Reed organ building in England goes back right to the start! Although free reeds were used occasionally in pipe organ ranks in France and Germany in the 18th century, some of the first separate instruments were experimental ones built by people such as Charles Wheatstone, an inventor and scientist later to become Sir Charles, with a house at 20 Park Cresent, London - later to become the headquarters of the UK Medical Research Council (now part of UKRI). Wheatstone's best known free reed instrument is the Concertina and Seraphine makers also often made them. This spread widely throughout Europe in the 1830s and his inventions had some influence on early harmonium production.


The early free reed was developed in Russia from 1778, by Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein (b.1723-d.1795) for scientific research as part of a plan to construct a machine that could mimic the vowels of human speech. Kratzenstein sent a small two octave reed instrument to the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg. He may have worked together with organ builder Franz Kirschnick and his assistant Georg Christoffer Rackwitz, see Chapter 30. Kirschnick independently used free reeds in his instruments, such as pianoforte and organ combinations called ``Claviorganum'', and possibly in an instrument called the ``Orchestrion'', an automatic player or barrel type organ, around 1781. Soon, builders in St. Petersburg, like Johann Gabrahn, started to make claviorganums. The news of this new instrument quickly spread to Germany, where, possibly among others, Strohmann and famous organ builder Georg Joseph ``Abbé'' Vogler further developed them, see Chapter 30.

The inventor of the Physharmonica was Gabriel Joseph Grenié, who constructed an ``expressive organ'' c.1810 using a collection of small rods with metal tips. Sébastian Érard also experimented with free reeds. In 1814, Bernhard Eschenbach of Königshoven in Bavaria invented a keyboard with vibrators, called the ``Organo-Violine''. In 1816, Johan Caspar Schlimbach of Ohrdurf improved it and called it the ``AEoline''. A continuous wind instrument was made by Carl Friedrich Voit (b.1774-d.1854) of Schweinfurt in 1817, and he named it the ``AEolodikon''. In 1818, Anton Häckel of Vienna, built a smaller AEoline used with a pianoforte, and called it the ``Physharmonica''. Another type was made by Frierich Sturm in Stuhl. Professor Payer took this bellows harmonica with him to Paris in 1823, and several imitations of it were made, such as the ``Aerophone'' by Christian Dietz in 1829. In 1836, Fourneaux may have made a 16' register and in 1837 an instrument was created which was called a ``Melophone''. Many other builders started to make similar instruments, adding their own improvements and inventions to them, and called them by a large variety of names, such as Aeolidon (which had bent tongues), Adelphone, Adiaphonon, Harmonikon, Harmonine, Melodium, Aeolian, Panorgue, Poikolorgue, Seraphine - in the UK, it was called a keyboard harmonica, but not a harmonium, as it didn't have channels for the reeds.

See German Wikipedia for entries for the individual makers and also For pictures of some of these very early instruments see also Michael Dieterlen, in his thesis [41], also sheds light on the early work with free reeds from 1810 onwards in France involving Erard, Cosyn, Cavaillé-Coll, Grenié and one John Abbey from London.

The idea for the seraphine was possibly introduced to England by organ builder Schulz (date 1826 is however probably wrong). His Aeol-harmonica was a kind of small harmonium with one set of reeds and resembled the Terpodion and Aeoline produced by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann in Berlin between c.1816 and a similar instrument by Anton Haeckl of Vienna c.1818 which fitted under a piano and could be played by the right hand. The Aeol-harmonica had a weighted reservoir and was actually played by Schultz at a concert on 28/4/1828 [maybe at the Royal Institution? see below] - this became the Physharmonkia. Other sources say the Aeol-harmonica was invented by Georg Anton Reinlein in 1828 (or 1824), possibly because of contemporary advertising.

Experiments were carried out by one Professor Robison, who made the first practical suggestions for the construction of modern musical instruments using free reeds. One of the first had circular plates passing through a hole which produced a mellow sound. It was later found to be easier to form reeds in the way that we now know them, but many shapes have been attempted with varying success. Robison also attached various resonating devices to his springs, prior to similar experiments by Wheatstone, Baille-Hamilton and others.

It was a time of big change in Europe. Napoleon had been defeated by the Russians in 1815. Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827. Queen Victoria acceeded to the Throne of England on 20/6/1837. Finally Ada Lovelace defined the concepts of modern computing in 1841. The pianoforte was nearing its pinnacle when the seraphine had the temerity to be invented.

Around 1827, several people in England and Europe turned their attention to the production of musical instruments on this principle. The first successful was possibly the Eolophon of Mr. Day, which was exhibited at the Royal Institution in 1828 (see Faraday below). Contemporary writers such as Alfred Savage [126] suggested that it had a tone superior to German instruments. The main drawback was noted to be the slow speach resulting in a difficulty of executing rapid music.

The Improved Seraphine was built by Joseph Kirkman and Thomas White c.1825 (date probably wrong). It had a 5 octave keyboard, a compass from FFF-f'' and two or three pedals. Fritz Gellerman's database has this un-identified photo, which with some imagination, could be a Kirkman and White seraphine. It is also very similar in outline to the drawings of the Green seraphine, see below.


A Dr. Dowler was presented with a medal from the Society of Arts for a seraphine made in 1829 with German silver and steel reeds. This was later improved by Mr. Day who was a mathematical instrument maker. A Mr. Green was another maker c.1831.

Ord-Hume [140] attempts to un-ravel the confusion by noting the dates of the English patents of Green in 1836 (no.7,154) and Myers and Storer (no.8,164) in 1839. He does however note that instruments may have been actually manufactured for several years before these dates. An Aeolophon was patented by Mr. Day in London on 19/6/1829, actually mentioning the name ``seraphine'' and pre-dating that of Myers and Storer. There were other seraphine patents by I.H.R. Mott in 1846, Blackwell in 1852 and Pape in 1839, 1846, 1850, 1856.

The following note describing Green's seraphine is derived from a text which appeared in Penny Magazine, 19/10/1839, Vol.484. The engraving is from the same publication.

 ... and the bulk of the instrument is occupied by a cavity serving
 the office of a wind chest [at the top of which] is a metallic plate
 perforated with as many oblong apertures as there are notes in the
 instrument, generally about five octaves; in these apertures vibrate
 as many metallic tongues, ... The apertures are covered above by
 valves connected with the finger keys.

 The bellows are, ..., worked by the feet of the performer by means of
 a pedal ...

 The performer is provided with a means of varying the number and
 thicknesses of the cushions and covers employed, by which a
 considerable range in the character of the sound is attained...

 The most difficult part of the manufacture of this instrument, and the
 one in which the makers find fewest workmen able to assist them, is
 in adjusting the springs to the proper pitch...

 We may ... observe that Mr. Green states the first idea of the
 seraphine to have been suggested to him by a contrivance of an
 ingenious mechanic in Germany several years ago ...

royal_seraphine.jpg seraphine_token.jpg

A fuller version of the text of this publication is reproduced here.

Seraph_3.jpg Seraph_4.jpg Seraph_6.jpg

Many of these early instruments had tempered steel reeds or ``springs'' as they were then known since they were made from similar material to the watch spring. Other materials, such as German silver and even wood, was used. Surprisingly for their size, the sound was rather load and brash. Steel reeds are still used in accordions and mouth organs, but brass became the favoured material for most makers of reed organs, concertinas and bandoneons. The different materials convey very different sounds. It is possible that the American Melodian was the contemporary equivalent of the seraphine.

We are lucky to have found a contemporary account from 1842 of the development of the Serphine [126]. Importantly this account pre-dates the invention of the harmonium in 1843.

These early instruments had a loud and strident sound. They were provided with a number of devices to modify this (a paper drum, a cushion and two leathers). This was claimed to be able to produce sounds such as: trumpet; bassoon; clarionet; trombone; flute; violoncello; flageolet; french horn; bagpipes; oboe; aeolian harp. Many of the names will be recognised in more recent instruments which indeed have internal devices to modify the free reeds' harmonic sound series. See re-production of John Green's article in ROS Bulletin vol. XIV No.3 (Autumn 1995) for details of how this worked.

It is considered that the use of large plates for many reeds rather than single frames started in the English Seraphine and was later in use by many German and Austrian makers and continued in harmoniums such as those built by Schiedmayer. The reeds were held in place with a small metal bar screwed to the plate, and are thus in theory tuneable. Harmonium reeds are not the same, but are of fixed length.

Some of the information in this chapter is inferred from Peter and Ann MacTaggart's book [190]. This is an edited and updated version of the published catalogues and information about the the 1851 Great Industrial Exhibition in Hyde Park, London at the Crystal Palace. The name of the venue was suggested by Punch Magazine and this was the world's first international industrial exhibition and attracted some 14,000 exhibits of all kinds, around half from British businesses. The Crystal Palace was built in just six months and covered a similar area to London's 2000 Millenium Dome - the exhibition lasted a further six months. Crystal Palace was burned down nearly 100 years later, by fire during the second World War.

Many of the known seraphine makers were also the best pianoforte makers in London, and their businesses were linked over the years as we shall see. The following ``family tree'' is extended from the original work of Bill Kibby of PianoGen Further research into this industry has been done by James Westbrook [206].


Piano manufacture, which had started in the West End, moved first to Tottenham Court Road and when Collard & Collard and other famous firms like Brimsmead, and Challen, moved to Camden Town. This encouraged other firms to set up nearby.

T.C. Bates (c.1812-64)


Theodore Charles Bates of 6 Ludgate Hill (music warehouse), London was a pipe organ builder who also made seraphines in the 1830s-40s. He however specialised in barrel organs which played a number of psalm and hymn tunes from pinned cylinders - there were not many organists in the smaller English parishes in the early 19th Century [129].

Bates himself was established in business in 1812 at St. John Street, Smithfield, London and in 1813 moved to 7 Jerusalem Passage, St. John's Square. From 1814-24 he was at 20 St. John's Square and had additional premises a 18 Holywell Street, Strand (1820-2) and 490 Oxford Street (1822-4).

The firm was known for a short period, from 1824 (or 1826)-1829 as Longman and Bates when Bates partnered with G. Longman and then Samuel Chappell 1829-33. They were when advertising specifically as pianoforte makers. Chappell died in 1834.

Longman and Bates was dissolved in 1829. Martin Layton found the entry in the London Gazette, Notice is hereby given, that all joint transactinos and Co-parthership between us the undersigned, Giles Longman and Theodore Charles Bates, under the name of Longman and Bates, as Music-sellers and Musical-instrument-makers was this day dissolved by mutual consent - Dated this 1st day of August 1929. Giles Longman and T.C. Bates.

It is therefore incorrectly stated by some historians that Samuel Chappell joined the firm in 1829 and George Longman [sic] left in 1833. It is noted that Longman himself continued to trade at 131 Cheapside until 1839.

Bates was a diverse musical instrument maker. There are advertisements for flutes from 1832, barrel organs, seraphines, pipe organs, and a guitar c.1840. Their advertising in 1832 also featured the address of 15 Tavistock Street, Bedford Square, which was said to be the residence of a Mr. Dressler. There was also a manufactury at 25 Villiers Street, Strand.

The firm was later known as T.C. Bates and Son from 1847-59 and simply Bates and Son from 1859-63 or 1864 when they were at Burdett Road, Stepney and then 2 Little Bridge Street until 1864 when the business closed down. The main premises and family residence from at least 1824-59 was 6 Ludgate Hill which is where the seraphines were made. There is also an address of 30 Colmore Row, Birmingham mentioned in contemporary advertising c.1843; this was probably a shop. 65 Dorset Street, Fleet Street, London is also mentioned occasionally.

Theodore Bates Jnr. was born in 1821 in Clerkenwell. He joined his father as an organ builder as noted in the 1851 census. He had a sister called Elizabeth and they were still living at 6 Ludgate Hill.

In 1825 they were advertising as T.C. Bates & Son, piano0forte, organ, seraphine and harmonium manufacturers.

The firm had premises at Dorset Street, Salisbury Square in 1839 and Theodore Bates and Son used this address in 1849 plus 7 Glasshouse Yard, Salisbury Square, Blackfriars in 1861 (a manufactury).

Adverts for seraphines in 1843 noted as follows.

 T.C.~Bates respectfully solicits the Catholic Clergy, the Nobility,
 Gentry and the Public, to an inspection of his Extensive Stock of
 Musical Instruments, manufactured upon the most modern principles,
 and at prices un-precedented in the trade. Every instrument
 warranted, and where the most perfect satisfaction is not given the
 instrument will be exchanged.  The SERAPHINE or PORTABLE ORGAN. In
 size not larger than a chiffoniere. The compass of the seraphine is
 the same as the Organs, from FFF to F in alt -- five octaves. A
 decided rival to the Organ, and fully calculated for public or
 private devovotion. Reduced in price.}  And in 1846: {\it The
 SERAPHINE, or PORTABLE ORGAN, equal in power to an Organ of four
 stops, with crescendo and diminuendo pedals, also with an octave and
 half of German pedals, all slide in and out.

A small number of pipe organs by Bates are still in existence and are eminently restorable, displaying excellent workmanship. One such, at the Methodist Chapel, Glentham, was restored by Jonathan Wallace of Nottingham in 1993. A photograph is shown in Elvin's book [57]. Another in the Netherlands dates from between 1829 and 1845 and Louis Huivenaar says his craftmanship is perfect!. Finally, Martin Layton sent me information about the Bates instrument in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Sadly only the case remains of an instrument which is said to have cost $5,000 around 1853. There is even a YouTube video of one here:

Simon Buser collection

T.C. Bates seraphine no.59 dating from c.1835 is in the Simon Buser collection in Switzerland.


Louis Huivenaar's Seraphine

Louis Huivenaar sent me the following photos of a very unusual instrument serial number 72 by Theodore Bates which has pedals coupled directly to the manual. He says it must be built around 1836-7 and has its original bellows.

rfg-3087.jpg More Pictures

Louis told me: I bought an orginal Th. Ch. Bates with a 13 note hinged pedal (also original) seraphine in England some years ago. Serial number 72 from what I remember, made in 1836. Completely original incl. the blowing handle. Even the reeds had an original look. It is now in posession of the Priest Jaap Spaans in the Netherlands.

