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Pianoshop :: Info :: Pianos :: Cadby

Piano: Cadby

Charles Cadby the piano maker

and property owner


The records of the Wiltshire parish churches in the old towns of Trowbridge and Devizes list births, marriages and deaths of the Cadby family dating back to the middle of the 16th century and at this time the name was usually spelt either Cadbe or Cadbie and had taken the familiar modern spelling of Cadby by the middle of the 17th century. The other main concentrations of this name by the end of the 18th century, were around Birmingham, and in Central and South East London, although it is likely that these families may have originated from Wiltshire. Looking much further afield we know that a John Cadby, born 1808 in Trowbridge, was convicted of robbery and transported to Tasmania in 1841 to serve a sentence of 15 years after which he appears to have been pardoned. A few years earlier a Benjamin Cadby had emigrated to Tasmania and married Mary Ann Kelmsly Flaerty in Launceston (Tasmania) on 23 August 1837 after she is thought to have served her sentence and been declared "free". It is to this union that most of the Tasmanian Cadbys of today are said to owe their origin. In North America John Wesley Cadby (son of George & Mercy Cadby and born 1786 in Devizes) deserted from the British Army, probably in the 1812 war, and started a new family in the USA During the early part of the 20th century Walter Cadby (son of Walter & Melissa Cadby and born 20 February 1881 in Trowbridge) emigrated to Toronto, Canada and his descendants are now quite widely spread through Canada and the USA. Isaac Cadby, uncle to Charles the piano maker, went to North America in about 1800 where he purchased a tract of land in the "wilderness" which later became part of Philadelphia but soon returned to Wiltshire. Two siblings of Charles were to emigrate in the 1830/40's. His younger brother Stephen Cadby (born 1813 in Devizes), settled in the state of Indiana where his descendants are still living today. When his older sister Mary (born 1802) married James Treasure they also sailed for America, settling first in Cincinnati, Ohio, before moving to Kentucky and in 1964 her great grand-daughter wrote from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The origins of our part of the Cadby family undoubtedly go back to Devizes in the 17th century, during the times of the Commonwealth under Cromwell and probably much earlier when Henry VIII was responsible for the damage to the Church property in and around the town. There is a will of an early descendent Philip Cadby, a joiner in the town who died 1683, leaving benefits to his four sons and two daughters. The direct family line is confirmed back to John Cadby who was born in Devizes in 1753, and his father, Philip Cadby, who was born about 1720 or possibly a few years earlier. John was a shoemaker (cordwainer) and his son Robert, born 1 September 1778, started in the same profession before at first combining it with and later forsaking it for dealing in toys. At his death in 1852, his wife Ann carried on the toy business for a year or two until their youngest daughter, also named Ann, took over control. Robert married Ann Bayly, who was probably the sister of the parish curate, in St John the Baptist Parish Church on 16 December 1799 and they had eleven children, five of whom died as young children, and they were all christened in the newly founded Baptist Church, the first of which to be built in Devizes was founded in Maryport Street in 1780. Records show that most of the Wiltshire and London families attended the Baptist church rather than the established Church of England.

Charles Cadby was the sixth child of this family of eleven and was born to Robert and Ann Cadby in Devizes on 11 July 1811. Charles is known to have moved to London sometime before 1836, where he met Eliza Stewart and married her in Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone, on 19 March 1836, when she was about 21 years old. It is thought that Eliza was the daughter of Captain William Stewart, master mariner and navigator, after whom Stewart Island off the southern tip of New Zealand was named after he produced accurate marine charts of it whilst serving as first officer of the Pegasus in 1809. The two daughters of this marriage were born in the marital home at 42 Frederick Street, Mecklenburg Square, St Pancras, Eliza Ann on 27 March 1837 and Maria Louisa who was born in 1839 but died a year later. With an apparent break from tradition not only was Charles married in the established church, but his children were also christened there. After only five years of marriage his first wife died on 5 July 1841 in Hampstead, probably as a result of contracting tuberculosis.

