For more information about your piano on any advice on pianos
you can ask on our Piano History Forum

John Hopkinson started his business life in Leeds in 1835 as a music publisher. He moved to London in 1845, and in 1846 established Hopkinson Pianos. However, on his pianos it says "Est. in 1835," using the date from his beginning in Leeds as a music publisher. His first premises in London were at 70 Mortimer Street. His activities and locations after that are listed below.

  • 1849 - He moved to 27 Oxford Street and 4 - 5 Little Howland Street.
  • 1851 - Opened a shop at 18 Soho Square, Phoenix Street, and Little Stone Street, Soho.
  • 1855 - A new manufacturing plant was set up at Diana Place, New Road.
  • 1860 - Opened a shop at 235 Regents Street.
  • 1863 - Opened a shop at 6 Conduit Street.
  • 1869 - Opened shops at 16 Hanover Street and 235 Regent Street.
  • 1869 - A new manufacturing place at 44 Fitzroy Road.
  • 1876 - Opened shops at 235 and 246 Regent Street.
  • 1882 - Opened a shop at 95 New Bond Street.
  • 1892 - Opened a shop at 34-36 Margaret Street.
  • 1898 - Added 102 Brompton Road.
  • 1900 - Opened shops at 84 New Bond Street and 241 High Road Kilburn.
  • 1963 - Production of pianos moves to the Paxton Piano Works, Paxton Road, London (Zenders).


The year 1851 is generally considered to mark the end of the classical piano building period and the beginning of the modern one. In that year, Hopkinson introduced a repetition action (patent number 13,652) in which by manipulating a key, "a hammer could strike so rapidly that it imitated the tremolo of a singer." The advertising prospectus was as follows:

Hopkinson New Patent and Tremolo Check Action for Grand Pianoforte

"...a valuable improvement, which also shows the accurate and sensitive character of the mechanism is that the 'Tremolo' (similar in effect to that produced by the violinist or the voice of a finished singer) may be produced by this action upon the pianoforte."




His pianos won the following awards:
  • London, 1851
  • London, 1862
  • Johannesburg, 1877
  • Paris, 1876
  • Melbourne, 1889
  • Grand Prix, Paris, 1810


Hopkinson brought out three patents, one of which was not published: :



Hopkinson was one of the first to advertise a "Boudoir Piano." The term has meant various things. Steinway, for example, called their 6'2" grand by that name. Probably a little later than this Broadwood called their 7'6" grand a short grand and the 8'2" the full grand.

In 1843 the London firm of Rogers was founded. In 1911 George Rogers and J. & J. Hopkinson formed a business association. This was the start of a collaboration between two small manufacturers, similar to the partnerships we see today between the big manufacturers.

Hopkinson retired from business in 1869 and died on the 4th of April 1886. From this date Hopkinson Pianos went back into music publishing, which was run alongside the piano making enterprise. The music publishing side of the business lasted until 1895.

In 1856 Hopkinson's was struck by a fire, but both Broadwood and Collard provided some help to bring them back up to production.

Because of mechanisation and cut-price competition, standards of workmanship in the piano industry were declining fast. Hopkinsons realized this and in 1912 he devised an apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with London Technical College; the course was called "piano-making."

In 1923 the MD George Hermitage of Hopkinson died and the Rogers piano company, which had business ties with Hopkinson, bought the Hopkinson piano name and factory.

In 1963 Sidney Zender Ltd. acquired the trade names, manufacturing rights, all sales and matters of a technical nature of George Rogers and J. & J. Hopkinson. A new company was formed under the name of George Rogers & Sons, Tottenham Ltd., as distinct from the Zender Company.

The co-director and manager of the new company was H. B. Lowry, born in Berlin, the son of the owner of the Steinberg Company. He left Berlin in 1936, worked in the trade in England and joined the army in 1940, becoming one of the first British soldiers to reach Berlin. Rogers became agents for the Steinberg Company.

In the summer of 1980 Zender and Rogers ceased manufacture and it seems that the Zenders name was taken over by Barratt and Robinson.

