Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

In 1935 Challen, one of Harringay's several piano manufacturers, built the largest piano in the world at their Hermitage Road factory. At 11 feet 8 inches long and weighing over one and quarter tons, the piano held its record till early this century.

 

Built to mark the King's 1935 Silver Jubilee, the piano was finished in silver and named the "great silver piano". It was first shown at the British Industries fair in the Jubilee year, where it was inspected by Queen Mary, and was played for her by Billy Mayerl.

 

 

The piano was acquired by Lord and Lady Montrous of Manchester and was used at a garden party for the Royal Family in 1936. However, because of its excessive weight apparently it sunk into the boggy ground and was later used as a garden.

See Billy Mayerl playing the piano here.

Tags for Forum Posts: challen silver jubilee piano, harringay pianos

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Bit late joining this topic... and delighted to discover the interest :)) I had no idea but knew of the piano from the late 70s!

I note a photo here of the piano being moved outside the Grafton - scroll down to John Mason removals gallery guess early 50s and may connect with next para.

The 'silver' 1935 piano is mentioned in use with the Hamer band for New Years eve 1951, a year later I noticed another Challen advert for the British Industries Fair 1952. Could the piano have been displayed again???

Later history points to a dealer in Wales around 1980 and passed to Gilbert Pianos Ltd, Leeds, which made the Yorkshire Post on 20:12:1980 (pic in Billy Mayerl Society mag). Phillips Auction Marylebone 25:09:1981 lot 27 withdrawn at £7k, this looks like one of the very first, and yet to be established, piano auctions. I have a b/w display brochure from the early 80s from another Leeds dealer - BSM Pianos and finally Acorn Pianos, Birmingham sold the piano to near Paris in 1984. Rather a mixed later history here, perhaps the 60s & 70s were more settled...?

Will come back with a part two soon, all take care and here is a photo of a Phillips auction teaser in Weekend mag 1981.

Attachments:

Many thanks, Andrew. Great detail on the story. I look forward to hearing the next instalment. 

Many thanks for this further information. I'd love to know whereabouts in France it is ... On the evidence of the photograph you attached, the 'Challen' logo on the fall board seems quite corroded. Given the piano's rather checkered history, I fear that it might currently be in a rather dilapidated condition, which would be a pity :-( 

Part 2 from Andrew. Here it is after 36 years :)))

Your Harringay piano arrived back in the UK in the early hours of 4.12.20. In order to make this possible huge thanks go to Palace Pianos (friends) who discovered the piano, and only 30 mins from their base! The actual owner was delighted and most keen for the piano to return to the UK and be restored once again, he waved it off:)). If you scroll through PP FB page you will see their original posting about the sale. Here is a link to a flickr collection I have just created for more pics.

Okay... so it looks bad?? In reality much better from a restoration angle and used to far worse. Luckily the soundboard received quality repair work a while back which still looks intact. Test notes reveal a very substancial Challen tone present, especially the bass and all registers with very good sustain. The structure is a tank, over engineered and preserving soundboard shape. Many metal angle brackets are around the case for protection and it was always built as an 'on the road' piano with applied beech transport rails. The action is potentially all original parts and a very good basis to reproduce exact copies of felts / rollers / hammers / dampers as used in the original manufacture.

The cream spray case is dated 1969 and I would hope to return it to silver??? 

On the whole I am satisfied that it can be returned to good concert condition and will advise many pianist friends, but no rush here, it is going to be a long haul... Julian - the name plate is perfect! I also have the bass dampers which are missing in the pics, you are looking at another restoration which was never finished some 20 years ago in France and came to a halt over incorrect bass strings dims.

Hope you enjoy the pics and will post progress here and further photos in the new year.

Wow!!! That's so exciting!!! I've been fascinated by this piano since I was a kid and read about it in William Lesley Sumner's book The Pianoforte which includes a photograph of it. And then I saw it on its side in Birmingham but was unable to take a closer look or try it out ... Anyway, It's good to know that it is not in bad condition and can be restored to its former glory. The photographs you've supplied are fascinating and look very promising for restoration outcomes - and yes, it would be good to regain the silver colour. When circumstances permit, I hope you will allow me to come and look at it and play it (?) Possibly give a public concert on it (??!!) Anyway, I was delighted to read your post!

Snap, I met the piano in Sumner's book around 1979 looked at the pics first! Yes, it must be used and seen again and we can all meet up to share the experience. Going to stir up many of our artists contacts, including those with wonderful Mayerl repertoire, even Ben Grosvenor. 

That sounds great, especially if you can get Ben Grosvenor to play it. Something to look forward to!

This is such good news, Andrew, I was so pleased to get your email the other week.

We look forward to the post-restoration concert at our local venue, Ally Pally!

This is such a great story. Such a joy to read!

Having replied to original post in 2011, this is a cracking resolution. I really had no hope of ever seeing it again, especially since I think we all concluded it had been turned rather bizarrely into a 'garden' ("Where's Jennifer?"; "Oh, she's taking a stroll by the third octave"). I'd like someone to make a documentary about it. I'll be following the restoration with interest. More evidence by the way that Challens have a homing instinct, although sadly I treacherously gave mine away several years ago and now own a Yamaha.

Here is a first video of the French side removal :))

https://youtu.be/B8baQ-gWJow

Photos here of the piano at Phillips Auction 25.09.1981. Scans from 35mm slides.

Condition not looking the best even then and confirmed by the contact who went specially to view the piano for personal interest.

It's great to see these pictures. Thanks!

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