Violin making schools in the UK

June 13, 2013 at 12:59 AM · Has anyone rated the violin making schools in the UK? London, Newark etc? And how do they rank with those of the continent? Thanks

Replies (33)

June 13, 2013 at 07:34 AM · Newark has a good reputation. All the major schools though (including the three in the US) have turned out some people who ended up being really good, and some who were so-so. A lot will depend on the natural talent and personal initiative of the student, not unlike becoming a violinist.

I run into teachers from the Chicago school and the Boston "North Bennet Street" school frequently, so I know they're out and about, always looking for something better to bring back to the school, and not just relying on what and how they were initially taught themselves.

June 13, 2013 at 09:06 AM · Thanks. His profile shows him living in the US, so I thought I'd try to include some information on US schools, just in case, and maybe drop a little hint that the three main US schools are as highly regarded as any in the world, on the off chance that he was under the impression that one needed to go to Europe for good training. Hope this wasn't terribly out of line. :-)

June 13, 2013 at 09:56 AM · I extracted these from a British Violin Makers Association website listing :-

Anniesland College, Glasgow runs two-year courses in instrument making.

Chapel Violins, Nottinghamshire runs 6 month intensive courses in Violin Making and in Advanced Restoration Techniques.

London Metropolitan University runs three-year courses in instrument and bow making.

Merton College, London runs courses of up to three years’ duration in instrument making & repair and bow repair.

Newark School of Violin Making (part of Newark and Sherwood College), Nottinghamshire, runs three-year courses in instrument making and repair.

West Dean College, Sussex runs three year specialist courses in early instrument making.

At one time there was a Welsh School of Violin Making, but it's no longer active.

June 13, 2013 at 11:06 AM · there is also one in quebec; the teaching is in french. have you come across graduates from that school, David (Burgess)?

June 13, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Where in the UK is Quebec ??

Of the UK schools, the Newark School seems to get the most publicity. Isn't Roger Hargrave an alumnus ?

In Italy, it's the Cremona School we hear about the most, but there are other respected teaching establishments in other major centres, e.g Milan and Parma.

As David Burgess suggested, a maker's progress is largely down to his/her personal drive and talent. Those lucky enough to have served time in a major dealership after basic training, when they are able to see and handle great old examples, gain a precious advantage.

June 13, 2013 at 11:39 AM · Tammuz, I haven't come across any graduates of that school, to my knowledge.

I wonder if this photo, from their website, is representative of the work done there?

(the page the photo comes from is at

June 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM · Devid Beck, i think the answer had already been given and since David Burgess was citing school in north america i hought i would chip in. no need to be snarky :o)

David (Burgess) ? the wood/varnish? the central core of the scroll not connected to the spiral - tricky perpective maybe?

June 13, 2013 at 12:05 PM · Tammuz, I'd rather not publicly comment further on the photo, but don't mean to discourage others from doing so.

I think David Beck was just having a little fun with Lyndon's post, and "Where in the UK is Quebec ??" wasn't really directed at you.

Yes, Roger Hargrave attended the Newark School.

June 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM · I believe Julie Reed-Yeboah attended the Newark school as well!

June 13, 2013 at 12:26 PM · ok, then i take the snarky bit back :/

how come (excluding the quebec school) there's no otherestablished school in canada. its ironic given that they're the country of maple!

June 13, 2013 at 01:18 PM · I'm anything but a luthier, but I do believe that Bosnian maple is what a lot of top makers are using nowadays, not Canadian maple (although I know two makers who are using floor beam wood salvaged from 200-300 year old Italian buildings, one maker who uses wood from the hardware store, and one extremely sought after luthier who sometimes uses Chinese wood).

June 13, 2013 at 02:58 PM · There's no need to think that if you want to buy a new English-made violin it's essential to check first that the maker was trained at Newark !

Here's some boigraphical stuff about Michael Watson who works at my friendly local dealership David E. Vernon :-

"Mike began his career restoring Long Case Clocks prior to gaining a place studying instrument making at the West Dean College under the tutelage of Roger Rose and Christopher Challen. During this time he was awarded the Crafts Council grant for a further year of research and development in Baroque instrument making.

