Hudson - Pratten's able coadjutor?



When we trace back all of the recent writers (Bate, Toff, etc.) on the topic of the development of R.S. Pratten's Perfected flute, we invariably find a retelling of Rockstro's account.  So let's start with that account ...

671. Pratten's "Perfected Flute."  It is stated, in §652, that the distinguished Robert Sidney Pratten adopted Siccama's flute for a time.  In the year 1852 he began to make improvements in the flute with the old fingering; he associated himself with a clever man who had once been Siccama's constructor and the musician and the mechanic worked together with some success.

and a little later ....

672. In 1856 Pratten's able coadjutor became foreman to Messrs. Boosey and Co., who then undertook the manufacture of the "perfected flute."    

So, who was "the clever man" that was, at various times, "Siccama's constructor", "Pratten's able coadjutor" and "Boosey's Foreman"?  Interestingly, his name is never mentioned in Rockstro or in any of the subsequent books that rely on Rockstro.  Nor does his name appear in any of the published documents of the period.  So where are we to go to find out?  To the instruments, of course, and there we find a pretty good trail.  

"Siccama's Constructor"?

When we start at the Siccama end, we are immediately struck by the high quality of workmanship (indeed, this is a common feature of the testimonials that Siccama gathered), and, on many of Siccama's flutes, an unusual form of keywork.  These keys have detachable cups, a little reminiscent of Monzani's, but much bigger and intended to screw up hard rather than onto a resilient washer.  They are more reminiscent of the cups used by Rudall & Rose on Boehm's 1832 conical ring-key flutes, which themselves are a variation on what Boehm himself used.  It seems it's always difficult to get very far away from the name Boehm after 1832.


Above:  Open G# key from Rudall & Rose
Right:     Siccama key from Siccama flute

What was the purpose of this design?

Probably convenience of construction, as there doesn't seem to be any inherent difference in operation from other key designs.  Cleaning up and polishing the cup around where it joins the shaft is always a tricky and time-consuming operation - this is made much more simple if the cup detaches from the shaft.  It is sometimes suggested that it was done to enable removing the cup without the key, but this seems unlikely.  It isn't so easy to remove a cup this way, and in some cases not possible.  Keys detach easily with a single screw, so not much is to be gained by removing the cup only.  The other benefit during construction may have been that all the cups could be cast from the same mould, and cleaned up and polished with the same holding arrangements.  

But, all that aside, how do this interesting key design this help us identify "Siccama's Constructor"?  So well hidden was he within Siccama's outfit, we don't actually catch a glimpse until he leaves ...

And "Pratten's Able Coadjutor"?

  • The exact same keys show up on flutes by another maker, and that maker conveniently described himself on his flutes as "Hudson from Siccama".  Aha!
  • Further, his new flutes are marked R.S. Pratten's Perfected.  He worked for them both!
  • Hudson also made and sold flutes identical to Siccama's but also marked R.S. Pratten's Perfected.  He brought his former life with him, and welded it seamlessly into his new life!
  • And putting the matter beyond doubt, he took out an advertisement in Musical World:

"R.S. PRATTEN'S PERFECTED FLUTE (on the old system of fingering). This instrument is universally acknowledged to possess the most powerful tone, combined with perfect intonation, sweetness, and ease to the performer. Prospectus and testimonials on application to John Hudson, Manufacturer, 3 Rathbone Place"

So far we're aware that the ad ran on 21 April, 1855, and later in August and September, interesting in that it's three years after we understand the flute to have been developed.  Perhaps sales through Pratten to his students and colleagues were enough to absorb the first few years' production, and it only became necessary to advertise when these direct sales were starting to dwindle.  The advertisement was a very small one with no illustrations.  It was printed in small type in a rectangular space only 8.5 cm wide x 1.8 cm high.  Hudson was either on a budget, or felt that a small mention was all his product required!

And Boosey's Foreman?

