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MMD > Archives > January 2015 > 2015.01.13 > 01Prev  Next

Aeolian Company in the UK
By Rowland Lee

Tom Sendall, in his posting regarding Aeolian in the UK [150108 MMD],
mentions that the plant in Hayes has been demolished; I am pleased
to report that this is only partially true.  Although most of the site
was indeed cleared in the 1970s, with the loss of the Universal Music
Roll plant, the Vocalion Records building, the power house and other
smaller structures, the original building -- the Weber piano factory
of 1909 -- still stands.

It is a substantial structure, 19 bays in length and 4 storeys high,
built of reinforced concrete clad in red brick with some stone
dressings.  Huge arched windows (a trademark of architect Walter
Cave) span alternately single and double bays on the top floor.  The
main entrance is a grand portal, a bit like a Norman church entrance,
a big arch with several rows of masonry stepped further and further
back, leading to a big timber door with diamond-shaped panels.  The
building is now split into small rentable units and is protected by
being listed (grade II) although its condition has deteriorated

Most of the buildings on the site were designed by noted architect
Walter Cave (1863-1939), who had designed Aeolian Hall in London
in 1903.  Subsequently in London he designed the Bechstein Piano
Showrooms (now part of the Wigmore Hall) and premises for Chappell's,
the music publishers, opposite Aeolian Hall in Bond Street (the
Chappell's building was destroyed by fire in the 1950's).  His most
famous London Building is the former headquarters for Burberry, in
The Haymarket.

Although Cave had, as a young man, achieved a certain musical fame
for designing an Arts and Crafts upright piano for Bechstein, he was
an odd choice of architect for Aeolian as he was principally known
as a 'society' builder, designing seductive medium-sized country
houses and gardens, at least one of which had an Aeolian Pipe organ
installed at the time of building (opus 1081, Frank Lawson, Ewelme
Down Berkshire, 1908); Further research may reveal a connection to
the Orchestrelle company via one of his early clients.

His planning was sensible and functional, making the most of limited
space, while the internal detailing of his buildings is always of
the very highest standard.  It would appear that the success of his
Aeolian Hall commission led to his other London commissions; The
Orchestrelle/Aeolian plant at Hayes was certainly his only large
industrial commission.

Rowland Lee

(Message sent Sun 11 Jan 2015, 13:12:21 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Aeolian, Company, UK

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