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LEEF at the Horniman

We hear from Zaria Greenhill about LEEF, their work and the greener future we are all working towards.

  • Girl on Nature trail, Laura Mtungwazi
    , Laura Mtungwazi

I’m a local resident and so I was delighted when the Horniman agreed offer me space in their offices. I’m a Horniman member and I’ve brought my young daughter up here many times, so like lots of locals, our family have a deep fondness for the place and think of it as ours.

The Horniman has kindly offered to ‘host’ me in my post as coordinator of LEEF: London Environmental Educators’ Forum. We are a London-wide network of Environmental Educators, and the Horniman has been a member for many years, having a large and active education team, as well as a keen interest in the environment.

LEEF provides the London’s Environmental Educators with opportunities for professional development, networking, training, events, support information for Education members, and a conference on urban environment, on 10 February.

We are in fact thirty years old as a forum and it suddenly looks as though the generations of children whom we, as a sector, have taught, are coming of age, waking up, breaking the mould and clamouring for change in the world to avoid calamitous climate chaos, wildlife destruction, resource depletion and ecological  and social breakdown.

Watching 16-year-old Greta Thunberg chide political leaders at Davos brought all this home to me. Our youth looks as though they’re going to seize that baton with passion, courage and crucially, information and education, which they’ve gleaned largely not through formal education, but through organisations such as the Horniman and others - museums, nature reserves, charities, city farms, wildlife conservation organisations and campaigners, many of them members of LEEF.

It makes me incredibly proud of our sector, which includes the Horniman’s long-term education work, who has helped to make it happen.


The Horniman is leading the way on the climate crisis response locally, having declared a climate emergency last year.

The question that we will address as educators at the conference is: what is special about urban environmental education? Our members come from organisations that work in the urban environment. We highly value urban wildlife because it’s constantly under threat. It is always adapting, not just to a warming climate but also to London’s intensifying development, which so often leads to wildlife areas being obliterated in favour of bricks and concrete.

We battle air pollution, chaos, noise, danger and threat, but also enjoy diversity, innovation, energy and multiculturalism, and the rich social and cultural stimulus that comes from working in a community among multiple wider communities.

Find out more about LEEF on our website or come to our exciting conference on 10 February at the Natural History Museum.

The Zoomorphic Figures of Awadh

There are 14 extraordinary painted clay zoomorphic figures in the Horniman collections which have piqued the curiosity of visitors. Curatorial volunteer Alison South has been researching these figures to find out something about their origins.

  • Composite of the zoomorphic figures, The zoomorphic figures
    The zoomorphic figures

These are 3D artworks, with animals and humans comprised of numerous smaller animals. The fine quality of the figures and their unusual form has been a source of interest, particularly since four of the figures have been put on display in the World Gallery, while two more featured in the recent Lore of the Land exhibition.

The creatures depicted are so diverse there is no obvious link to any particular geographical region.

The 14 models consist of the following 21 figures:

  • 4 humans standing, 3 seated
  • 2 rhinos
  • 2 gazelles
  • 2 monkeys seated
  • 1 donkey
  • 1 owl
  • 1 ostrich
  • 2 goat/goat-like animals
  • 1 cow, 1 calf
  • 1 kangaroo

Whilst paintings of zoomorphic creatures are well-known in Indian art, we have not so far been able to trace any other similar ceramic figures.

  • zoomorphic art, Pari holding a unique animal. 19th cent. Rajput style. Bhopal museum, Ismoon via CC license on Wikicommons
    Pari holding a unique animal. 19th cent. Rajput style. Bhopal museum, Ismoon via CC license on Wikicommons

How did the Horniman acquire them?

The 14 figures were transferred to the Horniman from the Wellcome Collection in 1982. We wanted to know more about the origins of these figures – where had they been made and how had they come to be in the Wellcome Collection?

As with most of our research projects, we began with our own records: the Horniman’s historical file relating to the transfer from the Wellcome in 1982.

The file also includes copies of the Wellcome’s descriptions and index cards, which pointed us to two sources.

12 figures (Wellcome A19174 / Horniman 1982.126i- xii) came from a sale at Easton Park on 25 June 1919, lot 243.

The two human figures (Wellcome R753/1937 and R754/1937 / Horniman 1982.127i – ii) were bought from a Mr H R Maggs, who lived at 118 Long Acre in Covent Garden, London in 1937.

