Relatively little is known about the instrument
maker T. Davies. In his "Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers" (ISBN
No. 0 9523081 0 X) Dennis.G. Plowright writes 'He was an amateur
maker circa 1880. His violins and violas are quite well made,
the wood faintly figured and the varnish red/brown. His instruments
are labelled (No. 9 dated 1880) and branded T.DAVIES/BIRMINGHAM
below the button.'
Yes that's correct. The quality of making that this
instrument displays is that of a good, competent maker who had
an excellent eye for detail and made efficient use of his tools.
Yes - the quality of the work does suggest that he was a
bass specialist. Indeed - this theory is well supported by
the fact that during his earlier years as a violin dealer Shoppe
M.D - Anthony Houska sold two other instruments by Davies and currently
knows of the whereabouts of at least three or four other instruments
that are being used by professional players in London.
Yes Davies's original label is located on the central
back brace. In hand written black ink it reads 'T.
Davies Maker Birmingham 1874 No3'. The question we must ask ourselves is - is
this instrument Davies's third double bass or is it the third instrument
that he made in that particular year? If it is only the third double
bass that he ever made then it is a sure thing that he took a lot
of care and pride over its making. Indeed, this is not the work
of somebody who is learning from his mistakes as he goes along.
The model is big and bold, there is a certain flamboyancy to the
style and then there is the arching to the table that makes one
gasp with admiration at its sheer perfection.
Yes. As will all the other Davies double basses
that we know - this one bears his brand 'T.
Davies' just below
the back button.
Yes. Another brand can be found on the root of the
bass side neck. It is not the Davies brand but that of the well
know English maker, repairer and collector- William Calow of Nottingham.
Carlow's obviously had high thoughts with regard to his own repair
work for the inside of this instrument is absolutely littered with
his pencil inscriptions as follows:
- On the upper table on treble side - 'This Bass
is Made By T Davies, Birmingham 1874 No3 - Should label be Missing'.
the lower table treble-side - 'REPAIRED BY Fk W. Calow. 24 Burton
St Nottm 1937'
- On the upper back angle-break on bass side -
'Repaired By and Re-necked July 1937 Fk W. Calow. Violin maker
24 Burton St, Nottingham'
- On the lower back on treble side
- 'Repaired By and Re-necked July 1937
- Fk W. Calow. Violin maker
24 Burton St, Nottingham'
Yes Calow fitted (now removed and replaced) a bass
bar of unconventional dimensions and shape which in hand written
capital letters he inscribed along the bass side as follows; 'REPAIRED
AND FITTED BY F.W.CALOW. 24 BURTON ST, NOTTm. JULY 1937 FOR MR
For those of you who like curiosities the Calow bar has been removed
intact and is now offered with the instrument as part of its history.
Yes. Finally another so-called bass repairer, a
Mr J. Jones from a slightly earlier date to that of Calow has left
his repair label on the central back above the central brace. It
reads 'Mr J. Jones, 5 Leopold Street, Birmingham. For Mr Kirkby,
Reginold Terrace, Leeds. 23rd November 1917.'
We know for sure that it is only in more recent
years that standards of restoration work to double basses have
risen to levels approaching that normally associated with other
instruments of the violin family. Prior to this it is evident that
a large proportion of bass restoration work was undertaken by the
amateur enthusiast and by those with absolutely no knowledge of
violin restoration at all.
The attempts by different hands - often working around previously badly
executed work have - as was found in this instrument - created an inconsistent
mish-mash of studs, velum and poorly aligned cracks. One can only assume that
at the time these "restorers" were proud of what they had done and
felt compelled to leave their "calling-card" in this way.
The majority of the time was spent in removing the
old poorly executed work, followed by the washing out the old cracks,
realigning and regluing of the cracks followed by the restudding
of the same. Some slight regraduation work was necessary before
fitting a correctly shaped bass bar in the correct position. As
always - the work has been executed without compromise and at an
expenditure in excess of 4K.
Yes - they document some of the instrument's former keepers from the first
half of the 20th century. It appears that the instrument was in the possession
of a Mr Kirkby from Leeds in 1917 and twenty years later in the possession of
a Mr Thistlewood from Nottingham. If one had the time - it would be interesting
to try and find out from festival archives, concert programmes of the period
etc. if these players were amateurs or members of the profession.
For an instrument that dates from 1874 - that's
134 years of age (at 2008) it is truly amazing. Just take a look
at the crack free back and then at the magnificently arched table.
Even the incredibly vulnerable F-hole wings on the table - are
crack free. How fabulous is that! If you have another moment -
just look and marvel at the wonderful transparent golden brown
varnish the covers the entire instrument. How fabulous is that!
This is a term seldom awarded to describe the condition
of a double bass - but
Both E and B strings possess power and clarity - the A string is immensely
rich and tonal while the D and G strings simply radiate with warmth. In terms
of sound this 5-string instrument is a real Goliath.
Yes it is. The dimensions of the neck are spot on.
Although this is a five string instrument it plays just as easily
as any four.
A truly magnificent instrument with a truly magnificent
sound. As estate agents say here in the UK "An early viewing is recommended".
LOB (length of back) - 114.0cm (44.85in)
Width across upper bouts - 54.9cm (21.65in)
Width across middle bouts - 36.3cm (14.25in)
Width across lower bouts - 72.1cm (28.35in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates- 23.0cm (9.15in)
Body Stop - 61.5cm (24.25in)
String length - 105.7 (41.65in)