CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in the Midlands & the North

Midlands & North - Instruments

One further instrument of the Birmingham type is to be mentioned here, although it was not seen in Birmingham. Being in the hands of a dealer in old instruments, Tony Bingham, it cannot be linked with any particular region, but its overall appearance and proportions are just like those of Mr. Evans' instrument - the long bridges, the two protective lids or covers, the general style of decoration (small circles of mother-of-pearl inlaid in a wood darkly stained), a style which Bingham identified as Biedermeyer, from early 19th century Germany.

Even the stringing is the same, 11 IV; + 10 III, 1 I, with its single over-spun bass string. The only distinction is the length, which at 36" is a little less than the 40", of Mr. Evans' instrument.

Four more instruments from the Midlands and North have the long bridges of the Birmingham dulcimers, and since these are rare elsewhere, they are discussed here as a group.

If one considers their general proportions they fall into two pairs, one long and thin, like the Birmingham instruments, the other having the more normal outline, like the examples illustrated below.


The first pair have an even more fascinating correlation, that they both have red soundboards, a feature otherwise unknown in this country, though occasionally used in the Tyrol. The first is the property of Roy Touchin, who bought it an an auction in Bury, Lancashire, and believes it to have been made and played locally; it is strung as 10 IV 9 III - although one or two pins are currently missing - and has rather unusual ivory bushes at the soundholes.

I have been unable to see the second instrument, since its owner is unwell for the present, but I am familiar with it through the copy, now in my own collection, made by Mrs. Annabel Kerr; the original is in Hartington, Derbyshire, and was apparently played there by its owner.

Mrs. Kerr assures me that her copy is accurate, apart from the use of red Formica instead of stained wood for the soundboard: she named it 'Eric'.

Several similarities with the Bury instrument are immediately apparent, for apart from the general shape and the red soundboard, there are brass bushes corresponding to the ivory ones of the latter, and the bridges are cut out squarely in both examples. What Eric has that is almost unique, however, is that he is an integral part of his case; he also has more courses, and all of one stringing, 13 IV + 12 IV . The gold-painted star, however, is more reminiscent of East Anglia than of any of the Midland dulcimers.