His elder daughter, Eliza Ann, married William H. B. Macann, a man of Irish birth and some 17 years older than herself. Stories handed down within the family and confirmed in Charles Cadby=s will make it clear that he did not approve of this man as a husband for his daughter and the actual wedding took place in County Durham rather than in her home parish of St Pancras. Whilst he made some provisions for her, nothing was to be given to her husband and he appears to have shown no interest in his grandchildren from this marriage whereas those by his second wife were greatly favoured.

He was to marry again in St Pancras to Valentia Mary Cooke in the 3rd quarter of 1843 and this union was to have five daughters, of which two did not reach adulthood, and five sons. It is known that their first son, Charles Henry, was born 10 June 1846 at 20 Alfred Street and it is also possible that some of the other children may have been born at the same address.

It is not known precisely when Charles left Devizes to work in London nor is it known where he learned the skills needed to set up and run his piano making business although there was a very long tradition of joinery in the Devizes family and his father, Robert, had proven business skills running a thriving retail and wholesale business as a toy dealer. He may have spent some time with one of the older piano companies, perhaps even Isaac Henry Mott, of Brighton, London and Hammersmith, which could account for his lifelong friendship with Henry Mott, a solicitor member of that family. The business was first listed as The Charles Cadby Patent Pianoforte Manufactory at 21 Alfred Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bedford Square in 1839 and Charles set up his home at no. 20 Alfred Street. This street has been renamed as the southern part of Huntley Street WC1 between Torrington Place (formerly Francis Street) and Chenies Street. After a while the business had to move into larger premises and in 1848 is listed at no. 332 Liquorpond Street. This is another name to have been lost to development and lay within the modern stretch of Clerkenwell Road between Grays Inn Road and Farringdon Road. Success of the enterprise is shown by the steady expansion of the premises with the addition of no.37 in 1851, 38/39 in 1853 and in the 1860's not only did the business occupy 3, 33A, 37, 38 and 39 Liquorpond Street but included a piano making factory covering almost : acre, extending through to Tothill Street which ran parallel to the north. Tothill Street ran from the south end of Mount Pleasant (formerly Little Grays Inn Road) to Laystall Street approximately where this is crossed by Roseberry Avenue. Around this time the property at 42 New Bond Street was also included as a sales showroom and for demonstrations.

In 1874 major road reconstructions, in particular the new Clerkenwell Road, involved the demolition of the Cadby piano works in Liquorpond Street, so Charles acquired an 82 acre site in Hammersmith on one part of which he built his new "manufactory" and on the balance he intended to build domestic houses. This site, described as five minutes walk from Addison Road Station (now Kensington Olympia Station), was just to the west of that on which Olympia was built twelve years later. The new building with its impressive facade inscribed with the name "Cadby & Co. Pianoforte Manufactory" was the work of the architect Lewis Isaacs of Grays Inn and provided 15,000 sq. feet of showroom floor space spread over three floors, plus over 40,000 sq. feet of floor space within another three buildings for manufacturing purposes. The entire building work was completed within the eight months starting from 2 May 1874 at a cost of ,26,042 (a huge sum of money at that time). Coinciding with the move to Hammersmith the company became known as Charles Cadby & Sons as the eldest son, Charles Henry, was to manage the manufacturing, the second son, Ambrose, was to >travel and superintend the show rooms=, another son to >preside over the counting houses=, whilst Charles would be >Manager of the whole=. In 1877 there was a court case, Gay v. Cadby, concerning the removal of "ashes arising from coals burnt in the furnace of a steam-engine used for the purpose of sawing and lifting timber and other materials for carrying on the business of a pianoforte manufacturer ...... ..... an extensive building known as The West Kensington Steam Works which has only recently been erected ...." Before 1879 the company name had reverted to Charles Cadby & Company, and the works known not only as Cadby=s Pianoforte Works, Hammersmith Road, but also as Cadby Hall. Prices of Cadby pianos ranged from 30 to 180guineas and extended payment terms were offered as well as part exchange and hire. The more expensive models were competing with the quality makers of the day. For example Broadwood priced their grands from 135 guineas and >good= uprights were 45 to 80 guineas.

