Robert Wornum was a prominent piano maker and music publisher in London during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Wornum’s publishing business was started circa about 1777 at Glasshouse Street, later moving to 42 Wigmore Street. From 1810 – 1813, Wornum was in partnership with George Wilkinson. Some reference material shows Wornum establishing his own firm as early as 1811, while others put the date at 1815. In 1832, Wornum advertised his “Music Hall” located at 18 Store Street, London, capable of accommodating up to 1,000 persons.
Robert Wornum is best known for his advances and design in upright piano construction. During the early to middle 19th Century, the square grand piano was most prominent in both America and Europe, with the grand piano taking second place in popularity. The upright piano was virtually unknown early on, slowly becoming more and more popular by the middle and end of the 19th Century.
Although the firm built conventional grand and square pianos like most makers, Robert Wornum designed and patented a number of unique upright piano designs constantly improved the ever-evolving upright piano action. His most famous designs were known as the “Cottage Piano”, the “Piccolo Piano” and the “Cabinet Piano”, all upright pianos in different shapes and sizes.
In 1861, Robert’s son Alfred Nicholson Wornum succeeded his father as head of the firm, changing the name of the company to “Robert Wornum & Sons”. Robert Wornum & Sons continued to build pianos until about 1878 when the family closed the firm.
Robert Wornum is considered to be one of the most important historical makers to advance the upright piano’s design and popularity. Instruments by Wornum are quite rare today, and they are definitely of museum caliber and deserve the finest restoration and preservation available. Many of the surviving Wornum instruments today can be found as focal points in museums and private collections around the world.
INSTRUMENT CATALOGS & EPHEMERA
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Mid 19th Century Advertisement For The Robert Wornum Piano Company, London