While flutes by Alexander
Liddle don't pop up everyday, it seems flutes with keys stamped A·L do.
Are they the same people, as has been supposed, but I don't think proven?
Did Liddle make these flutes, or just sell the keys to the makers who
did? How can we find out?
The purpose of this page in
the first instance is to act as a collection and sorting agency for
information about Liddle, his flutes and other instruments, keys marked A·L
and anything else we feel is relevant. Already a useful picture emerges....
As usual, we turn to the New
Langwill Index as our starting point. It tells us that the name
Liddle flourished as a woodwind maker between 1847 and 1879. He
was listed in the directories as a "Wind Musical Instrument Maker".
There is a suggestion that Liddle might have died by in 1873, as the
listing was taken over by what is assumed to have been his widow and
son, as shown below:
||24 Chenies St. Tottenham Court Rd.
||35 Devonshire St. Queen Square
||Mrs Elizabeth Liddle & Son
The NLI listing gives two marks for Liddle, but doesn't tell us how
they were used:
Note no decimal point between A and L. We don't know if that's
an oversight or maybe a distinction of importance.
The NLI also mentions two extant instruments - a pitch pipe,
unspecified, and an 8-key flute, in the Händel-haus in Halle. It's
not a lot to go on!
So, what is this pitchpipe, anyway? It's a simple tuning device
for tuning other instruments to, or for giving a note to choristers.
As you can see, it is based on a recorder head, with the bottom plugged.
You can draw out the plug to give a number of notes, in the
manner of a Swanee whistle, but with calibrations. The
advertisement below, from the Musical Times, March 1, 1863, tells us how
The one illustrated above is by Liddle and is one of two
held by the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in NY. They date it as 1854-73, which suggests it
must bear the Devonshire St. address.
The image below
is a Liddle pitch pipe that came up for auction in September 2013,
at Gardiner Houlgate, in Bath, UK. See their current catalogs
The auction house describes it as: Rosewood pitch pipe by Alexander
Liddle, London, third quarter 19th century, the double telescopic
slide of brass graduated between B and C, stamped Liddle, Inventor,
35, Devonshire St., Queen Sque., London, 827, length (closed) 7
My thanks to UK player and restorer,
Jem Hammond for alerting me to this lovely example.
Some personal information
MarkP from Chiff & Fipple,
who drew our attention to the advertisement above, has also done some
searching for background information on Liddle...
"Alexander Liddle is
listed in the 1871 Census, aged 62, a 'Wind Musical Instrument
Maker', born in Blackfriars in 1809. It seems most likely that
he married Elizabeth Limbrick in 1831, Old Church, Saint Pancras
(?) He's not listed in 1881 (so therefore presumed dead?).
Death of an Alexander Liddle (aged 64) was registered at Gravesend
in Kent in 1873.
An insurance policy
record held at Guildhall Library shows:
Dated: 20 July 1831
Insured: Alexander Liddle, 6 Eve Terrace St Pancras, gent
Other property or occupiers: Limbrick
Interesting that he's
listed as 'gent'. At that time the distinction would be significant.
He'd be 22 years old, unless it's his father or I've mixed up which
Alexander married Elizabeth Limbrick."
Patrick Dunn reports a mention of Liddle at p49 of
Ciaran Carson's book "Last Nights Fun" .
It involves a flute marked: D'Almaine / late / Goulding
and D'Almaine / Soho Square / London. The mark AL appears under
the touch of the C sharp key. Carson suggests Liddle spent
sometime with D'Almaine before setting up his own shop and gives the
following later addresses for Liddle:
Note these are very similar to the NLI entries, although
the NLI makes no connection between D'Almaine and Liddle. It gives
D'Almaine's dates as 1834-1867, although D'Almaine himself retired in
Putting the dates in context
To put Liddle's period as an
independent maker (1847 to 1879) in context, by 1847, Boehm, Ward,
Clinton and Siccama were all busy beavering away with ideas for the next
generation of flutes. Soon after, Pratten would join the fray.
So, 8-key flutes were old-fashioned, and yet plenty of makers continued
to make them, including major makers like Rudall Carte and Boosey who
also offered the later styles. Liddle seems to have been one who
stuck with the old style. One imagines that, as the new flute
styles became more accepted, it must have become harder for makers of
the old style to remain viable. Darwin teaches us that the most
flexible have the advantage when the going gets tough. A
multiplicity of outlets would seem an advantage under these
First contact - working for Wood and Ivy
We serendipitously stumble across Liddle,
working for the partnership of Wood & Ivy in 1845, only because of a theft
carried out at their premises by a former employee, Edmond Hamer.
