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2010/42/2 Grand piano, timber, metal / ivory, made by Joseph Kirkman, London, England, [1815-1818]. Click to enlarge.

Grand piano by Joseph Kirkman

  • 1815-1818
This rare piano by Joseph Kirkman is the earliest English horizontal grand in the Powerhouse Museum's collection and includes sabre legs, a feature of Regency period furniture but rarely seen in piano design. It also includes the Royal Warrant to "Her Majesty", referring to George III's wife Queen Charlotte who died in 1818 but who had been a great patron of the arts and lover of music. The Kirkman family were one of the leading harpsichord and piano manufacturers in England during the late …


Object No.


Object Statement

Grand piano, timber, metal / ivory, made by Joseph Kirkman, London, England, [1815-1818]

Physical Description

Grand piano, timber, metal / ivory, made by Joseph Kirkman, London, England, [1815-1818]

Grand piano of 6 octave range from CC to c4. Triple strung throughout. Case in mahogany with satinwood nameboard and keyboard surrounds. Brass lid locks fitted to sides. The legs are of a sabre design with brass castors and mounts. The soundboard of pine has two bridges fitted. A jack rail fits over the line of dampers. The keyboard has ivory covered naturals and ebony sharps. An oval makers plaque with text in black capitals and flowing script on a gold ground is centrally located above the keyboard and features the Royal coat of arms. A wooden music desk sits above this with folding music stand and sliding panels either side. A removable rectangular wooden fall board is fitted at the front and includes a lock at the top. Two wooden pedals for una corda and damper are set into a wooden lyre with five vertical brass rods and two decorative circular spiraled mounts.


Maker's plate reads; "Joseph Kirkman / Grand Piano Forte Maker / To Her Majesty / 19 Broad Street Golden Square / London" . The coat of arms of Queen Charlotte is set between the maker's first and last names.



930 mm


1135 mm



  • 1815-1818


The Kirkman family of keyboard makers were some of the most important in London from the mid 18th century through to the mid to late 19th century. Their production output of both harpsichords and pianos was large although exact numbers are uncertain. Research by Whitehead and Nex and into the records of the Sun Insurance company of London show that the Kirkman policies and estimates of assets during the period 1775-1787 was some of the largest, and comparable to John Broadwood.

Although many extant examples of both harpsichords and pianos by various generations of the Kirkmans exist they also show a certain amount of experimentation with design and in some cases mechanical operation of instruments such as the arrangement and function of stops on harpsichords.

This piano seems to be unique in its use of sabre legs but helps to firmly place it in the period prior to Queen Charlotte's death in 1818.



The Kirckman (Kirkman) business was established in London in 1830 by Jacob Kirckman who had originally come from Alsace. His nephew, Abraham, went into partnership with him in about 1770. By 1789 Joseph Kirkman (Abraham's second son) had joined the business and took over managing it in 1794. Later Joseph's son, also called Joseph, ran the business.

Joseph Kirkman I's residence at the address on this piano, 19 Broad Street, Golden Square, and has been recorded on instruments from 1796 (Clinkscale p.166). The London Post Office Annual Directory of 1808, still lists Joseph Kirkman at this address and described as a harpsichord maker.

Joseph Kirkman is recorded as Grand Pianoforte Maker to Her Majesty and HRH The Prince Regent (Harding, p.414). The description Grand Pianoforte Maker to Her Majesty was used by 1817 and possibly earlier (Clinkscale p.167). Apart from the attribution to "Her Majesty", the coat of arms on the maker's plaque of this instrument contains the arms of Queen Charlotte, who died in 1818. The sabre legs on this piano also date it to sometime during the Regency period and became popular after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, giving a possible date for this instrument of between 1815 and 1818.


Credit Line

Bequest of Mr William F Bradshaw, 2010

Acquisition Date

16 June 2010

Cite this Object


Grand piano by Joseph Kirkman 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 May 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Grand piano by Joseph Kirkman |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 May 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}