City and History


England had had an esteemed reputation for violin making since the 17th century. English luthiers made the earliest versions of the violen, gamben, and liebesgeigen. In the 17th century, violins from Brescia and Cremona in Italy had become famous all over Europe, and orders from various countries kept Amati and Stradivari and their apprentices very busy. The Italian instruments had travelled across the sea to reach London and had become well sought after there. This also gave English luthiers the opportunity to examine and study these superior instruments.

By 1640, the German luthier Jacob Rayman (1596-c.1658) had begun making violins in London; two other luthiers, Edward Pamphilon, (c. 1646-c. 1685) and Thomas Urquhart (c.1629-c.1698) formed the early London school. Urquhart’s student Daniel Parker (1705-1761) and Barak Norman (1651-1724) then led the English school forward in its development.

Jacob Rayman followed the Füssen style of southern Germany, while Pamphilon and Urquhart followed the northern European style (Dutch design, with the ribs fixed to the back). The connection between Rayman, Pamphilon, and Urquhart has not been identified today.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Daniel Parker of London was already following Stradivari’s model to make his violins. Before the 18th century, English luthiers used an earthy yellow color for the varnish. Henry Jays was the earliest luthier in England to use a dark red varnish. The bass viol he made in 1618 was the first instance of a dark red varnish being used in England. Inspired by Henry Jay, Barak Norman became the first luthier in England to use darker colors for the varnish.

Richard Duke (1718-1883), another luthier active in London, also followed the Stradivari model, whereas his student John Betts (1755-1823) followed the Amati model. Just as there were many famous luthier families in Italy, there were some highly reputed families in England such as the Forster family, the Hill family and the Hart family. In addition, the bows made by the Dodd family were considered the best throughout England. However, the Stainer model was vastly popular in England at the time. Violins belonging to the Brescia school or the Amati style were soon replaced by ones following the Stainer model. London therefore lost its chance to become a city of strategic importance in the violin making world.