Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

John Broadwood and Sons

From Graces Guide
Revision as of 12:23, 8 October 2020 by MilesD (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
April 1893.
March 1896.
September 1902.
December 1903.
1904. Steel frame grinding. From The Engineer [1]
1904. Frame drilling machines.
1904. Machine and fitting shop.
1904. Boiler house.

Showrooms in Conduit Street, Bond Street, London. W.[2]

of 9 Hanover Street, Regent Street, London, W1. Telephone: Mayfair 6731-2. Cables: "Broadwoods, Wesdo, London". Works: 2 Brunel Road, Acton, London, W3. Telephone: Shepherds Bush 5804. (1947)

1718 Burkat Shudi came to London, aged 16, from Switzerland where his family were craftsmen in wood. He became an apprentice in the Soho harpsichord workshop of Hermann Tabel. Tabel had learnt his craft in the Antwerp workshop of the Ruckers family, the greatest harpsichord makers of the 17th century. Tabel is also notable since he took as apprentice two of the greatest harpsichord makers of the 18th century, Jacob Kirkman and Shudi.[3]

1728 Shudi started his own workshop. This was the foundation of the business now known as John Broadwood and Sons.

1729 Shudi (not yet 30) made a harpsichord for Handel, who wanted to give a special present to a soprano starring in his Italian opera season in London.

1740 Shudi built a harpsichord for Frederick, Prince of Wales (now in Kew Palace). Other instruments were made for his father King George II, and Broadwoods have made instruments for every British monarch since. Broadwood have held the Royal Warrant longer than any other warrant holder.

1761 John Broadwood came to London from his native Scotland, to seek his fortune. Aged 29, he was the eldest son of the village "wright" or carpenter of Oldhamstocks in the Lothian hills, south of Edinburgh.

1765 Nine-year-old Mozart, visiting London, played a Shudi harpsichord.

1769 John Broadwood, a fine craftsman, married Barbara, Shudi's younger daughter.

1771 Shudi handed over the running of his business to his son Burkat and John Broadwood.

1773 Shudi died, bequeathing the workshop to his son and his son-in-law John Broadwood, who became its effective head.

THE PIANO (1700 - 1800) Meanwhile the 'piano-forte' was being developed to provide more variation of tone and greater volume than the harpsichord could offer. The first maker to create an instrument with hammers hitting the strings was the Italian, Cristofori, musical instrument maker to the Medici family. He had made three instruments on the style of the 'piano' by 1709. Pianos were developed across Europe during the 18th century.

1777 Meanwhile John Broadwood joined with another Scot, Robert Stodart, and a Dutchman, Americus Backers, to design a piano in the harpsichord case - the origin of the 'grand'. They achieved this in about 1777.

1774 Broadwood supplied harpsichords to the painters Reynolds and Gainsborough, and Josef Haydn in Vienna ordered one. He was also exporting to Russia, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, France, the West Indies, and America (where his agent was John Jacob Astor).

By 1778, when John Broadwood had been in charge of Shudi and Broadwood for five years, he was not only a leading maker of harpsichords, but also experimenting with the new piano. (One of his own make, dated 1774, survives in working order).

1783 Broadwood patented improvements in the piano, particularly the brass under-damper that made the square much more stable, and the English double action.

1784 Broadwood was now making more pianos than harpsichords. In this year he sold 38 harpsichords, and 133 pianos, having increased production ten times in twelve years.

1785 Thomas Jefferson, later to be third President of the United States, visited Broadwood in Great Putney Street, Soho, to discuss musical instruments.

1788 Broadwood commissioned scientific research (Royal Society and British Museum) on the improvement of the piano. This resulted in the introduction of the 'divided bridge' on the grand, which improved the bass tone.

1789-94 'Additional keys' were added, increasing the keyboard from 5, to 5½, to 6 octaves.

1793 Last Broadwood harpsichords made. Other makers continued, but went out of business as pianos took the market.

1795 Firm became John Broadwood and Son, with the introduction of John Broadwood's elder son James Shudi Broadwood.

1796 A grand made as a present for the Queen of Spain, the case designed by Thomas Sheraton with Wedgwood medallions (now in the Boston Museum of Fine Art).

1798 Main production, the grand and square. Not yet the upright, although the 'upright grand' was introduced - a grand on its end, over 8 ft high. Important customers included the wives of Nelson and Wellington.

1808 Firm became John Broadwood and Son, with the introduction of John Broadwood's second son, Thomas.

1812 John Broadwood died, leaving an immense estate. His sons increased production.

1817 Thomas Broadwood, touring Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, visited Beethoven in Vienna, and in 1818 sent him a 6 octave grand, triple-stringed (now in the National Museum of Hungary, Budapest). It was later owned by Liszt.

1821 Grand piano delivered to King George IV at Brighton Pavilion: rosewood with brass inlay, which was now becoming fashionable.

1820-30 Introduction of metal bars to the grand, and metal stringplate to the square, giving greater power and volume.

1836 Henry Fowler Broadwood (eldest surviving son of James Broadwood) joined the partnership, which he led through the century.

1840 Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who bought a Broadwood square for Buckingham Palace, where the young couple made music with Mendelssohn.

