Original Instrument Report

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1842 John Broadwood and Sons square pianoforte 41K jpeg
Square pianoforte by John Broadwood & Sons, London 1842

SQUARE PIANOFORTE, John Broadwood & Sons, London 1842

Scotsman John Broadwood (1732–1812) moved to London in September 1761 to apprentice with harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi (1702–1773). Marrying Shudi’s daughter in 1769, he became a partner in the business in 1770, and its effective head from 1771. Broadwood’s Journal first mentioned square piano sales in 1778. In 1795 he took his son James Shudi Broadwood into partnership, and the instruments from then were signed John Broadwood and Son. After his third son Thomas was brought into the business in 1808, the instruments were signed John Broadwood & Sons. In the early-1840s when this instrument was built and sent to Australia, their annual output of square pianos numbered about a thousand. While Broadwood ceased production of square pianos in 1866, their output of grands and uprights continued. The business underwent several permutations and survived until the 1990s.

Further discussion
Boalch, Donald H Makers of the Harpsichord & Clavichord 1440–1840 Third Edition, Oxford 1995, pp25,26
Clinkscale, Martha Novak Makers of the Piano 1700–1820 Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995, pp30–56
Clinkscale, Martha Novak Makers of the Piano Volume 2 1820–1860 Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999, pp47–61
Cole, Michael Broadwood Square Pianos Tatchley Books, Cheltenham 2005
Wainwright, David Broadwood by Appointment Quiller Press, London 1982

The nameboard insert is inscribed John Broadwood & Sons / Manufacturers to her Majesty / Great Pulteny Street, Golden Square / London. The faded ink serial number 54792 is found on the left rear corner of the wrestplank, and in pencil on the reverse of the nameboard and bass cheek, and reverse of the mahogany keyslip. There is a pencil signature Archer W behind the balance mortise on the upper surface of the bottom key, and the date 31/10/42 on the treble side of that key. The ink signature Palmer 54792 appears on the top key of the main keyframe, and the ink 792 appears on the treble side of the top key of the additional keyframe. The single initial M is found inked on the lowest (FF) mahogany damper lifter block. The initials C.A are stamped in the spine housing for the middle lid hinge. In pencil on the main keyframe treble stile is written B / Habelu [indistinct] / 54418. The gilt brass casters are stamped COPES / PATENT just below the rim of their cups, one interestingly misspelt COPPES.

Each pair of tuning pins is identified by faded inked letters on the wrestplank, and the string gauges are written next to the bottom note of each string size. There are other pencil markings on the wrestplank, probably dating from the time the iron strings were replaced.

Model & Price
The 1842 Square was Broadwood’s most inexpensive piano, the “School-room pianoforte” model. That designation first appeared on their List No 31 of January 1843, where in polished Mahogany, it was priced at 37 Guineas: The same model was also available unpolished for 35 Guineas. (Various other models of squares were available, up to the “Extra size best Grand Patent 6½ octaves” in Rosewood for 90 Guineas.) Packed in a tin and deal case with the cover and spare strings (now no longer with the instrument), shipping expenses, freight and insurance, the 1842 Square and its twin 54842 were entered in Broadwood’s foreign ledger at £46..19..6 each. It is not yet known at what price these pianos retailed when landed in Sydney.

The six-octave keyboard has seventy-three notes, FF–f'''', on two keyframes. The Stichmaß is 489mm. Each lime keylever is stamped with its number just behind the keycover. The numbering recommences from 1 on the additional keyframe, housing the keys from c'''–f''''. The keys are guided by front pins. The balance rail and front rail are oak and the backrail pine. The keyframe cloths are original. The ivory-covered naturals and solid ebony sharps are original. The unscored naturals have 45mm heads and 95mm tails. The ivory heads are about 1.4mm thick at their fronts, and the tails taper in thickness towards their rear to about 1mm. The moulded sycamore keyfronts and ivory covers make the natural heads about 19.5mm deep. The beveled solid ebony sharps are 10.5–11.75mm wide, 83.5–86mm in length, and taper in height from 10.8 at their fronts to 7.2mm. The ivory heads in the middle of the keyboard show slight dipping commensurate with wear.