This account from proceedings published on the
Old Bailey On Line website:
EDMOND HAMER, Theft >
theft from a specified place, 3rd February 1845.
Reference Number: t18450203-446
Offence: Theft > theft from a specified place
Verdict: Guilty > no_subcategory
Punishment: Imprisonment > no_subcategory
446. EDMOND HAMER was indicted for feloniously breaking and entering
the shop of George Wood and another, on the 30th of Oct., at St.
Giles-in-the-fields, and stealing therein 2 flageolets, value 8l.; 3
clarionets, 6l.; and 24 flutes, 2l. 8s.; their property.
MR. CROUGH conducted the Prosecution.
GEORGE WOOD . I am in partnership with Mr. Ivy; our workshop is in
St. Giles's churchyard; the house and front of the shop is in
Compton-street, Soho; there is a yard leading to the back premises;
there is do other communication to the workshops, except through the
yard; St. Giles's churchyard is surrounded by a railing. On the
morning of the 31st of Oct., my attention was called to the state of
the premises, by a person named Liddle—I went to the workshops—there
is a window looking into the churchyard, with iron bars to it—I
found one bar wrenched off, and the sash had been opened—it is a
sliding window—I looked at the fastenings myself the evening
before—they are always kept fastened—that window is about the height
of a man from the ground—there was no other part of the premises
broken that night—I missed a flageolet and other instruments—the
prisoner had been apprenticed to me, and had quitted my service
about three years since—this flageolet produced was sent to me from
Rye, in Kent, to repair—I gave it to Liddle to repair owing to some
communication I had with a person named Thorn I purchased a
clarionet from him for 2l. 1s.—it was one that I had lost on the
morning of the 31st—I bought it to enable me to produce it, and
likewise to return it to the party I had it from—it is worth six
guineas—this produced is it, and this is the flageolet I gave to
Liddle the night previous—I am quite sure of it.
ALEXANDER LIDDLE . I am journeyman to Mr. Wood—when I came on the
morning of the 31st of Oct., the first thing I missed was this
flageolet, which I had placed in a drawer, the last thing over
night, beside a clarionet—I missed various flutes from my own board,
and several flageolets from the other benches—there must have been
twenty instruments missed, perhaps forty, clarionets, flageolets,
and flutes—I am quite positive this is one that I missed that
morning—it was one of my finishing originally, and I had to do a
trifle to it—I saw the window bar had been wrenched off.
JAMES HENRY STEWART . I am a pawnbroker. On the 7th of Nov., 1844,
the prisoner pawned this clarionet with me, in the name of John
PRISONER. I was not in London at the time.
ALEXANDER LIDDLE re-examined. I know this instrument, it stood on
the floor behind the stool I sat on to work, and it was there at
eight o'clock, on the night of the 30th of Oct., when I left—I am
positive of it, because it was a repair—it has a new joint to it,
and is marked on the top with the letters "P O H L," part of the
gentleman's name, Pohlman—the value of it is 35s.—it had been
originally made by us—the letters have been erased—you can see where
they have been scratched out—there is no mark of mine on it, but I
am positive of it, from the design.
HENRY WATSON . I am in the employ of Mr. Neat, a pawnbroker, in
Duke-street, Manchester-square. On the 31st of Oct., this flageolet
which I have produced was pawned at our shop by the prisoner, for
1l. 5s.—I am quite sure of his identity—his appearance is rather
remarkable, and I speak with confidence—I should say it was between
six and seven o'clock, about dusk.
PRISONER. I was at the witness's place, but there was a young man
with me, named Scarlett, to whom the flageolet belonged; I deny all
knowledge of taking it.
WITNESS. There was no one
in the shop but the prisoner—he gave the name of John Scarlett—he
called on me again, to redeem it, in company with another person,
and I then recognised him as the person.
PRISONER. I deny that; I did not redeem it; this witness did not
give it to me when it was redeemed, it was an elderly man.
WITNESS. I do not say
that I delivered the property to him—he came with two musicians, to
sell the duplicate of this flageolet, a few days after it was
pledged—I am certain he is the man that pledged it, and that nobody
else was there.
MR. WOOD re-examined. The value of this clarionet is about 1l. 18s.,
and this flageolet about six guineas—my whole loss amounts to
between 20l. and 30l.