After a number of years instrument making in workshops in Hastings and Addingham, Mike was engaged by the Royal Northern College of Music to make a Baroque string orchestra consisting of 14 Violins, 6 Violas, 4 Cellos and 2 Double Basses. As a maker, Mike enjoys an ever growing reputation among music students and professional musicians. A recent commission by the eminent cellist Martin Lovett of the world renowned Amadeus string quartet bears testament to that reputation."

Or, how about checking this link which gives a picture of an attractive 1994 violin by another of my local makers, Paul Ayres, who claims to have been trained by Ealing Strings, London, UK (though some say he began at the London College of furniture ....)

Yet another "local" WAS trained at Newark - Helen Michetschlager :-

(EDIT) Slightly farther afield (in Liverpool) is Jan Shelley ( who IS Newark-trained.

I almost forgot George Stoppani ( - another of my locals with no tangible connection with the Newark school but who has sold to professional colleagues.

The Newark school doesn't quite rule the world, not yet anyway.

I began my orchestral career on a new violin by Wilfred Saunders,(Nottingam, UK) who was one of the founding fathers of the Newark School and who seems to have very largely taught himself after an apprenticeship as cabinet-maker !

June 13, 2013 at 03:47 PM · And Peter Beare (Charles' son) attended the Salt Lake City school.

June 13, 2013 at 03:58 PM · there have been lots of cool threads about what it takes to get into performance school. What are the requirements for violin-making school? Is there an RCM ranking?

Grade 1 -- use table saw to cut rectangular block of wood while retaining all of one's fingers.

Grade 2 -- Mix hide glue; bend ribs with heat and moisture.


June 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM · That scroll almost looks like it's made of oak. The pegs need trimmed off.

I think the center core of the scroll should just be drilled out so you can hang your instrument from a hook. Then you can put something through there to make it look pretty for performance, a cylinder of ivory, gold, or contrasting wood, or you could use the hole to mount a lyre like they have for band instruments.

June 13, 2013 at 04:09 PM · I have no formal training. It is a hard way to learn...

June 13, 2013 at 04:35 PM · "how come (excluding the quebec school) there's no otherestablished school in canada. its ironic given that they're the country of maple!"


Doesn't all their maple get used up making hockey sticks?

Just kidding. The particular species of maple which most makers prefer, commonly called European maple or sycamore maple (acer pseudoplatanus), isn't native to the Americas.

(Botanists or forestry people, please correct if that's in error.)

June 13, 2013 at 05:19 PM · And why do they prefer that particular species of maple ? Does Canadian maple produce an inferior sound when used to make instruments ?

June 13, 2013 at 05:50 PM · I think most makers came up on the "European" maple. It's what they learned on and know how to use, and switching to another variety is one more vexing complication that they don't need (there are already way to many), without a compelling reason to do so.

Canada has number of species of maple, including sugar, black, silver, red, and bigleaf. I've heard of people using red and bigleaf successfully. These aren't hugely different to work with than European. Some of the other species are.

Some of the Cremonese makers occasionally used a local wood called Oppio. This website has a photo of one by Omobono Stradivari.

June 13, 2013 at 06:11 PM · David, wow it said several violins were made from the same log. I guess when you know you've got several hundred pounds of good wood...

June 13, 2013 at 08:37 PM · -- "Does Canadian maple produce an inferior sound when used to make instruments?"

It produces an "eh?" coloration. Or is that only on the eh string?

June 13, 2013 at 09:09 PM · According to Eric Blot, American maple was used by Italian makers back in 1850, he mentions the Rocca violin that belonged to Paolo Borcini, pictured in one of his books.

I think Rocca used it for economic reasons, since he was very poor.

June 13, 2013 at 10:01 PM · "It produces an "eh?" coloration. Or is that only on the eh string?"


And smells like beer. ;-)

June 14, 2013 at 09:57 AM · I found this nugget on a website (

"European maple from the Yugoslav area that is well figured, aged, and properly cut is considered prime. However, since the Maples of the area have long since been exhausted. Luthier Ralph Tiebout suspects that perhaps modern European suppliers may actually import wood from North America, and then age, cut, and billet it for resale to violin makers over the world who have grown accustomed to thinking European wood is the best. While there is no evidence for this claim, Tiebout explains that the wood he received fifty years ago from European sources was quite different than that of today."

