W. E. Hill & Sons reputation is built on their acute attention to detail and commitment to producing exceptional bows that are both beautiful and consistent in quality. In this article, we discuss the history of W. E. Hill & Sons.
The Hill family has a long and rich history in the violin trade and is considered one of the oldest families in England to have continuously worked in the industry. Their legacy dates back to at least 1753 when Joseph Hill was based in High Holborn, a bustling area of London. Also known as William Ebsworth Hill & Sons or William E. Hill & Sons, for over two centuries, the Hill name has been recognised for exceptional craftsmanship and unparalleled instrument and bow-making expertise. W. E. Hill & Sons boasts a rich and distinguished history that we will explore further in this article.
The bow makers
The W. E. Hill & Sons company dates to 1880/81 when William Ebsworth Hill brought his sons Alfred and Arthur into his existing business. By 1890 the company had expanded its operations and recruited a group of talented French makers to work in their workshops. Among these skilled craftsmen were Joseph Auguste Prunier, Charles François Langonet II, Charles Louis Délunet, Auguste Émile (Léon) Délunet, Joseph Maurice Somny, Charles Séverin Génin, and François (Eugène) Marchand. Their contributions helped to make W. E. Hill & Sons a renowned name in the industry.
In October 1887, the company moved to 38 Bond Street
At first, the company was located in Wardour Street, but in October 1887, it moved to 38 Bond Street and, in 1895, to the new building at Number 140 New Bond Street.
They acquired Heath Lodge in Hanwell, the first of several property acquisitions. Prunier, Langonet, and Charles Délunet crafted the earliest instruments. Other makers eventually contributed to producing the first quality instruments with the full ‘W. E. Hill & Sons’ label and their second quality ‘Workshop of W. E. Hill & Sons’ instruments.
The first category of instruments was made in the company workshops in Hanwell, and they were usually varnished and set up in Bond Street. On the other hand, despite their label, the second category of instruments were sometimes not entirely made in the workshops but partly in the homes of Hill workers, who did it to earn some extra money.
W. E. Hill & Sons published industry-standard books
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, W. E. Hill & Sons published industry-standard books on the lives and work of Maggini, Stradivarius, and Guarneri. Their expertise and passion for fine instruments led to the acquisition of their collection by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1939. One of their most notable gifts to the nation was Le Messie Stradivari in 1940, which is now housed in the Ashmolean Museum.
The company purchased Havenfields in Buckinghamshire in 1974
After nearly 80 years in New Bond Street, the company purchased Havenfields in Buckinghamshire in 1974 and began work on a new workshop block in 1977.
Fast forward to 2016, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments in Oxford opened a significant exhibition titled ‘Fiddle Sticks – The Story of Bow Making at Hill Violin Experts,’ and the company’s history was documented in ‘W.E. Hill & Sons Violin Makers 1880 – 1936‘ by John Basford and Tim Toft.
W.E. Hill & Sons Violin Makers 1880 – 1936 (Standard and Deluxe editions available)
This monograph provides a photographic and documentary record of the company’s instrument making from its inception in the early 1880s to c.1936, when the first phase of production ended. Historical context is provided as well as biographical summaries of the principals and employees involved. New information from primary sources corrects and supplements previously published work.
John Basford and Tim Toft have undertaken a large amount of original research about the history of W. E. Hill & Sons. The book contains at over 28 instruments, numerous templates and moulds, and many part-finished scrolls.
Book size: 242mm x 307mm
In 2018, W. E. Hill & Sons returned to London and opened a new workshop in Hampstead, continuing their legacy of crafting fine instruments, bows, and accessories.
W. E. Hill & Sons have left a considerable legacy to violin making and expertise not only in Britain but through the entire world. The history of W. E. Hill & Sons is truly fascinating. The Hill family has left quite a mark on the music industry. Their commitment to craftsmanship, innovation, and quality has earned them a reputation that continues to endure to this day. We hope you found this article interesting; you can find further information here.
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