London Bridge has had a traditional place in English violin lore, however the principle legend that Edward Pamphilon worked there in the seventeenth century. Both Cecile Stainer in 1896 and E.J. Payne writing for Grove in 1900 asserted his presence there, but upon what evidence is unknown for no nothing has come to light since to support the statement. However, despite Pamphilon’s presumed absence, a community working in at least three shops, at the “Violin and Hautboy”, the sign of the “Golden Spectacles” and lastly at the sign of “Corelli’s Head” prospered during the early eighteenth century during the final period of development of the buildings on the bridge – from about 1690 to 1756. Benjamin Hebbert reveals the instruments and makers of this extraordinary part of London history.
In an earlier generation, perhaps up to the 1650s, Southwark on the south side of the Bridge had been one of the major centres for musical instrument making in London, taking an important role in getting the attention of merchants and travellers coming up from the south of England, but it remained a warren of cramped medieval alleyways in which instrument makers competed with an enormous variety of trades that did their business on the edge of the city. By the 1690s it must have compared poorly to the prestigious addresses of makers and instrument sellers in St Paul’s Churchyard and Cornhill. The buildings on London Bridge had suffered greatly during the 17thcentury, and during the fire of London one third of them had been burned down. What saved the rest of the bridge (and the fire spreading further) was a fire-break inadvertently caused by the buildings pulled down from an earlier fire in 1633, that prevented the spread any further.
During the rebuilding of the Fire of London, Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Fire of London was begun almost at the footings of the bridge in 1671. We assume that some rebuilding work was taking place around the same time, because Thomas Taylor, a book seller, appears ‘next door to the Beehive’ on London bridge in 1671, and at the “Hand and Bible in the New Buildings on London Bridge” from 1673, but we do not know how fast the rebuilding took place, given that there were zones of buildings destroyed by the Fire of London, already cleared, and fully standing on the Southwark side. However, an engraving exists from the Frost Fair of 1683 and a painting of the same image in the Yale Center for British Art, both of which show a completed roof-line of the buildings as they existed in the eighteenth century, built in the new Restoration style. Hence in the middle of the 1690s it is likely that the Collingwoods and Millers were the first tenants in entirely new buildings whose prestige juxtaposed the cramped medieval alleyways of Southwark.
Whilst there were more ordinary trades, for example, Walter Watkins, a maker of leather breeches and gloves, at the sign of the Breeches and Gloves, or the jeweller (necklace maker) James Howard at the sign of the Hand and Beads, and none more so than Edward Jones at the Three Brushes, who sold brushes and mops, (usefully, he also dealt in horsehair, so there may have been an advantage for early bow rehairers). In addition to musical instrument makers, Christopher Stedman at the Globe on London Bridge was a Mathematical Instrument maker, and Samuel Grover at the sign of the “Scepter [sic] and Heart” made surgical instruments. Clearly as a place to capture the trade of merchants coming from the south to trade in London, it was an incredibly important area for small and highly specialised industries that were too small to have any definitive ‘quarter’ within the city as established trades in London enjoyed.
Hence, the first evidence of instrument makers active on London bridge is in 1694 on the label of a viol by Thomas Collingwood. The following year is the first record for John Miller, whose shop was at the sign of the “Violin and Hautboy”. He disappears from view in 1707 when the shop was taken over by his wife, Elizabeth, and it was sufficiently large that on 21 November 1715, Dudley Ryder (later one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital) recorded in his diary rather curtly that he “went to Mrs Miller’s concert upon London Bridge. There was no great matter of a concert.”. Joseph Collingwood appears at the sign of the “Golden Spectacles” (thanks to Sandys and Forster who record the label they saw). There are three likely possibilities, 1) that Collingwood became the successor to Miller after 1727 changing the name of the shop to “the sign of the Golden Spectacles.” 2) that as successors they downsized to a new location, or 3) that they worked separately (but together) on London Bridge.