When Boosey subsequently signed a deal with Pratten to manufacture his Perfected flutes, they appear to have had John Hudson thrown into the bargain.  It no doubt made sense - they would have needed someone to organise and supervise manufacture, and John Hudson, left otherwise out on a limb, probably needed a job.  Not only do Hudson's keys show up on many flutes made by Boosey & Co, but his name appears among the list of Boosey's employees, associated primarily with flutes, but also with 3 piccolos and 9 bassoons.  Strike three!

So, who was John Hudson?

Now that we have a name, we can find out a bit more about the man.  The New Langwill Index advises that a John Hudson was listed (in the commercial directories), as a woodwind maker, in London between 1853 and 1857.  Those dates fit in well with Boosey's takeover in 1856.

US flute collector, player and researcher, David Migoya, has done a lot of digging through the British Census data (taken every ten years) to find out more about Hudson.  Dave advises:

Hudson was born c.1821 in Walworth, Surrey, presumably after the census for that year was already taken.

I could not locate him in 1831 at age 10.

At the age of 20 in 1841, he is already listed as a “Flute M” presumably to mean Flute Maker as many of those around him were shown as “Shoe M” for shoe maker.

His parents (Henry and Anne) were already in their 60s at the time, listed as living Independent (IND), likely to connote retirement. They were 64 at the time.  Their address was shown simply as Peter Street, with no house number of their or their neighbours. This was in Lambeth, Newington, which is in London proper by today’s boundaries.

I could not locate Mr. Hudson in 1851.

At age 40 (1861), John Hudson is already working for Boosey, but was listed in the census simply as “musical instrument maker” with no association to Boosey.  He was married the year prior to 27yo Sarah Hudson, herself born in Gravesend, Kent.

John’s sister, Mary Hudson, was living with them. She was 25yo at the time, oddly though I couldn’t locate her when John was a 20yo. Chances are she was 5yo at the time….but why she’s not listed is unclear.

John had his first daughter, Elizabeth, at the time. She was 1 month old, born in Westminster, Middlesex.  The family was living at 26 Great Pulteney St. in Westminster, Middlesex, where they shared the building with 3 other families.

By age 50 (1871), John Hudson now had another daughter, Eleanor A Hudson (the A presumably for his mother, Anne).  At this time they are living in Hammersmith and have now included his cousin, Alice E. Pretious, 19yo.
Their home is at 17 Swakeleys Terrace. They share the home with another family, listed as carpenters/Joiners

AT age 60 (1881), Hudson’s daughter Elizabeth is now married at age 20 to a John Ludbrook.  The family now has moved, with daughter Eleanor still at home, to 2 Birkbeck Grove, in Acton, Middlesex.  Hudson is still listed simply as “musical instrument maker”.

Daughter Eleanor married in c.1889 to Arthur Miur, a musical conductor. They have three children, Arthur Jr. (1889), Ada (1890) and Albert (1891)

At age 70, John Hudson and wife Sarah are living with their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, her husband John Ludbrook, and an extended family in Bushey, Hertfordshire.  Hudson is still listed as a musical instrument maker. Son-in-law Ludbrook is an audit clerk.  Ludbrook and wife Elizabeth now have three children – John Hudson’s grandchildren:

  • Eleanor A (1881), named for sister and middle name for mother;
  • Beatrice M (1886), and
  • John Wallis, presumably named for grandfather and perhaps Wallis the flute maker? (1891)

Also in the home is Mary Ann Ackerman, John Hudson’s sister who is now a widow.  They are at 24 London Road.

In 1901, at age 80, John Hudson still lives with his son-in-law, as does Sarah.
The Hudsons are now retired and listed as “living on own means” which is basically that they’re not mooching.  John, sadly, is now deaf.

Another grandchild had been added, c.1896, little Olive Ludbrook. Eldest granddaughter Eleanor is now a school teacher and John Ludbrook is a full-fledge accountant.  The address is the same.

John Hudson died in 1908, at the happy old age of 87.

