William Howarth (1862-1935) was born in Kings Cross, Halifax in Yorkshire. Where he spent his early life is unclear but by 1886 he was living in Newton Heath, Manchester where he married and started a large family. The 1891 Census describe William as a Pattern Maker and in 1901, a Wood Pattern Maker. This was a very skilled job and his knowledge of tools and materials would have been high. Between these two dates Howarth made double basses. Where he learned the craft is unknown but the instruments are beautifully made and, as became apparent later, he could play them too. By 1911 his profession is listed as "Bandsman". This could have been a military title or simply, a musician. Interestingly his eldest son, Herbert, is also listed with the same profession. We next meet William Howarth in 1919 on the label of an instrument made in the area of Longsight, Manchester. Professional directories of this period list him as a Musician and he appears to have stayed in this area until his death in 1935. This particular bass was made in 1899. It is a fine orchestral instrument in excellent condition. It has acquired an extra coat of varnish but in all other respects is completely original.
Length of String 106.6cm
One of the great advantages of the internet from my point of view is the amount of double bass images and information out there that can be used for cross-referencing.
This bass has been known as a Hill for many years. There are many Hill basses some of which are questionable but I feel confident in attributing this particular bass to Joseph Hill (1715-1784) who established his own workshop in London in 1753. This instrument is in fine condition and the scroll is amazing.
String Length 106cm. Length of Back 119cm. £70,000.
It is a rare to be presented with an instrument that tells you so much about itself but here is a bass by little known maker Joseph Hambleton of Salford (near Manchester) made in 1844. The label also states, Number 36. As I have only heard of one other Hambleton bass I assume the other 35 were mostly violins, violas and cellos. However this is certainly the work of a skilled luthier who has very much been inspired by his London contemporaries rather than the north of England schools of bass making.
As well as Hambleton's label there is an interesting repair label from 1896 inserted by an Hungarian violin maker who settled in Edinburgh in the eighteen-eighties. Interesting because the bass remained in Scotland and eventually found it's way to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. This double bass is in remarkably good condition and deserves playing in professional orchestras.
String length 106cm. Length of Back 113cm.
The name of English maker Charles Corsby (1798-1864) is a relatively recent discovery. His older brother George was known to have been a maker/dealer based in London and was thought to have made a few instruments simply signed "Corsby". In fact both men were part of a large instrument making family in Northampton spanning four generations from the mid 18th century.
Charles Corsby never left Northampton and seemingly took or sent instruments to his brother to be sold in his London shop. This particular double bass was made in 1838 and is a beautiful example of the maker's skill. Such a shame that his unassuming mark in only some of his instruments have left Charles Corsby unrecognised until now.
This bass is a sounds as good as it looks and is in excellent condition.
Length of Back 113cm Length of String 106.6
James Brown (1804 - 1885) lived and worked in Huddersfield, Yorkshire from the mid 1850s amd made this double bass in 1862 as is clearly stated on it's label. It was originally built with a long body but in 1965 double bass player and instrument maker Robert "Bob" Norris reduced the shoulders of the bass giving it a very manageable short scale length. A photograph of the bass in it's original form can be seen in Raymond Elgar's famous book, "Looking At The Double Bass".
This instrument has been played all over the world in major London orchestras and is very reasonably priced for sale.
String Length 99.5cm. Length of Back 113cm.
Little is known about this Old English Bass c.1800.
It was obviously made by a craftsman who had access to beautiful woods and a good eye for varnish.
At some point in it's history someone decided to try to pass it off as an Italian bass by making some slight alterations to the scroll and writing,
"Rastelli a Geneva"
at the top of the back on the outside of the instrument. The fact that the Rastelli family came from Genoa is something of a give away but it did convince previous owners to some extent. But this is without question an English instrument, probably London, and it has been well looked after and recently restored internally to make it a very desirable orchestral bass.
Length of Back String Length
Now at a reduced price, this is a typical example of big German 5-string basses favoured by the orchestras of that country and occasionally by bass players in the UK. Internally this instrument testifies to it's maker and date of manufacture, Mathias Neuner, Mittenwald 1884.
Mathias Neuner V (1831 - 1890) was a partner in the big Mittenwald firm, Neuner & Horsteiner and was also, at some point, Mayor of Mittenwald apparently.