The music shops and violin makers on London Bridge were shortlived. Elizabeth Miller had ceased trading after 1727. In 1728 Collingwood was a known maker, as was John Sexton, with a label recorded by Alfred Hill that formalises the connection between them: “John Sexton fecit,/on London Bridge,/from Mr. Collingwood./1728”. Within a few years, Sexton
had departed from London Bridge, and is found at Crow Alley in White Cross Street. Just one last name, Samuel Collier appears at the Corelli’s Head on London Bridge, with a violin from 1755 noted by Sandys and Forster. The next year the London Bridge Act allowed the Corporation of London to compulsory purchase all the buildings on the bridge and demolish them in order to resolve the long-running issues of chronic congestion. It seems as a result that the ‘new buildings’ on London Bridge were continuously occupied by instrument makers from their rebuilding after the Fire of London to their ultimate destruction which began in 1756.
Thomas Collingwood and John & Elizabeth Miller.
John Miller worked over against the Fleece Tavern in Cornhill, from at least as early as 1680, and his presence is demonstrated in labels of instruments made for him by the viol maker, Thomas Collingwood. On the earliest, “Made by/Thos. Collingwood/ and” is prepended in manuscript to the printed label “Sold by John Miller/over against the Fleece/Tavern in Cornhill/1680 [last digit ms.]”, and similarly an entirely manuscript label “Made by/Tho: Collingwood for/John Miller in Cornhill/over against the old flece/Tavern London 1686”. These labels suggest that Collingwood was a ‘small master’ though whether he was working inside Miller’s business or independent in some way is unclear.
Of John Miller himself, we know relatively little. His father, George Miller was a viol maker in Bishopsgate of whom a number of instruments survive, and an apprentice of his father’s was John Hare. The City of London musical instrument shops of this period were something of a close knit mafia, with an enormous amount of interconnection and cartel activity between them. We can get a glimpse of this from 1695 when John Hudgebut published his A Collection of Ayres for Two Flutes for which the imprint reads as a virtual encyclopedia of the trade.
“London: Printed by J. Heptinstall for John Hudgebutt. And are to be sold by John Carr, at his shop near the Middle-Temple-Gate in Fleet-street, and John Money, at the Mitre in Mitre-Court; where all masters, and shopkeepers may have them. And by John Young, at the Dolphin in St. Paul’s Church-yard, and John Hare, in Freeman’s-yard in Cornhill, and John Miller, upon London-Bridge. And at most musick-shops in town.”
Sometimes it is imprints like this that give a real insight into the collaboration between different people demarking the principle publisher, the business partners who co-invested in the work, and the sellers who took a principle role in supporting the sale. Here, Hudgebutt was John Carr’s former “apprentice for instruments” who seems to have worked a little itinerantly between music shops and book sellers. John Money, curiously ran the Mitre tavern on Fleet Street, which had been a significant music performance venue since the 1650s.Samuel Pepys remarked on 21 January 1659/60 “Thence to the Mitre, where I drank a pint of wine, the house being in fitting for Banister to come hither from Paget’s.”John Young was in St Paul’s Churchyard, John Hare had been there too until that year before moving to Cornhill in a move that seems precisely timed with John Miller’s move to London Bridge in a bit of evident shunting around. The last viol of Thomas Collingwood to survive (RNCM) has a label of “Thomas Collingwood/London Bridge fecit, 1694”, but to complicate matters is overlaid with a semi-legible label for a reseller “…Street in the Strand, 16.”, probably John Walsh in Catherine Street who began trading in 1695 (who in turn had been apprentice to John Shaw, another apprentice of John Carr).
Collingwood evidently made for the wider trade because Mears Clarke, an instrument seller in St Paul’s Churchyard had “A Tenor of Calingwood’s make” amongst his stock in trade upon his death in 1688 (more of that at another time). To add to the confusion Edward Lewis appears to crop up in London Bridge in 1704. In fact, he worked at the sign of the Harp in St Paul’s Churchyard from at least 1687 to his death in 1717. However, John Dilworth (in the Bromptons Dictionary) reports a label of “Edward Lewis/fecit, London Bridge, 1704” which is contradicted by labels from immediately before and after locating him as expected. Did he work from two locations, or did his son (who is barely known but was making instruments still in 1734 from an address in Drury Lane) become embroiled with the Collingwoods and Millers?
Joseph Collingwood, John Sexton (and to some extent Daniel Parker).