More recently he noted that it also has a label inside with the name ``Geo. White, Seraphine Maker, 13/5/1841''. It seems that Geo. White was an organ builder and not related to Thomas White. We do not yet understand this association between Bates and White.

Louis sold this instrument in June 2014 to Markus Lenter who is an organ builder and harmonium restorer in Germany.

J. Bell (1847-98)


Joseph Bell (b.1824-d.1898) of 22 Feasegate, and Petergate, and 57 Gillygate, York was originally an organ builder who specialised in seraphines and harmoniums, see Chapter 26.1. He made a number of seraphines with wooden reeds which were advertised as having a superior quality of tone, possessing the softness of voice, with the variety of tone of every Wind Instrument, as also the power of a large Organ. In 1852 these cost £10-10s in an oak or mahogany case. He also tuned a variety of free reed instruments including concertina, flutina and accordion. He manufactured concertinas too.

It would seem that Bell was later chiefly concerned with making harmoniums, see Chapter 26.1. In the 1872 City of York directory he is listed as organ and harmonium builder at Feasegate and Bishophill Junior.

Joseph's son Samuel Luke continued as an organ builder.


J. Bisson (c.1840-2)

In the British Press Almanac of 1842, a notice appeared that seraphines were being manufactured in the Channel Islands by J. Bisson, an organ builder and cabinet maker, 6 Beresford Street, St. Helier, Jersey. He offered them for sale at 50% below London prices. Whilst there were many generations of the Bisson family on Jersey, nothing more is known to identify this individual. But see which contains family history and an advertisement from 1840.

J.C. Blackwell (c.1852-62)

Jonathan Caldwell Blackwell was granted a provisional protection under British patent no.1,016 of 10/12/1862 for the obtainment of a perfect double action without the use of two sets of vibrators in an instrument having free vibrating tongues or reeds. Unfortunately there are no drawings of this instrument and nothing further is known.

J. Braby (c.1831)

Braby of London built a Clavaeolina which was a type of small seraphine with steel reeds in a brass matrix. One of these very rare instruments is (was) in the Fluke collection at Saltaire. It has 3-1/2 octaves F-c with a cherry wood case and brass fittings.

The Royal Polytechnic Institution catalogue from 1831 lists no.1,797 The Clavaeolina - a new musucal instrument - invented and deposited by Mr. Braby.

Some historical context is provided by:

It seems that the Braby family were prolific inventors. James (b.1774-d.1841) was working at Fine Street, Pedlar's Acre, Lambeth and was awarded a silver medal for invention of a family weighing machine c.1816. He is noted by his grandson Frederick in 1858 as having invented ``musical instruments by which the human voice could be mechanically imitated, namely, the melodeon, seraphin [sic] and harmonium''. Clearly however Braby did not invent the harmonium. Other context is taken from the present Web site.

It seems that Braby's actual occupation was as a wheelwright (blacksmith) but was involved in a number of businesses and became quite wealthy.

D. Campbell (c.1830-42)

The ``Euphonicon'' made by Duncan Campbell of 2 Guildry Court, East Clyde Street, Glasgow is noted in [64]. About the size of a piccolo pianoforte... a wind instrument played by bellows which are worked by the right foot. It was first exhibited in the Monteith Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow in March 1830, when it was played by Henry G. Nixon the organist of St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Chapel. It was also used at the consecration of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Chapel in 1842.

Several instruments are said to have been built and first advertised in 1838 but known of at least 2 years previously. It could be used as a substitute for a church organ and had quite powerful tones.

Note, there is some confusion with instruments having the same name which are actually a type of piano with additional sympathetic strings and sold by Beale & Co., London. (Letter published in The British Minstrel, 9/1/1843.) This is sometimes referred to as a harp-piano.

George Case (c.1850)

``Professor'' George Tinckler Case opf 32 New Bond Street seems to have been much more of a musician and tutor, although Neil Wayne says that he originally worked for Wheatstone. He produced many tutors and arrangements for concertina. He first appears in listings in 1850 at New Bond Street as a Seraphine Maker, but from 1851 this is changed to Concertina Manufacturer. George Jones says he took over from Scates, and around 1856 sold out to Boosey. The earliest Case-Boosey labelled concertina in the Horniman Museum is no.1571, and the nearest Case name to that no.960. However Case was buying from Wheatstones in 1851 and 1852,(as was Boosey) so it is possible that some Case labelled instruments may carry Wheatstone serial numbers.

Clementi and Co. (1798-1832)

As the composer of the definitive classical piano sonata, Muzio Clementi was the first to create keyboard works expressly for the capabilities of the pianoforte. Acclaimed as the father of the pianoforte and modern piano technique, this complex and influential musician was also the first virtuoso on the instrument. Clementi was a celebrated composer and teacher, orchestral conductor, symphonic composer, music publisher, and piano manufacturer.

The Clementi firm are sometimes also referred to as a musical instrument makers. It is not clear that they actually built free reed instruments, but they seem to have been influential in their early development in partnership with Collard and Davis.

The London firm of Clementi and Co. was established in 1802 and was known as Clementi, Collard and Collard from 1823 until 1831, when Muzio Clementi retired (he died in 1832).

Muzio Clementi of London was born in Rome on 23/1/1752 and died in 1832. His mother was Swiss and his father was Roman and worked as a silversmith.

Muzio was a performer and composer from a very early age. As a boy, he was taken to England by Peter Beckford, cousin of the eccentric William Beckford. There he developed his abilities as a performer. His subsequent career brought success as a composer, teacher and pianist, and later as a manufacturer of pianos.

He wrote a great deal of music for the piano, including more than a hundred sonatas. He published a number of pedagogical works, of which the Introduction to the Art of Playing the Piano Forte and Gradus ad Parnassum are the best known.

Clementi's influence extended well into the 19th century, with composers using his sonatas as models for their keyboard compositions. Beethoven, in particular, had the highest regard for Clementi and not only admired his piano sonatas but placed them above those of Mozart in importance.

Clementi gave successful concerts throughout Britain in 1776 and later in Europe including Vienna where Mozart was the local musician. Arriving back in London, he set up a thriving music business with his friend W.F. Collard which included the manufacture of pianos. In March 1807 Clementi and Co. was destroyed by a fire which is said to have been caused by sawdust set from a crack in a stove pipe and to have cost the business around £40,000. At that time Clementi had a number of piano pupils who later also became famous and was composing his best piano sonatas. He travelled extensively giving concerts and recitals which was financially profitable and he had regular contact with Haydn and Beethoven the latter to whom he granted an impressive publishing contract.

Clementi had several affairs during his life as a famous musician, but it was not until he was 52 years old that he married. His new wife was only seventeen, daughter of J.G.G. Lehmann who was cantor of St. Nicholas Church in Berlin where he was living at the time. Unfortunately she died during the birth of their first child in August 1805. Eventually he returned to England and married one Emma Gisburne. After further travel he retired to Evesham where he died suddenly in 1832 at the age of eighty. As befits his status, his remains are buried in the cloisters in Westminster Abbey.

Collard and Collard (c.1833-51)

Successor to Clementi at 26 Cheapside, 195 Tottenham Court Road and 6 High Street, Camden Town, London. See also under Gunther and Gunther below.

Muzio Clementi lost a lot of money when the piano firm of James Longman and Co. failed. This company was managed by Frederick William Collard, a friend of Clementi. Clementi formed a partnership with his brother and opened a new firm called Clementi & Co. When Clementi died, in 1832, they became Collard and Collard.

The firm of Collard and Collard (run by the brothers William Frederick and Frederick William) was therefore a descendant of the company originally established by Longman and Broderip in London in the second half of the 18th century. It became known as Longman, Clementi and Co., then Clementi, Collard and Collard when Frederick joined in 1822 and Longman left to join Bates. The Collards worked with Muzio Clementi (signing their instruments variously, including Clementi and Co. in 1800 and Clementi, Collard and Collard in 1819) and took over sole responsibility after Clementi's death in 1832. As pianoforte makers, Collard and Collard were considered second only to Broadwood.

Collard and Collard exhibited on stand 168 Class X in the 1851 Industrial Exhibition [190]. They won a Prize Medal.

Works at Oval Road, Gloucester Gate, Regent's Park burned down on 19/12/1851 with an estimated loss of £30,000. This was just one year after it had been built and only around half of that value was covered by insurance.

Unfortunatley for them, their premises in Camden Town were also severely damaged by a fire on 9/6/1958 which started at Pickford's depot on the railway station.

Even more unfortunate, the Oval Road works burned again on 15/1/1870 and nearly again on 3/2/1886 this time being saved by the on-site fireman.

The most magnificent piano warehouse now to be seen in Kentish Town is at 12 Oval Road. It is the circular building constructed for Collard & Collard in 1852. This building replaced the similarly shaped one, which was destroyed by fire a year after it was built. It is now converted to offices and flats.

With fifty-two bays, it was built around a central open well, to allow pianos to be hoisted from floor to floor during manufacture. The lowest floor was used for drying, the next for upright pianos, the second floor for cleaning, the third for polishing the cases and those above for ``belly'' manufacture and finishing off. Collard & Collard were to become oldest of the piano manufacturing firms of the St. Pancras area, having patented a form of upright ``square'' piano in 1811.

It is likely that a descendant of the Collards is John Clementi Collard mentioned by Stephen Kirkman below. The reason for the name has yet to be un-ravelled. There is a John Clementi Collard fellowship awarded by the Workshopful Company of Musicians for periods of up to 3 years to aspiring musicians and composers.

Collard and Collard formed a partnership with Kirkman in the 20th Century and were finally absorbed by Kemble.

F. Day, and Day and Myers (1816-45)


Francis Day of London was a joint patentee for Aeolophon and Seraphine. This was British patent number 5802 granted on 19/6/1829 described asthe adaptation of a new stop or set of substitutes for organ pipes [which] may be applied to other instruments, such, for instance, as the organised pianoforte, when constructed purposefully to receive it, or the barrel organ. It was with August Münch for a seraphine stop comprised of two small boxes to modify the sound of the reeds [95]. This was claimed to be a substitute for pipes. Ord-Hume speculates that Day may have worked with Clementi and would there have met Mr. Green. The very next patent was granted to Charles Wheatstone, see below.

The text of the patent is as follows.

Patent of 1829: To Francis Day, of The Poultry, in the City of London, optician, and Auguste Munch, of the same place, mechanic, in consequence of a communication made to them by a certain foreigner residing abroad, and improvements by themselves, for an invention of certain improvements on musical instruments. Sealed 19/6/1829.

This invention applies to wind musical instruments of the organ kind, or organised piano-forte, and like the invention which forms the subject of the preceding patent, consists in the adaptation of metallic spring tongues like the tongue of a Jew's harp, which, by their vibrations, give out musical tones.

The Patentees describe the invention as a new substitute for the pipes of an organ forming a stop, that is, an additional series of notes on the organ technically denominated a stop.

These metallic tongues have been applied to organs and other wind musical instruments in Germany, and are found to produce very fine and rich effects of tone: it is for the adaptation of them to similar musical instruments in England that the present patent is obtained.

Over the aperture of the wind chest in place of one of the ordinary organ pipes, a wooden box is fixed, the under part of which box has a metallic plate with a long slot or opening in it suited to receive the metallic tongue or spring, from the vibrations of which the musical tone or note is to be produced. The upper part of this box is open for the free discharge of the sound; but in order to effect variable modulations of tone, a wooden flap or valve is placed upon the top of the box, by means of which the open end can be more or less closed, as may be desired.

The tongue or sonorous spring may be flat, and fastened by its root to the metallic plate, allowing it to vibrate in the slot or lower aperture of the box, or it may be of a bent form, its root or fulcrum being fixed, and its spring part allowed to play freely in the aperture. The metal at the vibratory end of the tongue should be thicker than at the root for emitting grave notes, but of thinner substance for high notes. The wooden valve at top of the box may be raised or depressed by a fod connected to a pedal, or by any other means; or the valve may be formed by a slider instead of a flap, if preferred; and the box itself may be square, or of any other convenient form. A series of these boxes with metallic tongues or springs below, and valves above, are to be mounted over the several apertures of the wind chest of a common organ, or other similarly constructed instrument, and the keys of the instrument being as usual connected by levers, with valves to the apertures of the wind chest, those apertures are opened by the depression of the keys, as the fingers of the performer act upon them; and hence the wind, in passing from the chest through the lower apertures of the boxes, puts the tongues into a state of vibration, producing the notes or musical tones required.

It is obvious that this simple contrivance of adapting musical springs or metallic tongues to organs, instead of pipes of large magnitude, will admit of the construction of very powerful musical instruments of small dimensions compared to ordinary organs; and as the mechanism by which organs are usually worked, or as it is more technically called played, is well understood, and of course admit of some variety in construction, it is not intended by the Patentees to limit themselves to any particular arrangement of mechanism. They therefore define the claim of exclusive right of adaptation in the following words : - The formation of a new substitute or stop for the pipes of an organ by the combining of metal tongues or springs, with wooden boxes fitted with regulators or modulators of the tone; also the application of pallets or valves to the tops of the said boxes, and the remova thereof from the insides of the wind chests of the organ, to which this latter form of our new stop may be applied; and also the manner of raising or lifting the said regulating pallets or valves. Inrolled in the Inrolment Office, December, 1829. (The London Journal of Arts and Sciences, and Repertory of ..., Volume 9, 1834, p.197)

A note describing the Aeolophon appeared in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction (Vol.XVII. No.472, 22/1/1831).

                          SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY.

 When Lord Stanhope first launched his model-boat on the Serpentine,
 no one expected to see the time when steam and paddles should suffice
 to carry ``a tall ship'' across the broad Atlantic. As little did we,
 when we were first amused by that very pretty musical toy, the German
 Eolina, anticipate, that within three years we should hear such an
 instrument as the one we are about to describe. In shape, size, and
 compass, the AEOLOPHON is the counterpart of a cabinet piano-forte,
 having six octaves of keys extending from FF to F; and its sounds are
 produced by a series of metallic springs, set in vibration by the
 action of the air produced from a bellows. It has three pedals - one
 for filling the wind chest, and the others regulating the swell. The
 tone of this instrument, particularly in the middle and lower parts
 of its compass, is among the most beautiful we have ever heard, and
 much superior, both in body and quality, to that of any chamber organ
 of equal size; added to which, the Aeolophon has the inestimable
 advantage of never varying its pitch, or getting out of tune.