This bass has a long and colourful history as described in a fascinating essay written by previous owner, Richard Bramhall (deceased) when he decided to sell the bass in 2001. Amongst other things it was played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s followed by many years at the Royal Opera House and then in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In the 21st Century it has been living and working in Wales.
The bass has lived a life and sounds as big as it looks.
String length 110cm. Length of Back 121cm.
£45000. (Offers Welcome )
This fascinating instrument by William Booth of Leeds (1779-1858) has an interesting history. In the early 19th Century an amateur cellist named Barraud developed an instrument designed to be tuned as a cello but an octave lower so as to play the double bass parts in chamber music. He commissioned various luthiers including Thomas Kennedy and Samuel Gilkes to make such an instrument which became known as a Basso di Camera. The instrument featured is beautifully made and is inscribed inside with the following:
This Chamber Double Bass
Made by Wm. Booth. Mill Hill, Leeds.
In the year of our Lord 1821
for Dr. Hay of Cambridge
being the 3rd that has been known
to be made in this country.
The current owner decided that a three string configuration suited them better but all four string fittings
accompany the chamber bass, as does a 1946 William A. Chanot certificate.
String length 72.5cm. Length of Back 80cm.
Regular visitors to this site may recognise this double bass which was advertised here a couple of years ago and was then moved to the Archive page. The current owner has decided that he is now a 5-string player so must let this fine instrument go.
It is sometimes a great relief to be able to describe a bass that actually tells you exactly what it is on a clearly written label. In this case we have a German instrument made in the instrument "factory" of Ernst Reinhold Schmidt in Markneukirchen. The label is in English so the bass was made for export probably in the early 20th century.
This handsome instrument is in excellent condition and very well made with beautiful woods. A very good orchestral bass.
Length of Back 115cm. String Length 108cm
This is an excellent of example of a double bass from the workshops of Jerome Thibouville Lamy &Co. Made in the early part of the 20th century these instruments were produced from the hands of a number of instrument makers rather than an individual. Perhaps one carved the scroll while another made the table (front) of bass.
All were highly-trained, skilled workers and this is reflected in the quality of this instrument which, according to the labels, was manufactured in France and sold through the company's London shop in Charterhouse Street by Smithfield Market in the City of London
The bass has a big sound and is in very good condition.
Length of Back 113cm. String Length 108cm.
Here we have an early bass by Thomas Martin labelled "Thomas Martin, Fecit London, Bass 17, Anno 1997" Also handwritten on the label "Made for David Fletcher Esq."
David Fletcher (1971 -2009) was to become a very good friend of mine. He became Co-Principal Bass of the National Orchestra of Wales and later Principal Bass of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and I have no doubt he would have gone on to even greater heights had he not died tragically young of a heart condition.
This instrument was made originally as a 5 string bass but was later converted to a four string configuration by Roger Dawson. It is in excellent condition and of course plays very well indeed.
String length 106.5cm. Length of Back 117cm.
Here we have a 1967 Wilfer 5 string double bass in remarkably good condition with an attractive shade of varnish and well figured wood.
Previously owned by a former member of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra who I believe played it as his main instrument, this bass has been given a good overhaul by Roger Dawson and it is working as well as it ever has. Possibly better.
Labelled and Branded by Josef Wilfer
String length 107cm. Length of Back 113cm.
The Barbé family of France were well respected instrument makers in the 19th Century and produced some excellent double basses in the style of this instrument.
This particular bass is being sold as Barbé School as there is no proof of the actual maker. However it is without doubt a well made viol-shaped bass made in France c.1860 from some very attractive well figured timber. The condition is generally good.
String length 107cm. Length of Back 117cm.
Until very recently this instrument was advertised on DoubleBasses.Co.Uk in it's original configuration as a 3-string bass with "cello peg" tuners and a wooden endpin. After much discussion with the owner and luthier Martyn Bailey it was decided to reinvent the bass as a 4-string but still very much for use in the baroque and classical world of period instruments.
Made by Martin Morris, then of Cumbria, in 1984 the bass was designed as a copy of the Gary Karr "Amati" which belonged to the renowned Russian bass soloist, composer and conductor, Serge Koussevitsky. Subsequently that bass proved not to be an Amati but the simple design still has a classic elegance which, combined with the beautiful woods makes it very appealing to the eye. Thanks to Martyn Bailey the instrument now has his own design of Italian style tuners, a baroque fingerboard which matches the original tailpiece, a new endpin unit and is fitted with gut strings.
String Length 103cm. Length of Back 107cm