Chappell's Clinton Equisonant



Samuel Arthur Chappell was a maker and dealer in woodwinds and brass, flourishing in London from 1862 to 1901.  During the 1880's, he advertised as "mfr. of the patent Siccama and Clinton flutes, Savary model bassoons, etc".  Although Chappell Siccama flutes are common enough, up til now we had not seen an example of his Clinton model, except perhaps for the enigmatically labelled "A form of Clinton's flute" in the Royal College of Music Collection.  So we were much excited when Phil Wells, of Suffolk England, brought this very clear example to our attention.

Chappell Clinton Equisonant-model flute, No 2001

The Mark

The top of the body bears the most extensive mark:

Clinton & Co
S A Chappell
52 New Bond St

Parts of this information are repeated elsewhere on the flute, with

Clinton & Co

added at the top of the head.


The earliest traced owner was George Leaton (b. Millwall, London 1884 to George Leaton and Charlotte Chinn).  The younger George is shown (right) with his wife Florence Morris on their wedding day in 1912  

Given the dates of the 52 New Bond St workshops (1871-1901), it seems likely that George must have bought the flute second hand or inherited it.

Phil Wells reports that George played the flute at the local (Wimbledon) Gilbert and Sullivan society.  George worked for British Railways and designed the complex interlocking lever mechanisms between points and signals in the signal boxes (which meant he was not called up in the 1914-1918 war). Perhaps the flute mechanism had a special appeal!

The current owner is Sam Wells, flute player, of Suffolk, UK (great grandson of George)


Characteristic features

  • The flute is cylindrical (i.e. uses Boehm's bore).  This puts it late among Clinton's developments - he first demonstrated a cylindrical model at the 1862 Exhibition, took off a prize, patented his developments and then died 2 years later.

  • It features the graduated holes that were the subject of Clinton's patent and prize.  Note that the foot key cups are greatly larger than those of the left hand keys.

  • It features a standalone G# key, the short F, and the classic mark of Clinton, the combined C and Bb key for the left thumb (not visible in this image).  As usual, the C and Bb combination are also available to R1 (via the trill style key in the middle of the image)

  • A duplicate G# key is linked to the key over the A hole to provide the A with full venting.  This seems to have been an option in Clinton's day.

Unusual features

  • The Boehm style foot was not Clinton's common early arrangement, but he used it on the cylindrical wooden flutes that most resemble this one.  It certainly makes sense from Chappell's point of view some years later.

  • Probably the most intriguing feature is the pair of small key touches available to R1.  These no doubt provide F sharp and F natural.  The small bar running between the tops of the touches presumably closes the F# key when the F touch is pressed.

    This may be just a variation on a detail of Clinton's 1863 patent, wherein he positioned a crescent-shaped F-natural key to the left of his usual R1 F# key.  The Chappell pair looks more visually similar to Carte's 1867 arrangement, which may well be derived from the Clinton 1863 idea anyway.

More work to be done on this flute if we are to understand what was Clinton's and what was Chappell's.  We'll add to this record as time and opportunity permits.


We're indebted to Phil Wells of Suffolk, England for the images and provenance information.


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