 From the nature of this instrument, it will be readily conceived that
 its best effects are displayed in slow movements, and the sustaining
 and swelling long notes; but, to our surprise as well as pleasure, we
 found that a running passage, even of semitones, could be executed
 upon it, if not with all the distinctness of a Drouet or a Nicholson,
 with as much clearness as on any organ. As an accompaniment to the
 piano-forte, it will be found an admirable substitute for the flute,
 clarinet, oboe, bassoon, or even violoncello; but perhaps its widest
 range of usefulness will be discovered in small orchestras, where the
 set of wind instruments is incomplete - the effects of any, or even
 all of which, may be supplied by one or two performers on the
 Aeolophon reading from the score, or even from separate parts.

 It is now about a year since that a patent was obtained for the
 springs, and this peculiar mode of applying them, by Messrs. Day and
 Co.; immediately upon hearing the effect of which, Mr. Chappell, of
 Bond-Street, entered into an engagement with the patentees for the
 agency of their patent, and the manufacture of instruments under it.

 On the 27th of November last Mr. Chappell was honoured with a command
 to exhibit the powers of this new instrument before their Majesties,
 his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, and a small circle of
 nobility, at St. James's Palace; when it gave so much satisfaction,
 that some of the pieces played upon it were repeated by command, and
 the whole performance lasted from nine o'clock till past eleven, when
 the royal party retired.

 (We quote the preceding from ``The Harmonicon'', a Journal of Music
 and Musical Literature, of high promise. Its recommendation of ``The
 Aeolophon'' may be allowed to rest upon the character of the Journal
 for critical acumen.)

Day and Myers of 37 Poultry, London manufactured these instruments [250]. They produced very early keyboard instruments called either seraphine or Aeolophon with tempered steel reeds. They were advertised in March 1836 along with the Grand Double Aeolophon under the heading of His Majestey's Royal Letters Patent. This patent by John Frederick Myers was actually number 8,164 granted on 20/7/1839 with Joseph Storer (see below). The Grand Double Aeolophon was so called because it had two sets of reeds, one a 8' and one at 4' pitch. This was said to produce a sound equal to that of an organ of considerable size, yet so perfactly under the control of the performer, that when required, its delicacy is not exceded by even the smaller instrument. There was also an Aeolophon pedal attachment which could be added to small organs where there was insufficient space for large pedal pipes. It had 18 double notes of 8' and 16' pitch from GG, the lowest being therefore equivalent to a 20' open pipe.

The advertisement reads as follows [238].

 Messrs. Day and Myers, patentees of the Aeolophon, Grand Double
 Aeolophon and Aeolophon Pedals, Invite the attention of the Public to
 the merits of these Instruments, the capabilities of which have
 excited the admiration of some of the most eminent Musical Men.

 The Aeolophon and Grand Double Aeolophon are played upon by keys
 similar to those of the Organ and Pianoforte; and are made in a
 variety of shapes, so as to suit either the Drawing Room, the Concert
 Room, or a Place of Worship; whilst the beautiful quality of their
 tones, delicate and soft, or surprisingly powerful at the will of the
 performer, together with the rapidity of their articulation render
 them capable of providing expression to the greater part of music
 publshed for the Pianoforte, and all intended for the Organ.

 The Aeolophon Pedals are effective substitutes for Organ Pedal Pipes,
 with an immense saving in room and expense, and will be found worthy
 of the notice of all persons interested either in the construction or
 use of Organs.

 The visits of the Public will be welcomed at all times, but to afford
 a good opportunity for judging of the capabilities of these
 Instruments, a selection of music from the works of Mozart,
 Beethoven, and other celebrated composers is performed daily at the
 Manufacutry, by an eminent professional gentleman. This performance
 commences every day at Twelve, and terminates at One
 o'Clock. Admission of the Performance One Shilling, which is returned
 to purchasers of music.

 Seraphines of a superior Construction are also Manufactured by
 Messrs. Day and Myers, 37 Poultry, London.

Public performances also took place at the premises of J.F. Myers, 23A Albermarle-street.


Savage [126] notes that nothing was effected which could be depended on for continued use except the eolophon of the late Mr. Day; at least that was the only instrument among upwards of a dozen exhibited at the Royal Institution about that time [1828], which could be performed on.

He later notes that the reeds are not particularly thin, and the rapidness of speach is similar to many organ pipes.

A particularly enthusiastic promoter was George Warne Jnr., a Norwich boy and one time organist of St. Helen's Bishopgate and St. Magnus the Martyr London Bridge. He was appointed to the prestigeous Temple Church in 1826 and was a friend of Sir George Smart. Concerts started in 1834 at the Hall Concert Room, Norwich. There were monthly recitals from 1835 at Day and Myers' premises. During this time the Aeolophon was developed to have two sets of reeds, 8' and 4' plus pedals. It was said that the power of the instrument was ``sufficient to imitate a band of music''. Other performances took place in East Anglia, but the market there was limited and advertising mainly took place in London.

The two rank Aeolophon was exhibited in the 1851 London Exhibition and said to be the property of Messrs. Chappell. This was number 529 on p39 of the official catalogue.

An Aeolophon was sold in the USA on e-Bay on 29/9/2007 described as follows: A c.1845 English harmonium made by Francis Day and Co., London, the ``Aeolophon''. All original. Missing a few minor pieces of molding, but otherwise complete. Case needs some re-gluing, Bellows leather looks good, so it may play with only some adjustments to the valves. It has one rank of reeds and swell shade volume control. One iron pedal is pumped with the foot to supply air pressure. Purchased several years ago from a collection in Bristol, England. Organs of this type are quite rare, so it will be well worth fixing. Check my un-reserved opening price! I can help with delivery. Will fit in a minivan, small pickup, or station wagon. You can also try . Weight is about 160 pounds, I'd guess. I can crate for overseas shipment.

This instrument is possibly for sale again, see ROS Quarterly, No.4 (2009).

This one has a 61 note GGG-g'' keyboard.

aeolophon1.jpg aeolophon2.jpg aeolophon3.jpg

T. Dowler (1829-32)

Dr. Thomas Dowler M.D. of London received a silver medal on 24/2/1829 from the Royal Society of Arts for a free reed instrument with a keyboard. This was a prototoype seraphine which was later taken up by Francis Day as noted above []. This was named the ``Glossophone'' and the award notice added This instrument was tolerable of its kind, but inferior to one which has been made by Mr. Day, an ingenious mathematical instrument maker, who has considerably improved the manufacture of the springs.

Dowler actually published a brochure entitled ``New Musical Instrument ... called the Glossophone''. This instrument was demonstrated in the Faraday Royal Institution lecture of 1830.

Royal Society of Arts, Transactions vol.47 (1828-1829) pp34-38:

Dr. Dowler presents his compliments to Mr. Aikin, and will thank him
to lay before the Society of Arts a musical instrument which has
lately been finished under his direction, and which he believes to be
the only one of the kind before the public.

The principle of this instrument has been known for a short period in
this country, under the form of that beautiful little toy, now so
familiar by the name of Eola, or mouth-harp. The seet and plaintive
sounds produced by this simple and unsophisticated contrivance first
gave rist to the idea that something might be produced which would
retain all its peculiar beauties, whil at the same time a much greated
range could be given, and the whole put into a far more convenient and
practically useful form than the instrument in question then

The tones are obtained by the biration of metallic tongues, put in
motion by a current of wind issuing from a belloes; and the adaptation
of keys to them eneables the performer to play either organ or
piano-forte music. These tongues or plates, with the exception of the
highest octave, are made from an alloy called German silver, or
electrum, which is composed of a mixture of copper, zinc and
nickel. The notes of the remaining oactave are wholly manufactured
from extremely thin sheet steel, imported into this country from
Switzerland, and chiefly, if not entirely, used in the construction of
lithographic pens. 

At the back of the instrument is the wind-chest, communicating in its
whole length with the bellows; and on its summit are placed the
tongues, arranged in their proper order, side by side, each of which
is let into a little cell of its own size and shape, and firmly
secured by means of a button. In every cell is a valve opening
downward and pressure upon a key of the instrument opening its
corrsponding valve, the wind is allowed to rush past the tongue, which
causing it to vibrate, produces the note required. 


The present instrument must be considered in many points of view, and
from many causes, as one in a very imperfect state; but still it may
be sufficient to demonstrate, that the principle could be
advantageously applied to instruments upon a much larger sale; and it
is a circumstance by no means improbable, that by a combination of
notes, whose sounds are produced from metals or alloys of different
degress of hardness, or, parhaps, even from ivory, and other elastic
substances, an instrument may hereafter be manufactured which shall
possess considerable power in a small compass, and which might be
purchased at a very modest price.

A. Ellard & Son (c.1831-6)


Andrew Ellard is listed as being active in the music trade of Dublin, Ireland from 1818-38 (or perhaps up to 1847) and had premises at 22 Lower Sackville Street from 1818-22 and no.47 from 1822-38. He was listed as a manufacturer of portable organs c.1834. He also made several wind instruments, and was in fact famous at the time for the Irish flute aka. tin whistle. There is a more conventional wooden flute by Ellard in the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, New South Wales, Australia. Andrew was married to Ann (first wife) and it is believed that the eldest Son was one William Ellard who was an accomplished musician and worked with Andrew in Dublin. Their daughter was Maria (later Logan) and another son was Francis Ellard both of whom emigrated to Australia [172].

I found the following information from

It notes that Francis Ellard (b.c.1802-d.10/7/1854), his wife Joanna (b.c.1809-d.30/12/1845) a singer neé Dwyer (m.1825) and two of their children, one of them Frederick Ellard (b.c.1824-d.30/12/1874) then aged 8 and later to be a composer, arrived in Hobart in Nov'1832 having sailed via the Cape Colony. According to contemporary press reports he then sold his entire stock of a new instrument manufactured by Ellards called the Philharmonicon, probably a brand of seraphine.

Francis established a prominent publishing, music, instrument, and ticket selling business in Sydney. After Joanna died, Francis married Charlotte Dick in Sydney on 12/12/1846. Frederick Ellard went on to produce a large oeuvre of compositions.

This is a Phisharmonicon c.1831. 4 octaves, G to g''; 800w x540d x930h; provenance Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland; in the Ellard family collection of Steve Ford.


The first notice of the Phisharmonicon was in Belfast Newsletter 22/4/1831.

 Messrs. Ellard, of Sackville-street, have succeeded in completing an
 instrument, called the "Phisharmonicon," combining the facility of
 execution and great capabilities of the pianoforte, &c. with the tone
 and continuity of sound which can be produced by an accomplished
 performer on the finest wind instruments.

 The Phisharmonicon is, properly speaking, a wind instrument, the
 sound being produced by the vibration of a series of metallic
 springs, acted upon by air. As long, therefore, as the action of the
 air is continued on any spring or springs, so long the the sound is
 protracted, if necessary, with undiminished force. In harmony the
 effect is inconceivably fine.

 The Phisharmonicon is played upon in the same manner as the
 piano-forte, which it exactly resembles in the appearance of its
 keys. There is no difference whatever in the fingering of the two,
 except that, whereas it is a rule, in most cases, not to relinquish
 on key on the latter instrument, (the piano-forte,) until the
 following one has been touched; in the Phisharmonicon no two keys
 must be open together, unless to produce harmony. In this it
 resembles the organ.

 It never requires tuning, after it has been perfected by the maker!
 It is exceedingly portable. It may embrace almost any compass, from
 one to six octaves, and any quality of tone, according to the
 description of metal employed in the springs. The double action
 bellows, by which this instrument is actuated, is at present inflated
 by means of a pedal.

 It is the simplest method possible; and, by a little practice, serves
 the performer to mark the time by a very convenient motion of the
 foot. Those who wish to go to a little more expense, can have the
 means of increasing or diminishing the tone ad libitum.

A longer version of this article can be found here:

This is what Ellards were advertising in 1836.

                           ELLARD & SON

 Most respectfuly inform the public, that this beautiful instrument,
 after much expense and exertion, has at length been brought to the
 greatest perfection. To describe its peculiar sweetness of tone, and
 delightful effect, would only be conveying an imperfect notion of
 either. To form a just conception of its merits, it must be heard.

 The compass is five octaves, (the extend of the largest organ), and
 will be found to produce effects in vocal accompaniment, of which no
 instrument except the organ is capable. It is admirably adapted for
 sustaining the voice, and therefore is a most valuable assistant to
 amateur vocalists.

 In sacred melody it is beautifully effective, and particularly suited
 to small country churches and chapels *; and in family or even public
 concerts, its superiority over the piano forte, in accompanying
 voices it will be evident to all who admit it for such purposes. Its
 other advantages are, cheapness and permanency, not being affacted by
 variation of temperature or atmospheric influence, and will therefore
 remain un-impaired by climate. From its portability (being only the
 size of a cottage piano forte, as may be percieved from the above
 sketch), it can not only be removed whith facility, from one
 apartment to another, byt also to foreigh countries, without being
 injured in its tone or mechanism, or being even put out of tune by
 the longest voyage **.

 The price of the seraphine varies from 35 to 50 Guineas, and even
higher, in proportion to the exterior finish of the case, not in any
 way connected with, or affacting its musical properties.

 ELLARD and SON, the Improvers and Manufacturers, most respectfully

 * Then intended for places or worship, cases, with organ fronts, in
 chaste and tasteful character or style of order, can be added, at a
 proportionate increase of expense, as may be agreed on.

 ** The Manufacturers have sent seraphines to Gibralter, Cape of Good
 Hope, and New South Wales, which have been played on the moment
 landed, perfectly in tune as when they were packed.


Even earlier, the Dublin Weekly Journal of 23/3/1833 contains a notice about ``The Metalaphone''.