I have not been able to locate an instrument by Samuel Collier for this article, and have never knowingly seen one, but over recent times I have handled several instruments that have proven to be by either Joseph Collingwood or John Sexton, and in both cases there has been a heavy implication of Daniel Parker’s influence within them. Daniel Parker’s hand constantly emerges in instruments from as early as 1701 that are legitimately labelled for John Hare, and for Barak Norman. Meanwhile a number of further instruments by Norman, and Edward Lewis distinctly show the presence of his hand in their making, suggesting an itinerant existence working between workshops, or on his own account. Being English work of the period, and rare examples of the Long Pattern, for which Parker is most famed, it is natural that Collingwood and Sexton’s violins should end up with Daniel Parker attributions of one sort or another, as rationally there has been no other choice for them, but the comparison goes further with well-built edges, and a strongly Italianate fluting within the arching, that is certainly closer to Parker than it is to the majority of instruments made in the first half of the eighteenth century. Indeed it is a trait of some of Parker’s instruments to have a very narrow distance between the soundholes, and the rather gangly form that we see on Collingwood’s instruments is also known on authentic work by Daniel Parker.
Parker, Collingwood and as we shall see, Sexton, all made violins with the brick-red varnish that is seen more often on violins with John Hare’s label. I have seen other violins with Hare’s label in them, that are by Pamphilon and Norman, and are sufficient evidence for me to express doubt that he was active as a maker. His shop in Cornhill was very small, and his business partnership with John Walsh as a music publisher was a vast enterprise, making it unlikely that he had time to make instruments after 1695.
I have thus far handled two violins (and been shown photographs of a third) by the rarely encountered maker, Joseph Collingwood, both of which correspond to the Stradivari long-pattern, and both of which have had serious queries as to whether they are Daniel Parker’s work. My own example has a crescent-shaped Brand of Collingwood in cursive letters below the button. When I first came across the instrument and the brand I was sceptical of it, but it is similar to the kind of curved brand used at the time by woodwind makers. Pierre Bressan (1663-1731) and Thomas Stanesby (1669-1734) are of note, as is one Urquhart, a follower of Bressan. He may potentially be Thomas Urquhart the violin maker or a relative, so it may be that the brand was intended for marking woodwind instruments rather than violins but nevertheless ended up on this particular example. (Another with apparently the same brand from 1721 is the subject of a heated Maestronet discussion from 2006). Barak Norman had already established the use of a brand in other places on his work, either inside the instrument or enclosed within purfling devices, so although this may well be the earliest use of a brand in the style familiar to later English instruments, it is nevertheless not without precedent of a sort.
The small linings, and in particular the very small blocks are not consistent with Parker’s interior work, but are quite similar in proportion to those found in Barak Norman’s viols without the careful incanal profile of the face that one sees in his work. Some more eccentric violins by Parker have soundholes similarly close together as seems to be a feature of Collingwood’s work, but this seems to be a determined effort to stretch an Amati belly onto a Stradivari form, and with a squint, even the soundholes can be seen as the consequence of pulling and pushing an Amati prototype to fit the elongated outline. Like Nathaniel Cross and Daniel Parker, there is a real understanding of the bold edgework of Italian instruments which combines with a deep sweeping fluting around the edges which is distinctly more in keeping with fine Italian instruments than English, even if the overall character of the violin is unashamedly humble. Across English makers of this time, it seems that a cheap dark spirit varnish afforded an alternative finish to instruments, and it is quite normal – as with the two illustrated examples of Collingwood to see rich oil varnishes and meagre spirit varnishes on similar work. Richard Meares and Norman both represent earlier examples of this practice.
The violin is rather unsightly with its scraggy soundholes, which are too close together for comfort. Surprisingly, this characteristic is inherited from some of Daniel Parker’s own work as is both the soundhole concept and their positioning, rather distant from the edge of the instrument. An example dating from the period around 1705 is illustrated to demonstrate the point. Whilst this dominates the look of the instrument, the edgework has the same bold Italianate confidence that is seen on Nathaniel Cross’s work, and the deeply sculpted fluting of the arching is rather fine. Beneath all the oddities of the violin, it seems that he was trying to work a clever interpretation of Amati into the violin. The outline itself is obviously derived from Stradivari’s long pattern, but it seems to have been reworked, putting the extra length in the lower half of the instrument – something that cannot be said of Daniel Parker’s interpretations, and that leaves the instrument somewhat odd in proportion. Some of Daniel Parker’s violins that are more like these in proportion have drooping corners that reconcile the outline and make it more proportionate. The squarish corners on Collingwood’s work probably help to emphasise the depth of the bottom bout. (It should be noted that small violins in the English tradition, from Urquhart (345mm LOB) to the 1705-period Parker (348mm LOB), illustrated seem as a general rule to preserve a full stop length, taking the reduction in size from the lower part).
