapason 8', Bass Coupler, Vox Humana, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Melodia 8', Forte 4', Cello 16', Dulciana 8', Celeste 8', Forte Treble.

The nice arts and crafts style English oak case has a music compartment and shelves at each side of the keyboard (presumably for candles).


1M Milton Keynes Museum

Listed in the archive of Musical Instrument Museums Online, Milton Keynes: a reed organ and stool by Robert Stather 1886-1930.

[photos Stather/MINIM]


We have photographs of a number of other reed organs carrying the Stather label. These include a 3 octave baby instrument (*a254), a 1M instrument with mirror top and 10 stops (*w5442), and an oak cased 1M with 16 stops (*e7908) noting ``Piano & Organ Maker! and with specification Forte Bass, Sub Bass 16', Dulcet 8', Principle 4', Diapason 8', Bass Coupler, Vox Humana, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Melodia 8', Forte 4', Cello 16', Dulciana 8', Celeste 8', and Forte Treble.

More pictures.

Rob Allan