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A paper on the Early Pianos of Thomas Tomkison

There has been little written about Thomas Tomkison until now but Norman MacSween has undertaken detailed research of this piano maker.  His article is published in the current edition of the Galpin Society journal and is titled: “No Maker to be Compared – The Early Pianos of Thomas Tomkison (c1764-1853)”

The quote in the title comes from the society hostess and lady of letters Hester Piozzi, who in 1802 recommended the purchase of a grand piano by the maker Thomas Tomkison to wealthy neighbours in Wales. Though Tomkison was well known at home and abroad during his lifetime as a maker of equal standing to Broadwood, Stodart and Clementi, his reputation was soon eclipsed.

The article looks at new evidence that has emerged on Tomkison’s background and apprenticeship, and in particular at his association in the 1790s with the Wardour Street workshop of James Henry Houston, continuing a line of manufacture there from George Garcka and John Bates. It describes how Tomkison opened his own workshop in Dean Street in 1799 and soon developed a distinguished clientele that included the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent); Tomkison’s bill for supplying a grand piano to him as George IV in 1821 survives.


Tomkison grand piano

The grand piano made in 1821 by Thomas Tomkison for George IV  now in the Colt Clavier Collection, Kent, UK

An appendix to the article lists the serial numbers of all known surviving Tomkison grand, square and upright pianos, compiled with the help of colleagues under the auspices of the website Friends of Square Pianos.

Those who wish to see the article can join the Galpin Society to get a copy of the journal, or they should be able to access it electronically it via JSTOR at a suitable library.


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