PRISONER'S DEFENCE. I deny the charge; I did not commit any felony;
I have been in the habit of dealing in instruments, and pledging for
a master of mine, constantly; I know nothing of the robbery; it is
five years since I was in Mr. Wood's service; I am positive another
party was with me when the flageolet was pledged, though I cannot
GUILTY . Aged 26.— Confined Eighteen Months.—Two Weeks Solitary.
Cost of the property
The valuations given in the
trail are confusing. The indictment mentions 2 flageolets, value
8l.; 3 clarionets, 6l.; and 24 flutes, 2l. 8s. If we are to take
those figures at face value, we are seeing that:
a clarinet at ten times the value of a flute, and a flageolet
(essentially a keyed tin whistle made in wood) at 20 times. By
that time a clarinet might have had more keys than an 8-key flute, but I
can't see why a flageolet at half the length and with no more keys would
cost 20 times more. Further, we see in the advertisement above
that a simple Tuning Slide (Pitch pipe) retails for about 4 shillings.
not immediately apparent, from the values given above, how the loss to
Mr Wood amounted to between ₤20 and ₤30. I get ₤16-8-0, unless
those flutes are worth more than 2 bob each. If we assign a value
of ₤0-10-0 (ten shillings) per flute, and add the flageolets and
clarionets, we get ₤26, within the range of ₤20 and ₤30.
To put the
loss into a current context, ₤26 would now be worth
using the retail price index method
using the GDP deflator method
£17,900 using the average earnings method
£29,500 using the per capita GDP method
£65,900 using the share of GDP method
If we take
the £17,900 figure (USD $28,355) on the basis that it is in the middle
of the range, and also represents the attraction to the defendant well,
would we expect that a conviction for stealing that amount these days
would lead to a sentence of 18 months jail including 2 weeks in solitary
confinement? A quick look on the Web suggests that probably
depends on where you live, and possibly then on your skin colour!
Other observations arising
from the above
Liddle's description "I am
journeyman to Mr. Wood", suggests Liddle had previously completed a
formal apprenticeship; indeed it would be quite possible that it might
have been with Wood or one of his associates or predecessors.
Interesting to note when
Liddle tossed it in for the night - "eight o'clock, on the night of the 30th of Oct.,
when I left". Unfortunately he doesn't mention when he came in the
next morning, but obviously early enough to be the first to discover the
break-in. Long working hours in those days!
Liddle also echoes words that
came up in the matter of Rose vs Camp:
"there is no mark of mine on it". Clearly, employees at
the time somehow discretely marked the instruments they worked on, or
these marks were erased subsequently. Whether we
will ever identify these marks is an interesting question.
Another possible career path for Liddle?
Ciaron Carson suggested that perhaps Liddle had worked
with D'Almaine for some time previous to coming out as an independent
maker. At this time we have no evidence for this, but no evidence
against it either.
In the Old Bailey session above, we saw that, in 1845,
Liddle was working, as a journeyman, for George Wood, of Wood & Ivy
fame. The "journeyman" status suggests that Liddle has completed
an apprenticeship and is thus fully educated in a trade, although I'm
not aware if formal apprenticeships were available for flute or
key-makers. It may well be that a broader classification, such as
turning or silver-smithing, was employed to deal with boutique
activities like flute making and key-making.
We know Liddle was born in 1809, and a typical
apprenticeship of the time started around year 14 and lasted about 7
years. That would span the period 1823 to 1830. That puts
D'Almaine (1834 to 1847) a bit on the late side as a possible master for
an apprentice. Also, D'Almaine was known as a music seller,
publisher and dealer more than a musical instrument maker. In that
arena, he was mostly identified with pianos. D'Almaine's previous
partner, Goulding is perhaps a better bet, covering the period c1786 to
1834, but again, he seems to have been more the dealer than the maker.
But another possible career path presents itself.
When we look closely at George Wood, we find his dates, 1832 - 1836, are
also on the late side as a master for Liddle. But when we look to
his predecessor, his father James, or Jas, the possibilities become much
more interesting. The NLI tells us that Jas. flourished between
c1799 and 1832, covering the period when Liddle was likely starting out.
Further, in 1804, Jas. was the successor to Hale.
John Hale is of immense interest. Firstly, he too was a key-maker,
to some of the biggest names in his era - Astor, Cahusac, Collier,
Kusder, G. Miller, and Proser. His key-stamp was I.H.