 A very beautiful keyed instrument, to which the above name is
 appropriately applied, has just issued from the manufactury of
 Messrs. Ellard and Son, of Sackville-Street. We know not of whom the
 invention can with justice be attributed, there being at least twenty
 claimant to the inventorship of an equal number of modifications of
 the same instrument. The first of the description, bearing the name
 of Organ-Piano, was exhibited some fourteen or fifteen years back, at
 the fair of Leipsig, and is said to have been constructed by an
 obscure artizan of that place; since which time it has been
 re-produced in almot every great city of Europe with changes and
 improvements; the manufacturers severally laying claim to the
 invention, and designating it by whatever title they chose. In the
 present instance, however, there is no slight share of merit due to
 the manufacturers of the Metalaphone; it far from surpasses any other
 instrument of the kind, and the scientific improvements, which have
 been made in it, are justly their own. The tone, which is equal in
 quality to that of a large sized organ is produced by metallic
 springs, composed of misture of different metals, so as to counteract
 atmospheric influence. It contains five octaves, the full compass of
 the largest finger organs, and appears to be admirably suited to
 places of worship, or chamber service.

More information is recorded by Penelope Fitzgerald in her book The Means of Escape [69].

St. George's church, Hobart, stands high above Battery Point and the harbor. Inside, it looks strange and must always have done so, although (at the time I'm speaking of) it didn't have the blue, pink and yellow patterned stained glass that you see there now. That was ordered from a German firm in 1875. But St. George's has always had the sarcophagus shaped windows, which the architect had thought Egyptian and therefore appropriate (St. George is said to have been an Egyptian saint)...

In 1852, before the organ was installed, the church used to face east, and music was provided by a seraphine. The seraphine was built, and indeed invented, by a Mr. Ellard, formerly of Dublin, now a resident of Hobart. He intended it to suggest the angelic choir, although the singing voices at his disposal - the surveyor general, the naval chaplain, the harbormaster and their staffs - were for the most part male. Who was able to play the seraphine? Only, at first, Mr. Ellard's daughter, Mrs. Logan, who seems to have got £20 a year for doing so, the same fee as the clerk and the sexton. When Mrs. Logan began to feel the task was too much for her - the seraphine needs continuous pumping - she instructed Alice Godley, the rector's daughter.

Hobart stands south of no north, between snowy Mount Wellington and the River Derwent, running down over steps and promontories to the harbor's bitterly cold water. You get all the winds that blow. The next stop to the south is the limit of the Antarctic drift ice. When Alice went up to practice the hymns she had to unlock the outer storm door, made of Huon pine, and the inner door, also a storm door, and drag them shut again.

The seraphine stood on its own square of Axminster carpet in the transept. Outside (at the time I'm speaking of) it was a bright afternoon, but inside St. George's there was that mixture of light and inky darkness which suggests that from the darkness something may be about to move. It was difficult, for instance, to distinguish whether among the black painted pews, at some distance away, there was or wasn't some person or object rising above the level of the seats. Alice liked to read mystery stories, when she could get hold of them, and the thought struck her now: The form of a man is advancing from the shadows...

There was also originally a Seraphine (aka Metalaphone) in St, Mary's Catholic Cathedral, College Street, Sydney. Sometime between 1835 and 1842 an organ (small 2M pipe organ) was rented from Francis Ellard for 6 months. This was however not considered satisfactory, and a much more impressive new 2MP pipe organ was commissioned from Bevingtons of London.

W.E. Evans (c.1839-84)

Wardle Eastland Evans ran a music shop in Cheltenham and is noted as an organ builder. He had produced a soprano voice guide with 2 octaves of free reeds.

There was another early type of seraphine called the Organo Harmonica, also with steel reeds and a coil sprung reservoir. It was first made by W.E. Evans c.1841, see Chapter 4. It gave an enhanced rapidity of articulation at low pressure as well as the augmentation of tonal power as the reservoir filled. His later instruments were manufactured in relatively larger numbers by Boosey and Sons. Coil springs on the reservoir supplied low air pressure and the thin steel reeds were artistically voiced. It largely superceded the seraphines which had no reservoir previous to that time.

Not everyone liked these instruments. The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature contained this report in Apr'1844: The Organo Harmonica invented by Mr. Evans of Cheltenham, was exhibited at the Hanover Square Rooms on monday, when its various powers, as a compendious substitute for the organ, were displayed in fugues, preludes, etc. which were performed with tolerable effect. The instrument seemed to us an improvement on the seraphine in use behind the scenes of theatres - capable of more rapid execution, and posessing, perhaps, a larger range of stop; but, as in all former inventions of this kind, here is something in the tone which first satiates - afterwards becomes unpleasing; nor can we reconcile ourselves to the idea of this Harmonica becoming, by choice, the accompaniment to any performance, although its size and price may recommend it as a matter of ecomomy.

I had not appreciated previously that such instruments were used in theatres.

Boosey and Sons published a number of statements on Mr. Evans in 1844 in 1860 [] which claimed to prove the origins of an instrument independent to the Alexandre Harmonium. In proof that Mr. Evans is not a copyist of M. Alexandre, nor dependent upon him for his ideas or materials, it must be stated that Mr. Evans invented an instrument on entirely the same principle, resembling in every respect the Harmonium, in the year 1844, and which is called the Organo-Harmonica. Being without the means of carring on a Manufactury, Mr. Evans was unable to introduce his inventions on a large scale; but a few extracts from letters and critiques which he received at the time when he exhibited his instrument (long before M. Alexandre was heard of), will satisfy any person that Mr. Evans is something more than the filer of M. Alexandre's reeds.

Testimonials followed from Vincent Novello, Sir George Smart, J. Calkin, G. Cooper, and some musical journalists.

Spectator, 17/2/1844 This instrument, lately exhibited at the Hanover-square Rooms, and now removed for inspection to Novello's in Dean-street, is an improved kind of seraphine, of greater compass, and more rapid in answering to the touch. It contains two manuals - the upper one a swell of considerable extent; the lower one extending to CC with rather more than 2 octaves of pedals. This unusual compass is obtained without unmanageable bulk; and the effects of grand organ music, fugues, trios, etc. together with all the evolutions of the pedals, may be thus exactly that of the great organs now built, it is calculated materially to advance the power of execution on that instrument. Independently of this, the Organo-Harmonica is capable of very pleasing combinations and effects; it is well adapted to accompany sacred singing, and is likely to become more various and effective for that purpose than a very small organ. In recommending this instrument to the notice of amateurs and organists as a cheap and convenient succedaneum for great organ practice, we confess that its contingent advanages are uppermost in our mind; we expect to hear more of the fugues of Bach, and better played.

Times, 23/1/1844 This is a newly-constructed Instrument, the invention of Mr. Evans. It possesses the power of an Organ of considerable size, and is played by means of keys, in the same manner as an Organ, and also by Pedals, by which variety and scope of tone are assisted to a very great degree. To describe it more technically, it will be proper to say that it has two sets of manuals; that the compass if from CCC to F in alt. There are two octaves and a major third of pedals, four stops, two diapason, a principal and posaune, a swell coupler and an octave pedal coupler. This instrument is fitted for large rooms, for churches of moderate space, and for chapels, and has power to be used as an accompaniment to upwards of 200 voices. It can be sold at a moderate price. One of these instruments was yesterday tested in the great concert room in Hanover-square, in the presence of a great number of musical persons, both amateurs and professors, and was unanimously admired and approved as an ingenious and meritorious invention.

For more for the story, see Chapter 4.2.

e-Bay *1398

This is a kind of ``harmoniflute'' similar to those produced by Debain in Paris [check]. It was for sale in Oct'2018.

evans_eb1398a.jpg evans_eb1398b.jpg evans_eb1398c.jpg

The instrument has a 46-note C-a keyboard and two treadles blowing wind up a central hollow leg. The keyboard slides to transpose into keys of A, B flat or C.

M. Faraday (c.1828)

Michael Faraday, then a 39 year old chemist, presented information on free reed instruments to the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1828. This was during a series of lectures on sound.

Neil Wayne [199] says that this was actually 21/5/1830 when Faraday gave one of the Royal Institution's Friday Evening Discourses entitled On the Application of a New Principle in the Construction of Musical Instruments. Whatever the date, this was truly ``seminal''.

He mentioned that he had himself made a free reed instrument with a keyboard and advocated some improvements to such instruments [141]. Previously [?], the Aeolina by Charles Wheatstone had been demonstrated in a lecture in 1828 given on his behalf by Faraday, a lifelong friend [28,147]. Was this the same lecture and the instrument was actually by Wheatstone? It is possible that because Wheatsone was very shy Faraday was speaking on his behalf.

The Proceedings of the Royal Institution note: This was one of the series of evenings devoted to the consideration and developement [sic] of various parts of the science of sound. The illustrations were given by Mr. Faraday, but, with the matter, were supplied by Mr. Wheatstone. The principle is the one now so well known for its popularity in the aeolina, where a spring of metal being fixed by one end, in an aperture which it nearly fills, is thrown into vibration by the breath or any other soft current of air passing by it, and produces musical sound. The general laws of the vibrations of rods and springs were first given, and partly illustrated by an instrument called a tonometer invented by Mr. Wheatstone, in which the sound produced by any lentgh of a uniform spring could be ascertained. Then the application of these springs, in a geat variety of instruments, was shewn, first in the mund-harmonica, or aeolina, down to those of recent construction.

We also note (Neil mentions it in passing) that at this lecture Samuel Wesley played upon Dowler's Glossophone, Dietz's [Dretz's?] (Parisien piano maker) Aerophone and Day's Aeolian Organ [62]. Also shown were single, double and triple aeolinas and Wheatstone's Symphonium and Flute Harmonique, the latter invented in 1818.

A. Findlay (1856-1906)

Alexander Findlay worked at 110 West Nile Street, Glasgow, was a music seller and harmonium maker (Scottish Post Office diectory, 1856) who made the ``Seraphium''. His house was said to be at 62 Albert Road, Crosshill (1883). After his death in 1906, his sons Alex and Robert continued to sell pianos and reed organs and were listed as pianoforte and harmonium makers, tuners, repairers and sellers (Glasgow Directory, 1901).

J. Green (b.1821-d.1849)


John Green was a seraphine maker at 28 Norfolk Street, Strand, London (c.1815-20) and 33 Soho Square (c.1820-48). He also made pianos, and is said to have ``invented'' the seraphine in 1833 or probably earlier [86]. But note that he had a significant patent with Charles Wheatstone in 1836, see below. Also see note below ref. Gunther and Horwood.

A picture of the Soho Square premises c.1838 is available from the City of London Collage archive, number 34006,


Soho Square was a hub of musical instrument making, mainly piano makers such as Goulding, D'Almaine, Brown and Kirkman, but also harp makers such as Grosjean and Green. John Green was located on the west side of Soho Square (the original building is no longer standing), with Grosjean on the north elevation. Much later, after John Green had ceased business, William Henry Hawkes, the musical instrument seller and music publisher, took over 33 Soho Square; the beginning of Hawkes and Son, later to become Boosey & Hawkes.

John Green worked for Clementi as a travelling representative; however, by c.1815 he had set up his own business at 28 Norfolk Street, Strand, where he described himself as a "music agent". By 1819 Green was working from 33 Soho Square dealing in music and musical instruments. Furthermore, he listed his business, at 33 Soho Square, in the Post Office directory of 1822 under "music and musical instrument sellers". It is clear from a newspaper announcement that there were two John Greens: the father (born c.1759) who died in 1837 in Soho Square, and his son. Charles Wheatstone, the inventor of the concertina (c. 1829), and a certain John Green filed a patent together in 1836 which included A new method or methods of forming musical instruments in which continuous sounds are produced from strings, wires, or springs. Although John Green is a common name, it is likely to have been the same person who was the inventor of the Royal Seraphine and Transponicon.

At the shop and warehouse at 33 Soho Square, London, seraphines were sold for 40 guineas each. These had dead weight bellows and a swell shutter over the reed box operated by the pedals described above. His best instruments were known as the ``Royal Seraphine'' introduced c.1833. Green wrote several books to popularise these instruments. According to research carried out by Ord-Hume [140], Green assembled the instruments from parts sourced from other firms. For instance the reeds were from the piano maker Gunther (later Gunther and Horwood, see below) and the cases were from pipe organ makers Bevington and Sons. We are grateful to James Westbrook for additions to the above information; he is doing research into British guitar makers and related companies [206].

The date of the invention of the Royal Seraphine is variously reported as 1831 (Grove's Dictionary 5th edn.), 1833 (Grove's Dictionary 1st edn.), 1834 (Marcuse, p738). It is fairly clear that John Green gave the name ``Seraphine'' to his instrument in 1830 and that it was the predecessor of Debain's Harmonium [248]. Other confusing references however suggest as early as c.1812 [133], but this seems unlikely.

In fact John Green posted an announcement in The Harmonicon [250] Dec'1830 as follows.

 THE SERAPHINE. A new patent musical keyed instrument, with sustained
 sounds of extraordinary sweetness, capable of the utmost possible
 delicacy of diminuendo and crescendo at the pleasure of the
 Performer, nearly the ordinary compass of the Organ, with power
 sufficient for small Congregations of Domestic Parties, and yet
 contained in the size and form of a Lady's Work Table. Price 25

Again in Dec'1831:

 This extraordinary Musical Instrument produces all the force and
 effect of a large Organ, though comprised in the compass of a small
 piece of furniture 36'' x16''. The sound is produced on a new
 principle, and may be modified at pleasure to the softest
 delicacy. It may be played upon at once without previous practice, by
 any performer of the Organ or P.-forte. Price 40 to 40 guineas.

I believe that the Royal Seraphine was patented in 1833, and in fact there is a contemporary account of a seraphine for sale in H. Hutton's music shop in Charles Street, St. Helier, Jersey in April 1834 [63]. The original article from Chronique de Jersey quotes from the original advertisement:

 This truly extraordinary instrument is brought after some years
 exertion and experience, to the greatest perfection. The beauties of
 which are not to be equalled for sweetness of Harmony and Melody,
 coupled with an extraordinary power of Tone, which astonishes every
 hearer; although in size not larger than a Chiffonier. Being highly
 finished at the back and portable, may readily be removed to the
 centre of the room or from one to the other, without the least
 inconvenience, or danger of being out of tune.

The actual size was 2'10'' heigh x3'5'' wide x2'8'' deep.

The famous methodist organist S.S. Wesley was even paid to give recitals at Clementi's shop and the instruments were offered for sale at 40 guineas, a staggering sum at that time. He wrote a piece called Characteristic Airs for Seraphine. Some music for the Royal Seraphine has been re-printed by Ulrich Averesch of Wuppertal, Germany: Five Pieces by Samual Wesley [205]. Seraphines were retailed by Puttick and Simpson from at least 1848-50. An advert from 1836 notes that a Royal Seraphine was in use at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, but that it was equally applicable for church or domestic use. It was actually used in a performance of ``Quasimodo'', and employed to imitate the organ of Notre Dame.