In 1984 Bentley's began making Hopkinson, Rogers, and Zender pianos.

In 1987 Zender was completely taken over by Bentley's, which included Rogers Pianos and Hopkinson.

In 1993 Bentley's were acquired by Welmars.

On 14 July 2000 there was an official press release on the merger between Whelpdale Maxwell & Cod Ltd., London, and Woodchester Pianos, Stroud. The new company will be known as "The British Piano Manufacturing Company Ltd.," and would make Welmar, Knight, Broadwood, Bentley, Zender, Rogers, Hopkinson and Woodchester pianos.

On Monday, 7th April,2003 the British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. went into liquidation. Production of Welmar, Knight, Broadwood, Bentley, Zender, Rogers, Hopkinson and Woodchester pianos stopped.


Barrie Heaton, MABPT, FIMIT, AEWVH (Dip.), MMPTA, CGLI (hon.) (USA)
© copyright 2007.

Bibliography












A.D. 1851 No. 13,652

Pianofortes

HOPKINSON SPECIFICATION. TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, I, John HOPKINSON, of Oxford Street, in the County of Middlesex, Pianoforte Manufacturer, send greeting. WHEREAS Her present most Excellent Majesty Queen Victoria, by Her Royal Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date at Westminster, the Third day of June, (One thousand eight hundred and fifty-one,) in the fourteenth year of Her reign, did, for Herself, Her heirs and successors, give and grant unto me, the said John Hopkinson, my executors, administrators, and assigns, Her especial license, full power, sole privilege and authority, that I, the said John Hopkinson, my executors, administrators, and assigns, or such others as I, the said John Hopkinson, my executors, administrators, and assigns, should at any time agree with, and no others, from time to time and at all times during the term of years therein expressed, should and lawfully might make, use, exercise, and vend, within England, Wales, and the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Invention of Improvements in PIANOFORTES, communicated to me by a certain foreigner; in which said Letters Patent is contained a proviso, that I, the said John Hopkinson, shall cause a Particular description of the nature of the said Invention, and in what manner the same is to be performed, by an instrument in writing under my hand and seal, to be inrolled in Her Majesty's High Court of Chancery within six calendar months next and immediately after the date of the said in part recited Letters Patent, as in and by the same, reference being thereunto had, will more fully and at large appear.

NOW KNOW YE, that in compliance with the said proviso, I, the said John Hopkinson, do hereby declare that the nature of the said Invention, and the manner in which the same is to be performed, are fully described and ascertained in and by the following statement thereof, reference being had to the Drawings hereunto annexed, and to the figures and letters marked thereon, that is to say, My Invention consists of certain means of combining mechanical parts, in order to communicate motion from the keys to the hammers of pianofortes, and of clothing the hammers with sponge.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS.

Fig 1 | Fig 2 |Fig 3 |Fig 4 | Fig 5 |Fig 6 | Fig 7

Figure 1 shows a side view of parts combined according to the Invention. (a) is the hammer which is clothed with sponge, that material being found to be better suitable for such purposes than felt or leather. The hammer (a), which is clothed with sponge, is put in motion by means of the instrument (b), which it will be seen is composed of two parts, and these parts are jointed at (b1) so as to allow of movement in the length; (c) is a stop (faced with cloth or other suitable material, to prevent noise,) which does not permit the arm or instrument bending but in one direction. The arm or instrument (b) acts on the hammer, either by a pin joint, as shown at (b2) Fig. 1, or by means such as are shown at Figure 2, or otherwise. Figure 1 shows the instrument (b) combined with other apparatus for relieving and checking the hammer, by which arrangement or combination of parts greater power, quicker repetition and certainty of the blow, with a check quick and efficient, are obtained. Figures 3, 4, and 5 show a modification of the combination wherein the check and relieving apparatus are somewhat altered and simplified, the arm (b) being pin jointed, as in the previous apparatus, the stop (c) being in this case fixed in an upright on the key. Figures 3, 4, and 5 show the parts of a like arrangement in three different positions. Figure 6 shows a similar combination, wherein the instrument (b), in place of acting directly on the hammer, acts on an interposed lever.