Although the objects came to the Wellcome from two separate sources, they are so similar that they are considered to have come from the same origin. The figures currently on display at the Horniman all come from the Easton Park source, the remaining figures are in store at our Study Collections Centre.

The Easton Park figures

The next step was to identify Easton Park. Online searches brought us to Easton in Suffolk and their excellent local history website revealed that the Easton Park estate formed part of the Dukes of Hamilton’s holdings. The Hamilton’s were (and are) the most senior peers in Scotland, and Easton was the main base of the 12th Duke of Hamilton.

  • The 12th Duke with a gun boy, The 12th Duke with a gun boy, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon
    The 12th Duke with a gun boy, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon

It was well established that the whole estate, 4,833 acres, was put up for sale in 1919 and a large proportion of the estate was sold at that time. However no sale of artefacts taking place in June 1919 (as referred to in the Wellcome documentation) was known about locally.

  • Easton Park, Easton Park, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon
    Easton Park, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon

Local historian Mr Brian Boon suggested contacting Dr Godfrey Evans, Principal Curator of European Decorative Arts at the National Museums Scotland, as a researcher of the Dukes of Hamilton, and the Hamilton Palace collection and dispersal. We’re very much indebted to both these individuals for sharing their knowledge on this with us.

Following our enquiry, the archivists in the Wellcome Library helpfully located an uncatalogued sale catalogue in their archives for an auction by Moore Garrard & Son for five days at Easton Park starting on 25 June 1919.

Almost simultaneously, Dr Evans confirmed that this was the sale at which the 12th Duke of Hamilton’s collections were disposed of by the Marchioness of Graham, his daughter and only child. The 12th Duke had died some years previously, aged 50 in 1895.

  • Lady Mary Graham daughter of 12th Duke, Lady Mary Graham daughter of 12th Duke, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon
    Lady Mary Graham daughter of 12th Duke, Courtesy of Mr Brian Boon

Lot 243 from the first day of the sale is described as ‘Eleven quaint Russian figures and animals, under glass.’

The annotated copy of the sale catalogue confirms that Lot 243 was purchased by ‘Stow’ for £9, 15sh. Dr Ruth Horry at the Wellcome Collection explained Mr Harry Stow was one of the longest-serving of the Wellcome’s employees and acted as a regular purchasing agent at auctions and sales.

The Wellcome index card for the Easton Park acquisition indicates there were 12 figures rather than 11 and that the origin was thought to be Indian rather than Russian. The glass coverings referred to in the sale catalogue have not survived.

So how did William, 12th Duke of Hamilton come into possession of these 12 exquisite figures? This is where the trail goes cold.

They may have come to him directly from India or from some more circuitous route. He is not thought to have visited India himself though family members and friends may well have. The figures could possibly have been a gift from someone who knew of his interest in amusing, bizarre and exotic representations of animals of which there are many examples within his collections.

The Maggs figures

The next task was to investigate Mr Maggs of Covent Garden. The Wellcome has now digitised their correspondence files so it’s possible to read the exchanges from 1937.

When offering the two figures to the Wellcome, Mr Maggs said, “I feel sure” that the figures were made in Lucknow for the Nawab (or ruler) of Oudh (the anglicised spelling of Awadh) and were in his collection about 100 years ago.

He added that the king was a great lover of wild animals and had a “wonderful collection.” After some correspondence, the price of 8 Guineas was agreed for the purchase.

So, who was Mr Maggs?

Harry Reginald Maggs is listed at the Long Acre address between 1935 and 1939 on the Electoral Register, as is Sarah Lewis Maggs. They are also linked to a property at 50 Great Russell Street, which is probably a business address, located opposite the British Museum.

By 1939, the flat at 118 Long Acre was vacant, and the census confirms Harry and Sarah Maggs were living in Hove. Harry’s occupation is given as General Export Agent and his date of birth as 8 June 1880. Sarah, born on 17 September 1888, was a Master Antique Dealer.

  • 118 Long Acre, Covent Garden, 118 Long Acre, Covent Garden, Spudgun67 under CC license via Wikicommons
    118 Long Acre, Covent Garden, Spudgun67 under CC license via Wikicommons

No details of Sarah’s business activities are known at present, but it’s interesting that she dealt in antiques, which adds to the validity of the explanation of the origin of the figures mentioned in Harry’s letter to the Wellcome. From the Wellcome correspondence files, we know that in 1936 Harry also offered them sets of drug jars and glass bottles from a chemist’s shop which he said were 150 years old, though these were not purchased by the Wellcome. He does not appear to have offered or sold any other objects to the Wellcome, apart from the 2 figures.

