The Stoke School (yes there is one!)
There hadn’t been much to write or shout about concerning violin making and dealing in North Staffordshire until we opened our shop in Stone 35 years ago. There were, however, two makers in the area in the early twentieth century;
George Hancock of Stoke-on-Trent and F.L. Walton of Hanley.
Hancock, born in 1851, had a grocery business and made his first violin in 1909, his 12th violin was made in 1921 and overall he produced around 20 instruments on Stradivari or Guarneri models.
A Francis Walton was born in Hanley in 1855 and may be the maker. The stylistic similarity between the work of Hancock and Walton and their close geographical proximity suggest they may have worked together. Both show a high level of woodworking skill and they share the same rather opaque dark-red-brown varnish, evocative of the coal-fuelled, smoke-filled air of the Potteries at that time!
The author, Arnold Bennett (born Hanley 1867), in his short story set in the Potteries, ‘The Death of Simon Fuge’, writes, ‘There was dirt in the air; I could feel it at once on my skin.’ Hardly conducive to recreating the limpid beauty of the varnish of the old Cremonese masters.
In the image to the right the left violin was made by George Hancock and the right violin by F. L. Walton.