Tomkison, Thomas (c.1764-1853)

Thomas Tomkison (c.1764-1853) is an English piano maker sometimes overshadowed by the more common Broadwood, Stodart, and Clementi pianos of the period. Little information had been compiled about Tomkison’s life until recent work by Norman Macsween, whose research has shed a light on this gap in information. Thomas Tomkison was born the son of Humphrey Tomkison, a jeweler and goldsmith in Covent Garden, London. Little is known about Tomkison’s early years and apprenticeship, however there is evidence to suggest Tomkison was making pianos by at least 1799. By the start of the 1800s Tomkison pianos are known to have reached the European market, several being made for princely courts in Prussia and Spain. Around 1810 Tomkison pianos bore his name and his status as a piano maker for the Prince of Wales and for the next ten years at least, Tomkison pianos were enjoyed by the Royal Court of England, perhaps even more than the contemporary Broadwood and Kirkman pianos if the prices that King George IV paid for a piano of each maker can be used as a reference. The popularity of Tomkison pianos within high society around Europe alludes to the fact that his pianos were well made and had certain stylistic qualities that were popular in such circles. Tomkison had a considerable amount of interaction with French builders of the period, especially Erard and Pleyel, and this may have led to some French stylistic influences upon the design of his pianos. The progression of serial numbers show that Tomkison made more than 15,000 throughout his life until he closed the firm in 1851, as he had no son or business partner to succeed him.

Literature references:

Macsween, N., 2014. ‘No Maker to be Compared’ – The Early Pianos of Thomas Tomkison (c1764–1853). The Galpin Society Journal, LXVII, pp.5-36.