1842 John Broadwood and Sons Square piano action 63K jpeg
Treble action detail

The action is the English double action with the usual dolly peg dampers raised by a pedal. The complete action is in an amazing state of cleanliness and preservation, retaining its original hammer coverings. The red and white layers of damper cloth are original and graduated: The covered strings have a thick white felt below the woven red cloth. This changes for notes 31–46 to a thinner brushed white flannel. Notes 47–55 have the single red cloth only, reduced at the extremity of the damping to project from only the treble side of the dolly pegs. The hammer heads change composition for the lowest iron strings (notes 12–18). The hopper blocks were capped with grey felt at some previous stage: Several of these felts on the additional keys were odd and obvious replacements.

The instrument retains its original single overspun strings with hitchpin loops for the lowest eleven notes FF–D. The remainder of the instrument is double strung in ten sizes of iron ranging from .042˝ to .026˝  in diameter, following the gauges 20 to 11 marked in ink on the wrestplank adjacent to the lowest pin for each string size. The strings run around hitchpins on the enameled iron plate: Only the covered bass strings have individual hitchpin loops. The hitchpins are of two diameters, and the quaint stringing arrangement can be seen on the picture below. One wire loops around the large diameter hitchpin to then return for the treblemost string of the next highest note. In the middle of this pair, another wire loops around the small diameter hitchpin, to also return for the bottom string of the next highest note. This means in the event of a string breakage, there is always a string remaining for each note. The scaling (c'') is 305mm. The original flat-head ø6mm tuning pins with holes are about 50mm long, drilled for ease of stringing, and have a light thread scored on their base. The total tension on the instrument at A440 is 4785kg, borne by the black enameled iron plate with brace to the wrestplank. The bridge had dropped, lowering the stringband in the bass and causing the bottom four or five covered strings to foul on the front corner of the soundboard apron.

The soundboard is spruce and both bridge and nut beech. The soundboard ribs are reinforced with gilded iron screws through the top surface of the soundboard. The same type of screws are used on the flat moulding strip at the perimeter of the soundboard apron.

The case rim is solid mahogany, as are the two lid panels, their side and front edges with egg-and-dart moulding. The case measures 1600mm x 685mm without bottom or corner mouldings. The lid overhangs the case by 13–22mm on all sides, and is supported by a single mahogany lid stick screwed to the treble case interior. The lid can also be supported by the collapsible hinged music desk attached to the back of the nameboard. The lid enables two possible playing positions: Fully open (loud), or main lid closed (soft). (Being hinged to the keyboard flap, the fallboard prevents the instrument from being played if the keyboard flap is closed.) When the main lid is closed, there is a collapsible music desk attached to the keyboard flap interior. The spine is finished. The bottom is painted a dusky pink. The instrument retains its original brasswork including hinges and iron screws. There is a lock on the fallboard, although its key was missing.

The three faces of the removable nameboard are veneered with rosewood. The nameboard has two fretwork panels with old crimson silk behind and a central recessed ink inscription.

John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley (1784–1828) 11K jpeg
John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley (1784–1828)

The piano rests on its original four plain turned legs with gilded brass casters. There is some usual case distortion noted: The front right leg is about 4mm above the ground. Two of the leg threads have been replaced at some time in the instrument’s past. The turned damper pedal leg is original.

The 1842 Broadwood square is important because of its unquestionable provenance, remaining for several generations with a famous colonial Australian family.

According to the Broadwood archives [see below], the piano left Broadwood’s premises with nine others on Monday January 9, 1843 for shipment on the Fanny to Sydney dealer R Dacre, Esq.

The instrument was purchased in December 2017 from the widow of Dr Keith Okey. He had acquired it for his historic property “Denham Court” in June 1983 from the late W.F. Bradshaw, eminent Sydney antique dealer of 96 Queen Street, Woollahra. The 1842 Broadwood lived at “Kirkham”, the family estate near Camden of NSW Surveyor-General John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley (1784–1828). It was most likely to have been originally purchased from Dacre’s business by Oxley’s widow Emma née Norton (1798–1885) in 1845 on her return from three years in Europe with her two sons, John Norton Oxley (1824–1891) and Henry Molesworth Oxley (1826–1867). The piano remained in the Oxley family, Bill Bradshaw purchasing it from Eleanor Beatrice Martin Oxley, a great-granddaughter of Surveyor-General John Oxley.