Figure 7 shows a modification of the combined apparatus, so as to render it suitable for upright pianofortes. I would remark that I do not confine myself to the details as herein given, so that the same may be varied so long as the peculiar character of the Invention is retained. What I claim is the combining mechanical parts herein described, in order to communicate motion from the keys to the hammers of pianofortes, and the clothing the hammers with sponge.

In witness whereof, I, the said John Hopkinson, have hereunto set my hand and seal, this Third day of December, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty-one.

JOHN HOPKINSON. A.D. 1851. No. 13,652.





A.D. 1865, 7th July No. 1802.

Organs, Harmoniums

LETTERS patent to John Hopkinson, of Regent Street, in the County of Middlesex, Pianoforte Manufacturer, and John Whitelock, of 6, Commercial Street, Leeds, in the County of York, for the Invention of IMPROVEMENTS IN ORGANS, HARMONIUMS, AND OTHER SIMILAR KEYED WIND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Sealed the 28th December 1865, and dated the 7th July 1865, PROVISIONAL SPECIFICATION left by the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock at the Office of the Commissioner of patents, with their Petition, on the 7th July 1865.

We, JOHN HOPKINSON, of Regent Street, in the County of Middlesex, Pianoforte Manufacturer, and JOHN WHITELOCK of 6, Commercial Street, Leeds, in the County of York, do hereby declare the nature of the said Invention for "IMPROVEMENTS IN ORGANS HARMONIUMS, AND OTHER SIMILAR KEYED WIND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS," to be as follows:

The object of the improvements is to give facility in playing upon the keys of organs, harmoniums, and such like keyed wind musical instruments by obtaining two distinct sensible or definite touches to each key, and by the pressure of the secondary touch to give prominence to the melody or any part of the harmony or the bass at the will of the player. For this purpose the keys may be each arranged to act in the ordinary way upon one or more valves when pressed down to a stop sensible and definite to the touch, and, then by further pressure to open another or other valves. These stops we form yielding or elastic, and by preference of India-rubber prepared or vulcanized such as will act as to stop sensibly to the touch, and which will yet admit when increased force or pressure is applied thereto of the key being further depressed to open another or other valves. Each of the keys acts upon the valves, by levers which may be connected or disconnected at pleasure; the keys either at the first or secondary touch may, when desired, be caused to act simultaneously on any number of valves by the use of connectors drawn into position between the keys and levers to the valves. These connectors may be sustained on links forming each a parallel motion, or they may be positioned between the parts or may be otherwise capable of moving in drawn therefrom; the movements to these connectors may externally have the appearance of draw stops." SPECIFICATION in pursuance of the conditions of the Letters patent, filed by the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock in the Great Seal patent Office on the 6th January 1866.

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, we, JOHN HOPKINSON, of Regent Street, in the County of Middlesex, Pianoforte Manufacturer, and JOHN WHITELOCK, of 6, Commercial Street, Leeds, in the 20 County of York, send greeting.

WHEREAS Her most Excellent Majesty Queen Victoria, by Her Letters patent, bearing date the Seventh day of July, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, in the twenty-ninth year of Her reign did, for Herself, Her heirs and successors, give and grant unto us, the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock, Her special licence that we, the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock, our executors, administrators, and assigns, or such others as we, the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock, our executors, administrators, and assigns, should at any time agree with, and no others, from time to time and at all times thereafter during the term therein expressed, should and lawfully might make, use, exercise, and tend, within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Channel Islands, and Isle of Man, an Invention for 11 Improvements IN ORGANS, HARMONIUMS, AND OTHER SIMILAR KEYED WIND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS," upon the condition (amongst others) that we, the said John Hopkinson and John Whitelock, our executors or administrators, by an instrument in writing under our or their hands and seals or under the hand and seal of one of us or them, should particularly describe and ascertain the nature of the said Invention, and in what manner the same was to be performed, and cause the same to be filed in the Great Seal patent Office within six calendar months on this next and immediately after the date of the said Letters patent.

