July 13 2017 – The Broadwood Piano Family – Crawley and Beethoven

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Tablet in St John’s Church, Crawley

Thomas Broadwood of Holmbush had strong ties with St John’s Church in the Parish of Crawley.

Thomas Broadwood [1786-1861] was the younger son of John Broadwood [1732-1812] and Mary [1752-1839].

James Shudi Broadwood [1772-1851] was the elder son of John and Mary. He took control of the family business in 1836. Thomas became a Partner in the business in 1808.

Ludwig van Beethoven received a six octave Broadwood in 1818, a gift from Thomas Broadwood,[7] which he kept for the rest of his life. Although his impaired hearing may well have prevented him appreciating its tone,[8] he seems to have preferred it to his Erard which had a similar range. Above the company label on the front edge of the pin block the following text can be read: ″Hoc Instrumentum est Thomae Broadwood (Londrini) donum propter ingenium illustrissime Beethoven.″ [This instrument is a proper gift from Thomas Broadwood of London to the great Beethoven.]

Frédéric Chopin played Broadwood instruments in Britain, including at the last concert of his life given at Guildhall, London, in 1848.

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Broadwood_%26_Sons )

St John’s Parish Church, Crawley


Picture above: The memorial tablet to John Broadwood and his wife Mary. John Broadwood was founder of the famous piano making company and even Beethoven was the proud owner of a ‘Broadwood pianoforte’ from the ‘Firm of Broadwood’.



James Shudi Broadwood had two sons: Henry Fowler Broadwood and John Broadwood.

“The Broadwood family home from the late 18th century was the Lyne Estate in the parish of capel in Surrey, only a very short distance from Rusper over the county boundary in West Sussex.

“Lucy [Broadwood] went there to live at the age of six when her father, Henry Fowler Broadwood, inherited the estate on the death of his half-brother, the Rev John Broadwood in 1864. John Broadwood was a pioneer in the world of folksong collection, having published a small book of 16 songs, that he had collected in Surrey and Sussex, in 1847”

(Source: “Singers band together to raise cash to repair folk musician’s grave”, West Sussex County Times, July 13 2017 – pp 44 & 45)



Lucy Broadwood [1858-1929] – the renowned Folksong Collector and Researcher – came from the famous piano-making family, which has a strong – almost-forgotten – connection to Crawley (“Singers band together to raise cash to repair folk musician’s grave”, WSCT, July 13).

Lucy Broadwood

As the article points out, Lucy’s father – Henry Fowler Broadwood – inherited the Lyne estate near Rusper, after the death of his half-brother – and folksong collector – John Broadwood (1798-1864).

But before that – for 40 years between 1824 and 1864 – the Broadwood family owned the Holmbush estate. The Gothic-style Grade II listed mansion Holmbush House – built by architect Francis Edwards* for Thomas Broadwood in 1824 – can still be clearly seen up on the hill near Buchan Park along the Crawley-Horsham main road.

Holmbush House

The Holmbush estate formed a large part of St Leonard’s Forest, where legend has it the last dragon in Britain was slain.

Thomas Broadwood placed a memorial tablet to his parents, on the south wall of the nave in St John’s in the Parish of Crawley, as a “testimony of his affection for his much beloved father and mother” – John Broadwood (1732-1812) and Mary (1752-1839).

St John’s Crawley

Thomas became lord of the Manor of Bewbush in 1841.

The Broadwood family vault is also on the floor of St John’s chancel, laid circa. 1845 by Thomas Broadwood on the early death of his wife Annie Augusta (d. 1845 – aged 45) – the vault would later include Thomas himself (d. 1861 – aged 74), his son John Jervis of Buchan Hill (d. 1868) and wife Dorothy (d. 1870 – aged 45), and their son John Halliday (d. 1878 – aged 14)


After his death, the Holmbush estate was sold in 1864 to Col. James Clifton Brown – Liberal MP for Horsham.

In 1795, Thomas Broadwood became partner to his father’s piano business. He travelled extensively throughout Europe for the company – John Broadwood and Sons.

In 1817, Thomas met Beethoven, and the following year sent the great German composer and pianist a grand piano with the inscription: ″Hoc Instrumentum est Thomae Broadwood (Londrini) donum propter ingenium illustrissimi Beethoven.″ [This instrument is a proper gift from Thomas Broadwood of London in recognition of the talents of the illustrious Beethoven]. After the death of the great musician in 1827, the piano was given to Liszt, and is now in the National Museum of Hungary in Budapest.

Ludwig Van Beethoven – the German composer’s Broadwood piano at the Liszt museum in Budapest, Hungary [Andras Schiff DVD cover photo]
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The Broadwood Grand was played by other great musicians of the time, including Mozart, Haydn and Chopin.

In 1821, a Broadwood Grand Piano was delivered to King George IV at Brighton Pavilion, and in 1840 Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert bought a Broadwood for Buckingham Palace.

On Crawley’s 70th Anniversary, this town can be justly proud of its historic links with this Broadwood piano family.

* Francis Edwards Way is in Bewbush


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