Howes was born on the 1st of March to Joseph and Mary
Ann Howes at 3 Platt Court, Nottingham. Charles was
the only child of Joseph and Mary Ann.
family moved to Morecambe in 1886 and Joseph began work
as a piano tuner for Bowker & Co, the Musical Instrument
and Booksellers based at Queen’s Terrace.
||Charles Howes began his
working life as an apprentice piano tuner in 1887 working
under the direction of his father at Bowker & Co.
||Aged seventeen years old, Charles Howes
established a retail music business in 1890 with his
father Joseph. Charles ran the shop and tuned while
his father concentrated on outside customer tunings.
His father enjoyed the freedom of being a travelling
tuner and did not want to be tied to the opening hours
of the shop. He was an active political agent for the
||Charles Howes married Emily Davison from
Shipley, Yorkshire in 1895 with whom he had a son (Frederick)
and a daughter.
||Charles Howes became a close friend of
local bank manager and conductor of Morecambe Madrigal
Society, Robert Howson whom the previous year (1894)
had founded the Morecambe Music Festival. In 1895 Charles,
with the help of Mr. Howson’s bank, started work
on the design of an upright piano, which later became
the ‘Lakes View’ model. Charles would regularly
take a piano that had been part exchanged in his shop
and completely dismantle it so he could experiment and
analyse what could be improved. This process was often
an expensive exercise as Charles would take a thoroughly
good piano and destroy it. Charles commented later in
life that much of his knowledge of pianos was learnt
in these early days experimenting.
||Charles Howes had four of his ‘Lakes
View’ pianos made by Collard & Collard of
50 New Bond Street, London in 1899. Over the next sixty
years he had many of his pianos made by Collard &
Collard and was financially and creatively involved
||Charles Howes son Frederick was born on
the 28th of May 1900 at 28 Kensington road, Morecambe.
Through Charles Howes’ close friendship with Morecambe
music festival founder Robert Howson and Chairman Canon
Charles Gorton they all met the Great British composer
Edward Elgar in the June of 1902 to commission him to
compose a new test piece for the following years music
festival. In the November, Elgar wrote the piece Weary
Wind of the West, dedicated to Morecambe, and set to
four verses of the Manx poet Thomas Brown. It received
its debut performance in the May of 1903 at the festival.
||Charles Howes had a telephone installed in his shop
at the end of September 1904. He was one of the first
businesses in his town to have a telephone and realised
that the future prosperity of his business depended
on the ability to communicate with customers and businesses
both locally and nationally. He began to take monthly
deliveries from ‘Collard & Collard’
of his ‘Lakes View’ pianos.
|| Charles Howes re-named his
‘Lakes View’ pianos, ‘Lake’
after the death of his close friend Robert Howson. The
reason for the change is unknown.
Edward Elgar composed the part song ‘Evening Scene’
for the memorial service of Robert Howson following
his death. Charles Howes was the conductor for the memorial
service and took over the conducting duties of Robert
Howson for the Morecambe music festival, which was generally
considered the finest and certainly the largest music
festival in the country at that time.
||Charles Howes started work
on his deluxe pianos called ‘Charles & Son’.
He needed to find local firms (in the north of England)
to work with due to his obsessiveness about the quality
of these new pianos. Even though his son Frederick was
only eight years old, Charles had decided that Frederick
would enter the family business when he had finished
|| Charles Howes
became involved with a piano maker in Bolton called
Mr Wood of “Woods Piano Works” for his deluxe
pianos. He had all the backs, soundboards, iron frames
and strings made at Woods. Actions were made at ‘Henry
Brooks’ in London (who merged with Herrburger
action makers of France in 1926). The cases were made
by Lancaster based ‘Waring & Gillow’.
For many years there has been confusion between the
companies. Until the 11th edition even the piano industries
bible “Pierce Piano Atlas” had the entry
as Woods Piano, Cannon Street, Bolton, Lancaster, England
(the towns of Bolton and Lancaster are approximately
50 miles apart).
A new Charles & Son deluxe upright piano in 1909
cost 150 guineas (approximately £157.00).
||Charles Howes conducted a
four thousand strong choir and orchestra for the ‘John
Farmer Music Festival’ held at the Crystal Palace
in London on Saturday the 26th of March 1910. The festival
was so prestigious that it was reported in the “Times”
newspaper on the following Monday.
||Charles Howes sold a total of six deluxe
‘Charles & Son’ pianos in 1911, which
were nearly, double the price of his standard Collard
& Collard Lake pianos.
|| Charles Howes supplied in 1912 a deluxe upright piano
to ‘Lancaster Male Voice Choir’ now one
of the oldest choirs in England. The choir was founded
in 1899 by Richard Thomas Grosse and held rehearsals
at the ‘Waring & Gillow’ factory at
North road, Lancaster.
||Charles Howes’ son Frederick joined the family
business and the shop name was changed to ‘Charles
Howes & Son’.
||Charles Howes joined his local town council
following in his father Joseph’s political footsteps.
|| Charles Howes began to sell
new less expensive imported pianos from New York based
Sohmer & Co. in 1921. Hugo Sohmer’s son Harry
J. Sohmer and Charles became life long friends often
exchanging piano manufacturing ideas and methods. While
on business in London, Charles stayed with his Uncle
Henry who lived at 181 Putney bridge road, Wandsworth.
