This is possibly the earliest surviving Australian made piano and as such has great historical importance to the development of musical instrument making in Australia and in particular piano construction. Not much is known of John Benham's life prior to his arrival in this country. Whether he worked for one of the London fortepiano makers is unknown but he described himself as a carpenter on the shipping lists. Travelling by assisted passage, he arrived in Australia from England in 1833 and by the following year was advertising his piano making business. He worked at various inner Sydney addresses until his death in 1845.
The piano is made from Australian timbers, including kauri or hoop pine for the soundboard and Australian red cedar for the casework. It is of the cottage type with a reproduction decorative fabric panel at the front. The cabinet features carved timber columns either side of the fabric panel, each with lotus capitals suggesting an Egyptian revival style. Two arc shaped pull out candle holders are placed above the keyboard, one at each end. It has a six octave compass ranging from FF to f'''' and is strung as bichord (pairs of strings) throughout. The wooden frame has metal bracing.
Curator, music & musical instruments