We have not been able to find any evidence so far that Harry was involved in trade with India, though this is a possibility, or that the figures were acquired through Sarah’s business dealings.

The King of Awadh Connection

Based on the information in Harry Maggs’ letter, the figurines date from around 1837 and were made in Lucknow for the Nawab of Awadh. There are four rulers of Awadh who ruled within the likely time-frame:

  • four-shahs---all-wikicommons-public-domain, From top left clockwise - Muhammad Ali Shah, Nasir-ud-Din-Haidar Shah, Amjad Ali Shah, Washah Ali Shah., Wikicommons - public domain
    From top left clockwise - Muhammad Ali Shah, Nasir-ud-Din-Haidar Shah, Amjad Ali Shah, Washah Ali Shah., Wikicommons - public domain

King Wajid Ali Shah was the last Nawab of Awadh and a great patron of the arts. He also possessed a large menagerie of animals.

In 1856, his kingdom was annexed by the British and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah eventually settled in Metiabruz, a suburb of Calcutta, following stints under house arrest. His mother and brother came to England in 1856 to plead his case with Queen Victoria. The first great revolt of Indian Independence started in Awadh in 1857 and Lucknow was besieged.

Accordingly, there would seem to be very many routes by which these figurines could have come from Awadh to England - either during or following the annexation by the British.


Can you shed any light on these figures, or have you seen others like them?

Get in touch and tell us.

Top Tips for Tackling The Climate Emergency

We’re in a climate emergency.

Species and habitats around the world are threatened by human-made climate change and pollution, right now.

Our lives have to change, and everyone can do something to help.

Our top tips for children and young people

Talk

…to each other, and to the adults in your life, about the things that are important to you. No-one is too small to have a voice, or to help make changes at home, at school and in friendship groups.

Care

…for nature, and get involved with it. Go for a walk and notice the wildlife around you. Do a beach clean or rubbish pick in your local area, or take part in a bee count or bird watch event.

Try:

Learn

…about organisations working to protect the environment. Be curious and think about what you could do to support them. Have a look for any local groups you could join.  

Try:

 

Share

…ideas, toys, or lifts to school to save the earth’s resources. Ever thought of doing a clothes swap with friends?

Try:

 

Think

…about ways that you could use less of the earth’s resources. Don’t waste water (turn the tap off while you’re cleaning your teeth) or electricity (turn your bedroom light off when you leave). Try walking to school if you don’t already, and don’t buy too much food or other things you don’t really need.

 

Reuse, repair and recycle

…your things, and value what you have. Mend things that are broken or find someone who can mend it for you. Could your unwanted things be made into something else (like using old wellies for flower pots)? Would someone else enjoy them after you? If you can’t mend or reuse something, recycle as much as possible so we don’t run out of the earth’s resources.

Try:

 

Grow

…plants and trees. They support wildlife and help fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Lots of schools have gardening clubs, or your local park might have a community garden.

Try:

Eat

…more fruit and veg, less processed food and less meat. Think about where your food comes from, and how it’s made. Is it grown nearby, and in a way that is good for the environment? Have a conversation at home or at school about what food you’d prefer to eat, to help the planet..

Try:

  • Beyond Burger, Beyond Burger at Horniman Cafe.
    Beyond Burger at Horniman Cafe.

Buy

…thoughtfully. Before you buy something new, think about what it’s made of. Has it travelled far to reach you, has it been made in a way that harms the environment, and what is it packaged in?

Be brave

…about talking to people, asking questions and doing things differently. And don’t be put off by this being such a big and complicated problem. Give some of these ideas a try, and get your friends and family involved too, and you can make a difference.


Want to find out more about climate change?

Try:

The Difference You Make to the Horniman

  • Horniman Clocktower , Sophia Spring
    , Sophia Spring

The Horniman enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2018/19. We opened two new galleries – the World Gallery and The Studio – complemented by a new Grasslands Garden and attracted the most visitors in our history.

Every ticket, shop and café purchase, every membership and each donation supports our charitable work and we are grateful to all our supporters. We wanted to highlight this impact and thank you for caring about the future of the Horniman.