What with all those rumours of shady activities, makers recycling Chinese instruments and selling them on as their own work etc. etc. it's hard to be sure if any new violin is the "real deal". The maker's published CV cannot possibly tell the whole story, or be considered as a guarantee. Even the repected English maker Hesketh was said to have assembled some of his fiddles from European factory-made parts - but that's "hearsay", not good enough for Judge Judy. Buyers have to beware, as ever.

David Burgess mentioned "The particular species of maple which most makers prefer, commonly called European maple or sycamore maple (acer pseudoplatanus)" I gather there's another species which apparently grows in the Bosnian area - Acer platanoides (Norway maple). I remember an Italian emphasising he had used the former, leading me to think that sometimes he used the latter.

June 15, 2013 at 01:14 AM · In 1850 one could still find plenty of maple and other hardwood trees in North America that were three or four feet in diameter. I suspect they were much less common in Europe.

June 15, 2013 at 01:37 AM · You may have the same situation with Chinese wood. I have heard (and by no means verified) that in some cases, it's better to save money on the Jay Haide instruments by not spending extra on European wood. Not that it isn't better in general, but that the Chinese makers can often find large, straight trees in their own forests.

June 15, 2013 at 02:30 AM · ..

June 15, 2013 at 05:52 AM · (EDIT) my reply to Melvyn Goldsmith's withdrawn comment is deleted.

Makers I cited before were (originally, pre-edits) just 3 "of repute" working close to me.

However, fiddle enthusiasts might like to see the splendid reproduction Stradivari illustrated on the M.G. website ( - this site, being still under construction, doesn't yet reveal whether or not he was "Newark" trained.

There would seem to be an abundance of fine makers in the UK right now. Whether it would be reasonable to rank the various schools by simply tracking down the training-history of all those practitioners and then judging their relative artistic merits I doubt.

PPS my dad came from Newark but remained seriously un-musical.

June 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM · Apologies to David Beck...I've spent a whole day wishing that I had used the term iron pyrites and been sufficiently generous to your experienced opinion. I did not read what you might have posted & changed but thank you for your good will.....In my defense but no excuse I had just got home from the Strad exhibition at the Ashmolean rendered practically stunned and incompetent !...

June 16, 2013 at 01:20 AM · Melvin-- lucky you! Could you write up a review of the Strad exhibit for us and post it as a blog? I'm sure many people here would be interested!

June 16, 2013 at 05:19 AM · Melvyn,

The "nugget" I posted wan't my opinion - merely one example of the array of suspect information we players have to wade through if we choose to question the dealership's sales-talk and delve into the violinistic mysteries!

It's sheer murder trying to make an informed choice when out to buy a "serious" fiddle. I pity those straight out of college.

I don't anticipate going to that Ashmolean exhibition. They would't let someone like me anywhere NEAR the exhibits, let alone play them ! But I bought the AMAZING catalogue. I'ts possible even for me, a mere player, to discern the stunningly high quality of the craftsmanship.

I'd suspected they wouldn't have been able to get hold of the "Alard" Strad, by reputation one of the very greatest, but they HAVE. The illustrations put Hamma, Jalovec and most other fiddle-books to shame. Wow.

Recommended, folks.

June 16, 2013 at 12:29 PM · re David Beck

Posted on June 13, 2013 at 02:58 PM:

It was my understanding that many of the luthiers at W.E.Hill went to Ealing Strings after the shop closed in 1992.

June 16, 2013 at 03:09 PM · I THINK that Ealing Strings was founded by Hill employees, principally Malcolm Sadler; but I gather Sadler was a connoisseur and salesman rather than a maker.

For more info, see the book written by his son, Richard Sadler :- "W.E.HILL & SONS (1880-1992): A TRIBUTE.

As you probably know, after about 1900 the early violin-makers at Hills were French-trained, so the Hill firm became a finishing-school, rather than a training ground, for luthiers. It seems that Hills did very little "making" apart from special commissions after the departure of the Langonets. As the firm approached closure, the Sadler tome mentions luthiery as being entrusted to "Colin Nicholls and Martin Godliman, with some input from Harold Hearne". None of these is mentioned as having subsequently joined Ealing Strings.

Bowmaking at Hills was an entirely different story, but makers leaving Hills seem to have pursued independent careers. The Ealing Strings bowmaking department was certainly guided to some extent by ex-Hill makers, in particular A.R. Bultitude; so it's certainly an offshoot of the Hill tradition.

My knowledge is limited - an email address for further info will come up if you Google Ealing Strings.

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