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William Russell and Son, Leicester

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William Russell and Son, Leicester

Postby Robert Almond » 29 Jan 2006, 23:24

My aunt has a piano that I am considering taking on for my two 12 year old children to continue to learn on (They've been having lessons for 2 years, but the rather nice borrowed piano we've had from a friend has unfortunately had to be returned) Its got two labels William H (?) Russell and Son, Leicester and Shipman, London. The number inside is 10543, and I think is overstrung, underdamped. There are 85 keys rather than 88
I'd be grateful for any information about this company/maker/age etc.
I'm planning to get a tuner to have a look over this before committing to moving it and paying for any reasonable renovation work, but I'd be very grateful for any advice on whether this is a sensible piano to take on. From my own looking over it, its rather 'dusty' but the hammers don't seem too badly grooved and the action all seems reasonable if a little ancient. One or two of the keys appear seem to be very slightly higher than the others. Generally I'm finding it difficult to make a decision on whether to try and find an affordable/reasonable used piano or to dig deeper and buy new! HELP!!
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Postby Bill Kibby » 30 Jan 2006, 10:49

This appears to be a Shipman piano sold by Russell. The firm of Shipman & Shipman first appears in my lists around the beginning of the 1900s, and disappeared around 1930. I'll see what I can find on this one of the many Russells. As for the practical issues, a new piano will be more resistant to the central heating that most of us take for granted now, and comes with a long guarantee, often ten years. Older pianos need to be checked over by a tuner before you make a decision, I can do this if you are in East Anglia. 85 notes was the usual arrangement in most british pianos for a very long time, even as late as the 1960s. Very little is written for the other three notes, and most classical composers had no more than 61 notes.
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Postby Robert Almond » 04 Feb 2006, 15:58

Thanks for this comment. I'd be very interested if you manage to find anything. The piano is in North Leicestershire, so a bit far from East Anglia unfortunately, but thanks for the offer. We hopefully have someone who can look over it but I'd be very interested if you do have any further info about the Russells or Shipmans to fill in the gaps.
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Postby fumbler » 09 Mar 2006, 20:26


I can't add anything abaout the piano, but I was employed by Russells in Granby Street, Leicester as a callow youth for about a year in what must have been 1957-ish. It was my first job and I was supposed to be trained as a piano repairer and eventual tuner, but nothing came of it. I was paid Ł2:10:0 a week. There was a piano showroom, a record outlet, and repair shops (sheds) at the rear, with three or four adult staff. There was also a Bechstein grand out the back which they tried to sell to me for Ł50. Some time after I left the shop closed. Trade was slow when I was there.

I was living with my parents at Scraptoft. We, or more accurately my kind mother, had bought for me a square Steinway grand, circa 1890 or so. It had allegedly originated from Quenby Hall. It was a job to squeeze that into our semi-detatched. Eventually that too had to go.

God Heavens, I'm reminiscing!


PS In the buildings at the rear of the shop was a piano teacher called I think Mary Smith, and I studied modern and syncopated style with her for a while, not with any great success. She frightened the life out of me, with her rather bohemian life-style, or so it seemed to me. She even burnt joss sticks! I wonder what happened to her?
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