1842 2,500 pianos a year were being made in the great factory in Horseferry Road, Westminster. Broadwoods were one of the twelve largest employers of labour in London, in an industry that was still craft-based with all parts made in-house.

1845 H. F. Broadwood commissioned scientists for advice, leading to the creation of a bolted iron frame for the grand, to rival the introduction of the American cast-iron frame.

1848 Chopin provided with three Broadwood grands for his British tour - for his London lodging, London concerts, and Scottish concerts.

1856 The Horseferry Road factory burnt down. Only about 200 pianos salvaged. Production continued elsewhere until the factory could be rebuilt.

1860s Broadwood craftsmen formed their own band, conducted by Mr Sullivan of the Royal Military School of Music, whose son Arthur played the big drum (to be the musical partner in Gilbert and Sullivan). A grand piano in satinwood, inlaid "in the style of Sheraton," designed by the Broadwood workshop to the order of Richard D'Oyly Carte, who was the impresario of Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy Operas, and the first Chairman of the Savoy Hotel. The piano is now in the Royal Suite at Claridges, London.

1866 The last square made by Broadwoods - overtaken in the home by the 'cottage upright'.

1867 At the Paris Exhibition, the Emperor Napoleon II presented the Gold Medal to Henry Broadwood.

1871 Centenary of Beethoven's birth celebrated in Bonn. Charles Halle played a Broadwood grand.

1878 Grands were designed in 'special' cases for the artist Lawrence Alma Tadema, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Other customers in this period included Conan Doyle, Henry Irving, and Edward Elgar.

1886 Liszt played a Broadwood grand on his last visit to London.

1888 Broadwood patent for improvements in the metal frame, leading to the 'barless' concert grand, with overstringing (despite challenges from Germany and America).

1890s 'Special' cases designed by the leaders of the arts-and-crafts movement, including C. R. Ashbee and Hugh Baillie Scott.

1901 The company was registered on 3 October, to acquire the business of pianoforte manufacturers of the firm of the same name. [4]

1902 Factory moved to Old Ford, Hackney, with new machinery and methods. Cuthbert Heath "the father of British insurance" became Chairman, his sister having married a Broadwood son.

Description and illustrations of new factory in 'The Engineer'[5]

1902-10 Player-pianos made. In 1910, a Broadwood player-piano went on Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition, was taken to the first base-camp, and played on the ice.

1904 Ordered a 2 ton electric crane (works No. 297) from Henry J. Coles for their new factory. [6]

1914 Listed as pianoforte manufacturers whose clientèle has included many of the great masters of music, notably Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin, as well as many other leading virtuosi. [7]

1914-18 Factory turned over to aircraft manufacture. It is said that the early biplanes were held together with piano-wire: they were.

1919-39 Difficult times for the piano trade generally. Broadwoods diversified (briefly) into gramophones. Production moved to Kingsbury Works, the Hyde, Hendon.[8]. A new independent factory was opened on a modest scale in Acton in 1939, under the chairmanship of Captain Evelyn Broadwood). By this time they also had a facility at Hermitage Works, Hermitage Road at Finsbury Park.[9]

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Grand and Upright Pianos for the Home and Export Markets. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. C.1506) [10]

1952 Broadwood' supplied a piano to HMS Gothic for HM the Queen's first tour abroad.

1954 HM Yacht Britannia equipped with numerous Broadwood pianos.

1977 'Silvered frame' Broadwood grand accepted by HM the Queen for Balmoral to mark the Silver Jubilee.

1978 250th Anniversary of John Broadwood and Sons marked with a concert on the South Bank (at which Malcolm Binns played five Broadwood pianos made between 1787 to 1978) and a dinner at The Savoy, where a congratulatory message from HM the Queen was read.

1981 Broadwood grand accepted as a wedding present by the Prince and Princess of Wales for Kensington Palace.

1986 Broadwood upright designed by Viscount Linley and his partner Matthew Rice. This was produced as a limited edition in sycamore veneer with ebony banding and marquetry panels.

1988 The legendary Broadwood `'barless' upright is re-introduced.

1997 A new 'barless' grand is added to the product range and receives its debut at a concert at the Royal College of Music, London, on the 27 November of that year.

2003 Broadwood piano production now commences in a small factory at Moss in Norway. The famous 'green frame' upright is revived and one of these is supplied to the new Norwegian Opera House in Oslo.

2008 For the first time in many years, the Company changes hands. The new chairman is Dr Alastair Laurence, and his son Sam Laurence becomes company secretary. The Laurence family ties with Broadwoods go back to the year 1787. To coincide with the change in ownership, new restoration and conservation workshops are under construction at Finchcocks, Goudhurst, Kent, England.

  • Note: (08/08)
    • The company has its own website: [4]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] The Engineer, 12 Feb 1904
  2. 1905 Advert
  3. [2] Broadwood History
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. [3] The Engineer, 12 Feb 1904
  6. H J Coles order book 1888 - 1919, Industrial Railway Society Archives.
  7. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  8. The Billy Meyerl Club Magazine, Volume 5, February 1938, Number 50
  9. The Billy Meyerl Club Magazine, Volume 5, July 1938, Number 55
  10. 1947 British Industries Fair p46