Broadwood, John (1732-1812)

John Broadwood (1732-1812) is the founder of the oldest keyboard instrument firm in existence. His father was a cabinetmaker and he taught the young Broadwood the trade. Broadwood took this training and moved to London in 1761 where he started working for harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi. Broadwood became a business partner with Shudi, even marrying Shudi’s daughter, and continued to make harpsichords throughout the 1760s. During this time, one of Broadwood’s associates in Shudi’s workshop, Johann Cristoph Zumpe, brought several square pianos back from Germany. Broadwood and Zumpe, together with two other associates, Robert Stodart and Americus Backers, developed a new English Grand Action around 1772. Just prior to this, in 1771 Broadwood opened his own shop to make harpsichords on on Great Pulteney street by renting the building from his father-in-law. Upon Shudi’s death in 1773 Broadwood took over his business. The earliest Broadwood piano was a square piano dated to 1774, Broadwood grand pianos did not start being built until at least 1782. Upright grand pianos began to be made in 1805, and continued until 1832, well after Broadwood’s death. The firm changed names several times in its existence. Interestingly Broadwood used the German form of his first name, Johannes Broadwood, on his pianos until he changed the name of the firm from Broadwood to Broadwood & Son in 1795, when Broadwood’s first son James Shudi Broadwood (1772-1851) joined the business. The firm changed its name again in 1808 when Broadwood’s second son Thomas Broadwood (1786-1861) joined. The firm made thousands of pianos throughout John Broadwood’s life, and many still survive today.

Literature References:

Clinkscale, M., 2006. Makers of the piano, 1700-1820. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.30.

Palmieri, R. and Palmieri, M., 2003. Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, p.57-60