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
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.
This bass by William Calow (1847 - 1910) was made in approximately 1885 in Nottingham. It is distinctive in it's shape, the Guaneri style f-holes and the makers brand, W.CALOW on the exterior back below the neck over the number 13.
Less obvious is the unique design of the interior "double" bass bar which is hard to describe but is known to be a feature of Calow's work.
This instrument is big in every respect. It is long and has not been altered from it's original string length, but the sound is also deep and resonant.
Some restoration work was carried out to the edges of the front plus some interior work in 1988. I assume that at this time a thin extra layer of varnish was applied to the front to even out the colour for some reason. Other than that the bass is in a remarkable original condition.
Length of Back 119cm. String Length 113cm.
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.
This very good example of a Hawkes Professor double bass manufactured in the early 20th century unfortunately does not have a label. Despite this the model is well established and clearly recognisable.
These flat back instruments were made to Hawkes and Son's specifications to an English design, often in Germany to increase production. However they are considered English basses and provide an excellent way into the standard of instrument required to play in professional orchestras. They are also favoured by some jazz players.
I have been told that this particular bass spent a long and happy career on cruise ships before being sold to the current owner. At some point a decision was made to apply an extra coat of varnish to the front and back presumably to even out worn areas of the original varnish. Other than this the instrument is in excellent condition and has a full even sound in all registers.
Length of Back 114cm. String Length 107cm,
English bass maker John Bedingfield (born 1933) sadly passed away on the 15th of June, 2020.
I only had the pleasure of meeting him two times in close succession a few years ago but what a fascinating man he was with his house full of basses and working wooden clocks, all hand made as were many of the tools he used for all this creativity, or so it appeared. He was quite a character and very welcoming. I'm glad I met him.
Generally Bedingfield's basses tend to be on the large size but this copy of an instrument by William Tarr of Manchester is a very neat model and easy to play. It is double purfled with an elaborate design on the back below the neck.
String Length 103cm. Length of Back 107cm
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.