As part of the re-arrangement of spaces at Hartlebury Castle in preparation for the new developments, staff at Museums Worcestershire have reviewed objects that ended up at the Castle but had not ever formally been taken into the collection.
Among them was this square piano, in poor condition. We could ascertain that it wasn’t part of the collection, but sadly no documentation existed giving any insight into its history.
As an object in poor condition, with no known link to Worcestershire, and with no history in the museum of collecting musical instruments, we needed to consider if disposal to another organisation might be the right future for this piano.
The piano was made by John Broadwood, the oldest piano maker in the world, having started business in 1728 and still in business today. Broadwood created the first square piano in 1771 and they became immediately popular because of their compact domestic size.
Our research uncovered that, in 1785 Thomas Jefferson (later to become the third President of the United States) visited the Great Pulteney Street, London workshop to discuss musical instruments.
A year later, he and John Adams (later the second President) visited Worcester to see the site of the last battle of the English Civil War. Adams described the visit as a pilgrimage to the ground where liberty was fought for, words that have inspired the current redevelopment of displays at The Commandery.
Rather than disposing of the square piano, this interesting link means that we are investigating if we can integrate it into the new displays. Although full restoration will be a very large task, we hope that we will be able to make it safe for visitors to touch and feel the same inspiration as Thomas Jefferson.
Philippa Tinsley, Senior Curator, Museums Worcestershire