  • A record-breaking 941,632 visitors
  • 99% visitor satisfaction
  • Visit England quality assessment score of 90%
  • Our World Gallery opened, showcasing 3291 objects
  • 13 young people attained their Bronze Arts Awards
  • 46,000 visits from school children and teachers
  • 58,158 family members participated in activities
  • Award-winning Gardens – Green Tourism Gold and Green Flag Award
  • Grasslands Garden – Winner of Horticulture Week Custodian Awards 2019 – Best Planting Design

  • Grasslands Garden, Grasslands Garden designed by James Hitchmough
    Grasslands Garden designed by James Hitchmough


For more information on supporting the Horniman Museum and Gardens, visit horniman.ac.uk/support.

Being Kind to Yourself and Others

  • A heart charm, A heart charm
    A heart charm

Each year, the Horniman shares objects throughout December for advent, sharing details about Christmas as it has been celebrated in other cultures or at different times.

In 2019 we wanted to try a different approach, so get ready for this year’s Horniman Advent – one about love, kindness and wellbeing.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Everyday stresses can combine with holiday woes for some. People feel pressure relating to money, family, or feelings of loneliness and isolation. What better time to share stories, objects and facts about kindness and hope?

Kindness stimulates serotonin production, which contributes towards wellbeing and happiness. Being kind is linked to good health physically as well as good mental health. Research shows that engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins, which are a natural painkiller. There is also evidence that committing acts of kindness can lower blood pressure, and even slow down the aging process.

Please join us on Twitter, and we hope you enjoy our advent calendar of kindness – follow along with #HornimanAdvent.

The Rag Rug: A Poem

Sheila Hepper, one of the Studio Collective members, has written this poem about the rag rug in Stages of Making.

  • Rag Rug, The rag rug in Stages of Making
    The rag rug in Stages of Making

 

That t-shirt you bought new from the shop,

It's fresh and bright, you wear it a lot.

A few washes in,

It becomes a day thing.

Then you say

It's fit for the bin.

 

But STOP you could make a CHOP

And put it with others a bright bouncy rug.

So fluffy and bouncy,

You won’t resist,

What a nice way to give that old t-shirt a new spin.

You chop them up and hook them in.

 

Some roll up,

Some curl at the top,

Others a spin.

How glad you are now

You didn’t put it in the bin.

Sheila Hepper

A Big Thank You with The National Lottery Heritage Fund

  • Anemone and clownfish, Anemone and clownfish
    Anemone and clownfish

We are delighted to be taking part in The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s ‘Big Thank You’.

Between 23 November and 1 December 2019, you can enjoy free entry to our popular Aquarium on the presentation of a National Lottery ticket or Scratchcard.

T&Cs

  • One National Lottery ticket provides free entry for one adult to the Aquarium.
  • All National Lottery games qualify for free entry, including tickets from any National Lottery draw based game or National Lottery Scratchcard. Proof of ticket can be paper or digital.
  • Only one redemption per ticket is permitted.
  • The offer is valid from Saturday 23 November to Sunday 1 December 2019 only, during usual Aquarium opening hours: 10.30am – 5.30pm (last entry 5pm)
  • A maximum of 20 free entries will be available each day.
  • National Lottery tickets must be presented at the Ticket Desk to be granted a complimentary ticket to the Aquarium.
  • Cannot be used in conjunction with Horniman Membership or any other offer including joint tickets with the Butterfly House.
  • The Horniman has the right to refuse entry in the unlikely event of the Aquarium reaching capacity, as well as unforeseen circumstances.
Sponsors

Magical Gardens - Myths and Folklore

What myths and folklore are hidden around the garden?

Mistletoe

For Druids, mistletoe symbolised the spirit, as it grew in the air. Mistletoe was most treasured when found on oak trees because they are considered sacred.

It is thought that Druids believed that the hand of God placed it there with a strike of lightening. At the end of the year, it would be cut off by priests in white gowns who would not permit the plant to touch the ground. Two white bulls would then be slain where the oak had grown and the twigs of the mistletoe would be spread among the people. People believed the plant was protective and would place the twig above doors or carve them into rings and jewellery to ward of evils, such as attacks from witches and poisons. It could also be used as a general protection amulet. In British paganism, it was said that mistletoe was hung with red ribbon and then burned during Imbolc to protect the home and ward off disease at the height of winter.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) does not only grow from oak trees. It is a ‘hemi-parasite’, meaning it grows on a host tree, from which it takes water and support. Today there are approximately 1,500 species of the plant. You can see a bunch of it in the Meadow field, high up on a tree.

