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Book reviews — April 2021

'More London Piano Makers', by Alastair Laurence
Published by Keyword Press, 2015. Appx 130 pages. A5 size. ₤15 plus P&P
More London Piano Makers

In a review of Laurence's previous book, Five London Piano Makers (GLIAS Newsletter February 2021) I said he was clearly a piano enthusiast. Which has turned out to be a considerable understatement, as a letter from him was on paper headed John Broadwood & Sons Ltd. He owns the firm! Which explains how he knew so much about the personalities in firms making pianos and the technical details. This second book, published in 2015, in the same style, deals with Eavestaff, Rogers, Squire, Knight, Chappell and Hopkinson. It (and its predecessor) gives insights which will never be found elsewhere, especially concerning how firms started, take-overs/mergers and use of brand names. Several other firms are mentioned to put everything into context. The downside is relative sparsity of details which might appear in a book written from an IA perspective. So it is light on description of the actual works, precise addresses and what has happened to buildings once they, one at a time, stopped piano production.

Members with an interest in the piano industry will find the book fascinating. For others not so sure, there is a copy of it and its predecessor in the Camden Local Studies Library, Theobalds Road. Beware, though. It is a subject which can 'grow on one,' and I hope there will be a further similar book.

I have picked up, dipped into, and put down, this book several times over the past five years, wishing to include in this review an indication of what there is to see. That latter is being held over until restrictions on non-essential travel are eased. However, one site, far away from any other, the former Knight piano factory in Debden, is mentioned elsewhere in this Newsletter.

As an aside, I have come across many internet sites with information on piano makers. Three recommended are:

1. Alastair Laurence: The evolution of the Broadwood Grand Piano 1785-1998. DPhil. University of York
2. The impact of the second world war on the British piano industry. Sarah Katherine Deters. University of Edinburgh, 2017. (Says what 'war effort' products were manufactured).
3. Piano-forte Makers in England. In strict alpha sequence, similar to Grace's Guide in having copies of press info and adverts. A very condensed note on most firms that have existed between 1860 and the present day. David Thomas

'The Early East London Gas Industry: How it began and how it helped London industries to grow', by Mary Mills
₤15 via Amazon

The Early East London Gas Industry

This is a history of the early days of the gas industry in east and south east London in the lively days of the early 19th Century. It looks at early gas works, their promoters and how the waste products were used. It demonstrates some of the role gas manufacture played in the growth of industry in this period in a dynamic urban environment.

© GLIAS, 2021