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William Glenister
The Stradivarius of Soho
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William Glenister (1850-1936) took the unusual step from being a humble gardener to becoming a respected amateur violin maker.
The man

William was mentioned on The Violin Family and it's Makers in the British Isles by Brian W Harvey, published by Clarendon Press, Oxford 1995

William Glenister
 
Born in Chenies Bucks worked as a gardener. Worked in London from 1887-1936. He made 200 violins, 10 violas and fifteen cellos. He was self taught in violin making and gained a respected reputation by violin players makers and dealers. William Glenister had a violin workshop in Beak Street, Regent Street London. Twenty of his violins were reviewed by Mr Towry Piper in "The Strad" for June 1915 and were described as "I consider both workmanship and tone to be excellent"
 

Thanks to David Glenister for this extract.

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The instruments
At an auction of violins by Bonhams in London on 21 May 1997, there were three interesting lots:

Lot 284

An English Violin by William Glenister, labelled Wm Glenister, 23 Beak Ln,

Lot 344

An English Violin by William Glenister, 1918, labelled Wm Glenister, 25 Beak Ln, 1918 London, the ...

Lot 368

An English three-quarter size Violin by William Glenister, 1886, labelled William Glenister, London ...

And from the Summer 1997 catalogue of Hamilton Caswell, a musical instrument dealer of Bristol contains this:

William Glenister, London, 1924

The handsome two-piece back of broadish horizontal curl, the ribs of similar wood.   The table is of medium straight grain and the varnish is of a reddish-brown colour over a yellow ground.  The back length is 417mm (16 and one eight inches), the condition is very good.  Bearing Glenister's hand-written label.

Price 5,000 (five thousand pounds)

And David Glenister further reported in October 1999 that Frederick Phelps Ltd, of 67 Fortess Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 1AG (Tel: 0171 482 0316) had two violins and one cello made about 1914 by William Glenister.    David said "The viola is very beautiful and has spent most of its life in Sweden and returned very recently to England. The viola is currently for sale at GBP 7000.00"

Another report from David Glenister about a Glenister cello for sale at Philips auction rooms in London on 15 November 1999:

Lot 216

An English Violoncello by William Glenister, 23 Beak St., London, W1, 1924,
bearing the makers label, L.O.B. 301/8in. (766mm.), in brown canvas cover
The two-piece back, ribs and scroll of matched narrow curl, table of medium grain, the lightly crackled varnish of a red colour on a golden brown ground, in good and immediate playing condition 2000-2500

[The 2000-2500 is the expected sale price in pounds]

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Picture available
Photograph of William Glenister

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Last modified 2017 Mar 05 18:43:14