John Brinsmead, Piano Manufacturer

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John Brinsmead, 1836-1921

John Brinsmead, born in Devon in 1814, established himself in London as a piano maker in 1836. In 1861 his sons John and Edgar joined him and the firm became John Brinsmead and Sons in 1870. In London they exhibited a grand with an inverted escapement action. Also on the 6th March 1868 they took out a patent (No. 774) for an action for "Pianofortes." On the 18th March 1879 further modifications were made (Patent No. 1060), as the following account describes:

"The first part of my invention, shown in Figure 1 of the Drawings, relates to an improvement in the check action patented by me on the 6th March 1868, No. 774, and consists in the combination of a bevel (a) from the top of the jack or hopper (b) and a loop and spring (d), the loop being immediately over or above the notch (e) in the butt and also over the top of the jack, the spring being fixed in the bottom part of the jack, the other end of it being formed with a hook. The hook of the spring is passed into the loop (c), and the butt, loop, spring, and jack are thus connected with each other; the escapement is produced or effected by an arm (f) at right angles with the jack; it is also a part of the jack or in the same body; this arm when in action presses on a button (g) which throws the jack out of the notch in the tile butt, and by this means the escapement is effected. In this position (after escapement) the spring (d) is at its utmost tension, and with the smallest motion or relief of the key (h) the spring reinstates the jack in the notch of the butt ready to give another blow, called repeat."

(Click here to look at the drawings in Figure 1, Patent No. 1060.)

On the 21st of May, 1881, Thomas James Brinsmead patented a wrest pin so designed that the stress was horizontal (No. 2232). A perforated metal flange in the cast frame took octagonal nuts around a screw-headed bolt where the strings were attached. The tuner needed a special T-shaped tool. This type, when applied to uprights, was called a "top-tuner" as the pins were above the plank, pointing upwards instead of forwards. Over the years he made many improvements to this design. There is a fine example of this type of piano in the museum at the Royal National College for the Blind, Piano Tuning Department, Hereford, England. also one in Johannesburg South Africa

(Click here to look at the drawings in Figure 4.)

Brinsmead registered many patents besides these two. They were mainly improvements to the frame, soundboard, bridges and bracings. Two interesting patents shown in the diagrams below are related to dampers. The first one is an improved damper system for upright pianos ("birdcage" pianos, as the Americans like to call them) and grands. It is a type of sostenuto (Patent No. 1060).

(Click here to look at the drawings in Figure 3.)

The second one is a fly damper for grand pianos that I myself have never seen on any of the Brinsmead pianos that I have tuned. However, I can think of many modern grand pianos which could make use of this type of damping mechanism. (The patent is dated 20th August 1886, Patent No. 1060).

(Click here to look at the drawings in Figure 2.)

In 1883 John Brinsmead was awarded the right to place the distinction "Pianoforte Makers to HRH the Prince of Wales" on the company's pianos. In 1900 the firm became a Limited Company. At the end of 1919 there were rumours that Brinsmead's would have to close, the war having disrupted the work force. The workers went on strike, and by April production stopped at Brinsmead. The strike spread to other companies and the UK piano trade came to a halt. A compromise was reached in July, and the strike ended, but unfortunately Brinsmead's had been broken. Six months later a receiver was appointed.

At their height Brinsmead's were producing 2000 pianos a year. The firm was wound up the following year and bought by Cramer's and then re-launched in 1921. In 1964 Kemble acquired the right to manufacture pianos bearing the names of Brinsmead and Cramer.

Listed below are the premises occupied by Brinsmead's in London. It is not clear if all of the premises were manufacturing sites or just shops.

(From 1840)
40 Windmill Street, London.
1 Chenies Street, London.
Tottenham Court Road, London.
15 Charlotte Street, London.
Fitzroy Square, London.
1 Blackhorse Yard, London.
(1859) 1 Little Torrington Street, London.
(1864) 4 Wigmore street, London.
(1868) 32 Charlotte Street, London.
(1870) (John Brinsmead and Sons) A useful date
18 Wigmore Street, London.
Cavendish Square, London.
Grafton Road, London.
(1883) (Pianoforte Makers to HRH the Prince of Wales) A useful date
(Temporary Premises) 104 New Bond Street, London.
(1921) (Stanley Brinsmead and Co.) A useful date
7 and 2l Keens Yard, St. Paul's Road, London.
(1922) 45 Westbourne Road, London.
(1923) 38 and 40 Great College Street, London.

I did research work on this manufacturer while working at Hunts Pianos UK back in the early 80s, where we came into contact with large numbers of old Brinsmead pianos and other makes. Keys dated inside the pianos would indicate that numbers for 1858 are between 500 and 800.

According to Bill Kibby (England) who also did research work, "the dates from 1870 to 1876 are incorrect. If cross-checked with awards inside the piano, the numbers will be much lower." For example, 13361 corresponds to 1870 and 24744 to 1876.

Some photos of Brinsmead's pianos:

Brinsmead Pianos Serial Numbers

1869 - 13361
1872 - 14897
1875 - 24750
1876 - 27500
1877 - 29006
1880 - 31600
1885 - 33000
1890 - 36000
1895 - 41000
1900 - 45000
1905 - 54200
1910 - 64250
1915 - 73200
1920 - 79550
1925 - 81600
1930 - 82750
1935 - 83200
1940 - 84150
1945 - 84400
1950 - 84750
1952 - 85100
1954 - 85320
1955 - 85450
1956 - 85680
1956 - 85680
1957 - 85800
1958 - 85930
1959 - 86050

See Kemble's Pianos for Numbers from 1960.

Visit the family history site at, documenting the Brinsmead family from early times in Somerset to emigration to the Americas.

If you need more information on your piano please use our history forums to ask questions.

Barrie Heaton, MABPT, FIMIT, AEWVH (Dip.), MMPTA, CGLI (hon.) (USA)
Visit my website Piano Tuning in Lancashire.
© copyright 1999-2002.


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