Viola bow by W. E. Hill and Sons, London, 1955

Viola bow by W. E. Hill and Sons, London, 1955

About W.E. Hill and Sons

The English firm W.E. Hill and Sons was almost unchallenged as the world´s premier violin and bow dealership for almost a century, having been set up by William Ebsworth Hill in 1880. The family´s roots in the trade went back even further: William Ebsworth was the fourth generation of Hill violin makers. As accomplished in making as the Hills were, William Ebsworth was also a shrewd business man: in just seven years the Hanwell workshop grew into a major concern, employing a number of talented makers of instruments, bows and cases. Hill´s four sons were among their number.

Over the course of the next 100 years or so, the Hill name continued to grow in importance thanks to the publication of a number of seminal texts on the great makers and the fact that most of the world´s best instruments were being sold through the firm. The Second World War saw a number of Hill instruments being donated to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. This collection included Stradivari´s `Le Messie´, arguably the world´s most famous violin.

Hill bows are known for their consistently high quality. There was a strict hierarchy within the workshop, with new recruits beginning by making chin rests and working their way up. The standards in the workshop were very high: I´ve never played a Hill with an overly weak stick, a testament to the rigorous quality control which took place. In order to identify the maker, Hill bows are stamped on the faceplate, under the hair, with a number or a mark. It is possible to find out the maker of each bow from this stamp. There are a few other clues to be found on the frogs and sticks: letters were used to match bows to frogs after cleaning and numbers were used to identify the year of manufacture.

About the bow

This bow was made for W. E. Hill and Sons by Bill Watson. The last pupil of William Retford, Watson worked for the Hill firm between 1945 and 1962, going on to make a successful career as an independent bow maker and authority afterwards.

The octagonal stick is of high quality perbambuco and measures 723 mm in length. The mounts are tortoiseshell and silver and the bow weighs 70 grams.

How does it play?

This is a truly superb bow! It is wonderfully even and well-balanced. This is a reliable bow that does everything you could ask and also has that magical ability to suggest ideas back to the player. It really does play as brilliantly as it looks.


This viola bow is original in all its parts. It is stamped W. E. Hill & Sons on the player side and is in very good condition.

Further information

Please get in touch for more details about this fine viola bow by Bill Watson for W. E. Hill and Sons for sale and a member of our team will get back to you.

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