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The Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands Park

The grand Music Room at Hatchlands Park, Surrey, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfields in 1902.
The Music Room at Hatchlands Park, featuring a piano from the Cobbe Collection. | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Hatchlands Park is home to the Cobbe Collection, an extraordinary group of keyboard instruments by makers who were highly regarded by composers. Eighteen of these were owned or played by some of history's greats including JC Bach, Mozart, Elgar and Chopin. This is one of the largest groups of composer-related instruments anywhere in the world.

Collection highlights

Harpsichord by Zenti

Harpsichords are instruments in which the strings are plucked rather than struck by rebounding hammers as they are in a piano. Girolamo Zenti made them for the Medici family, Queen Christina of Sweden, in England for Charles II and for Louis XIV at Versailles. There are seven surviving instruments by Zenti, this is the oldest dating from 1622.

Harpsichord by Ruckers

The Ruckers family of Antwerp were the greatest of all harpsichord makers. This example was built by Andreas Ruckers in 1636. It underwent ‘ravalement’, a process of enlarging to add more notes, by Henri Hemsch in 1763. Decorated with a beautiful Flemish landscape it's believed to have belonged to the Savoy family.

A Ruckers hapsichord built in 1636 by Andreas Ruckers of Antwerp. The harpsichord lid is painting with its original 17th century landscape, attributable to Jan Wildens. The sides are decorated with mythological scenes, dating from 1763. The painted panels are bordered in green and gold.
A harpsichord built in 1636 by Andreas Ruckers of Antwerp, part of the Cobbe Collection | © Cobbe Collection Trust

Virginals by John Player

Virginals are rectangular instruments with a plucking action as in a harpsichord. Built by John Player in 1664, the year of the Restoration, this instrument is likely to be a survivor from the Royal Household of Charles II. It's branded with the letters WP on its front left panel, used to mark items belonging to Whitehall Palace.

Square pianoforte by Zumpe

This instrument survived in a family house in the French village of Saint Germain-en-Laye. It was likely brought there by JC Bach when he visited in 1778, accompanied by Mozart. The pianoforte went on to survive the revolution and is autographed by Bach on the soundboard.

Pianoforte by Southwell

This pianoforte dates from 1782 and was built by William Southwell, it's one of about six to survive. Built into an elegant and decorative half-moon table by William Moore, these instruments were very fashionable in Dublin during this period.

Grand pianoforte by Streicher

This grand pianoforte was built in 1823 in Vienna by Nannette Streicher, who was the preferred maker of Beethoven. It was commissioned by King George IV, who purchased it directly from the maker. The instrument is loaned to the Cobbe Collection Trust by HM The Queen.

Square pianoforte by Broadwood

Built in 1845, this pianoforte came into the possession of Edward Elgar's father, who ran a piano business. Elgar chose this piano from his father's stock for his cottage near Malvern and inscribed on the soundboard names of the works he composed on it. They include Sea Picture, Caractacus and The Dream of Gerontius. His most famous work The Enigma Variations was both begun and finished on this piano.

Grand pianoforte by Pleyel

The grand pianoforte in the saloon was built by Ignace Pleyel & Compagnie in 1848. It was built for and then brought to London by Fryderyk Chopin. He used it for his last-ever performance in Paris in February 1848. He then gave his first London performance on it, a private occasion at Gore House in Kensington. Chopin preferred Pleyel pianos above all others and referred to this one as 'my own' piano in his letters.

A small square pianoforte by John Broadwood and Sons, owned and used by Sir Edward Elgar and inscribed on the soundboard with the titles of works that he composed on the piano.
Elgar's Square Piano by John Broadwood and Sons, part of the Cobbe Collection | © Cobbe Collection Trust

Hear the instruments played

Download the Hatchlands Park app

You can now download the Hatchlands Park app, available for free on iOS from the App Store. Take a tour of the house and enjoy a little family history. You can hear from Alec Cobbe, the founder of the collection, on just what makes this group of instruments so special. Bring your visit to life with music from Chopin and Elgar, your only chance to hear these instruments played without attending a concert.

Listen in the music room

The organ by JW Walker & Sons and the music room itself were both built in 1903 for Lord Rendel. You can regularly hear the organ played by volunteers as you walk through the house.

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