Green held a British patent number 7,154 of 27/7/1836 for forming musical instruments in which continuous sounds are produced from strings wires or springs. This patent was held jointly with Charles Wheatstone, later to become inventor of the concertina.

An advert appeared in Musical World, Vol.VIII [238].

 THE ROYAL SERAPHINE. J.~Green, Inventor and Sole Manufacturer,
 respectully recommends those who wish to form a judgement of the
 powers of this Instrument, to hear its effecte in the Opera of
 Quasimodo, and Don Juan of Austria, at the Theatre Royal, Covent
 Garden. Its introduction there affords an exemplification of its
 applicability to all purposes of a Church Organ, and for the
 accompaniment of a mass of voices. Its various capabilities in
 diversity of tone and delicacy of expression, admirably adapting it
 for domestig purposes, may be heard at any time at Mr.~Green's Music
 Warehouse, 33 Soho Square.

In 1839, Green posted an advert in Musical World as follows.

 Green's Transponicon or Transposing Pianoforte. Those who have any
 thoughts of purchasing a pianoforte, are most earnestly recommended
 first to inspect this Extraordinary Improvement, by which the
 Performer is enabled, at pleasure, to raise or lower the pitch to
 suit the Voice or any accompanying Instrument, or to transpose, at
 once, any composition into any other Key. Such desirable powers must
 shortly render obsolete all Instruments not posessing them. The price
 is reduced even considerably below that usually charged for ordinary
 Instruments.  J.~Green, Inventor and sole Manufacturer, Seraphine
 Warehouse, Royal Arms, 33, Soho Square.

This doesn't seem to have been very successful. Green was only listed as a music seller in 1840, so may have ceased manufacture [30]. It is thought that most people found the sound too harsh. Some however held their own with congregational singing in small churches, such as S. Nicholas, in Ringmore, Shaldon, Devon

John Green died in 1851.

Terry Rolison Music

This one is owned by Terry Rolison, a dealer in pianos and rare musical instruments in Romford, Essex.

His Web site at or now claims this is one of only three to have survived and was purchased via Sothebys Auctions, New York.

The case with dimensions are 39'' x18'' x34'' is made from solid mahogany with rosewood name board and lock rail. The key blocks have been re-veneered in rosewood. The feet are quadrooned and the back of the instrument is finished in mahogany and is clearly meant to be visible. The instrument originally had castors.

The organ has a 5 octave FFF-f'' compass and is still in working order; it has never been tuned to equal temperament.


Royal Seraphine

This one was for sale in the catalogue of Wurlitzer-Bruck, New York.

The case is almost identical to the one in Longford attributed to Gunther and Horwood, see below. So there could be some confusion about who actually made these rare instruments.


RMAH Green Royal Seraphine

This one is listed on MINIM

It is actually in the collection of Royal Museums of Art and History, NL inventory no.4347


J.H.A. Gunther, and Gunther and Horwood (c.1819-78)


[see also]

John Henry Anthony (Johan Heinrich Anton) Gunther was a piano maker of 27 Tottenham Street, Tottenham Court Road, London and was in business from at least 1819 to 1878. He held patents for improvements to pianofortes. Robert Gunther was registered at 31 Little Queen Street, Lincoln-in-the-Fields, Holborn in 1820, the same address that was registered by Gunther and Horwood in 1822. In 1825 they were in Pratt Place. One Henry Gunther believed to be the same, was registered at 6 High Street, Camden in 1839 and nos.6-7 in 1840. There was also Benjamin Gunther (b.1831) born in St. Pancras.

George Horwood is listed as being active as a reed organ builder 1815-31. He began his partnership with Gunther around 1823. Bill Kibby notes they may have been established earlier, although 1815 was their first listing in the London directories. Around 1810, they are said to have made 6-key clarinets.

Pigot's Directory of London, 1822, lists Gunther and Horwood, pianoforte makers. In 1822, Astor and Horwood were last listed at 79 Cornhill under this name.

The Database of British Organ Builders claims that Gunther ``invented'' the seraphine c.1820. He made the reeds for the Royal Seraphine of John Green.

London Gazette of 4/10/1836 notes: Notice is hereby given, that the trade or business of Pianoforte and Seraphine Manufacturers heretofore carried on by us the undersigned, at Camden Town, in the County of Middlesex, under the firm of Gunther and Horwood, was dissolved on the 29th day of September instant, by mutual consent. Witness our hands the 30th day of September 1836. Henry Gunther. Geo. Horwood.

One Daniel Chandler (Charles?) Hewitt was also registered as 6 High Street, Camden in 1842-4 and 16 Hanover Street, Hanover Square in 1844. Ord-Hume [140] suggests that he may have worked for Gunther. Hewitt devised improvements for the seraphine, including a percussion action which was patented on 9/11/1844, British patent no.10,385. Hewitt was also at one time in partnership with John Charles Schwieso, see below. The same address was listed for Collard and Collard (see above).

Christ Church, Longford, Tasmania

At least one seraphine by Gunther and Horwood of Camden Town, London still exists in the Anglican Christ Church, Longford, Tasmania. It was (until recently) not playable, but is preserved and was mentioned in the book Pipe Organs of Australia by Clark and Johnson [29]. It was also mentioned in the BIOS Reporter [11]. This one carries a date of 1844 and is reputed to have cost £60 which was a very high price for the time. See also Church Web site The photograph is ©Trevor Bunning 28/4/2011.


The following photograph is © BIOS.


Another photo appears in Ord-Hume's book, p19, but seems to be printed back to front.

This seraphine has been restored by Australian Pipe Organs Pty. Ltd. in 2011. A PDF brochure can be found documenting the restoration Church Longford/Seraphime (Historic Pedal Organ).pdf


They note that the parishioners and friends paid £60 for this instrument in the 1830s. It was placed in the back of a gallery behind curtains, in front of which sat the convicts employed in the district. The organist was paid £20 per annum.

J. Hart (1838-58)

Joseph Hart, manufacturer of improved cabinet, cottage, and square pianofortes, seraphines, etc., 109 Hatton Garden, Holborn Hill, London.

An advert appeared in Musical World, 1838 [238] as follows.

 J. Hart respectfully invites the Public to inspect his improved
 Pianofortes, which, from their peculiar construction, produce a tone
 not surpassed by those of any other maker; they are manufactured in
 an elegant form, of the best and well seasoned materials, and are
 offered at a very reasonable price for ready money. Every instrument
 is warranted.

 THE SERAPHINE. Having paid particular attention to the manufacture of
 this useful instrument, J. Hart presents it to the Public as the most
 perfect of the kind; its defects have been remedied, particularly
 those of not replying to the touch, and also the difficulty of
 supplying the wind, hitherto so much complained of. The action of the
 bellows is now rendered so easy, that it may be worked without the
 least fatigue, while the varied qualities of tone, dellicate and
 soft, or powerful, at the pleasure of the performer, renders it
 capable of giving effect to any Organ Music, and it will be found
 equally adapted either for the Church, Chapel, or the Drawing Room.

In 1839 only pianos were advertised.

It seems that Joseph Hart rented a shop during 1854-55 at 498 New Oxford Street and also a workshop in Dorrington Street, Leather Lane, Holborn from Sep'1855. He also worked as a lodging house keeper, but was insolvent in 1859.

W. Hattersley and Co. (1845-57)

A piano and seraphine maker, William Hattersley started at 43 Regent Street, Westminster and moved to 50 Millbank Street, Westminster and then with his son to 22 Great Smith Street, London in 1850 and later 5 New Bridge Street, Vauxhall where they became known as Wm. Hattersley and Co. in 1853, then moving to 3 Darlington Place, Vauxhall and then Wilton Place, Pimlico around 1856. William's son, William P., continued as a piano and harmonium factor at 10-14 Bow Street, Sheffield until 1883.

Ill fortune befell them in 1847 when the London Gazette of 29/6/1847 reported The Court for relief of insolvent debtors. Saturday the 26th day of June 1847. [...] On their own petitions. [...] William Hattersley, late of n.50, Millbank-Street, Westminster, Middlesex, Piano Forte Maker. - In the debtors' Prison for London and Middlesex.

Henry Brooks, see 32.6, took on his first appointment as representative of an insolvent estate sorting out Hattersley's affairs. This enabled Hattersley to continue in business working with his son William.

More information and a picture of an instrument by Hattersley is shown in Chapter 8.

F.W. Isaac (1833-1845)

Isaac was a seraphine and organ maker of 17 Charlotte Street, Rathbone Place, London. It is noted that he was previously an ivory, tortoise-shell and perl worker.

London Gazette 29/1/1833: Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership lately subsisting between us, and carried on at No.17, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, and No.26, John Street, Tottenham Court Road, both in the County of Middlesex, in the trade or business of Organ, Seraphine, and Pianoforte Manufacturers, was this day dissolved by mutual consent: As witness our hands this 24th day of January 1333. F.W. Isaac. Geo. Staples. Thos. White.

Thomas White was then for a period associated with Kirkman's business (see below).

The following advertisement is for Royal Seraphines manufactured by F.W. Isaac. Its date is not known, but it is probably 1834.


Kirkman and White (c.1822-46)

Jacob Grant Kirkman (4/3/1711-9/6/1792); Abraham Kirkman (b.1737-d.16/4/1794); Joseph Kirkman I partnered with his father Abraham. Joseph G. Kirkman (b.1790-d.1877) father was James harpsichord maker

Our story starts with Joseph G. Kirkman II (b.1790-d.1877, son of Joseph) and Thomas White (Ord-Hume says R.H. White but this is probably wrong, see below) who built some of the earliest seraphines. Kirkman was born in Marylebone, London and had premises at 67 Frith Street, Soho around 1822-5 manufacturing pianos and dealing in other musical instruments and then 3 Soho Square from 1831-92 and 9 Dean Street, London in 1846. Their last harpsichord was made in 1809. Kirkman died at the relatively great age of 87 on 18/10/1877 in Queen's Hall, Hastings. Stephen Kirkman, who contacted me on 20/3/2006, has been researching the family history. He told me that Joseph's first wife was Louisa (b.1801-d.1871) and his second wife Eleanor Sarah (b.1820-d.1898). With his first wife he had 4 children, Joseph (b.1819-d.1893), Louisa (b.1823-d.1900), Henry John (b.1827-d.1874) and Georgiana Marian (b.1828-d.1898). According to the Census, they were living together with servants in Soho Square in 1841.

It is noted [] that as early as 1826 a free reed organ was performed by one Edouard Schulz, aged 14 years, at Kirkman's Rooms, Frith Street, Soho. He was performing again in April 1828 on a free reed aeolharmonica in a Concertante for this instrument and two guitars. A review of the concert is reproduced in [].

London Gazette 14/3/1837: Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting and carried on beween us the undersigned, Joseph Kirkman and Thomas White, as Seraphine Makers, at no.3, Soho Square, in the county of Middlesex, was this day dissolved by mutual consent, and that all debts due to or from the said partnership will be received and paid by the said Joseph Kirkman, and that the said business will in future be carried on by Joseph Kirliman only. Dated this 11th day of March 1837. Joseph Kirkman. Thos. White.

The 1861 Census showed that the Kirkmans had a cousin living with them, Marianne (b.1831) born at Kennington, Surrey, and were at 7 Marine Parade, Eastbourne. This house was apparently leased in 1809 to Joseph Kirkman of Broad Street, Golden Square, Middlesex who was a pianoforte maker. This is probably Joseph Kirkman II's father. The leasehold reverted to one Charles Gilbert in 1866. With his second wife Eleanor Sarah he had two more children, Frederick Augustus and Alexander Henry. It is clear from Joseph's will executed by Eleanor Sarah in 1897 that he also had a number of other freehold houses in London and Middlesex. It is also beleived that he has a ``manufactory'' in Hammersmith (was this Bradmore Works c.1868?). His business was clearly profitable!

Henry John Kirkman also became a piano maker, as noted in the 1851 Census when he was head of the household at 3 Soho Square, un-married, but had 20 employees. Joseph Kirkman and Son exhibited at the Great Industrial Exhibition also in 1851, number 467 in Class X [190]. They won a Prize Medal.

Kirkman and White manufactured the so called ``Improved Seraphine'' from around May 1836 [237].

IMPROVED SERAPHINE. Messrs. Kirkman and White, respectfully acquaint
 the Musical Public, particularly the Clergy and Profession, that they
 have now on Sale an assortment of their Improved Seraphines, adapted
 either for the Drawing Room or Chapel with or without German
 Pedals. These extraorinary Instruments are used at the Italian Opera
 House and other Theatres, may be heard at the Manufactury, 3 Soho
 Square, next door to the Bazaar.

These instruments measured 38'' x34'' x21''. They had 5 octaves of ivory covered keys with FFF-f'' compass and one set of reeds at 8' pitch. Three pedals controlled bellows, wind flow (early alternative to expression and which actually restricted the opening of the pallets, each being adjustable) and a swell.

The Illustrated London News for 20/8/1853 contains an article on the Destruction by fire of Messrs. Kirkman's pianoforte manufactory at Dufour's Place, Broad Street, Golden Square. Apart from the total destruction of the manufactory which, being a timber building and containing mostly wooden materials, was completely consumed by the flames nine other houses and a chapel were also destroyed. The fire had been so great that engines were called from King Street, Golden Square, Wells Street, Chandos Street and other stations. The glow of the fire could be seen as far away as Harrow on the Hill. Other fire engines were called from the West of England office and four or five from the London Establishment. Two or three of The Royal Society's engines also attended.


Georgiana Kirkman inherited the business in 1877. Lamburn [128] gives a brief summary of the transfer of the Kirkman business to John Clementi Collard, rival piano makers (later to become Collard and Collard).

Notes from Stephen Kirkman contain the following explanation of what happened. The Kirkman male line having ceased, Georgiana was having difficulty maintaining the size and standard of the house, she approached John Clementi Collard (JCC). She explained her position and indicated that the business was available for disposal. He asked her the terms. She answered ``That you take the business as it stands, at certified cost''. He asked about the name and goodwill, she replied ``An undertaking that you will not dispose of it, and that you will continue to regard it on the same traditions as your own''. He agreed, ``Yes, I am willing to do that; but the price?'' ``That is the price.'' She replied. So over a hundred years of good will changed hands under such unique conditions. This is said to have happened in 1896.