This is also true in an example which we know now to be a Collingwood. Henley quotes, perhaps a little too close to the bone that the “entire contour has all the character of an Italian … few instruments now known with his name … more imposing names have been inserted and … passed off as Italian” and thence to lot 99 in the 5 May 2000 Christie’s sale of the estate of Jacques Français, sold as a Camillus Camilli. The instrument was in Français collection for many years, as a Camillus Camilli and the legend goes that he thought it to be the Mantuan violin that played as well as a Stradivari. At one point in the 1980s having failed to quite convince people that it was that, it found its way to Vatelot’s shop in Paris and somehow obtained a Bernado Calcanius label. Here, the story goes that when Ida Haendel brought her Stradivari for repair, she borrowed it for a lengthy European tour. It returned to New York, and became the loaning instrument in Français shop, and even gained three fake nail holes drawn onto the top block to make it look a little more Italian, before being sold in 2000 as a Camilli, and causing some friction in the years that followed. It was later re-sold by Christie’s as a Daniel Parker in 2008, although not quite definitive enough to make for an unproblematic attribution.
The violin, with the exception of its brick red colour is essentially identical to the brown violin, with the exception of the scroll which is in quite a different hand, though it too is original to the instrument. The chamfers and central spine are very well defined. Although the form is not Stradivari, there is a much closer influence in terms of how the underlying structure of the chamfers and the back of the pegbox is more convincingly classical. Oddly, the brown Collingwood, which is much more what we suppose the English tradition to be has the slightly elongated ovaloid back of the pegbox which we often cite as a trait of Parker’s work. Comparing the two scrolls suggests one of two things. I’m inclined to think iol that this, being a more prestigious instrument is entirely Collingwood’s work, and that the scroll on the other violin may be bought in, produced by one of the many carvers active in the City of London during the time. This certainly has parallels with Barak Norman’s workshop practices, and written evidence that puts the music sellers and ‘Dutch carvers’ from St Paul’s Cathedral in the same social group around this time. in may be bought in, produced by one of the many carvers active in the City of London during the time. This certainly has parallels with Barak Norman’s workshop practices, and written evidence that puts the music sellers and ‘Dutch carvers’ from St Paul’s Cathedral in the same social group around this time.
Although Sexton’s work is also exceptionally rare, he also has a very good reputation. In the 1904 Fishmonger’s Hall Exhibition of Musical Instruments organised by Alfred Hill under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, Josiah T. Chapman exhibited his collection of English instruments. The remnants of Chapman’s collection are now at the Royal Northern College of Music, and evidence of his particular interest in early English instruments is now gone, but his may have been one of the most significant collections of early English instruments assembled. Amongst it, a violin by John Sexton from 1720. Of this, Alfred Hill wrote: “The violins of Sexton are of extreme rarity and considerable merit. Only two have been seen by Messrs W.E. Hill & Sons during the last 50 years”. It was followed in the catalogue by a Daniel Parker belonging to Hills, a Nathaniel Cross of 1731 of Chapmans, and a small Stradivari of 1735 (now known as the Belle Skinner and as 1736) belonging to Mrs Sassoon. Indeed, so excited and interested were the Hills in examining Sexton’s work that they commented again in 1913 “We have only seen three violins by Sexton during the last 50 years, the one in the Chapman Collection came from Constantinople!”
It is perhaps relevant in this context that the 1730 example that follows was substantially restored by Henry Lockey Hill. As I remarked upon of the King Charles II violin in the previous issue of the Newsletter, it invariable seems to be a mark of respect, when Henry Lockey Hill restored an old English instrument, and a new head by him can almost be seen as a seal of approval. In the Hill Papers, Alfred Hill relates the label of “John Sexton fecit,/on London Bridge,/from Mr. Collingwood./1728”, and thereafter the “John Sexton Fecit 1735/in Crow Ally, white+street” [Whitecross Street in Cripplegate Ward] that prompted their comment about the Chapman violin. “Above label seen by us in a violin submitted for an opinion (30/413) by Mr. J.C. Moody of 53 Chereton Road, Folkstone. Manuscript label, the lettering in printed characters not cursive. [i.e. written to look like they were printed]. The general style and work show the influence of Parker, Barak Norman and Cross. The ff holes and general form after Strad, not high built, spirit varnish of a lightish brown colour, well turned edge, a certain boldness but not highly finished workmanship.”
