Violin by William Sommerville, Bathgate, 1916

This violin has now sold.

Violin by William Sommerville, Bathgate, 1916

About William Sommerville

William Sommerville worked in Bathgate, West Lothian, and made over 60 violins during the course of his career. Sommerville was a professional joiner, undoubtedly of great skill given the care with which he made his violins.

About the violin

The violin was made in 1916 in Bathgate and is labelled number 52. Interestingly, we sold another violin by Sommerville last year, this one made three years earlier and labelled number 51.

The violin is of an extremely interesting experimental model. Put simply, the back is larger than the front and so the ribs are set at an angle to bridge the difference!

The violin has a two piece back of sycamore with ribs and scroll to match. The front is two pieces of medium-grained spruce. The varnish is a rich red colour.

The violin is utterly fascinating from a historical perspective: there is a lengthy essay inside the instrument, detailing Sommerville´s thoughts on life during World War I. He also describes how a violin maker in Portobello influenced the model of this experimental violin, and where he sourced the wood for the instrument.

The violin has a length of back of 359 mm.

How does it sound?

This instrument is quite the interesting chameleon! When played in a warm fashion with plenty of vibrato, it is sumptuous and rich. Change style, however, and suddenly it possesses an almost oboe-like clarity. Great debate has ensued between us over the extent to which the model has contributed to this unusual tonal character.


The violin is in very good condition. We were able to take photographs of the essay whilst the violin was being restored: a copy of these will accompany its sale.

More information

This violin has now sold, but you can view other violins in this price range.