Later references in the book to the estimated worth and date of death of Joseph Kirkman are inaccurate... As yet there is no verification to either the value of the estate or the quoted conversation between JCC and Georgiana. However, it is recorded elsewhere that Georgiana did indeed dispose of the business to Collard at almost no cost. Probate records show she died 13/2/1898 at 10 Ladbroke Square, Notting Hill, London. Admin was granted to Louisa Reece (widow), Joseph's other daughter.

The following picture shows a surviving instrument which is in the Olthof Collection. It is said to be from c.1840 with one rank of 61 reeds, compass FFF-f''. It measures 38'' x34'' x21'' and has a rich mahogany case. There is one set of reeds at 8' pitch and three pedals controlling bellows, wind flow and swell. This has serial no.1837 and case no.R1232.


A recording of this Kirkman and White seraphine exists. Dick Sanderman's Boléro de Concert: een bloemlezing uit de harmonium leteratuur. This is on CD 970829 from VDGram and was produced by Harmonium Vereniging Nederland, The pieces played are Andante and Andantino by Samual Wesley. The description reads as follows: A rare seraphine is the oldest instrument on this disc and the item that most aroused my curiosity. Built in 1837 by Messrs Kirkman and White of London, this pressure winded predecessor of the harmonium possesses a single set of reeds within its mahogany case. One of its two pedals supplies air while the second operates a muting device. Upon this instrument Sanderman plays two selections from Mr. Green's Seraphine Tutor, some of the last compositions from the pen of the venerable Samuel Wesley. As one might expect from a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven, refined elegance permeates Wesley's music. However, Sanderman admits the slow speaking reeds of the seraphine and its unwieldy means of raising wind were impositions upon a performer accustomed to the the flexible harmonium. He has some difficulty in managing this instrument and the results sound somewhat rushed and lacking in grace.

Brentford Piano Museum

An example of such a Kirkman and White seraphine was (is?) in the British Piano Museum, 386 High Street, Brentford, Middx. It is said to have been built c.1805 which is certainly incorrect. It has a mahogany and rosewood case, double acting rising reservoir with spring, and a single rectangular feeder and pedal. There are two additional control pedals.

[pic with front panel removed, source [79]]

Geo. Metzler and Co. (1839-1885)

George Metzler of London made seraphines in the early days. Valentin Metzler started as a piano maker in 1781 and was joined by his son George Richard in 1816 when the company became known as Metzler & Son.

It is thought that Valentin died in 1833 and the company then became known as Mealer & Co. George Richard died in 1867 and his son George Thomas took over the company. They became a limited company in 1893 and were taken over by J.B. Cramer and Co. in 1931.

They had premises at 10 Wardour Street, then 105 Wardour Street, Soho in 1830, 30 Great Marlborough Street, Soho in 1842, 35-7 Great Marlborough Street in 1857 and number 38 in 1858 then number 16 in 1863 and number 36 in 1864 with numbers 26-29 in 1869. They were also sometime at number 42-3. They were a limited company by 1903 still making pianos until around 1921.

George Metzler held stand 475 in Class X of the 1851 Industrial Exhibition for a piano. He also manufactured an ``organo-piano'' which retailed at 60 guineas in 1885.

A advert from 1839 [239] reads as follows.

 Seraphines -- Metzler and Co. 105, Wardour-street, respectfully
 invite the attention of the musical public to their improved
 seraphines, adapted either for the Concert Room, Drawing Room, or
 Place of Worship: the various qualities of their tone -- delicate and
 soft, or powerful, at the pleasure of the performer -- renders them
 capable of giving effect to any Organ music, at a price less than one
 fourth the cost of an organ of the same power and depth of tone.

Sale on 7/6/2018 Lot 169: Physharmonica by Metzler & Co (London), nr. 894.

I.H.R. Mott (c.1820-68)


Fritz Gellerman's Atlas notes that Isaac Henry Robert Mott of 76 The Strand, London was an inventor and manufacturer of seraphines holding several patents. He showed a combined piano and harmonium (more like a seraphine) at the 1851 Industrial Exhibition. This is shown in Gellerman's Atlas [80] p165. It as an 8-octave piano with 5-octave harmonium or possible seraphine.

This instrument is now in the Olthof Collection. It has action serial no.2,364.


Mott came from Brighton to London and was established at 92 Pall Mall from 1828 and 135 Oxford Street in 1831. They added 75 Dean Street and Blythe House, Hammersmith in 1838. Addresses in 1843-6 were 96 Strand and 23 Poppins Court, Fleet Street. Mott's Pianoforte Athenaeum was their address at 76 Strand around 1857.

Mott invented the Sostinente Pianoforte in Brighton, patented in 1817. This was a piano with a mechanism for sustaining the sound of the strings. At that time he was recorded as a composer and teacher of music.

Some more research started when I was contacted in January 2006 by Judy Deane in Australia: I was particularly interested in the entry for I.H.R. Mott as I am descended from him. The address you show of 76 Strand was his 2nd address in London for ``musical wares'' and is listed in the directories from 1843 to 1861 (though Rosamond Harding's book extends this to 1863). Before that he had a showroom and manufactory for pianos, harps and organs at 95 (later called 92) Pall Mall from 1817 to 1842. Isaac was born in Birmingham in 1790 and died in December 1855. I have not yet been able to determine who carried on ``Mott's Pianoforte Athenaeum'' (the 76 Strand address) after Isaac's death. I had not previously heard of his seraphines. I have references to his piano patents: England nos 4,098 and 11,180 and France no.1,602. Are these the patents you mention or are there others concerning organs? At the Great Exhibition of 1851 I have a record of Isaac's exhibit no.498 Class X which was a piano with coupled keyboard. Is the exhibit you mention of a combined harmonium and piano a different item and could you perhaps point me to a reference for it?

I have recently been reading about Warrington as Joseph Priestly taught at Warrington Academy before he went to Birmingham where his house was burnt down in the anti-Dissenter riots of 1791. My interest is that the Mott family were also Dissenters there then and would surely have been affected. The riots were a year after I.H.R. was born there. My original idea years ago was to write a biography of I.H.R. Mott but I keep finding holes in my information.

A note from The London Journal of Arts, Sciences and Manufactures by Mr. W. Newton (vol. XXXIX, 1851) states Mr. Mott exhibits a grand, seven and a half octaves, F to c, with a seraphine of five octaves applied thereto under the front part of the instrument, and thus forming two claviers. A solo may be performed on one of them, and an accompaniment on the other; or, by means of couplers, they may both be played together. [190].

[query from Billie Shepherd, Who Do You Think You Are July 2015]

Isaac Mott was registered as bankrupt on 10/11/1840 and died in 1868.

A. Münch (1829-30)

August Münch of London had a patent for the Aeolophon with Francis Day. This patent no.5,802 in 1829 was for a so called substitution for pipes. No more is known.

Myers and Storer (c.1837-51)

A seraphine patent was held by John Frederick Myers of 83 Charlotte Street, Rathbone Place [Fitzroy Square?], London in 1839. This was joint with Joseph Storer who was a reed organ builder in London at Bedborough Street, New road. Myers was also in Albermarle Street before 1839.

In 1839 Myers held patents for seraphine and aeolophon reeds and a further patent, no.8,164 in 1839, for a number for further improvements to seraphines, organs, etc. The application notes: for certain improvements in the construction of certain musical instruments; part of the said improvements being applicable to those of the kind commonly called piano-fortes, and part to those of the kind commonly called seraphines, and to certain descriptions of organs.

Savage [126] notes: forming the reeds out of the same piece of material which also forms the frame through which they vibrate ... The tone of the instruments constructed by Mr. Myers, in this manner, is so superior to that of any with reeds removable from their frames, as to leave comparatively little to be desired; and from the material employed they stand in tune better, and speak more rapidly, than any other instruments on this principle with which I am acquainted.

Savage also notes that A graduated pressure from two or three to about six or eight inches [w.g.] would, I think, be found most beneficial [in keeping the tone of the reeds constant] in a compass of six octaves, and one bellows would serve, if applied in the way proposed by Mr. Myers.

J.-H. Pape (c.1851-6)

One Jean-Henri Pape (b.1789-d.1875) of Paris and London is listed as exhibiting at the 1851 Industrial Exhibition and was a French manufacturer. He was mainly known for piano making, possibly producing the first over-strung piano in 1828. See

J.-H. Pape had addresses in London at 67 Frith Street, Soho Square (1837), 21 Little Newport Street, Leicester Square (c.1839), 75 Lower Grosvenor Street (1845), 106 New Bond Street (1843-8), 33 Soho Square (1849-55).

There was also one Henry Pape c.1842 living at Queen Street, Golden Square who claimed to be a pianoforte maker.

Pape also invented ``spring castors'' which were fitted to pianos and seraphines to keep them level, presumably on un-even flooring.

G. Peachey (c.1828-84)

George Peachey of 31 Wormwood Street from 1828-32 and 72-3 Bishopsgate Street Within, London E. from 1833-84 (opposite the Marine Society), commenced making seraphines right at the start c.1828. He had a factory in Spitalfields. It is believed later that he received a royal warrant in 1844 and supplied both pianos and harmoniums to the Royal Family from 1879-84, although Bill Kibby has found little evidence of this and some accounts suggest Peachey was a dealer.

Peachey took a stand at the 1851 Industrial Exhibition, no.502 in Class X and showed two ``piccolo'' pianos. Aptly named a ``Victoria'' and an ``Albert''.

They offered instruments on a 3-year hire-purchase system advertising this c.1874.

Saltaire Museum

In playable condition, these instruments are exceptionally rare. One exists in the Saltaire Museum and has been lovingly restored by Phil Fluke. It is dated c.1835 and has 61 keys FFF-f''. The long thin reed tongues produce a surprisingly powerful sound as he demonstrated.


This instrument is now in the collection of the East Midlands Cinema Organ Association.

Averesch Museum

Another instrument attributed to by Peachey and built around 1840 is on display in the Ulrich Averesch collection. It has a mahogany case measuring 32-3/4''h x39-1/2''w x21-3/4''d, with single FFF-f'' keyboard. This instrument was restored in 1986 using an antique English mahogany wardrobe for replacement case material. It has a single row of reeds tuned to A=452 Hz.


B. Pexton (1838-50)

Bartholomew Pexton (b.1804-d.2/3/1853) was an early English harmonium maker from Scarborough. He trained with organ builder John Ward, (who opened his workshop in College Street, York in 1814); so Pexton also built a few pipe organs. His name seems to have also been spelled as ``Peckstone'' to add confusion [126]. He had a factory at 13 Saviourgate, York in 1844, but also premises at 22 Micklegate, 72 Petergate (possible residence) and 15 Church Street from 1838-42.

Bartholomew was the son of John Pexton and Mary Cheatham. He married Eliza Surrey and they had a daughter Mary Ann Pexton (b.22/6/1834). The actor Peter Fontaine (born Peter Harold Pexton) was great grand-son of Bartholmew Pexton. The latter is said to have invented a kind of harmonium called ``Cremoniene'' in 1842.

According to Laurence Elvin [56], rather little is known of pipe organs built by Pexton, but several issues of The Yorkshire Gazette from 9/3/1844 onwards carried adverts of a reed organ invented and built by Pexton and called the Cremoniene, probably a type of seraphine. This instrument was exhibited and could be obtained from Mr. Hardman's Music Wharehouse, Coney Street, York. It was said to have nearly the power of a large church organ and could at pleasure be made soft as a German Flute, which renders the instrument suitable for either Church, Chapel or Private Establishment. Despite these claims there was not much custom and Pexton filed for insolvency in 1850.

He is then listed in 1851 as an organ builder living in South Row, Westminster.

More information about Pexton and his businesses can be found in the thesis by Elliott [54].

In Dec'1840 Pexton claimed that he had adopted ``an entirely new and superior principle of contructing seraphines'' and was now producing examples that ``could exceed anything of the kind ever before manufactured in England, or even perhaps the World''. It is likely that sales of such instruments waned after the harmonium was introduced to England by W.E. Evans.

J.D. Proudman (unknown)

Proudman was a seraphine maker working in Measham, Derbyshire. A photograph of a Proudman seraphine is shown by Fritz Gellerman on p.194 of the Atlas [80].


The parish records of Measham are quite well researched, with information from the British Census available in outline back to 1841. However no musical instrument builder is listed. I would guess that J.D. Proudman, probably Joseph, would have been born c.1807. Caroline Proudman is recorded as being a Widow, 42 years old in 1851 so maybe this was his wife and he died earlier? The research will continue...

So far we found one Joseph Daniel Proudman (d.26/4/1843) died at the age of 30. Or Joseph Proudman (b.1773-d.1842) died at age of 68.


Wm. Rolfe (1797-1899)

William Rolfe, known as William Rolfe and Sons from 1814 were well known square piano and piano-forte makers and seraphine makers of 112 and later 61 Cheapside, London.

William Rolfe worked as a piano maker from 1785 to his death in 1826. His exact dates of birth and death are not known. From 1785 he worked with Samuel Davis and the company was run under the name Rolfe & Davis. In 1797 they developed a joint patent for a ``Turkish-Music-Stop'' with cymbals and drums. At that time William Rolfe also worked as an instrument maker and music publisher and was a partner of Thomas Culliford (Fountain Court, Cheapside) with whom he produced instruments for Longman and Broderip. He also sold his instruments under his name. After the bankruptcy of Longman and Broderip (26 Cheapside and 13 Haymarket) in 1796, he worked only under his own name.

In 1807, his two sons Nicholas and Thomas Hall became partners in the company, which from 1814 was renamed to William Rolfe & Sons. They later had additional premises at 172 Strand and 28 London Wall and acquired numbers 31-32 in 1850. They also had 61 Cheapside at that time. They were at 6 Low Seymour Street, Portman Square in 1884 also listed at 56 Drayton Park around the same time. From about 1820 instruments were made under the name William Rolfe and Company which existed until 1889. James Rolfe, successor to the firm, died in 1902.