NOW KNOW YE, that I, the said John Hopkinson, do hereby declare the nature of the said Invention, and in what manner the same is to be performed, to be particularly described and ascertained in and by the following statement thereof, that is to say: (A) The object of the improvements is to obtain two distinct or definite touches to each of the keys of organs, harmoniums, and such like keyed wind musical instruments so as to give facility in playing upon such musical instruments, and by the pressure of the secondary touch to give prominence and additional power to the melody or any part of the harmony, or the bass, or to any single note at the will of the player, and thus to produce by the use of the first touch the "piano" or soft tones, and by the use of the secondary touch the "forte" or louder tones. And in order that the Invention may be fully understood, we will, by the aid of the accompanying Drawings, proceed to describe the means pursued by us.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS.

Figure 1 shows by a sectional view one of the keys of a harmonium with some of the parts immediately connected therewith to illustrate the invention: Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 show views of some of the parts separately.

(a) is one of the keys which at the end (a1) is formed to receive one end of the piece of steel or other elastic metal (b) as a spring hinge; the other end of piece of metal is held in the portion of framing (c); (d) and e are valves covering openings (f) and (g) to reeds, the construction of which being well understood, we have not thought it necessary to show them in the Drawings.

The valve (d) is connected to one end of the lever (h), which turns upon an axis (g) the motion (h1) being carried by the fixed bar (h3), and at its end (h3) is in position to be acted upon by the bar (i), one end of which is by pin joint connected to the arm (i1) from the rocking bar (i2) whilst the other end of it is connected by pin joint to, the sticker (i3) which is guided at its other end by passing through a pin hole provided for it in the stationary bar or plate (j). The valve (e) is in like manner connected to one end of the lever (k) which turns upon an axis (k1) in the fixed bar (k2) and the other end of this lever (k) is in position to be acted upon by the bar (i), one end of which is by pin joint connected to one end of the arm (i1) affixed to the rocking bar (i2), whilst the other end of the arm (i) is by pin joint connected to one end of the sticker (m), the upper end of which is guided by passing through a hole formed for it in the fixed bar or plate (n). The key (a) on being depressed in ordinary playing will come down upon the elastic stop (o), which is by preference formed of India-rubber (vulcanized or otherwise prepared), but it may be formed of other suitable material which will admit of compression and a further depression of the outer end of the key (a), when that key is forcibly acted upon by the finger and of expansion or return to its normal state on the withdrawal of such extra pressure from the key. As the parts are shown by the Drawings, pressure upon the outer end of the key to bring it down to the elastic stop (o) will act on the sticker (i3) to open the valve (d), and a further depression of the outer end of the key (a) to compress the elastic stop (o) will act on the sticker (m) to open the valve (e).

The bars (i2) and (n) are supported on axes, and they have arms and connecting rods by which they are connected to 11 stops "of the character of 11 draw stops" by which the position of the bars (i2) and (n) may be changed if desired, so that the lever (k) and valve (e) may be acted on first as indicated by the parts in Figure 9, or so that both valves may be simultaneously acted upon as indicated by red lines in Figure 9, or when desired two or more valves may be connected together by parallel motions applied to them; thus it will be seen that the keys may be each arranged to act in the ordinary way upon one or more valves when pressed down to a stop sensible and definite to the touch, and then by further pressure being applied to them they will each open another or other valves. The peculiarities of these stops are that they act directly upon the keys where their influence is at once definite and sensitive to the touch of the player, that they are also yielding and elastic to admit, when increased force or pressure is applied to the keys, of those keys being further depressed to open another or other valves.

From the description given it will easily be understood that the improvements may he readily applied to organs or other wind musical instruments having similar keys. Having thus described our improvements, and means by which we carry the same into effect we would have it understood that we do not confine ourselves to the precise details shown and described, as these may be varied; but what we claim is the adaptation or combination of means by which facility is given for the keys of organs, harmoniums, and other similar keyed wind musical instruments to act in giving to the performer on such instruments.

Barrie Heaton, MABPT, FIMIT, AEWVH (Dip.), MMPTA, CGLI (hon.) (USA)
© copyright 1999

Piano Tuning in Lancashire.

Bibliography