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Thomas Haxby 1774


Date: 1774

Origin: York

Serialnumber: ---

This early square piano by Thomas Haxby was built in York in 1774 and belonged for many years to the Colt Collection in England. Haxby was considered an outstanding spinet and piano maker.

The case of the instrument is made of mahogany with inlays in different woods. The instrument rests on the original trestle stand which has also been made in mahogany. The lock at the front is decorated with a filigree brass front.

The keyboard is made in ivory and ebony. The small hammers are covered with leather and the instrument is double strung.

On the left side are three stops for divided dampers and lute. On the nameboard is the signature in an elongated cartouche:

“Thomas Haxby – York 1774”

On the last key an inscription can be found that the instrument 1948/49 was restored by Charles F. Colt. It is also listed in the book by Charles F. Colt “The Early Piano“.

This early (currently the third oldest surviving) square piano by Thomas Haxby is an outstanding example of the excellent work of an instrument maker who was not working in London but in York. The oldest dated instrument dates back to 1772.



Thomas Haxby was born on 25th. January 1729 and died on 31th. October 1796. He was the son of Robert Haxby (a carpenter) and later had a son named John.

After serving as a sexton at the St Michael-le-Belfry Church in York and as a singer in the York Cathedral he opened his own store on Blake Street on 20th June 1756, promoting it in the Yorkshire Courant with “Musical Instruments at T. Haxby’s warehouse Blake Street are made and sold “.

His works included mainly keyboard instruments (spinets, harpsichords, pianos, organs) but also tremors, guitars and violins. He also worked as a music publisher.

On 28th December 1770 he patented a new harpsichord action by adjusting the registers on pedals for single-manual and double-manual harpsichords (Patent No. 977).

In 1760 and 1778 he worked on the organ in York Minster and in 1767 on the organ in the Leeds Parish Church.

In 1787 the annual production of square pianos was 24 instruments and reached 36 instruments in 1790. (The New Grove Musical Instruments Series – Early Keyboard Instruments)

After his death the business in Blake Street was taken over by Samuel Knapton and continued. From 1798 until about 1840 the business was taken over by Thomas Tomlinson, who married into the Haxby family. ( D. H. Boalch, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440 to 1840)

During his lifetime Haxby was considered one of the best instrument makers and was highly respected by contemporaries.


Other surviving instruments by Thomas Haxby:

  • 1772 square piano – Private collection Lord Hotham, Yorkshire England
  • 1772 square piano – Städtisches Museum, Brunswick Germany
  • 1792 square piano (No. 325) – Fairfax House, UK




Length: 129 cm

Width: 49 cm

Height: 17,5 cm

Circumference: 4 ½ octaves (GG, AA – f3)

Mechanics: single action

Pedals: 3 stops for divided dampers and lute

Signature: „Thomas Haxby – York 1774”