Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Chappell Pianos

1811, or there abouts, was the start of the Chappell story and at the time the main focus was music publishing. Selling sheet music was very good business in the 19th century - the piano was very popular in polite society and the hunger for more music insatiable. By 1826, Samuel Chappell moved his publishing house to 50 New Bond Street but he died in 1834 leaving his widow in charge of the business.
It was Mrs. Emily Chappell who in about 1840 decided to look into piano manufacture. She had a small factory built off the Charing Cross Road. A Mr. Smith was given the job of organising the new premises, hiring and firing, buying materials and building pianos to meet the growing demand. Immediately the pianos were finished they were taken off to be sold by Chappell and Co. Very sadly, only 20 years later, a devastating fire destroyed the factory, production there ceased and nothing more is heard of Mr. Smith.

Around 1865 a new factory was built in Camden Town. For nearly 30 years, the new premises were managed and run by a Mugridge & Ulph but in 1893 a Reinhold Friedrich Glandt was appointed manager and by 1900 the piano making part of the business was renamed Chappell Piano Company Ltd. R.F. Glandt, while remaining factory manager became a director.

The first World War took the lives of many of the skilled Chappell workers - a loss that understandably dampened spirits at the works. By the 1920s, average weekly production was about 20 pianos and in the 1930s the average was 16. 

From 1942 until 1947, because of the war, production was reduced to roughly 2 piano per week! The first decade or so of the post war period production crept up to about 6 per week. Businesses thrive on big numbers so these dwindling figures paint a picture of gloomy decline!

Perhaps part of the reason is that Chappell were primarily a music publishing business. Piano manufacturing was deemed very much, a lower priority. In the 1970s, Chappells was taken over by Philips Electrical who took the immediate decision permanently to turn off the 'lights' at the piano factory.  

©Steve Burden

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