Cavendish Pianos - a new era for British piano makers



“I’m sorry we do not have such a thing as an English Piano”.
These are the words Adam and Charlie Cox, a husband and wife team running Yorkshire Pianos, found themselves saying to many of their customers looking for a new piano.
“People grew up with British pianos at school and at home and we find that when people come to buy their own piano they are often looking for that mellow sound that they grew up with”, says Charlie.
Two years ago the Kemble factory closed in Milton Keynes, sounding the death knell for British piano making. It was the last remaining factory and when the gates closed for the final time skilled workers, some of whom had been involved in the piano industry all their lives, found themselves with nowhere to turn.
“We felt we had no choice but to either lose British Piano manufacturing forever, or try to resurrect the art of making pianos in Britain” says Adam.

Having traded for 15 years in Leeds as Headingley Pianos, the team searched for new premises to not only act as showroom, but also as piano manufacturing base. They looked at shops, industrial units, church-halls… even a church! After well over a year’s searching they had almost given up looking.
“Then one day I was on a bike ride to Bolton Abbey” says Adam “I knew immediately it was the right place for us as I peered through a window and saw a large barn of a room. What an acoustic I thought!”
Of course when they took it on it is was more like barn than a piano showroom and workshop but with the use of a bank loan and the help of local Wharfedale firms they were able to transform it and it is now perfect for their needs.
“Lots of people ask if it was originally a church or chapel” says John Spencer, head technician, “reclaimed ecclesiastical panelling and doors were used in the conversion but it was built originally as a forge.” Situated just off the busy A59 at the foot of Beamsley Beacon with wonderful views in all directions it’s certainly an inspiring place to work.
The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire paid them a visit early on and were interested and then excited at the prospect of a piano shop and manufacturing base on their estate at Bolton Abbey.
“They have backed our project every step of the way so we felt ‘Cavendish’ was the perfect name for our pianos, being the Duke and Duchess’ family name. Without their kind patronage none of this would have been possible”, says Charlie.

There is no shortage of skilled workers in the piano industry and allied trades in this country. In fact, many components are still made here and exported all over the globe for piano making abroad.
“We felt it was crazy that British expertise was being used to make the highest quality components for the piano industry and yet no finished products were being made in this country” says Adam. For example, Hainsworth in Leeds produce cloth and felt used in the manufacture of many German pianos such as Steinway.

“Their quality is second to none and they’re on our doorstep while people are buying pianos manufactured in the Far East!”
As one of the oldest companies in the UK (established 1783) Hainsworth certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to textiles and their knowhow and heritage is legendary in the piano trade. It's no coincidence that one of the leading woollen mills should be in Leeds, famous throughout the world for its history of textile production. It was however coincidental that their wood source, British Hardwoods, should be based in the Yorkshire Dales.
Also their supplier of wood finishes is near the traditional cabinet making town of Thirsk. Silchrome Plating in Leeds, founded in 1949, work in everything from aerospace to classic cars. Cox says "We quickly started to realise we were not making ‘British pianos’ but ‘Yorkshire Pianos’.
“We were not using Yorkshire firms as a gimmick or because we liked the idea but simply because they are the best in their field.”
Surrounded by pianos in various states of construction, John Spencer, head technician at Yorkshire Pianos, sits down at a newly finished Cavendish piano. “Of course the sound is the important thing” says Spencer. “We are looking for that rounded, European tone that is part of British piano heritage.” Spencer plays a smooth sounding chord then moves over to a well known Far Eastern made piano and does the same. The difference is staggering!

The Cavendish team

The team with Jamie Cullum


Adam Cox
Managing Director

Charlotte & Adam are partners in the family firm which began in 1990 as Headingley Pianos and later moved out of Leeds to become Yorkshire Pianos. With over 20 years experience in the piano trade they have always wanted to build pianos and in many ways this is the realisation of a dream.


Chris Foxton
Head Cabinet Maker

Chris is a skilled cabinetmaker based in Otley, West Yorkshire. He has a lifetime's experience working in fine woods and veneers.


Adam Connolly
Apprentice Piano Maker

Adam joined on the apprentice scheme in 2010 after a training in joinery. He has quickly learned many of the skills of piano making and is a skilled technician.


Jason Winder
Furniture Maker

Jason Winder is a designer maker who creates furniture, fitted cabinetry and high quality woodwork that is carefully designed with functionality in mind and beautifully made using locally sourced materials. Sustainability and the highest respect for nature are at the core of all products from conception to completion. A young design graduate who is undergoing an apprenticeship in furniture making has brought his own up-to-the-minute style to the North Yorkshire furniture firm where he is being trained.
Jason, 25, has launched a contemporary mid-century style range of pieces for bespoke design specialists Designermakers in Nidderdale.


Charlie Cox
Financial Director


David Wilson
Piano Designer

Originally educated as a design engineer with 15 years experience, David turned a life-long interest in furniture making into a new career in 2003 after training at Leeds College of Art and Design. Well grounded in traditional and modern furniture making materials and techniques, David's passion is for applying a clean-lined engineering approach to his designs while still creating superbly crafted furniture, always without compromise.
Dovetailors


Emmanuel Vass BMus(Hons), CT ABRSM, DipABRSM
Piano Consultant

Emmanuel is an up and coming young concert pianist named as Yamaha's artist of the month. He has helped develop the Cavendish piano sound and is well aware of the needs of performing artists.



Cavendish Pianos is proud to be making in Britain