From August 2018 to April 2020, the 1842 Broadwood was on long-term loan to Sydney Living Museums, and exhibited and played at Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay House.

1842 John Broadwood and Sons square pianoforte nameboard inscription 25K jpeg
Inscription on the 1842 John Broadwood & Sons square pianoforte nameboard

Broadwood archives (Number book ref. 2185/JB/42/234):

[5479]2 9/1/43

1842 John Broadwood and Sons Square piano action 63K jpeg
Broadwood Number Book No.2 1834 to 1843: Entry for 54792 showing date it left the workshop


Broadwood archives (Porters book ref. 2185/JB/42/34):


Monday January 9th 1843


R Dacre
79535 ✓
Two 6½ Bicha [Bichord] GPFts [Grand pianofortes] Patent Nos 15587, 15423
Two Semi GPFts Pat Improd [Patent Improved] Nos 680, 681
Two Semi Cott [Cottage] PFts [Pianofortes] Cylft [cylinder front] Nos 4973, 4905
Two Sq PFfts School Pold [polished] revolving scale & nulled
Nos 54792, 54842, no extra charge
Two Sq PFts Pat Supr [Superior] Nos 54217, 54362,
all Screwed. Covers. Full [sets of] strings. Tin &
Deal Cases to all. R. Dacre Esq
Sydney, Marked R.B.D No 5 to 14
delivd @ Farlows to ship per “Fancy” [sic]
Shipping expenses £6..8..6 Freight £22..15..6
Insurance £15..9..6
  Wren [porter’s name]

1842 John Broadwood and Sons Square piano action 63K jpeg
Broadwood Porters Book: First entry for Monday January 9, 1843

Broadwood archives (Foreign Ledger P 1834, p61):


Ranulf Dacre Esq

Pr Fanny Cap M Andrew 1843 Jany 9

[various other pianos]             Cover, Strings, tin & deal Cases, Shipg Exp freight Insce

11 A Sq.PF. sch pold, nulled,   1.10.–         1.11.6           1.6.–          1.5.–         2.10.–                   46..19..6
12               do                                 “                  “                 “                “                “                        46..19..6

[various other pianos on this shipment]


1842 John Broadwood and Sons Square piano action 63K jpeg
Broadwood Foreign Ledger P 1834: Debtors entry for Dacre’s 1843 shipment of ten pianos on the “Fanny”

 Australasian Chronicle (22 July 1843), 3: IMPORTS

JULY 20.— Fanny, barque, from London: 217 bars, 49 bundles iron, 6 sheets lead, 40 hogsheads beer, 4 casks oatmeal, 120 casks British goods, 8 bales linens, 18 cases copper, 3 casks copper nails, 10 cases pianofortes…

Unlocked (Winter 2019)

The Oxley Piano thumbnail 4K jpeg

This general interest article by Carey Beebe on the 1842 Broadwood square piano titled The Oxley Piano was originally published in Unlocked, the members magazine of Sydney Living Museums, and is reproduced here with permission.

The instrument is not mentioned in Clinkscale’s Makers of the Piano 1820–1860 nor is known to appear in any other literature. The 1842 Broadwood square is #CEP-8691 in Clinkscale Online.

1842 Broadwood enameled string plate 55K jpeg
Detail, black enameled plate, brace and hitchpin arrangement

Outline of Work

Grateful thanks to those who encouraged and assisted me: Robert Simonson (UK); Eddy Valk & Colin van der Lecq (AU).
1842 Broadwood square pianoforte 2018 postcard thumbnail 9K jpeg
Download postcard.

1842 Broadwood at Elizabeth Bay House 65K jpeg
1842 Broadwood square in the Drawing Room at Elizabeth Bay House


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