ADVENTURES OF A PIANOFORTE

Broadwood_pianoforte_077_2

The above picture of a restored 1809 Broadwood grand piano is here by gracious permission of Clive Titmuss and Susan Adams of earlymusicstudio.com.  It was made in the same year as the one I’m going to talk about and must be very like it.

According to the records of the London firm of Broadwood & Son, kept at the Surrey History Centre, Louis Bazalgette on 28 November 1809 bought a 6-octave 4-legged grand piano (Serial No. 4626) for which he paid £94/10/-.   This instrument was noted as being for Mrs. Simmy, who was perhaps the family’s music teacher.  On 6 April 1810 another 6-octave grand piano (Serial No. 4743) was delivered to Louis, and carriage of £1/16/- was paid for it to be moved to the country estate – Eastwick Park, Great Bookham.   However, the porter’s book says that this piano was returned on 12 April by ‘Miss Bazalgette’, for a full credit refund.  Quite what the confusion was is hard to see.  Perhaps Miss Bazalgette decided that she did not like the second piano, or decided that one was enough.  Louis did not pay for the piano which they kept until 7 March 1811, which either means he was a slow payer or that Broadwoods were slow to invoice.  ‘Miss Bazalgette’ was probably Louis’ eldest daughter Louisa, who was nineteen at the time, or perhaps Caroline, who was fifteen, or Cecilia, aged ten.  The other children were probably too young to play such an instrument.

The Broadwood ledgers, addressed in earlier years to ‘Mr. Bazalgette’ and later to ‘Mrs. Bazalgette’, show that on 3 January 1811 the piano was moved from Eastwick back to the London house at 86, Gloucester Place, where it probably got a lot of use, being tuned on 17 January, 26 February, 13 April and 17 May.  On 27 May it was carried back to Eastwick again.  It was brought back yet again on 1 January 1812 and was tuned monthly until 30 April, when it went back to Eastwick.  These movements carried on  from year to year, in approximately May and December, reflecting the fact that the children, at any rate, spent their summer seasons in the country and their winter seasons in Town.

On 15 December 1816 the piano was moved from Eastwick Park to London, at a cost of £1/16/-, was tuned in January and May and was then taken back to Eastwick Park on 22 May 1817.  Broadwoods charged 5/- for tuning it in London and a guinea in Great Bookham, because of the extra travelling involved. The piano was tuned on 8 August and then brought back to London on 18 December, being tuned a few days afterwards.  Further tunings were done in March, May and June 1819, the last tuning being before it was moved back to Eastwick on 9 June.  It seems odd that they would tune it before shifting it, because any journey tends to make a piano go out of tune, especially a wooden-framed one, which is why they are usually tuned after arrival at the new location.  It was in fact retuned, but not until 21 June.  On 15 December the piano was on its travels again back to London, where it was tuned on 30 December, and again in March and May 1820.  The porter’s book has an entry for May 1820 for ‘moving G.P. in the House (3/6)’, tuning it, and moving it back again on the following day.  Presumably the family held a special concert so the piano was shifted downstairs for this purpose.  Finally on 23 July 1820 the piano was moved back to Eastwick.

The comings and goings of the hapless instrument continued until at least 1831.  By then Louis was dead.  His widow Frances lived on until 1847, and the last mention of the piano that I have found so far was when it was offered at auction in 1848 in London, following her death.

I hope the purchaser got a good deal, considering the high mileage…

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8 Responses to ADVENTURES OF A PIANOFORTE

  1. Hi, Charles – assuming you have not heard about this book already, you might be interested in Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano, by Madeline Goold. The piano she followed was one she purchased at auction and ultimately got restored. She, too, used the Broadwood ledgers. I must admit, I _NEVER_ thought of looking for the families I research through these ledgers until reading your post. So, thank you for opening up an avenue that I should (some day) pursue. VERY interesting that you uncovered so much activity for the Bazalgette household! Kelly

  2. Pingback: Marianne’s Square Piano | Two Teens in the Time of Austen

  3. chasbaz says:

    Thanks for your comment! As it happened, I came across Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano and used the references to get the Broadwood ledgers (Surrey County Record Office, Woking. Made such a good story.

  4. Should have guessed that you had come across the book; what a resource for you, though, to have the family mentioned so often in the ledgers. Buying the piano is one thing; but all the moving comes as a bit of a surprise. And that you could find the Broadwood men going out to tune! That must have been satisfying to see. k

    • chasbaz says:

      Actually, as I recall, the first clue was a payment to Broadwood in Louis’ bank statements. I happened upon the book later. Have you seen any such records?

      • Hi, Charles – of the two families I research, one owned a family banking firm. So, I know it’s out there, but have yet to investigate it much. Of course I thought foremost about there being _client_ records – so not sure what exists for the family (who surely banked with themselves!). Finance is not really my forte, but you show that using financial records can yield unusual things – like how often their piano was tuned, and when it went on a bit of a trip. That, I find fascinating. k

  5. chasbaz says:

    Good luck with the banking records – I hope the ledgers still exist!

    • Goslings & Sharpe was one of the banking firms that amalgamated with Barclays, which still does business at the same Fleet Street premises AND it holds the Goslings banking archives (quite voluminous). I’ll get there one day! k

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