Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Wheatstone and Co

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1856.
1858.
1859.

of 20 Conduit St, Hanover Sq., London, inventors and makers of The Concertina and maker of harmoniums

1750 The firm of Wheatstone commenced in London in the old Exeter 'Change building, near to where the Lyceum Theatre now stands. This musical instrument and publishing firm was founded by Charles Wheatstone Senior, uncle of Charles Wheatstone.

After the Exeter 'Change building was demolished, uncle Charles's business moved to 436 Strand.

1816 Charles Wheatstone was apprenticed to his uncle (Charles, Senior), who manufactured musical instruments.

1823 Uncle Charles died; Charles and his younger brother, William Wheatstone, took over the business.

By 1829 Charles and William had moved the business to 20 Conduit Street.

By 1830 Charles had developed the musical instrument that was later patented as the Concertina.

1842 The business was known as Charles and William Wheatstone

1844 Patent on the Concertina.

1847 Charles withdrew from active involvement in the firm, which became known as William Wheatstone and Co

1851 Award at the Great Exhibition, for a novel invention of a portable harmonium[1]

1855 Exhibitor at the Paris Exhibition[2]

1862 William Wheatstone died

1866 The name of the firm reverted to Wheatstone and Co

By 1871 the business at Conduit St was run by Edward Chidley[3]

1878-80 the London Street Guide included a separate classification for 'Concertina Makers', with the firm's entry 'Wheatstone and Co., Manufacturers of the Concert Instruments used by R. Blagrove and Sig. Regondi, 20 Conduit Street, Regent Street'

1885 Exhibitor at the International Inventions Exhibition - concertinas[4]

The concertina-making business continued in the hands of the Chidley brothers, possibly nephews of Wheatstone; the Wheatstone family played no further part in the business.



  • The Wayne Collection of Concertinas

The Horniman Museum purchased the Wayne collection in 1996, with the assistance of a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Wayne collection consists of more than 600 concertinas and related free reed instruments. It has a substantial archive, including the surviving 19th century ledgers of the Wheatstone concertina factory. The focus of the collection is on the work of the physicist Charles Wheatstone, who patented what became known as the English concertina in 1844. The collection includes a number of his prototypes and experimental models. There are also a wide range of concertinas and aeolas produced by the family firm, C. Wheatstone & Co., among them duet models and instruments made for concertina bands that were regularly played in competitions from the 1860s until the Second World War.

In the 1850s, the English concertina became a fashionable instrument, reaching the peak of production. Many of the Wheatstones’ employees established their own businesses, among them Louis Lachenal, Joseph Scates and George Jones. The Wayne Collection represents their work - and that of many other makers based in Britain and Ireland. The collection also includes French, Italian, German and Dutch accordions.

The ledgers of the Wheatstone factory chronicle the fortunes of the firm from May 1834 to December 1891. They provide a wealth of information about the concertinas sold by the firm, including serial numbers, dates of sale, and often the names of their purchasers. They also list some of the specific tasks of the workers.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London Gazette 24 October 1851
  2. London Gazette 19 December 1854
  3. 1871 census
  4. London Gazette 4 November 1885
  • Charles Wheatstone and the Concertina [1]