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date: 15 January 2021


  • Margaret Cranmer


English firm of piano makers, publishers and music sellers. It is thought that the business started in 1785 at 112 Cheapside, London. From 1795 to 1797 William Rolfe, Thomas Culliford and a Mr (Charles?) Barrow formed a partnership, and Rolfe managed the business on his own from 1800 until about 1807, when his sons Nicholas Rolfe (b London, bap. 29 Aug 1784) and Thomas Hall Rolfe (b London, bap. 8 Nov 1785) joined him to form W. Rolfe and Sons, which briefly became Rolfe & Co. about 1820. In December 1802 William was elected Constable Inquestman and Collector of the Consolidated Rates for the parish of All Hallows, Honey Lane. James Longman Rolfe (relationship not certain) joined the firm in 1836. The firm ceased production in 1888.

In 1797, with Samuel Davis, Rolfe patented (no.2160) the earliest specification for ‘Turkish music’ in pianos, where a hammer strikes the soundboard to produce the sound of a drum. The hammer action, based on the English single action (...

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