W.E. Hill & Sons bow

July 1, 2008 at 04:32 PM · I have an octagon violin bow stamped W.E. Hill & Sons.

I have found out that is was made by Malcolm Taylor. It has a tortise shell frog with

flur d lyes. The button is silver bands with tortise shell in the middle.

The tip plate is silver and has the number 8 stamped on it. Under the frog

is stamped C8 the stick is stamped 59C

There is also a stamp just above the wrap under the stick 131 with a small

8 after it.

My question is what is the 131(8) stamp mean and what do the C8 and 59C


I'm assuming the year 1959.

I did weigh the bow and it is 59.5gr.

Would Malcolm have made the complete bow including the frog by himself or would various parts be made by others?

Are there existing records of bows made by the Hill firm?

How do these bows by W.E. Hill & Sons compare with French bows made around the same time?


Replies (23)

July 4, 2008 at 11:15 AM · I am sorry I can't help you with your questions concerning your bow but I thought that Malcolm Taylor was Hills chief bowmaker and that when he left Hills he stamped his own name on his bows? Wouldn't Beares be able to help you with the information that you require? I have a beautiful gold and tortise shell viola bow from Malcom Taylor with an inlaid silver bird. It takes a bit of getting used to (as it is quite heavy) but it is fantastic to play with.

July 4, 2008 at 01:03 PM · Information I've been able to find so far is that he started with Hills in 1949, left for national service and returned in 1956. Left in 1973 to work on his own

His bows for Hill are stamped with a No 8

I'm really curious about the other markings on this bow. I tried an E Sartory and an S Sartory, quite expensive, and found the Taylor bow better in certain ways.

I'd appreciate other opinions on Malcolm's or the W.E. Hill & Sons bows.

July 4, 2008 at 01:05 PM · I can tell you what I know about my son's W.E. Hill and Sons 59 gram bow. His was made by Arthur John Barnes. He had heard that Hill bows could be somewhat "clubby". He tried several Hill bows and liked all of them to one degree or another and chose a standout. His bow is definitely not "clubby". This bow is lively, and especially good for Paganini, and the like. He can also get a big sound with it.

Now the word of caution. At 59 grams, it is an especially light bow and requires a careful rehair. Too much hair or too infrequent rehairs could cause a warping of the stick. If it is not rehaired just right you will notice it in a few days as it will seem soggy. We have a very good bow-maker about 35 minutes away and make a point of going to him for rehairs.

The other word of caution is the silver tip. The silver tips are held in place with little silver pins. Over time they can cause a little crack to form at the tip. There is some preventive action that a luthier can take to shorten the little pins in order to prevent the formation of this crack.

Like you, my son found the Hill bow he purchased to be better in his hand than the Sartorys, and Orchards he tried. It was also better than any of the modern bows he tried (with the exception of a medal winning Quade which was out of our price range). It was almost, but not quite as good in his hand as the three Lamys he tried. Lamys are substantially more expensive, however.

July 4, 2008 at 03:14 PM · Jennifer,

Great information, I will certainly consider this information on the rehair, Its due now and I don't think its been rehaired in a very long time accoring to the previous owner.

This bow is certainly not clubby either and I love how easy it is to control.

July 4, 2008 at 05:12 PM · Hi Rob

I had a Malcolm Taylor bow when I was a student back in 1986 in Toronto.I traded in a Sylvestre Maucotel bow ,plus cash for the Taylor.The Taylor was basically a baseball bat.It was impossible to balance at the frog and I could have sworn it was made of red oak instead of Pernambuco.I sold it six months later for an ivory mounted pre war W.E Hill and Sons bow.Although it was in bad shape it was infinitely superior to the Taylor.

July 5, 2008 at 12:28 AM · Hi Peter,

I wonder if that Taylor bow was made after he left the Hill firm? Any idea of the date made? Did it have the Hill stamp?