Secondly, some of his own flutes bore the mark: Hale / London / Sold by
Goulding & Co, thus establishing a clear link with Goulding.
Indeed in 1810, he became the Wood in Goulding,
D'Almaine, Potter & Wood and then in Goulding & Wood. Rendell,
writing about the clarinet, mentions that Jas. was "a considerable maker
for the trade, and especially for Goulding and D'Almaine...".
In 1821, his mark that had been "Jas. Wood Late of I.
Hale" became "Jas. Wood & Son", the son being the same George Wood that
appeared in the Old Bailey session with Liddle and was the partner of
Interestingly, George Wood took a different path to
becoming a woodwind maker. He apprenticed with brass instrument
maker Thomas Percival, before joining his father, "free by servitude of
the Tallowchandler's Company".
In 1832, George succeeds his father and is joined by Ivy
in 1837. That partnership continues to 1847, just two years after
the break-in where we first met Liddle. Perhaps significantly, it
is also in 1847 that Liddle first lists as an independent maker.
Spit it out....
So, what am I suggesting? That perhaps Liddle
apprenticed with Jas Wood, back around 1823, and stayed on to work as a
journeyman for Jas and later George Wood. As Jas was the successor
to Hale, the key and flute maker, it's reasonable to assume that Jas
might have carried on both activities and passed them on to Liddle.
Liddle would also have seen Jas as "a considerable maker for the trade"
(i.e. selling through dealers) and this might have been his reason to
proceed the same way. Jas' connection with Goulding and D'Almaine
could perhaps explain why a key marked A.L has ended up on a flute by
that company (Carson). We know from the Old Bailey session above
that Liddle was still with Wood & Ivy in 1845. Finally, when Wood
& Ivy folded 2 years later, this was the opportunity or the necessity
for Liddle to go independent, as a keymaker, flutemaker and flutemaker
to the trade. Perhaps it was Hale's habit of stamping his initials
under the keys he made that caused Liddle to do the same? And just
as Hale had found Goulding a useful outlet for his flutes, perhaps
Liddle found the same in Metzler?
All speculation at this time, of course. Hopefully
we will be able to turn up more information that will bring Mr. Liddle
out of the shadows.
I haven't been able to find
an example of a Flageolet marked Liddle. Please contact me if you
have one! In the meantime, here's an image of a flageolet made by
Butler, in Dublin or London, from about the same era. This one,
which also has a piccolo head, sold by
(click on the link to visit their site).
You can hear and see William
Waterhouse, editor of the New Langwill Index,
playing a flageolet
A wooden clarinet, with the
mouthpiece stamped Liddle, London, having ivory rings and five metal
keys, turned up at the auction rooms of Greenslade Taylor Hunt.
Again, please contact me if you know of a clarinet stamped Liddle.
Flute crime rampant!
It might seem surprising that
mention of the flute should come up more than once in the Old Bailey
sessions. That thought prompted me to do an analysis of how many
times cases involving flutes came up in each 10-year period. While
hardly a scientific measure, it certainly confirms the explosive growth
in interest in the flute in the first half 19th century.
If it's worth playing, Guv'nor, it's worth nicking....
A Rudall Carte Connection
Dr. Robert Bigio, London
maker and researcher, and world expert on Rudall Carte, advises:
supplied simple-system flutes to Rudall, Rose & Carte, who, from the
late 1860s (and possibly before), bought in most of these
instruments from other makers. The majority were bought in from
Wylde, but some came from Liddle and some from other makers.
The mark-up on these flutes was huge: their cheapest 4 guinea flute
(4 pounds 4 shillings) was bought in from Wylde for 1 pound 8
shillings. (One pound equals 20 shillings.)
[Compare the value from Wylde
to the value quoted in the trial above, 28 shillings
compared to two.]
A Boosey Connection
The assumption in the NLI
that Liddle might have died in 1873 is drawn into some doubt by the
Boosey factory records, as reported and interpreted by Kelly White in
her 2002 University of Edinburgh thesis. Kelly reports:
In 1879, eight flutes
and twenty-six piccolos were purchased from Alexander Liddle, an
instrument maker in London (fl1847-1879) These purchases were
noted in the 'workman' column of the records as "Liddle (outdoors)".
In 1881 and 1882, Liddle appears in the Boosey records as a workman
(noted as "Liddle"). George Howarth was apprenticed to
Alexander Liddle, prior to both working for Boosey & Co.
Howarth worked as a workman for Boosey & Co from 1879 to 1892.
