New British piano
- Cavendish Classic (112cm)
Cavendish Contemporary 124
Cavendish 'Baby Grand' 152
Cavendish 'Boudoir' Grand
"I'm sorry, there's no such thing as a British piano any more".
These are the words Adam and Charlie Cox, a husband and wife team running
Yorkshire Pianos, found themselves saying to many of their customers looking
for a new piano.
"People grew up with British pianos at school and at home and we find that
when people come to buy their own piano they are often looking for that mellow
sound that they grew up with", says Charlie.
Two years ago the Kemble factory closed in Milton Keynes, sounding the death
knell for British piano making. It was the last remaining factory and when the
gates closed for the final time skilled workers, some of whom had been involved
in the piano industry all their lives, found themselves with nowhere to turn.
"We felt we had no choice but to either lose British Piano manufacturing
forever, or try to resurrect the art of making pianos in Britain" says Adam.
Having traded for 15 years in Leeds as Headingley Pianos, the team searched
for new premises to not only act as showroom, but also as piano manufacturing
base. They looked at shops, industrial units, church-halls. even a church! After
well over a year's searching they had almost given up looking.
"Then one day I was on a bike ride to Bolton Abbey" says Adam "I knew
immediately it was the right place for us as I peered through a window and saw
a large barn of a room. What an acoustic I thought!"
Of course when they took it on it is was more like barn than a piano showroom
and workshop but with the use of a bank loan and the help of local Wharfedale
firms they were able to transform it and it is now perfect for their needs.
"Lots of people ask if it was originally a church or chapel" says John Spencer,
head technician, "reclaimed ecclesiastical panelling and doors were used in
the conversion but it was built originally as a forge." Situated just off the busy
A59 at the foot of Beamsley Beacon with wonderful views in all directions it's
certainly an inspiring place to work.
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire paid them a visit early on and were
interested and then excited at the prospect of a piano shop and manufacturing
base on their estate at Bolton Abbey.
"They have backed our project every step of the way so we felt 'Cavendish' was
the perfect name for our pianos, being the Duke and Duchess' family name.
Without their kind patronage none of this would have been possible", says
There is no shortage of skilled workers in the piano industry and allied trades in
this country. In fact, many components are still made here and exported all
over the globe for piano making abroad.
"We felt it was crazy that British expertise was being used to make the highest
quality components for the piano industry and yet no finished products were
being made in this country" says Adam. For example, Hainsworth in Leeds
produce cloth and felt used in the manufacture of many German pianos such
"Their quality is second to none and they're on our doorstep while people are
buying pianos manufactured in the Far East!"
As one of the oldest companies in the UK (established 1783) Hainsworth
certainly know what they're doing when it comes to textiles and their knowhow
and heritage is legendary in the piano trade. It's no coincidence that one of the
leading woollen mills should be in Leeds, famous throughout the world for its
history of textile production. It was however coincidental that our wood source,
British Hardwoods, should be based in the Yorkshire Dales.
Also our supplier of wood finishes is near the traditional cabinet making town of
Thirsk. Silchrome Plating in Leeds, founded in 1949, work in everything from
aerospace to classic cars. We quickly started to realise we were not making
'British pianos' but 'Yorkshire Pianos'.
"We were not using Yorkshire firms as a gimmick or because we liked the idea
but simply because they are the best in their field."
Surrounded by pianos in various states of construction, John Spencer, head
technician at Yorkshire Pianos, sits down at a newly finished Cavendish piano.
"Of course the sound is the important thing" says Spencer. "We are looking for
that rounded, European tone that is part of British piano heritage." Spencer
plays a smooth sounding chord then moves over to a well known Far Eastern
made piano and does the same. The difference is staggering!
"We often talk in orchestral terms when describing piano sound. We are
looking for woodwind with undertones of strings rather than brass."
"Price-wise things are starting to go full circle" says Charlie. The days of
cheap far Eastern pianos are ending as their manufacturing costs are steadily
going up (some Chinese pianos have almost doubled in cost in the last few
years) and shipping prices are soaring. We find ourselves in the position
where British goods actually can compete with far eastern goods in the UK.
"Unlike microwave ovens, pianos are one of those things that are better used in
their country of origin" says Adam "They are very susceptible to climate
changes. After all, you have to remember they are a complicated wooden
machine which has been made in the same way for a hundred years."
" My biggest bugbears are the use of plastic in piano actions. Far Eastern
makers claim it is a 'better' material for making piano actions. Cheaper - yes,
better - no! We know wooden action parts last because the evidence is all
around us. If looked after, a traditionally made piano will last a lifetime. Many
recently made pianos using plastic action parts are already worn out and un-
repairable. The golden rule for Cavendish Pianos is they are made in the
traditional way and with definitely no plastic!"
They have already had interest from many quarters and are just managing to
keep up with orders at the moment. They have been in talks with Harrods who
are interested in selling a British piano.
"We have been involved with pianos all our working lives" say Charlie and
Adam. "This is the biggest challenge we have ever had to meet. We know that
the demand is there for the future, and we are confident because Cavendish
Pianos are Yorkshire-made using not just traditional skills, but love.