Rolfe and Company exhibited a piano in the 1851 Industrial Exhibition on stand no.472 in Class X.

A photo of one instrument appears on p.202 of Gellerman's Atlas [80].

rfg-0605.jpg rfg-1383.jpg

There are associations with Culliford and with Rolfe and Barrow. This instrument actually looks extremely similar to, but is not the same as the one attributed to Kirkman and White above.

ROS DB entry 3242

This is a seraphine said to have been built in 1790 by Wm. Rolfe and Sons of London. It has a 61 note FFF-f'' keyboard and flat topped mahogany case.

J.C. Schwieso and Co. (c.1839)

John Charles Schwieso (I have seen it spelled as Schevieso), known for making harps but less known as a piano and seraphine maker was not so successful. The company were registered from 1841 as Schwieso and Grosjean, Harp Manufactury and also making pianos in 263 Regent Street, Tottenham Street, London. They were known as Schwieso and Co. from 1841 but were in business before that.

Other addresses included: 11 Soho Square (1821-22); 28 Tottenham Street (1822-25); 263 Regent Street (1825-29); 79 Wigmore Street (1829-35); 27 Tottenham Street, Tottenham Court Road (c.1832); 19 Great Marlborough Street (1835-) 14 Soho Square (c.1838); 74 George Street, Euston Square (1841-).

He took out a patent on improvements to locks in 1839, but London Gazette 28/6/1839 notes: John Charles Schwieso, late of no.46, Albany Street, Regent's Park, Middlesex, Pianoforte and Seraphine Maker. In the Debtors' Prison for London and Middlesex.

On 12/7/1839 it was announced that a hearing would take place on 3rd August: John Charles Schwieso, formerly of no.19, Great Marlborough Street, and of no.22, Caraden Cottages. Camden Town, then of no.14, Soho Square, then of no.120, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury Square, all in Middlesex, and for a short period residing at Rotterdam, and late of no.46, Albany Street, Regent's Park, Middlesex, in partnership with Daniel Charles Hewitt, carrying on business under the style and firm of John Charles Schwieso and Company, as Pianoforte and Seraphine Makers, and whose wife is a Teacher of Music.

An instrument named the ``Octaphine'' was for sale in Lewes in Mar'2007 (*e5916). A small portable button reed organ with mahogany case sitting on barley twist legs. Dimensions: 30"h x22"w x10"d. The instrument had been restored about twenty years previously. The bellows were said to be in good working order, having been professionally re-built by Hill Norman & Beard and all the reeds worked.


R. Snell (1825-1860)


Robert Snell (b.1802-d.1880) is known for building an enharmonic seraphine in 1851, see Chapter 28. His sons William and Edward went on to build harmoniums and larger reed organs, see Chapter 17.

The catalogue entry for Class X from the 1851 Great Exhibition states: 528. SNELL, ROBERT, Ball's Pond - Inventor and Manufacturer. Seraphine, with bi-chromatic or double scale of notes, producing perfect harmony in every key, without the aid of temperament; the improvement effected by an octave of pedals, one being put down, corrects the scale for the key required.

At the same time he was advertising in The Catholic Directory:

ORGANS and SERAPHINES of every description, of the finest tone
and quality, at the lowest prices. Seraphines for Schools, \&c., in
stained cases, from \pounds 7.10s.; the Cherbine, from 38s.; Church
Barrel Organs, from 15 guineas; Finger Organs, from 24
guineas. R.~Snell's Book of Prices will be forwarded, post free, on
application to R.~Snell, Ball's Pond, London.}

The 1871 census says that Robert Snell was living at 37 Kelly Street, St. Pancras, London, was a harmonium tuner at Bishopsgate, London and aged 69. His wife was Martha aged 66 and they had two sons living at the address: Edward aged 30 was a harmonium maker in Islington and William aged 29 also a harmonium maker in Islington. Their work is described in Chapter 17. By 1881, the census lists Martha as a widow living with her sons and a servant.

According to DBOB, Robert Snell was an organ and reed organ builder, manufacturer of seraphines, including the Chordoeolian (an improved seraphine), and described as R. Snell junior in the 1825 trade directory (see below). It is known that Robert Snell trained other organ builders, a well known one was Eustace Ingram (b.1825-) who was an apprentice with Snell until 1860. He then went on to be articled to Henry Willis to learn reed voicing and established his own business with Henry Speechly from 1873 until 1894.

In 1840 Snell was advertising in Musical World as follows.

THE CHORDOEOLIAN. - R. Snell, Organ-builder, Pianoforte and Seraphine-
manufaturer, 7, Glebe-terrace, Ball's-pond, respectfully solicits an
inspection of this splendid instrument, which unites the qualities of
the pianoforte and seraphine, producing the effect of a band of
instruments at the touch of any pianoforte-player. The sustaining tons
and perfect articulation which it possesses render it capable of
performing every description of myusic, from the simple air,
quadrille, \&c., to the finest organ fugue. It is manufactured only
by the inventor as above, at the following very moderate prices for
cash on delivery: six octave piccolo, 45 guineas; ditto cottage, 50
guineas; cabinet, 60 guineas; and six-and-a-half octave cabinet, 70
guineas. Any pianoforte can be converted into a chordoeolian for
about 20 guinease. - R.S. will be in attendance at any time if
favoured with a line by post.

and also on 17/9/1840:

 THE CHORDOEOLIAN. This splendid instrument, uniting the qualities of
 the Pianoforte and Seraphine, on which any pianoforte player may
 produce the most beautiful effects equal to a band of instruments,
 may be heard daily (until October 2nd from 4 till 5 o'clock, at the
 POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTION, 309, Regent-street, where the inventor,
 R.SNELL, will attend on Mondays and Thursdays from 2 till 5
 o-clock. The price of the Chordoeolian is extremely moderate, and
 any pianoforte can be converted into a Chordoeolian at from 18 to 24

The instrument was also exhibited at the Polytechnic Institution in 1841, catalogue item no.1375.

A second (?) Robert Snell Jnr. (b.1829-d.1879) was apparently born in Holborn and died in St. Pancras. He had two brothers and one sister and was married to Alice (b.1839) with one son. In 1851-61 he was recorded as being an organ and seraphine builder and journeyman tuner occasionally letting lodgings with addresses at 7-8 Glebe Terrace, Ball's Pond Road, Islington, 49 Euston Road (rented shop), 242 Euston Road, 32 Eversholt Street, Oakley Square, Camden. Was he another son of Robert Snell?

Whilst mainly an organ and seraphine builder, R. Snell Jnr. (the one born in 1829) is also known as a photographer with photographic rooms opposite St. Paul's Church, Islington. He advertised his studio in 1853 only and went bankrupt in 1865. See 002 ambrotypes 090.html. R. Snell was operating as an early photograper from 7 Glebe Terrace, Islington N. (1854-59) and High Street, Kingsland N.E (1862-67).

A letter appeared in The Photographic Journal, vol.2, p.12, 1854: Binocular Perspective Portraits. Sir. - Having heard much about binocular perspective portraits, and seeing but few, has induced me to commence a series of experiments with the cameras. According to Mr. Smee's suggestion, there seems to be some difficulty in working; however, I find that by simply moving the lens a little forward or backward during the taking of the portrait, it will give a roundness to the figure not yet obtained by any other means, without producing distortion in any way, and picturees taken by the method are perfectly sharp. I shall be happy to present specimens at the nesxt meeting of rhe Socity. Yours, &c., Robert Snell, Islington

He was bankrupt in 1865 as noted in the London Gazette of 11/7/1865: Robert Snell the younger, formerly of no.2 Albion Cottages, Stoke Newington, and now of no.27 Norfolk Street, Essex Road, Islington, having a place of business at High Street, Kingsland, all in Middlesex, Photographer and Harmonium Manufacturer, having been adjudged bankrupt under Her Majesty's Court of Bankruptcy filed on the 7th day of June, 1865. A public sitting, for the said bankrupt to pass his Last Examination, and make application for his Discharge, will be held before Edward Goulburn, Serjeant-at-Law, a Commissioner of the said Court, on the 3rd day of August next, at the said Court, at Basinghall Street, in the city of London, at twelve of the clock at noon precisely, the day last aforesaid being the day limited for the said bankrupt to surrender. Mr. George John Graham, of no.25, Coleman Street, London, is the Official Assignee, and Mr. W. W. Aldridge, of no.46, Moorgate Street, London, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy.


Some of the addresses recorded for the Snells are: 69 Sun Street, Bishopsgate, London in 1825, Low Road, Islington in 1840, 7-8 Glebe Terrace, Lower Road (Ball's Pond Road), Islington from 1853-57, 49 Euston Road from 1858-60 and 37 Kelly Street, St. Pancras in 1871.

Auckland Museum

A Seraphine said to be built by R. Snell is listed in the collections of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand accession no.1949.142. It has F-f keyboard and the usual Seraphine pedals. The ivory name plate has the wording: R. Snell Organ Builder, Pianoforte and Seraphine Manufacturer, Nos. 7 & 8 Glebe Tce., London, Inventor of the Chordaeolian.


Dimensions are given as 1020mm L x590mm W x84mm D.

Wm. Sprague (1837-83)


Established in 1837 as a seraphine and piano maker, William Sprague lived at 20 Little Moorfields, Fore Street, London and worked at 7 Finsbury Pavement from 1852-78 with other premises at 89 Euston Road c.1859. He is noted as making organ toned harmoniums. One John Squire, an organ builder, was mentioned at the same Euston Road address.

In the 1850s, Sprague was also selling Wheatstone (Chidley) concertinas although the labels claimed them to be manufacturers. He is also listed as a pianoforte maker 1852-82. Some sources note that Jenkinson was a partner with William Sprague c.1839.

Advertising in The Leader, 25/2/1854:

William Sprague has a large stock of patent harmoniums, from 8 guineas
 to 50 guineas each. Sole manufacturer of the unique folding
 Seraphine, from six guineas. Also the Organ Harmonium, with German
 pedals, suitable for places of worship, price 25 guineas. Harmonium
 and Seraphine notes supplied to order. An extensive assortment of
 warranted pianofortes, including a variety of cheap instruments
 suitable for learners. Sprague's concertinas from two guineas
 each. Price lists free. Manufactury and show rooms, 7 Finsbury
 Pavement. William Sprague, Propriator.

On 1/6/1874 in The Musical Times, they were advertising as follows:

Organs with pedals, for Church or Chamber, from 35
 guineaas. Harmoniums, organ tone for Chapels, Schools, \&c. from 6
 guineas. Organ Harmoniums, with German pedals, 25 guineas. Pianos, 7
 octaves, 21 guineas. Cottage Piano, with 2-1/2 octaves of pedals, 30
 guineas. -- William Sprague, 7 Finsbury Pavement, London. Established

Spragues were still advertising from 7 Finsbury Pavement in April 1879.

 ...variety of second-hand always on sale low price; 5-octave
 Harmonium polished Mahogany case, 6 guineas; the best in the trade at
 the price. Beautiful 7-octavo Piano in handsome Walnut Case, 25
 guineas, warranted. W. SPRAGUE, 7, FINSBURY PAVEMENT. Established

Wm. Sprague did build some chamber pipe organs. One such is in the Saxon church of St. Andrew's, Cold Aston. Cold Aston otherwise known as Aston Blank is an isolated hilltop village in Gloucestershire, see This one carries the Sprague label, but is not listed in NPOR. One that is, dating from 1854, can be found in a private residence in Hammerwood Park, East Sussex.

I am not sure when William died, but in the 1881 Census Louisa Sprague (presumably his wife) is listed as a pianoforte maker employing 3 men and 1 boy at 87 (?) Finsbury Pavement.

e-Bay *1576

A 1M 4-octave CC-c'' instrument bearing the William Sprague label appeared for sale in Feb'2014 (*e1576). It has an oak case which measures 30-1/2'' x12'' x29''. The seller quoted my text above.

I have some doubts about this instrument. It clearly has the Sprague label, but appears to be of a rather primitive case construction made from crudely assembled planks and the pump pedal does not look original. The seller, in York, had dis-mantled it to show the internal workings which strongly resemble a harmonium, although of small size.

St. James, Stanstead, Suffolk

Another small harmonium with the Sprague label was photographed by David in St. James church, Stanstead in Nov'2006. See

J. Storer (c.1839-51)

Joseph Storer was an inventor, patentee and manufacturer of seraphines which he called ``Aeolophon''. He held joint patents with J.F. Myers. Storer worked at 26 Albermarle Street, Piccadilly, London and may have lived at Bidborough Street, New Road, certainly around 1839. In addition to patent 8,164 of 1839, he held a patent, no.11,261, of 27/7/1846, for further improvements to seraphine reeds by the addition of a percussion device.

According to Savage [126], Storer was a former steel pen manufacturer and had applied his knowledge of metal pressing to the manufacture of free reed instruments.

A Percussion Aeolophon was exhibited by Storer at the 1851 Industrial Exhibition. It was no.529 in Class X [190]. It had two sets of reeds, one 8' and one 4' with stops to control them and was said to be an economical substitute for an organ. He also exhibited a Portable Aeolophon, the description of which is a little un-clear. These instruments were also referred to by some as ``Oeolomusicon'', and it was reported that the free reed tongues and plates were each formed from the same piece of metal.

W.H. Tidder (c.1871-1914)

William Henry Tidder (1847-1906) is listed by Friz Gellerman as W.H. Tidder and later W.H. Tidder & Sons. They worked at 228 Mile End Road, London from c.1895 to 1906 and had other related businesses e.g. making steel reeds c.1896 and at other addresses, e.g. 144 Jamaica Street. They started as seraphine, harmonium and concertina makers but later made American organs and portable harmoniums up to at least 1914. They are probably best known for concertinas, possibly selling them to the trade.

W.H.'s father, Joseph Thomas Tidder, is listed as an umbrella maker in 1841 and 1851, and on his (second) marriage registration in 1854, but his father, Job Tidder is listed as a "Gun Maker" (as are some other Tidders).

W.H. was born in Stepney, East London, on 21/5/1847, and listed as the son of a tradesman (a gun maker). He married Louisa Ruth Hickey (1851-1926), the daughter of a mariner, on 26/12/1871. He was listed as a musical instrument maker on his marriage certificate. The 1881 and 1891 census also both list him as a musical instrument maker living with his wife and children at 144 Jamaica Street. They had premises at 553 Commercial Road, also listed as a ``dwelling'', which is close to George Jones, a very well known concertina maker. It may be that he had some involvement with Jones, but this is not confirmed. The address of 228 Mile End Road was used from 1892.

