The records of John Broadwood & Sons Ltd. detail that this piano was built at their Horseferry Road workshops, Westminster, London, and finished on 22 December 1881. On 20 January 1882 it was sold to William B. Fordham, a wholesale piano dealer, for the considerable sum of £440. However it is clear that Number 21,647 was a special order from a certain William Abbot who subsequently paid a retail price of £500. William Abbot, a wealthy stockbroker, had ordered the piano for his new house The Abbey which occupied a sizeable 1½ acre plot on Campden Hill Road, Kensington. It is clear that this grand piano was ordered to compliment the interior decorations of the The Abbey, which was completed in 1879-1880 by architect Henry Winnock Haywood in the decorated gothic style.
This piano is a 'model number 14a grand pianoforte made to order in oak case, gothic design according to drawings'. Further research shows that the designer of the case work was John Moyr Smith (1839-1929) who is principally remembered for his pseudo-medieval designs adapted to tiles by Minton & Hollins. Designs by Moyr Smith also feature to a pair of Mintons pale-blue and gold ground vases which were made for the Paris 1878 Exposition Universelle (sold Christie's, New York, 10 October 2001, lot 199). He also engraved the plates for Christopher Dresser's book, Modern Ornamentation, to which he is also thought to have contributed his own designs. Stylistically the case to this piano is in the elaborate revivalist gothic style pioneered by Bruce Talbert (1838-1881). His 'Gothic Forms' strongly influenced the designs featured in the 1871 catalogue for the cabinetmakers Collison & Lock which was also illustrated by Moyr Smith.
John Broadwood & Sons Ltd. 'Pianoforte makers' was founded in London by the Swiss born Burkat Shudi in 1728 but owes its name to his son-in-law who assumed control of the business in 1773. Continued by his decedents the business prospered throughout the 19th century. Beethoven's piano by Broadwood is now preserved in the National Museum of Hungary, Budapest, and Chopin used Broadwood grands for his British tour. Royal patrons included King George IV, who ordered a grand piano for the Brighton Pavilion in 1821, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who received delivery of one at Buckingham Palace in 1840.
We are grateful to Dr. A. D. Lawrence of John Broadwood & Sons Ltd. for his assistance in preparing this catalogue note.