For 1743, the Hills noted that “Henry Minnis, Music Teacher, Music and Musical Instrument Dealer, Beeley Road, Oughtibridge, Near Sheffield, writes on July 23rd1913, “I have an old violin labelled : – John Sexton/Sweet Apple Court,/Bishopsgate St./1743. Although it is labelled as above, I believe it to be a Joseph Guarnerius”.” (Of interest, Sweet Apple Court ‘without’ Bishopsgate was meters away from the locations of Christopher Wise and Richard Meare’s shops in the 1660s-1670s. It is unclear if any residual activity of instrument in the area had continued over the intervening 50 years). Finally, they describe an unusual instrument, reminiscent of the Daniel Parker viola in The British Violinp.?? labelled “Jo/nSexton Fecit / 1747”, “Manuscript label in a tenor, the lettering in printed characters not cursive. Originally no doubt made as a tenor-viol with deep sides which have been lowered on the belly side. Back canted off at top and bottom, unpurfled, in form and character suggestive of Barak Norman but not so good. F holes and rounding of edge resemble the work of Cross. Small head with cheeks and back part roughly finished. Spirit varnish of brown Barak Norman colour. Size 16 3/8, 9 ½, 7 5/8– stop 8 ½.” (I believe I may have seen a viola in a Bonhams’s sale about 14 years ago that distinctly matched this description, but I cannot trace it).
Recalling Alfred Hill’s comment about the scarcity of Sexton’s work, I felt rather smug last year to inadvertently have two in the studio at the same time. One of the puzzling features of both Parker and Collingwood’s work is the way that they adapted the long-pattern, each choosing compelling variations of an Italianate arch to achieve their desired effect, that are substantially higher than the very low arch that characterises the Stradivari long-pattern violins of the early 1690s. Hence one of the first suspicions when a Parker-school violin was shown to me came from the competence of the arching as a direct interpretation of Stradivari’s work. With superb wood choice and a rectified outline, it is only really the edgework and corners of the violin that lets it down in terms of capturing Stradivari’s style. That praise, however, falls flat upon examining the front of the instrument which is its own thing entirely, yet keeping to the strict principles of arching as the back. The wood is the typical reddish reedy wood that appears on many English instruments of the time, and there is no doubt that it is original to the instrument, if perhaps made in haste for an instrument that deserved better, but like the ugly brown Collingwood, it seems that the London Bridge makers were happy to make at a lower quality when circumstances required. The violin has a replacement scroll by Henry Lockey Hill, who also undertook considerable restoration to the varnish. Around the purfling little chips remain of the original brick-red varnish of the Hare-type. It is faintly signed near the top block “Iohn Sexton Fecit/1730” in the position and the kind of formula one also finds on some Daniel Parkers, so if you think you have a Parker and can only acknowledge the presence of an inked inscription, beware. It may not say what you hoped it to.
Whilst this violin was awaiting restoration, an interesting early English cello appeared, with a spurious Wamsley label, that had been sold as such by George Hart to the American collector, Royal de Forest Hawley. Like many instruments of this period, it proved to be an absolute melange of styles, and the only thing that could be said with any certainty was that it had nothing at all to do with Wamsley. The soundholes seem to be a very refined working of Pamphilon’s style – too refined to be Pamphilon, and the lower wings are resultingly some of the most radical that I have seen in any cello from any country. The varnish is what I am familiar with for Richard Meares (II), and the edgework and arching once more pointed inexorably towards the Stainer-copy violins (not cellos) of Nathaniel Cross. Resultingly, it was easy to situate it within English work of the 1720s-30s period, but difficult to offer much hope of identifying the maker. That is, until examining the inside, which is not identical on both, but of such significant likeness as to suggest the same maker. Of the soundholes, it is worth a note that the nicks of the f-holes are almost horizontal, and extend quite far out.