My thanks to Dave for his efforts and kindness in making the information available.

Note that, because of the years in which they were was taken, the census doesn't catch Hudson working as an independent flute maker (listed in the London Directories as between 1853 to 1857).  But it does catch him from 1841 onwards working as a musical instrument maker.  At this stage we don't know with whom or as what.  We should not assume it was flutes - Rose of Rudall & Rose started off in organ-building, for example.

London researcher Robert Bigio puts forward the suggestion of Ward.  The dates would work - Ward is listed from 1836 onwards.  Robert bases his suggestion on the fine work both Ward and Hudson were capable of - this work is evident in Hudson's own flutes and those made for Siccama and Boosey.  Hopefully some new evidence will clear the matter up.

Hudson's Mark

Hudson's flutes were marked:



<Serial Number>

Where the elements shown with the grey background are not always present.

What does he mean, "Hudson FROM Siccama"?

There is more than one way to interpret the "from" in his maker's mark.  Does he mean:

  • "I'm still working at Siccama's but doing a little work on the side", or 
  • "I used to work at Siccama's, so you know my work is good".

I go with the second interpretation, for these reasons:

  • it was quite common to make use of your previous employers, or former partnership name to bolster your credibility, eg:
    • "Wylde from Rudall & Rose"; 
    • "Hill, late Monzani"; 
    • "H. Whitaker from Rudall & Rose", 
    • "Camp from Rudall & Rose", etc
    • "D'Almaine, late Goulding, D'Almaine & Co"
    • "Ingram from Rudall & Rose".
  • It seems less likely that a current employer would be keen to support competition by providing facilities, and
  • Hudson's flutes always gave his address as 3 Rathbone Place, Oxford St, while Siccama was in Fleet Street.

Hudson's Flutes

Now that we have publicly outed Mr Hudson, and provided I think enough trail of evidence to convict him, we can turn our attention to his work.

Indeed one purpose of this page is to provide a place where we can gather together information about extant Hudson flutes, to see what more we can learn about this shadowy figure.  As I said above, we're not besieged by examples, although we are aware of a few more flutes than are listed below.  

Extent Flutes by Hudson

Marked: Flute Type Key & mount type Extra keys C#-Eb length Owner
- Hudson
separate L&R sections
  No 255  
27 Pratten's Perfected
Hudson From Siccama
long body
"Hudson" SS, posts No 244 Calum Stewart
49 Pratten's Perfected
Hudson From Siccama
long body
NS, domed keys, blocks No 244 David Migoya, US
121 Pratten's Perfected
Siccama "Hudson" SS, posts Thumb C 254.5 UK Private Collection
169 Pratten's Perfected
long body
NS, domed keys, blocks No   Regina Elling, Germany
221 RS Pratten(s) Perfected [on head]

Hudson, London, 221 [on barrel & Foot]

8-key long body NS, blocks No   Arbo Doughty
515 Pratten's Perfected
Hudson From Siccama
NS, domed keys, blocks No (Est)
Edinburgh University  
607 Pratten's Perfected
Hudson From Siccama
NS, domed keys, blocks No 253 For sale on Ebay, October 2012
641 Pratten's Perfected
Hudson From Siccama
long body
  No   Sold at Southeby's

Notes on the table above

Where I've just indicated <Address> in the table above, Hudson's address block reads:

3 Rathbone Place
Oxford St

Note that, at least so far, all of Hudson's output is marked Pratten's Perfected, with the exception of the non-serialized Improved era 8-key flute that heads the list.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as the list is populated.

What, Siccama still?