If you get back up to Parry Sound for the Festival of the Sound, I'd be happy to hear your opinion on this one. I also have one from Gary Leahy from Ireland and an early Christian Suss bow

July 5, 2008 at 02:38 AM · You might find this site useful, though it doesn't have much about Taylor:


July 5, 2008 at 09:38 AM · You might find this site useful, though it doesn't have much about Taylor:


Hi Eric,

Yes I tried those folks, and for $150 my cost they will tell me everything I want to know. They prefer I ship the bow to them for evaluation and seemed more interested in purchasing.

July 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM · Im not sure when it was made Rob.It was in mint condition when I purchased it.There was a star pattern done in gold inlay on the frog and it was stamped"Malcom Taylor".Although it was a huge disappointment,I learned so much about bow selection and what not to buy.The pre-war Hill was superb.I remember Staryk really liked it as well and had a similar one in his collection,just in way better condition.I sold that Hill a year later for a Sartory.I have always found Hill bows to be a tad "noodly' in the middle or "crowbars" like the Taylor.A dealer here in Toronto was waxing on about a Fleur du Lis Hill that I just had to try.Again,although it was very pretty,it was a noodle in the mid point of the stick.

July 6, 2008 at 02:26 AM · I wonder sometimes if that "noodly" feeling in some bows is a result of camber.

July 6, 2008 at 10:35 AM · Could be but in my experience I have always found Hill bows to go noodly when I play any fortissimo passage.I would love to know if this a common feature with the Hill bows.

July 9, 2008 at 02:27 AM · Just played a gig this week and lo and behold my stand partner had a noodly W.E Hill bow.Are there any Hill bows with strength throughout the entire length of the stick?

July 9, 2008 at 03:25 AM · My Retford Hill was quite strong.

July 9, 2008 at 10:37 AM · Hill bows vary in quality but then this is usually factored into the stamp...and mountings. If you buy a good Hill pre 1950 you should hopefully be getting a great bow that should be cheaper than the French bow of the period.

As regards the strength issue, not to mention the 'noodly' (?) problems........I have come across weak French bows and Strong French bows. Thats life.

The finest Hill bows are equal to some of the Great French makers of the time.......remember Voirin made some bows for Hill!

I just sold a great Gold and Ivory bow circa 1900 to a superb violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra. A very strong stick with highly flamed wood. It was $10 000. A Sartory Gold and Ivory would cost $50 000!


Sean Bishop

July 9, 2008 at 11:49 AM · Thanks for that Sean.Did the Hills ca.1950 have a different approach to bending their sticks compared to French makers of the same time frame? Perhaps Ive only tried Hills that have been "played out" by generations of users.

Ray, I didn't know you had a Retford bow.How are the Staryk sheets? Thanks for the Ysaye booklet!!

July 9, 2008 at 12:05 PM · Hi Peter

I always have a few Hill bows! I have the most beautiful Gold and Tortoishell FDL at the moment!

As regards to comparing between the French and English schools of making.....the French did most of the cambering/bending by feel...the English did it by measurement....After W.Watson left in the Early 50's I have not really seen a Hill bow after this period I would want. Thats my opinion.

In also have available perhaps the finest Hill viola bow made.......it is Gold and Tort with 'Lionel Tertis' engraved on the Ferrule! He must have owned it once. The wood is quite something.....but then so is the price!!!!

July 9, 2008 at 12:10 PM · Thanks Sean,

Who actually graded and stamped the bows, Was it the maker?

Do you have an idea regarding the numbers and letters stamped on the bows?

Good question Peter, I'd be interested in a responce regarding the camber.

When I compared the Hill bow to a Vigneron and S. Sartory belonging to my teacher the camber is different. The Hill bow seems to have the bend more in the center where the others were more towards the tip. It may have been interesting to trace the curve on paper to compare.

July 9, 2008 at 01:17 PM · The bows where graded by the head of the workshop...whomever it was at the time.