William Henry Tidder and Sons were listed in Kelly's Directory of 1891 as being American organ, harmonium, concertina and piano manufacturers at 144 Jamaica Street.

John Ward (c.1835)

The thesis by Elliott [54] focusses on John Ward as having a major influence on organ and seraphine building in York. Ward was born in Lincolnshire around 1777, and moved to College Street, York in 1814 and then to 25 Micklegate in the early 1820s. His most famous work was the pipe organ for York Minster in 1823 with a detached console. It is believed he built around 88 organs making most of the components in house.

Elliott states that a seraphine was heard in York for the first time on 4/2/1833 in a performance of a four part madrigal ``Come o'er the Brook Bessy''. The seraphine increased in popularity so much that several manufacturers claimed to have invented it. One was John Ward in addition to John Green of London.

On 11/4/1835 an announcement was made in the York Herald and General Advertiser as follows. New Musical Instrument - We have been much gratified by the private inspection of a novel invention of our talented citizen Mr. Ward, who began the construction of an instrument, entirely his own, and which he has named the Seraphine, (though quite distinct from a metropolitan invention under that name) whilst it combines all the economy of room and elegance of appearance, of an ornamental cheffioneer, possesses the sweetness of the Eolian organ, with the magnificent powers, which may be introduced ad lib, of a full brass band. Alone, it is only adequate to accompany the choir of a moderately sized church - the Organ, producees an effect at once magnificent and soul inspiring. Though named, at the spur of the moment, after another instrument, this is Mr. W.'s own invention, and upon a principle altogether unique. An inspection, we are sure, will abundantly testify our musical readers, and an amateur or professional gentleman would derive much pleasure on trying its effect. The instruments, which are fixed up either for parlour or the church, go from G to Gg, equal in depth to a double diapason, or a twenty-foot pipe of the organ.

C. Wheatstone and Co. (c.1823-51)


Sir Charles Wheatstone (b.6/2/1802-d.19/10/1875) was one of the great Victorians; a musician, physicist, explorer and inventor. He was born the son of a shoe maker and musician at Barnwood Manor House, Barnwood, near Gloucester and later lived at 20 Park Crescent, London. A famous and far reaching invention, although perhaps not the most exciting, is the Wheatsone bridge, a device for measuring electrical resistance to very high accuracy. Another one derived from it which has even greater impact world wide is the telegraph. He became a professor of experimental physics at King's College London in 1834.

It is known that Charles, who later became Sir Charles, was part of a big family of musicians and inventors. His father, William Wheatstone, was a musical instrument manufacturer c.1791-1826 at 20 Conduit Street, London. His mother was née Beata Bubb and he had a brother also called William. In fact the Wheatstone firm may have commenced in London in 1750, in the old Exeter Exchange building, near to where the Lyceum Theatre now stands. The family moved home to London in 1806. William Wheatstone, his older brother, also manufactured musical instruments and was a flute teacher at the ancestral address c.1813-51a. He held a patent, number 4,994 in 1824, for a resonating device applied to pianos or organs. Charles' distant nephews, Edward and Rock Chidley, continued as manufacturers of concertinas and small harmoniums at Oxford Street, London and were also a retailers. Conduit Street is where the early free reed instruments were made.

Charles was apprenticed at the age of 14 to his Uncle who ran a music shop. He started inventing while at work there. The Uncle died in 1823 and Charles took over the shop with his brother William. He carried out may experiments and investigated how different sounds travelled when they made air and other materials vibrate.

The Wheatsone company was variously known as: C. Wheatstone & Co.; W. Wheatstone & Co., first after Charles's father, William (1775-1854), and then after his brother, William Dolman Wheatstone (1804-62), with the two Williams seemingly having run the day-to-day affairs of the business during their life times; Messrs. Wheatstone & Co; and simply Wheatstone & Co. To what extent Charles took an active role in the business from the time of his brother's death in 1862 until the firm was sold to the Chidley family (related to the Wheatstones through marriage) around 1870 is un-certain. In addition to manufacturing concertinas, Wheatstones also produced flutes (at least early on in their history), seraphines and harmoniums, and published a large amount of music, mainly for the English concertina.

Feeding his ideas, Charles had investigated artefacts brought back from trips to China, where the free reed Sheng (or Sho) was discovered to be an important instrument of worship. He subsequently invented many early musical instruments including the Concertina in 1829 which has been popular in folk music ever since. An example of the sheng had been collected by Joseph Amiot in 1777 and described by Chladni (famous for investigating resonance in vibrating metal plates) in 1821. Wheatstone made a type of harmonium in 1834 and a portable harmonium in 1851. His research into free reeds later led to a patent on the telegraph, an invention for which he was knighted in 1868.


The above images are taken from UK patent 5,803, granted on 19/7/1829 to Charles for ``Wind Musical Instruments''. This became known as the Symphonium, although it is not named as such in the patent specification. Wheatstone was one of the first British musical instrument builders to devote himself to free reed instruments, his company manufacturing Aeolinas as early as 1828, with the Symphonium described as being an improved version of the keyed Aeolians that had recently been invented. The Symphonium was a small metal box with an oval mouthpiece on the front and buttons on the sides that selected which reeds were to be sounded. The illustration above shows a simple 16 key instrument, covering two diatonic octaves C to C, with an additional low note. More advanced models were made that added various chromatic tones, then bellows were added to supply the air and slowly the instrument evolved into the concertina.

An actual Symphonium from c.1829 is object no.M16-1996 in the Horniman Museum, see

In the same patent, Wheatstone also described various improvements to what he called the "tsching", "ching" or "Chinese organ", what we now know as the Sheng. He says that the construction of this instrument has not been well understood and goes on to give descriptions of the differences between the reeds used in the sheng and those used in the Aeolina as follows.

 ... tongue or spring resembling that of the Aeolina, but with this
 difference, that in the tongue of the Aeolina its free end must be
 slightly raised above the level of the aperture in the metal plate,
 to fit it for sounding, and it will only sound when the air enters
 the aperture from that side of the plate on which the spring is
 placed; whereas in the pipe of the Chinese organ the tubes so
 influence the action of the tongue that it will not produce the
 required sound unless the loose end of it be depressed to the level
 of the aperture, and then its sound may be produced in whatever way
 the air passes through the aperture. The length of the tube is
 proportioned to the vibrations of the tongue, and near the tongue a
 small aperture is made in the tube, which, when open, prevents the
 pipe or tube from sounding. but on closing it with the finger, and
 blowing into the pipe, the sound is produced.

An advert from Harmonicom P241; Wheatstone and Co. 90 Conduit Street, Regent Street.

 German and improved Aeolinas in all their their varieties of one, two
 and three chords and from one to three octaves in exteme, are
 important and manufactured by Wheatstone and Co. Prices from 5s/- to
 £3-15s/-. Those with the chord only are capable of imitating the
 effects of the Aeolian Harp, and on those with three chords, any
 simple melody with its accompaniment may be performed.

 Also the newly invented tuning strings for the harp, piano-forte,
 violin or guitar 3s/- each. These portable and convenient substitutes
 for tuning forks may be had tuned to any note, or in complete
 diatonic or chromatic sets.

Wheatstone also described the use of bellows to supply air to his modified Sheng. It seems that there are no surviving examples of these instruments. As for the Symphonium, only around 200 of them were made and Wheatstone soon devoted all of his energy to the production of the Concertina. There was a Symphonium in Neil Wayne's collection, see This collection of over 1,600 rare instruments and the Wheatstone archive papers now forms a substantial part of the Horniman Museum collection of musical instruments in London, - see the section on wind instruments. See also

A more significant patent is from A.D. 1836, July 27 - no.7164 Wheatstone, Charles, and Green, John. A new method or methods of forming musical instruments in which continuous sounds produced from pianoforte strings or springs, by means of currents of air which pass through apertures slightly wider than the body the air vibrates.

1. In this method of forming musical instruments continuous sounds are produced from strings, wires, or springs (stretched between fixed supports at their ends) by means of a current of air, which is directed upon a limited portion of the vibrating length of the particular string, wire, or spring from which continuous sound is for the time being required to be produced. By continuous sounds are meant those sounds which may be continued so long as the exciting cause is applied, as those of the organ or violin, in contra-distinction to abrupt and evanescent sounds, as those of the pianoforte or harp. The afore-said portion of the vibrating length of the string, wire, or spring must be adapted or adjusted to a slit or linear aperture through which the current of air passes, and the width of which must be a little greater than the diameter of the said string, wire, or spring. Various methods of producing these sounds are described.

2. A method whereby a hammer such as is used in piano fortes is caused to strike each string, wire, or spring at the same instant that the valve is opened to act upon the same.

3. A method whereby continuous sounds corresponding to different notes of the musical scale are produced from the same string, wire, or spring by means of a current of air.

4. A method whereby in addition to 3, the same pressure of the finger (with or without the intervention of a stop), which causes the vibrating length of such string, &c. to be shortened, also causes a simultaneous opening of the valve, by which the wind is allowed to act on the string, &c.

5. A method wherein the wind chest is divided by a partition into two compartments, each furnished with valves so arranged in respect to the bellows, that the current or currents of air by which continuous sounds are to be produced is always forced in the same direction through each aperture to which a string, &c. is adjusted, as well when the bellows is in the act of being drawn out as when it is being pressed in. [The History of the Pianoforte, Edgar Brinsmead, 1879, p. 205 (]

It could be argued that many subsequent developments in the evolution of the seraphine and harmonium are derived from the text of this patent.

Wheatstone took a stand at the 1851 Industrial Exhibition at Crystal Palace, no.526 in Class X [190]. He displayed a range of concertinas and a symphonium with a single reed of variable pitch (controlled by stops and rollers). One or more portable harmoniums were also exhibited (they were awarded a medal) and were said to be either playable as independent instruments or attached to a piano or other instrument. An advertisement based on the catalogue entry for these is shown in Ord-Hume's book [140] p11 and notes that they won a prize for harmoniums and that they also sold instruments by Alexandre. These were reported to be similar to the seraphine exhibited by I.H.R. Mott, but smaller. They had a compass of 5 octaves and were 41'' long, 10'' deep and 25'' high, but could be folded in the middle and underneath for carrying. The folded dimensions were 21'' and long, 10-1/2'' high. The Wheatstone stand received a Prize Medal.

In addition to inventing and making a large number of free reed instruments, Wheatstones were retailers and early on sold items such as the Panorgue made by J. Jaulin in Paris, very similar to the English Seraphine.

There is a story [4] that John Ella, director of Lord Saltoun's music club, and Charles Wheatstone called upon the Royal Family at Kew Palace at some point between 1833 and the death of William IV in 1837 in order to make a present of a Wheatstone Saeraphine to George IV, future Crown Prince and King of Hanover, who was then residing in England. Wheatstone then took the opportunity to also demonstrate his Symphonion.

Thomas White (1832-36)

Thomas White was another pianoforte maker in London registered at 3 Soho Square around 1832-36, later at 56 Marchmont Street, Brunswick Square. His son George Stephen was born in 1832 and went on to become an organ builder working from around 1861-81. See above section on Kirkman and White. Here we add a bit of historical background.

Stephen White (b.1780-d.1831) was an organ builder, and his son Thomas also, as indeed was his own son George. Stephen worked in Fitzroy Square, London, also Liverpool and Belfast.

Thomas was born to Stephen and Margaret White née Shields on 27/7/1805. He was recorded as a Freeman of the City of Gloucester in 1830 and organ builder of 15 Margaret Street, Regent's park. It is speculated that Stephen White was born in Gloucester. He was also working at 3 Soho Square c.1836 when with Kirkman.

Thomas' partnership with F.W. Isaac and George Staples as ``organ, seraphine and pianoforte manufacturers'' was dissolved in Jan'1833.

The partnership with J.G. Kirkman (1790-1877) son of James Kirkman the harpsichord maker, as Kirkman and White, offered an improved seraphine in 1836 from 3 Soho Square (see above). That partnership was dissolved in 1837.

In 1841, Thomas White organ builder, was aged 35 and at Northampton Street, St. Pancras. He is probably buried at St. Luke's Old Street 10/3/1850. Thomas's son George Stephen White (b.1832) was also an organ builder living at 6 Newman Place, Somers Town, St. Pancras in 1881. His descendants also built a small number of pipe organs up to around the 1950s.

J. Willis (c.1836)

Willis of 3 Angel Court opposite Somerset House, 55 St. James Street and 75 Lower Grosvenor Street, London dealt in musical instruments such as Willis seraphines. They may have been made by another company as its fairly certain that they were dealers in pianos ``by the most eminent makers''


The Stapeley Yesteryear Collection

Stapeley Water Gardens, nr. Nantwich.

This reference from The Music Box Vol.15 No.2 (Summer 1991): various foot pumped reed organs, including a very rare Seraphine harmonium, in a rosewood case, the tongues of the reeds being adjustable to the reed frame (not rivetted), etc..

English Seraphine

Another instrument referred to as an English Seraphine was for sale early 2008 by an English reed organ enthusiast in northern Italy. It is said to be in original condition and has two stops, one 8' which is always on, and a Hautbois 8' which can be switched on or off (see left hand side).


Early Harmonium

This very unusual instrument was sold by Robin in Exeter in Mar'2012. He described it as an early English Harmonium from around 1850-60. It has no makers name but is of a very early style similar to a seraphine, but has three stops: Bourdon, Clarion and Flute. It came from a large Edwardian house in Taunton in which the postcard artist H.B. Wimbush once lived with his wife and was likely in their possession for some time.

early_harmonium.jpg early_harmonium_reeds.jpg

There is a YouTube video here: and there are more photos here:

I contacted Robin, who told me it has been completely taken apart. Here is a list of things it has had done to it: pallet leather and seals brushed and re-inforced in places, reeds cleaned and bathed in meths, key to pallet mechanism mended and lubricated, feeder and reservoir fitted with new flap valves and gussets re-inforced where necessary with leather, re-sealed. Needs one pedal re-making.

Has anyone seen any other instruments like this?

Rob Allan