||Charles Bradley 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
||Charles Howes’ 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 Liberal party.
||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
|| 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 his education.
|| 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
||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
||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 £120.00
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 years).
|| 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 well”.
||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
||Emily Howes died. Post war production
of new Charles Howes pianos re-commenced in 1946 but the raw material
and manufacturing costs were increasing.
A new Charles Howes & Son deluxe series Windermere piano cost
265 guineas (approximately £279.00) in 1946.
||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 was retired.
||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).