Yes, Hudson No 121 is certainly a turn-up for the books.  The flute isn't marked Siccama; indeed it is marked: 



(the serial number is not totally clear)

And indeed, it currently doesn't look like a Siccama, having been reverted to a simple 8-key system, probably in the late 20th century.  But, under close inspection, it's easy to see the plugged holes where once the two Siccama keys were mounted, and where the two pads seated.  You may be able to just make them out as dark circular patches to the immediate right of the new holes 3 and 6 in the image below.  The flute is dark brown cocus, but the plugs appear to be the much blacker African blackwood, a timber not much used in England in the 19th century, but routinely used by modern makers.  There are well-connected reports that several such Hudson Siccama's were similarly "Prattenised" in this period, giving them a new lease of life at a time when Siccama's were of no interest.  Apparently, all were already conveniently stamped Pratten's Perfected.

Siccama style flute by Hudson, private collection, UK, image courtesy of owner.

There are several other interesting features of this particular flute.  Note the G# key in the flute above - it's a rod & axle style construction, while most Pratten's and Siccama's employ the familiar English down-the-side construction.  There appears no reason why this had to be, so perhaps it is an experiment.

Also note the short extension leading from the cup of the upper c-key.  This originally connected to a thumb-c key, whose plugged mounting holes are still visible under closer scrutiny.  This was no doubt also removed in the late 20th century "Prattenisation" process, as it leaves no convenient position for the left thumb to rest on the wood.

Recognition for the Patentee?

What's perhaps most interesting is that the flute doesn't carry the name Siccama, not even in the usual "Hudson from Siccama" form.  At the time this flute was made, Siccama's patent was still very much in force; indeed, Siccama was still turning them out over at Fleet Street.  Other makers, like Chappell, made a point of including "Siccama, Patentee" on their Siccama-model flutes.  What gave Hudson, Siccama's former constructor, free rights to build Siccama flutes and call them Pratten's Perfecteds?  There is no doubt a story here.

One possibility is that Siccama relied heavily on Hudson in the original design of his flute and felt obliged to let him make them without due reverence (and perhaps even without royalty payment).  

Another is that there were sufficient changes made to make the patent inapplicable.  If so, it's hard to see them; the dimensions seeming to line up very closely with Siccama # 321 in the writer's collection.  Perhaps the unusual G# and additional thumb C were enough to achieve this immunity?

We so far know nothing of the circumstances of the split from Siccama, and it's moderately likely we never will.

And Hudson's real Pratten's Perfecteds?

So enough for re-badged Siccama's - what about the main game - the development of a new flute called the Pratten's Perfected?  Let's make that a separate story...


Many people have, wittingly or unwittingly, helped put this story together.  They include:

  • Andrew Pickering, flute player, UK
  • David Migoya, collector, player and researcher, USA
  • A private collector, UK
  • Chris Wilkes, UK maker
  • Tony Bingham, London dealer, researcher and publisher
  • Adrian Duncan, Vancouver researcher and player
  • Robert Bigio, London researcher and maker
  • Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments
  • Kelly White, Mmus, USA
  • The late Paul Davies, flute dealer, UK.


As noted above, none of the regular published sources of information on old flutes have even mentioned Hudson.  Indeed, I believe this is the first time the serial case for pinning responsibility has been made and published.

But that's not to say the connection hadn't been suspected and even assumed - not by academics or writers, but by a figure almost as shadowy as Hudson himself.  The late Paul Davies, flute and concertina player and dealer, according to UK player Andrew Pickering, described Andrew's Hudson-keyed Boosey Pratten as a "Hudson model" many years ago.  That means he had to have made the link at least between Hudson, Pratten and Boosey's.  Whether that included the link back to Siccama we may never know, but probably can safely assume.  Paul probably handled more 19th century flutes than any person before or since, and no doubt this was the source of his copious understandings.

Once again, the value of interrogating extent instruments is illustrated.  Contemporary documents may be useful for corroboration, but they are usually incomprehensive, and sometimes purposefully misleading.  The only hard evidence exists in the flutes - we just have to find them and interpret it.


I had the pleasure of "hanging out" with Paul Davies for some weeks back in 1974 - an experience that was eye-opening in many directions.  A larger-than-life character, Paul deserves a page of his own

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