Charles dined nightly at The Royal Court Hotel in Sloane
Square, Chelsea. One evening while dining Charles met
Henry Waterson, the manager of Ted Snyder (Irving Berlin’s
writing partner). He told Charles that he wanted a piano
making for Irving Berlin that could transpose automatically.
Charles discussed this with the senior management at
Collard & Collard but they didn’t think that
there would be a big enough market for such an instrument.
Charles, fascinated by the concept, mentioned it to
Harry J. Sohmer and he set about and succeeded building
one. Only three of these pianos were ever built for
Irving Berlin, and they regularly travelled between
New York and London. Sohmer & Co.’s reputation
as a piano innovator was cemented.
Incidentally, in 1921 a new Charles & Son deluxe
upright piano cost 170 guineas (approximately £178.00)
and a Sohmer & Co piano cost the equivalent to approximately
By the out break of war in 1939 the equivalent Charles
Howes & Son deluxe piano had risen to 225 guineas
(approximately £235.00) but because of the great
stock market crash in the late 1920’s the Sohmer
& Co pianos were still selling for approximately
£120.00. (I.e. no price change in nearly twenty
|| Charles Howes organised a broadcast of
his towns music festival in 1922 with the BBC in London.
It was a real coup for him and was one of the first
events of its kind to be ever broadcast outside of London.
It was believed that over one million listeners heard
the programme via the highly acclaimed 221 station in
Manchester. Charles had a “Marconiphone”
installed in his shop especially for the broadcast.
During the festival he left the festival and went to
his shop to listen to the broadcast. He reported back
saying, “the broadcast had come through remarkably
||Charles Howes had to change the name of his Charles
& Son pianos in 1924 after receiving a telegram
from the Kimball piano companies American lawyers. They
stated that they were also making pianos with the same
name. Although Charles didn't own the registered trademark
for Great Britain neither did Kimball, but he decided
to give in and changed the name to the same as the shop,
‘Charles Howes & Son’.
||Charles Howes was asked in 1925 by Waring & Gillow
of Lancaster to design a Grand Piano with strengthened
legs for the one thousand four hundred passenger cruise
ship MV Caledonia 5. Waring & Gillow were fitting
out the ship for the builders A. Stephen & Sons
of Glasgow for the Anchor Line. The piano was built
by the Welmar Piano Company, 47 Conduit Street, London.
Her maiden voyage was from Glasgow, Moville, New York
on the 3rd of October 1925.
||After the upset of the Kimball lawyers
experience and the fact that Charles had only sold about
one thousand Deluxe pianos in nearly twenty years. Charles
decided to drop the range and his name in 1929 to concentrate
on the sale of the British Collard & Collard pianos
and the imported American Sohmer & Co pianos.
||Charles Howes visited Harry J. Sohmer’s
new Long Island factory in 1932 and spent a month there.
When he returned to England he immediately visited Woods
Piano works and Waring & Gillows to discuss the
changes he wanted for his newly designed Charles Howes
& Son deluxe ‘Lake district’ range.
|| Charles launched the new
range of Charles Howes & Son, Deluxe series pianos
in 1933. Each model was named after areas of the Lake
District just as the upright range is today.
Charles Howes’ new Deluxe pianos were critically
acclaimed and supplied to many of the local entertainment
attractions including the new Midland Hotel in Morecambe
which was designed by the highly acclaimed architect
Oliver Hill. The Midland, built in the art deco style,
also contained a mural by one of the Worlds greatest
engravers, Eric Gill. The Tate Gallery in London now
holds more than a hundred of Eric Gill’s works.
A new Windermere model upright piano was supplied as
the pit piano to the Cecil Hodgkinson’s Winter
Garden Orchestra in 1933. The winter gardens had recently
been bought by a group of business men including Charles’
friend Alfred Edmondson. The first production the new
Windermere was used for was an amateur production by
the Warblers of the Desert Song staring a young Thora
Hird playing the part of Susan.
