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Graham WalkerThis is the website of Graham Walker, Dorset, UK who has had an interest in the early piano for over 30 years. He has undertaken the restoration of instruments for private collection and has also carried out research on early pianos and their makers over this period. This has been done alongside a career in management consultancy and performance management. Early retirement in 2007 enabled him to become more involved and he commissioned a cloth manufacturer to produce an authentic keyboard cloth. This cloth is the nearest match to an early 19th century piano cloth that can be made within modern manufacturing processes. It was initially produced for his requirements but it soon came in demand by others.  Further types of cloth have been replicated by request from makers and restorers.  These cloths can be purchased from the online shop on this website.  He has also undertaken some research into the leather used in early English pianos and is currently working in liaison with the Institute of Creative Leather Technology, Northampton University, UK with the objective of determining specifications. He is involved in supporting interest in the early piano and is passionate about ensuring that our heritage of early pianos collections in the UK can be maintained for the future.

Historically Important keyboard instruments are sent to auction

The most comprehensive collection of early keyboard instruments in the UK is not well-known and although open to the public, it can only be viewed by appointment.   The Colt Clavier Collection in Bethersden, Kent was brought together by Cecil Colt from 1944 until he died in 1985 and has continued as the Colt Clavier Collection Trust.

Colt Clavier CollectionThe Collection has not been maintained in recent years and both the instruments and the building in which they are housed have deteriorated. This has been the cause of concern for many people who take an interest in our heritage of early keyboard instruments.

Mr. Colt’s widow died in August 2016 at the age of over 100 and it has been necessary for the Trustees to consider the future of the collection.  A few of the instruments are not held by the Trust but were the property of Mrs Colt and it is believed that the instruments that are being disposed of by auction are at the directions of the executors of her estate.

It is very disappointing to hear that it will be necessary to dispose of some of the most historically important instruments that were effectively an integral part of the Collection and that this could not have been avoided.  A decision that would have been more welcome would have been to dispose of the duplicate instruments and those that were of less historical merit or in poor condition.

There are five instruments being sold by Piano Auctions Ltd. in Holborn, London on Thursday 6 April 2017.  These are:  Thomas Tomkison (c1821) grand piano; Conrad Graf (c1830) Viennese grand piano; Joseph Kirkman (c1800) double manual harpsichord; Mathaeus Hielmann  (c1775) early Viennese grand piano, and a late 18th century clavichord in the manner of the Lindholm family.

Tomkison grand piano
The Tomas Tomkison grand piano made for George IV in 1821

The Thomas Tomkison grand piano is a highly decorative and it is a special instrument made for George IV, originally housed at the Brighton Pavilion.  It could be considered as significant within our heritage of early English keyboard instruments.  Of the five instruments being sent to auction the Mathaeus Heilmann also has considerable merit as an early example of a Viennese grand piano.

It is believed that there are about 160 instruments in the collection but the sale of these five will devalue the importance of the Collection in view of their historical significance.   There are other important instruments remaining but the preservation of all the finest instruments in the Collection could have been considered a priority.  There are other ways of raising funds but it is not possible to replace important instruments.

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