Violin bow by W.E. Hill and Sons, 1936
About W.E. Hill and SonsThe 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 represented the fourth generation of Hill violin makers. As accomplished in making as the Hills were, William Ebsworth was also a shrewd businessman: 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´, arguable 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 bowThis violin bow was made in 1936 by Arthur Barnes. Barnes was active in the Hill workshop between 1920 and 1939 and was raised in the Brighton Institution for Deaf and Dumb Children before starting his apprenticeship with the firm.
The bow weighs 58 grams and the mounts are of silver, aluminium and ebony. The stick is round in cross section and measures 733 mm in length.
How does it play?This is a more flexible and lively Hill bow than many others I have played. It plays excellently off the string and produces a clear, vibrant sound. It sits in the string beautifully when required but there is certainly no problem in persuading it to come off the string. The bow is nicely springy and easily controllable.
ConditionThe bow is in very good condition. It is stamped `W´ behind the head, indicating the presence of a wooden dowel. A `W´ signifies that a bow was one of a number to be either repaired or pre-emptively pinned by Hills. In the case of this bow, the head is slab cut, an experimental change in orientation which later transpired to have a higher risk of cracking.
Once Hills heard that various bows of this design had snapped at the head, it became practice to include this small pin to reinforce the head. This reinforcement has held fast for nearly a century and is reflected in the asking price for the bow.
The bow bears the stamp Hill above the frog on the player side.
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