Square Piano Nameboard Fretwork

Nameboard fretwork apertures backed by coloured silk were generally used by makers from about 1800. There were various designs and sizes but there were normally two fretwork panels positioned in symmetry towards each end of the nameboard and one internal fretwork in the left-hand back corner of the instrument. This feature in square pianos was patented by William Southwell, a maker from Dublin in 1794. (Patent for improvements in the pianoforte, No.2017, 18th October 1794) and the earliest extant example of a square piano with fretwork is at Croft Castle, a National Trust property near Leominster, Herefordshire.   The nameboard has the number 1784 that has been assumed to be the date but it is more likely that this is the maker’s number and the instrument was actually made about 1793, the year before the patent was granted.

1784 Southwell square piano

A square piano by William Southwell of about 1793 showing the first known example of nameboard fretwork backed by coloured silk

While it is possible to find various colours of original silk used to back the fretwork apertures on square pianos the majority of instruments used a slightly blue, sage green coloured silk that was probably obtained by piano makers from Spitalfields, the centre of silk weaving in London. Later 19th century square pianos often used red silk.

Post updated on 7 April 2013