People get slightly hung up on whom made each bow but this makes very little difference to the price (talking pre WW11)unless it was S.Allen or Tubbs.

Also someone mentioned mucking around with the pins at the tip(silver)....leave them alone! I have NEVER heard of any problems with these and getting a bow maker to change them is asking for trouble.

July 9, 2008 at 05:26 PM · Sean wrote:

"As regards to comparing between the French and English schools of making.....the French did most of the cambering/bending by feel...the English did it by measurement...."

There are some 19th century French drawings I once saw that were pretty specific concerning taper and camber... but I believe almost all bow makers deviated a bit depending on the wood. Besides that, many of the older bows have been "adjusted" along the way. Sean may well be correct in that that the Hill shop was a bit more "steadfast" when it came to the measurement, however... although I think that will be more or less true depending on the period (...I bet they had a bit of trouble controlling old James Tubbs :-))

As far as the difference in camber between Hill bows and French bows; Some of that may simply be model... The standard Hill is a Tourte model, I believe... although they did make some "copies" of bows by other makers. The Camber found in a Tourte (or Peccatte for that matter) varies a good deal from the camber used in Voirin school bows (Voirin, Lamy, Sartory, Thomassin, etc.) which are designed with a slightly more pronounced bend closer to the head.

Sean also wrote: "Also someone mentioned mucking around with the pins at the tip(silver)....leave them alone! I have NEVER heard of any problems with these and getting a bow maker to change them is asking for trouble."

I've seen plenty of pin cracks (caused by the pernambuco shrinking around the pins) on both Hill & Tubbs bows. Maybe less common if the bows stay in London (but I've seen them there too)?? It's so common here in Tubbs bows I almost suspect the bow is a fake if one isn't present. :-) Not a problem to repair, really. Simple procedure. Cosmetically excellent. Haven't seen one reopen if the job was done correctly.

Sean; Unless I'm mistaken, Bill Watson didn't leave Hills until around '62...



July 10, 2008 at 11:07 AM · Hi Jeffrey!

Not sure how I came up with Watson leaving in the 50's! I meant 60's..........

As for pin cracks....I have never seen any! maybe the Hills sent all the dodgy bows to the US ;-)



July 10, 2008 at 04:32 PM · "I have never seen any! maybe the Hills sent all the dodgy bows to the US"

Paying us back for that tea party in Boston, eh?? :-)

Seriously though, it would not (does not) surprise me that pin cracks are more of a problem here than there. We have a bit more demanding shifts in weather/humidity than you do... especially here in the midwest.

The difficulty has been addressed specifically by some bow restorers. Jon Vanderhorst and the late Arnold Bone developed a very slightly conical shaped pin for replacement use in metal head plates (when and if a crack appears).

Pins in bow heads aren't the only things that fair less well here... many of the old vellum restoration reinforcements don't do as well in the US climate and often require re-working.

It isn't as though it (pin cracks) doesn't happen on your side of the pond, however. Probably the majority of the (well more than a hundred... maybe closer to 2 hundred... I'll have to add them up and see...) older Hill & Tubbs bows I've sold over the last 20+ years I acquired in London... and some did have existing pin cracks (back side of the head). I believe I even hired Bill W. to attend to a few of them before exporting.

What I completely agree with you about, Sean, is if a crack does not exist, one should leave the head plate alone... like we say here "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". ;-)

January 17, 2017 at 08:03 PM · I used to play a Hiil and sons violin bow made by Barnes.it had a silver tip and 59g it made my violin sound great!i sold it in 2007 to Peter Prier shop and regertted it since.If anybody out there that would like to sell there Barnes violin bow i would sure consider it. thanks!

January 17, 2017 at 09:36 PM · Suzanne !

What "Barnes" are you talking about? is he still alive? where does he live or lived?....

My luthier (also bowmaker) is "Barnes", but in Italy.... :)

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