On both examples there is evidence of a scribed line around the mid-point of the ribs (which extends on the cello over the corner blocks as well. The cello additionally has a second scribe line slightly above the rebate). The violin’s blocks have the same curved internal face that is seen within Barak Norman and Cross’s work, whereas the cello’s blocks are radically cut back into a v-shape, as if a wooden substitute for the linen strips that were often used for viols and violins in England at this time. Despite this difference, there are two characteristics of note. First is that the corner blocks extend at the top and bottom as rebated tabs into which the ribs are feathered, and the second is an inset area of about 20mm in the centre of the rib, which seems to be intended to help locate a mould or form of some sort. It is almost as if the maker was told about a Cremonese mould system and used his initiative to make something equivalent. Sexton’s uniqueness extends to the upper and lower blocks which have a rebate carved out of them so that the linings can extend continuously in one piece around the ribs.
The etiquette of blocks and linings is strangely individualistic amongst the English school of this time. Cross frequently butts the linings neatly against the corner blocks, whilst Collingwood and Norman both feather the linings, often stopping them a few millimetres from the blocks. I am anxious not to pronounce any hard and fast rules, except with the extreme characteristics that are found in Sexton’s work. (It is worth looking at the cello’s blocks first to see the system in an expanded form, as the difference between the tabs and the rebate is not so evident on the violins). All but two of the blocks are made of a form of mahogany with flecks visible from the open pores. It is worth noting that the 1721 Naval Stores Act removed duty from timber brought from the Americas, and almost immediately Jamaican mahogany began to reach Britain as a new wood. It is very similar to the quite light hardwood I have seen on some 18th-century English bows of lower quality, which is sometimes referred to as ‘horseflesh’. I also note that the linings of the cello are in maple, very similar to those that I have seen on at least one violin by Nathaniel Cross, whereas the spruce linings of the violin are far more typical, however as if to prove the point that Sexton wasn’t fussy about his lining material, one of them is Jamaican mahogany.
At this point the general characteristics of the violin and the cello begin to add up, although the scroll of the cello is a better companion to the brown Collingwood, even though the instruments are quite apart. Yet again this seems to be a reflection of the way in which English makers of the time collaborated, with different hands often found within the same instrument. Hence, whilst we can be confident in telling what is Sexton’s work and what is Collingwood’s, the rather bold scroll on the red Collingwood suggests a third hand active within the workshop. Meanwhile, the shadow of Daniel Parker, of whom we know frustratingly little, constantly overlooks the instruments made from all three zones in the City of London, making the task of pinning him down all the more difficult, but at least in the case of Sexton and Collingwood, we now have an idea of who else of the London makers was following Stradivari’s long pattern, and how closely they were connected to Parker.
1680 & 1686 Thomas Collingwood making for John Miller in Cornhill
1694 Thomas Collingwood on London Bridge making for John Shaw
1695 John Miller also found on London Bridge
1704 Edward Lewis (2) recorded on London Bridge
1707 John Miller died, his widow Elizabeth takes on the business
1720 Joseph Collingwood, earliest recorded label, on London Bridge.
1727 Elizabeth Miller dies
1728 John Sexton on London Bridge from Mr Collingwood. (violin)
1730 John Sexton Fecit. (violin)
1735 John Sexton in Crow Alley, White Street. (violin)
1743 John Sexton Sweet Apple Court, Bishopsgate Street. (violin)
1747 John Sexton, the date of the Hill tenor.
1755 Samuel Collier recorded on London Bridge
1756 Buildings on London Bridge purchased and pulled down
1758 Joseph Collingwood Londini Fecit 1758 (recorded by William Meredith Morris, unlikely).
1760 The date most often cited (erroneously) for Collingwood’s activity.
Thank you for a very interesting read. I have a violin with a makers name “Collier and Davis” of 7, Fish St Hill dated 1770. Would this be likely to be Samuel Collier I wonder ?
Tim. That’s incredibly interesting! I would love to see it in person, or at the very least
To see photographs, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m interested to make a violin in the future
I hope you get the chance to! Here is our blog about violin making schools in Britain. If you can’t do any of the full time ones to train professionally the Cambridge Violin Making School is awesome.