During the mid 19th century London was the largest centre of piano manufacturing in the world and its large number of piano making businesses varied greatly in both size and quality of product. In order to sell against the ever growing competition many, sometimes without justification, claimed to hold patents for creating enhancements to their instruments. Charles Cadby registered a patent (English no. 3221) in 1850 for a detachable soundboard that was suspended above the frame and entered three pianos utilizing this soundboard in the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. These were a rosewood grand, a grand of zebra wood and a cottage piano (upright?). Piano manufacture spread to many major cities around the world and were mainly copies of either English or Austrian models to be followed later by an amalgamation of these two styles as was the case in USA and it was to that country that Charles Cadby is said to have exported a fair proportion of his output.

It is possible that the family home was in one of the houses on the same site as the works. The two elder sons were actively involved - Charles Henry managing the works and Ambrose Joseph as salesman - and Charles himself spending more time in Kent. Between 1820 and 1860 there were more than 600 piano makers in London and another 40 in the rest of Britain, but by the end of the 1870's the situation had started to change with many of the smaller makers having gone out of business. By that time a large part of the initial demand from the halls, bars, drawing rooms and humble parlours of the land had been satisfied, overseas markets like North America had their own makers who had emigrated from England and Europe, and purpose built manufacturing works like Cadby=s Pianoforte Works in Hammersmith all combined to bring this change about. Charles died in October 1884 and his will instructed that the Piano making business be closed down and the site of Cadby Hall be sold. Whilst a specific reason is not given for this, it is known that his eldest son, Charles Henry, was already in very poor health and no doubt was considered to be unable to continue to run the business without his father, and in fact found it necessary for him to move to the warmer climate of South Africa on the advice of his doctor. It also simplified the distribution of his assets to his widow and eight surviving children. It was in 1885 or 1886 that Charles Cadby & Company closed down in accordance with the wishes stated in his will and the business was sold by auction together with the current stock of 170 pianos.

For the next few years the name Cadby Hall was dropped and the site occupied by various businesses until the name was restored again in 1890 by Kensington Cooperative Stores. In 1894 the newly re-formed J. Lyons & Company purchased the two acres which included the original Cadby showrooms and three factory buildings and it was only a matter of time before they had acquired all of the original 82 acres and expanded their holding to 13 acres which was to contain one of the largest food factories in the country. Thus the family name was kept in prominence because Cadby Hall itself became a household name throughout well over half of the 20th century when it appeared on food labels as the Head Office of J. Lyons & Co. Ltd. The name spread overseas as the headquarters of the company=s operations in Canada, South Africa and Rhodesia were each named Cadby Hall. It also earned a place in the history of modern technology as the site of the worlds first business computer, LEO, which was constructed at Cadby Hall by the staff of J. Lyons and became operational in 1951, occupying some 5,000 sq. ft of floorspace and included over 6000 glass radio valves. This machine spawned the LEO II and III ranges of computers, used by so many of our largest organisations such as Ford Motor Co., British Oxygen Co., and the Ministry of Pensions. This computer side of J. Lyons later merged with other companies until eventually becoming ICL. Cadby Hall (by then a vast factory complex totally different from the pianoforte "manufactory") was demolished in 1985 to make way for modern development.

Charles expanded his personal wealth with another interest - property. His London property interests had at various times included business premises in Tottenham, Grays Inn Road area, and Hammersmith (Cadby Hall) as well as houses in London WC1, Tottenham, Hampstead and Kensington together with his Kent interests - Lausanne House, Margate and Shrublands, Chislet. Of these he is known to have held interests in both Kensington and Chislet at the time of his death in 1884. There was another family connection with the Grays Inn area of London through Clara, his daughter by his second wife. She married Charles Groom in 1873, when he was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery but by 1881 the census of that year shows that he had become a tin-ware manufacturer living at 1 Verulam Buildings, Grays Inn, with Clara and their 11 month old son.