Yew Tree

Another tree respected for its magical properties is the yew tree.

Also named ‘The Tree of Resurrection’ or ‘The Goddess Tree’, it has the ability to regenerate itself. A branch can grow down the centre of a tree, forming a brand new one, and because of this ability, it can be difficult to identify a yew tree’s exact age.

The oldest yew tree in the UK, is thought around 2000–3000 years old and is found in churchyard in Perthshire. Yew trees in England are often found in churchyards, popping up in approximately 500 around the country. It is thought yew trees could purify victims of the plague if placed on their graves.

Elder tree

The Elder tree is a truly magical plant. All parts of the tree can be used for good, like food and medicine.

The English elder comes from the Anglo-Saxon words, aeld meaning fire. In Elder tree folklore, the tree was believed to host a powerful spirit called the Elder Mother. People hung dried elder leaves to ward off evils from their home, and it was thought to be a lucky omen if an Elder tree grew near your home, as it would offer protection to your household. Use of the Elder tree required asking permission through a ritual, and if not asked, it is said the Elder Mother would seek revenge against the person who had offended her.

In some Christian legends, the elder tree has been given negative connotations. It was thought that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on the tree after betraying Jesus. It is also said that the wood used in the crucifixion came from this tree, although it is unlikely the weight of the wood could bare the weight of a man.

Sage

Sage has become a widely used ingredient in our food dishes today but did you know the herb has a long history of being used for healing properties?

The scientific name for Sage is Salvia which comes from the Latin word Salveo, “to heal” or “to save”.

The Romans regarded sage as a holy herb. They used it to clean their teeth and believed it aided memory function. The Romans and the Egyptians both used the herb to preserve meat and to help with fertility.

In the Middle Ages, sage was used as a medicine. An old English practise was to eat sage every day in May, which was thought to grant immortality, and fresh sage leaves were said to cure warts, which may be due to its antibacterial properties. During this time people would use sage to cover rotting meat, both to help protect themselves and cover the smell, which may be why it is still so commonly used with roasting meat now.


Further reading:

Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees and Fruit, Charles. M. Skinner

Mindful journeys at the Horniman

We interviewed Sarah Strong from South London and Maudsley (SLaM) Recovery College about a resource to improve wellbeing while visiting the Horniman.

Could you explain the process of creating the resource – what did you do?

Participants of SlaM Recovery College attended our ‘Museums and Wellbeing’ course and, over a period of 6 weeks, developed the Horniman’s first wellbeing resource available to adults to explore the Museum with the aim of sustaining or boosting their mood.

We took the Wheel of Wellbeing, a visual framework based on positive psychology, as a basis for the activities to create an accessible introduction to the Museum and Gardens. As individuals or pairs we wandered around the building, responding to the displays by asking different questions about a variety of items and places. We then returned to the group, sharing our thoughts and suggestions, and discussed how our ideas might work. 

What is in the resource?

The Wellbeing Wander is a trail of sorts, a way of discovering what the Horniman has to offer in (hopefully!) manageable portions; it’s a great introduction to the Horniman if you haven’t visited before.

There are several activities to do both in the galleries and out in the Gardens, with some pointers to help you find your way. There are also some things to think about before you get there too; how you might think about objects around your own home, as well as the objects to see around the Horniman.

We’ve also provided all the useful information about facilities that can make your trip to Forest Hill a bit easier. It’s a guide that you can use again when you visit in future. It may even enhance your experience in other museums and galleries too.

Who is the resource for and why?

The resource is, first and foremost, aimed at those who have their mental and physical wellbeing in mind, but it is available to everyone.

Those who have lived experience of conditions and issues, such as anxiety or low mood, may find it particularly beneficial. Walking around the Horniman can be a mindful and calming experience, and we’ve also provided a few hints of where to go if you’d like a few moments of quiet time to yourself.

Why did you want to become involved?

I worked in a heritage collection for many years before working in mental health. I’m passionate about the importance of museums and galleries in life in general, and encouraging new audiences to discover all the amazing items they hold. I'm particularly excited about the positive role museums and gardens can play in improving wellbeing. 

How could someone use the Horniman for wellbeing? 

The Horniman is well suited for a project such as this, as it has the benefit of wonderful Gardens alongside the amazing Museum collections.

There is a variety of activities that you can participate in that can marry with the actions on the Wheel of Wellbeing, actions that have been proven to help wellbeing. This might be the very act of learning something new, taking time to observe and respond to the things around you, or just being in the open air and walking around the Gardens.