In 1894 he established a manufacturing firm which he held until his
death in 1933. This history of buying instruments from Liddle
and then his appearance in the records as a workman suggests that
Boosey & Co could have bought out Liddle's business. This is
supported by the fact that Liddle's apprentice, Howarth, took up
with Boosey & Co at the same time as Liddle.
It is of course possible that
it was Liddle's son who went on to a career with Booseys, and Liddle's
widow and son that supplied the "Liddle (outdoors)" flutes to Booseys.
More work is needed to confirm this either way. Interesting to
note that our Mr. Liddle would be 72 by this time.
Today's leading British oboe
company, Howarth of London, also notes the
George Howarth and Liddle. Robert Bigio adds: I knew Jim
Howarth, son of George (and brother of Tom, who set up T.W. Howarth, the
oboe makers). Jim was born in 1900. I remember him telling me that his
father had worked for Liddle.
Extant Liddle flutes
Flutes with Liddle stamped
under the keys are pretty common, but flutes actually marked Liddle are
not. We're very fortunate to have these images of a flute
definitely by Liddle, and with A·L definitely stamped under the keys,
thus confirming the link. Californian player and collector, Dave
Ogden, kindly supplied the images. He says of the flute:
It has large
fingerholes with smoothing to the top of the right hand area [in the
manner of Nicholson], simple flat/raised/flat bands, all original
including crown and keywork. It’s stamped Liddle (in script) / 35
Devonshire St. / Queen Sque / London on the 1st body joint, and
Liddle / London on the head, no other stampings. The barrel has an
inlaid silver oval cartouche, un-engraved. In the original fitted
The two images below neatly supply the verification
we've been looking for; the flute marked Liddle, and the keys boldly
punched with A·L.
Apart from the flute
mentioned in the NLI, at the Händel-haus, the only other example of a confirmable Liddle flute
jumping out at me at the moment is in the
DCM. As you'll see from the link, it's a bit unusual, in that
it is left-handed, and modified to suit a partial amputee. We'll
have to keep looking!
Flute Key Makers
Were there other key makers?
A Google search gives these hits:
Lloyd, flute key maker, 2
Broadway, Westminster, (Insurance Policy, 1832)
JANE LLOYD: I live at No. 9,
Plumtree-court, my husband is a flute-key maker. (Old Bailey, 1819)
Conceivably the same family as above.
Richard ARNOTT b. ca 1803
London (a native of St Lukes, at some point) - had a wife Sarah, when
convicted and transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1827.
Flute key maker, and later a chairmaker. (From a genealogy site).
Mrs Cook. From the
trial of William Camp we glean this
tidbit:----JENKINSON. I am in the employ of Mrs. Cook, of Vauxhall—she
makes silver keys for the prosecutor (Rose) —I made these four keys.
To whom we should add John Hale,
1785-1804, noted in the NLI as a supplier of keys to other makers. His
mark is given as IH.
It's perhaps a bit of a concern
to find a flute key maker (Lloyd) from the same period with the same family
name initial as Liddle. It would be good to find Mr Lloyd's given name
to put any conflict beyond doubt!
Reported A·L marks
Our own study of
marks under flute keys has turned up quite a few
flute with keys stamped A·L on the underside:
|D'Almaine & Co
||Ciaron Carson "Last Night's Fun"
|Keith Prowse & Co
||Ebay sale info
|Metzler & Co
|Metzler & Co
||Mark Saul/Terry McGee
|Metzler & Co
|Metzler & Co (engraved "1857")
|Metzler & Co
||Latticino (from Chiff & Fipple)
|Metzler & Co (LH Bb band flute)
|| Patrick Dunn
|Moon (cylindrical 8-key)
|Unstamped (longbody style)
|Wainwright / Sydney*
So, questions in front of us include:
- did Liddle make these keys (i.e, is he A·L) and supply some or all
of the makers whose names appear on the flutes, or
- is A·L the flute key maker Lloyd?
- did Liddle make the flutes and the names are those of dealers, not
- was the Liddle who worked for Boosey Alexander or his son, or some
- at least two flutes, asterisked in the list above, were made before
Liddle went out on his own. Assuming these were made by Liddle,
was he moonlighting? Note also that Wood & Ivy, Liddle's employer
just before he went independent are not listed. Is that because
Wood & Ivy had someone else make the keys on their flutes (perhaps
another member of staff), or did they not want them stamped?
We'd really like to include more examples of extant Liddle
flutes, so, if you can help, do get in touch!