Howarth of London are internationally known wind instrument specialists. The Howarth name can be traced back to wind instrument making in the 1870s! We spoke to Ben Couldwell, General Manager, who told us a bit more about Howarth’s rich history and what’s on now.
How would you describe your shop in three words?
Welcoming. Knowledgeable. Choice.
How did the business get started?
Howarth began as an oboe manufacturer in central London in 1948, the shop moving around the corner to our current address in 1968 and the factory moving out into Sussex. One of the founders, Tom Howarth gave his name to the company, but he was bought out early on by a group of entrepreneurial young men, including Nigel Clark who retired as our managing director last year.
What does your shop specialise in?
Howarth are most famous for our oboes and we are the last major woodwind manufacturer with a UK based factory. We also keep most of the other major oboe manufacturer’s instruments in stock. The shop is also home to one of the largest ranges of bassoons, clarinets and saxophones in Europe. All of our staff are knowledgeable players with degrees from a range of institutions and a variety of back grounds and experience.
What additional services do you offer?
- We have on site workshops offering anything from minor adjustments to full overhauls and bespoke keywork.
- Our instrument rental scheme offers many beginners their first affordable access to woodwind instruments, particularly with double reeds.
- Our own range of junior instruments is aimed at starting younger children on their journeys earlier than conventional instruments allow.
- We also offer masterclasses and workshops with visiting artists in store from time to time and of course have an extensive range of sheet music and accessories, including specialist reed making equipment,
What’s your favourite item for sale in the shop right now?
It changes every week, but at the moment it’s probably the antique finish Puchner sat in our display cabinet, it plays exquisitely but also looks amazing as well. I’ll be very jealous of whoever decides to buy it!
Name a favourite piece of music (From any genre you like, absolutely no judgement!)
I can’t remember the last time I got to pick what I want to listen to rather than just listening to the radio, or everyone else’s choice but probably something from the 80’s. It’s running joke working in an oboe shop that my least favourite piece is definitely Gabriel’s oboe!
Do you get involved in your local community? If so, how?
Marylebone has a very close-knit village feel and colleagues recently participated in the Marylebone festival offering instrument taster sessions in a marquee on a Sunday afternoon. We often sponsor events and encourage music at the local schools. Being in central London we are very near to the conservatoires and regularly sponsor events with them as well. With Howarth having such an international clientele our sense of community quite wide, having friends all over the globe!
Visit Howarths at:
Howarth of London
31 Chiltern Street
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