In 1933 the new Charles Howes & Son deluxe series
Windermere piano cost 200 guineas (£210.00).
||Charles Howes supplied a Langdale deluxe
piano to the Royalty Theatre Morecambe in 1935 which
was being fully refurbished by Waring & Gillow.
||Charles Howes in 1936 invited the young conductor
Harold Malcolm Watts-Sargent (Sir Malcolm Sargent) to
conduct a two hundred strong ensemble including the
Halle Orchestra and festival Choir for the final nights
grand concert of the Music festival. It attracted an
audience of two thousand five hundred people.
Charles had met the young conductor Malcolm Sargent
after a Huddersfield Choral Society concert in the early
part of 1934 and persuaded him to conduct the concert
just a few days before Malcolm Sargent left for his
first conducting tour of Australia.
||Charles Howes was elected Mayor of his Morecambe town
council on the 9th of November 1937.
||During his inaugural year,
Charles Howes wanted his towns Music Festival to be
one of the key dates in his official calendar. Charles
had become a friend of many great conductors and Sir
Henry Wood, Sir Hamilton Harty and Dr. C. Armstrong
Giggs all graced the festival in 1938.
Charles also opened his towns new Fire Station.
||Charles Howes year as Mayor
had really paid dividends for Morecambe’s entertainment
programme by 1939. For example, on a Tuesday evening
in February there was live entertainment including six
concerts and five dances and all the usual entertainment
on at the Winter Gardens, the Tower, the Royalty and
the two piers. There were very few Charles Howes pianos
manufactured during the Second World War. When the production
all but stopped the cost of a new Charles Howes &
Son deluxe series Windermere piano had risen to 225
guineas (approximately £235.00). Charles refocused
his business on renovation work.
||Charles Howes was elected Alderman of
his town on the 29th of June 1944.
||Charles Howes and Emily celebrated their
Golden Wedding Anniversary
||Emily Howes died. Post war
production of new Charles Howes pianos re-commenced
in 1946 but the raw material and manufacturing costs
A new Charles Howes & Son deluxe series Windermere
piano cost 265 guineas (approximately £279.00)
||After a fire at Charles Howes’ Queen
Street office in 1947, Charles, devastated at the loss
of many of his records and design drawings decided to
retire from full time involvement of the business. He
handed over full time reigns to his son Frederick.
||Charles Howes in 1948 was
commissioned to design a showpiece Grand Piano in a
Burr Walnut cabinet for the cruise ship MV Princess
Patricia built by Fairfield Company Ltd of Glasgow,
Scotland. The Patricia was built for the Canadian Pacific
Ltd line of Canada and fitted out by his long time friends
at Waring & Gillow, Lancaster. The Princess Patricia
was built to serve on the Canadian West Coast carrying
passengers between Vancouver and Victoria. The Pianos
legs were specially deigned and made to withstand tremendous
amounts of stress due to the bad weather conditions
associated with the region. Piano castors were replaced
with bolts in rubber mounts. The Piano was constructed
by Welmar Pianos of 47 Conduit Street, London. It was
in continuance use until 1980 when the Princess Patricia
||Charles Howes began designing a smaller
range of pianos in 1949 realising some people were looking
for small cottage pianos.
||Charles Howes resigned from his town council
on the 31st of January 1952.
|| Charles Howes’ largest
and most prestigious order came in 1953 quite simply
through his years of tremendous networking. In 1944
Henry Waterson (see 1921) had introduced Charles to
Woolf Phillips a young Conductor and Arranger who had
just started working with the ‘Geraldo’
band in London. By 1953 Woolf Phillips was Musical Director
of the London Palladium Orchestra who’s owners
Moss Empires Ltd had just bought the Winter Gardens
Theatre in Morecambe. Woolf Phillips told Charles that
Reg Bromhead, a director of Moss Empires, Odeon and
Gaumont was looking to purchase sixteen rehearsal pianos
for his various venues. Even though Charles was eighty
years old he immediately booked a train to London, met
with Woolf Phillips and Reg Bromhead and got the order.
The pianos supplied to Moss Empires included prestigious
venues including the London Palladium, Prince of Wales
Theatre, the Hippodromes at London and Birmingham, the
Theatre Royal at Nottingham and Birmingham as well as
Empire theatres (Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh)
and several venues for Gaumont.
A new Charles Howes & Son deluxe series Windermere
piano in 1953 cost 390 guineas (approximately £410.00).
|| Charles Howes died on Friday
the 8th of January 1960 at the Queen Victoria Hospital
aged eighty-seven years old. Collard & Collard also
closed in 1960 and Waring & Gillow closed in 1961.
A new Charles Howes & Son deluxe series Windermere
piano in 1960 cost 445 guineas (approximately £465.00).