Lutyens’s Piano

By Andrew Barnett

In November Bonhams sold at auction a Rare Semi-grand Broadwood Piano for £9,375 inc. premium. Alerted to the impending sale, the Trust’s Photographic Archive Committee approached Bonhams for copies of the photographs used in the sale particulars. Bonhams were extremely helpful in making available four colour images plus a copy of the catalogue, all of which have been added to the Archive. We are also grateful to Bonhams for allowing us to reproduce abridged details of their sale particulars and one of the images.

“A Rare Semi-grand Broadwood Piano from Orchards near Godalming, 1903 the oak panelled case supported on eight slender balustraded legs linked by stretchers, housing a Roller-Knotch action on a spruce soundboard. 150cm wide, 100cm high (closed), 195cm deep, movement numbered ‘47729’

One of Lutyens’s first private commissions came in 1897 from Mr and Mrs Chance, later Sir William and Lady Chance. Originally they had commissioned the architect Halsey Ricardo to design their home, however they were uninspired by his designs. Walking from their site, situated near Godalming, the Chances saw a house nearing completion – this house became known as Munstead Wood. The on-site architect delivering orders to the workmen met with their approval as did the house in front of them. Lady Chance later described Munstead Wood as “a revelation of unimagined beauty and charm”. Lutyens was approached and taken on as architect with a workshop set up for him at Munstead Wood. After three years, Lutyens had completed his design for a house that was to be “larger and a little grander and in the Surrey picturesque”. The gardens were planned by Gertrude Jekyll. ‘Orchards’ was completed in 1901 and appeared in the August issue of Country Life magazine that year.

During this time, the prolific Lutyens contributed to the British Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. It is here that he first exhibited the design for a piano for an ‘oak drawing room in the Jacobean style’. Lutyens described the task of designing the piano as ‘awfully difficult’. The piano was executed by John Broadwood & Sons, London, who produced a total of ten of these ‘Drawing-Room Grands’ between September 1903 and July 1907, at a price of 350 guineas (£375.50) each. Another example, with more of a shaped undertier, is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection.

The John Broadwood & Sons Porter’s Book records in some detail the delivery details of the ‘Orchards’ commission:

Serial No 47729 13th October 1903 Lady Chance, Orchards, Nr Godalming A No 2 Overstrung Semi Gd Pf a to c Made to Mr Lutyens’ design in Oak Case, panelled on stand with eight legs, to order. No 47729 for £108 net delivered to do. Charge carriage £2 10s. Michell. Memd. Done by Van on rail. Pad Carriers £1 10s. Railway fare 5s 8d. Horse hire 10s 6d. Allowance 3s 6d. Mrs Seymore Whalley Comm 10%”.

Copyright: Bonhams, London