In 1864 his second wife, Valentia, died after 21 years of marriage and was buried alongside two of her daughters in the first of two vaults which Charles had purchased in Highgate Cemetery. A third daughter, Jessie, died at the age of 24 and was also buried in this vault. His will written almost 20 years later indicates that this had been a very close and loving marriage by his endearing references to his second wife and "the children by my second wife" as compared with the surviving daughter by his first wife.

On 1 February 1870 he married for the third time to Harriet Mary Lewis, a 45 year old spinster of a well respected Margate family who was head mistress at Churchfields House Preparatory School for boys only a short distance from his estate of almost 3 acres at Lausanne House, off Addington Street. The marriage, which suggested a return to his early religious beliefs, took place in the Ebenezer Chapel, a Margate Baptist church which was accessed from New Street until the purchase and demolition of three shops allowed the erection in 1899 of the elegant Victorian front in Cecil Square. They then moved to >Shrublands=, a manor house in the village of Upstreet, in the parish of Chislet, with his five younger children including Clara whose wedding was in the local church. Charles would have frequently travelled between Upstreet and London and would have boarded his train at Grove Ferry station, which at that time was less than half mile from Shrublands, but was demolished after the Beeching cuts of the 1950's. Following their move to Upstreet the Lausanne estate in Margate became first a boarding school for boys and after some 25 or 30 years changed to a ladies college. In 1991 the house was knocked down to make way for the new Holy Trinity & St Johns School on the site.

Charles Cadby died at 33 Wimpole Street, London on 22nd October 1884 where it appears that he had been staying in order to attend Mr George Buckolm (or Buckston) Browne MRCS, a consulting surgeon of 80 Wimpole Street. He had suffered problems with his Prostate Gland for some years and this combined with a bacterial infection causing inflamation of the kidney was given as the cause of death. The death certificate shows that his third son Walter Frederick Cadby had come from Hammersmith to be with him when he died indicating that the seriousness of his condition was understood by his family. Charles Cadby was buried in the Cadby family vault in Highgate Cemetery where his second wife and three daughters had been laid to rest before him. At least one of his brothers, Joseph Bayley Cadby, also moved from Devizes to London where he was a baker before he died, unmarried or widowed, in Hampstead three years after Charles in 1887 at the age of 69.

In the 1880's South Africa was encouraging gentlemen with money to purchase land and help to develop the colony. Available land could be viewed on a map in London at the South African offices and purchased before going out to the colony. It was in this way that Charles Henry, the eldest son, arranged his departure to a warmer climate as recommended by his doctor. The detail of where his new property was is not known, but some intriguing stories have been handed down although their accuracy has not been confirmed. It is said that it took him a full day to ride round the boundary of his land and that it may have been over valuable deposits of either gold or diamonds. It is also said that he had many offers to purchase his land including offers from the de Beers Co., but he would not sell. He and his wife, Martha, had at least one more child after their arrival and this was Muriel who visited Cadby Hall in 1931 on her first trip to England. Their eldest child, Pattie Valentia, returned earlier to marry Albert Gilbert in 1913 in Fulham. Most of the information in this paragraph has been uncovered by Mr Peter Bird during his research for his book on J. Lyons & Co. at Cadby Hall.


Note: Information regarding Tasmania and North America was obtained from correspondence from Mrs Hilda Cadby, Victoria, Australia, whose family currently own an original upright Cadby Piano serial number 7381 with a wooden frame, which was probably made by the 1850's.

Some information regarding the piano making company was obtained from "The Pianoforte" by Rosamund Harding and "Makers of the Piano vol. 2 1820-1860" by Martha Novak Clinkscale.

Some information about Cadby Hall obtained from "The First Food Empire" by Peter Bird, and an article in Dec 1874 edition of The Builder with help from the Hammersmith & Fulham Local History Centre. The information regarding LEO computers was provided by Peter Bird and his book "LEO the first business computer"

M. Playford

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