What do you want visitors to know about the resource and how would you recommend people use it?

I’d like to stress that it’s available and can be used by anyone even though it has been developed with wellbeing and mental health in mind.

You can follow every part of it or just use certain sections. You could use it as a generalised guide and apply it to other parts of the Horniman that we’ve not mentioned on the resource itself if you wish. If you know someone who gets anxious when travelling or going somewhere new, we’ve included some pre-trip things to think about to help get you on your way.

Did you learn or discover anything during the process?

I discovered just how much I miss working in the heritage sector and engaging with people who visit these places.

It was great to work with others in SLaM Recovery College who have the same enthusiasm for learning and collaborating on resources for the public at large. Working alongside a diverse range of others meant that I gained from their perspectives and it made me think about the Horniman and the needs of its potential visitors in a new way.

Why is it important to have resources like this in museums?

It’s important to acknowledge that different people interact with museums differently, and also that the spaces can be used in both traditional and non-traditional ways.

I hope that resources such as these might encourage people who don't visit museums often, or even at all, to come and investigate what's available at the Horniman.


The Wellbeing Wander resource is available online to print at home and behind the ticket desk.

A Very Regal Instrument: Queen Victoria and the Erard Grand Piano

Our grand piano by Erard is currently on loan to Historic Royal Palaces for their exhibition Victoria: A Royal Childhood.

  • Grand Piano by Erard, Grand Piano by Erard, London, c.1880, (Horniman Museum No. M99-1983). Acquired with the assistance of the Purchase Grant Fund. Horniman Museum and Gardens, photo by Sarah Duncan
    Grand Piano by Erard, London, c.1880, (Horniman Museum No. M99-1983). Acquired with the assistance of the Purchase Grant Fund. Horniman Museum and Gardens, photo by Sarah Duncan

Queen Victoria owned an Erard piano dating from the 1840s and used it as a child and young adult. The piano on loan to Kensington Palace is of the make that was played by Victoria, but it is a later example of the type, from around 1880. Our Erard Grand Piano in rosewood with inner rim veneered in fiddle-back maple.

Queen Victoria was a great supporter and patron of the arts and music was no exception, playing an important role in Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert’s, lives.

There are diary entries from the Queen which show her writing music, and which date back to the age of 13. Both Victoria and Albert were piano enthusiasts, and pianos would feature in every place they called home. Victoria would also be given pianos as gifts.

The Erard piano is one of Victoria’s famed instruments, and our loaned instrument acts as an example of what Queen Victoria would have had at the ball to celebrate her 17th Birthday.

While music would have also been part of Victoria’s education, Prince Albert also contributed to her repertoire. They played piano duets together, and Albert would take Victoria to recitals or the opera.

Some of the music they played together included Beethoven’s Egmont or Prometheus, as well as music by Mendelssohn, Haydn and Mozart. She is also thought to have admired Don Giovanni.

  • Grand Piano by Erard, Grand Piano by Erard, London, c.1880, (Horniman Museum No. M99-1983). Acquired with the assistance of the Purchase Grant Fund. Horniman Museum and Gardens, photo by Sarah Duncan
    Grand Piano by Erard, London, c.1880, (Horniman Museum No. M99-1983). Acquired with the assistance of the Purchase Grant Fund. Horniman Museum and Gardens, photo by Sarah Duncan

The Erard firm were piano and harp makers, as well a music publishers. They were founded in Paris in the late 18th Century by Sebastien Erard, and he began making pianos for the French nobility.

In 1821, Erard patented a new action for pianos called 'the double escapement' which, by the introduction of an intermediate lever between the key and hammer significantly improved dynamic control and repetition.

This innovation earned Erard pianos the devotion of many well-known players, including Liszt and Mendelssohn. Although Chopin preferred Parisian rival Pleyel’s pianos, he nevertheless acknowledged the beauty of the Erards and admired their consistency in touch and sound.

The Erard firm was among the first to introduce metal bracing into the piano to help improve both structural and tuning stability.

At the end of the 18th Century, the French Revolution as well as a growing UK market, prompted a move across the Channel. Erard established a factory in London's Great Marlborough Street and the British Royal Family patronised the firm.

The show which marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria, born in 24 May 1819.  Each room is replicated to look as the same as when she grew up and tells stories of the young confident Queen. See it and our Grand Piano at Kensington Palace, on now.

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