Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Broadwood, John

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BROADWOOD, JOHN (1732–1812), pianoforte manufacturer, was born at Cockburnspath, Dunbar, N.B., in 1732. He came of an old family of Northumbrian yeomen, who. in the sixteenth century owned land near Hexham, but in the eighteenth century moved into Scotland. Broadwood's grandfather was John Broadwood of Oldhamstock, East Lothian, who married (1679) one Katherine Boan. His youngest son, James, married Margaret Pewes, and their eldest son was the celebrated pianoforte maker. Broadwood is said to have walked from Scotland to London to seek his fortune as a cabinet-maker. He found employment and ultimately entered into partnership with Burkhardt Tschudi, a Swiss harpsichord maker, who came to England in 1718, and in 1732 had taken the house in Great Pulteney Street, which is still the place of business of his descendants. In 1769 Tschudi retired (reserving to himself certain royalties and the right of tuning harpsichords at the oratorios) in favour of Broadwood, who had married his daughter Barbara, though for some time longer the style of the firm remained Tschudi & Broadwood. After the death of Tschudi (in 1773) his son entered for a short time into partnership with Broadwood, but in 1783 the business was in the sole hands of the latter, and remained so until 1795, when Broadwood's eldest son, James Tschudi Broadwood, was taken into partnership with his father. The latter died in 1812 and was buried in the burial-ground of the methodist chapel in Tottenham-Court Road. Without entering into technical details it is impossible to describe the changes and improvements introduced in the construction of pianofortes by Broadwood and his partners. The history of the firm during this period is practically the history of the pianoforte, and the instruments manufactured in Great Pulteney Street acquired a European reputation by means of their admirable qualities. Broadwood's first patent, dated 17 July 1783, is for a 'new constructed pianoforte, which is far superior to any instrument of the kind heretofore constructed,' but it is known that prior to this he was engaged in assisting Americus Backers in perfecting the so-called English or direct lever action, which was patented by Backers's apprentice after his master's death in 1777. Personally Broadwood was an amiable and cultivated man, and his society was sought after by many of the most influential personages of the day. He was a clear-headed man of business, and very independent and energetic. There is a portrait of him painted at the age of eighty by John Harrison, which was engraved by W. Say and published on 1 Aug. 1812.

[Grove's Dict. of Musicians, i. 278 a, &c.; Specifications of Patents relating to Music and Musical Instruments; information from Miss Broadwood and Mr. A. J. Hipkins; International Inventions Exhibition Catalogues, &c.]

W. B. S.