• In the Spotlight… Howarth of London

    Howarth of London... In the Spotlight | Interview

    We’re delighted to introduce our latest interview series ‘In the Spotlight’ with Take it away music shop members! Each month, you’ll get to know one of our music shops including how they started, what makes them tick and what you can expect when visiting them.
    Kicking things off is woodwind specialist Howarth of London who have been a Take it away member since 2014! We’ve been lucky enough to visit their wonderful workshop in West Sussex where they make their own oboes, cor anglais’ and oboe d’amores’. Read on to find out more…

    What is the story behind Howarth of London?

    Howarth was established in 1948 as an oboe manufacturer and initially known as ‘Howarth & Co’. The founding directors, Thomas Howarth, George Ingram and Frederik Mooney, were members from three families already known within woodwind manufacture and repair. As ‘Howarth & Co’, they quickly established a reputation for manufacturing fine quality oboes, oboes d’amore and cors anglais.

    The company became incorporated in 1951 and converted to ‘T W Howarth & Co Ltd.’ Shortly after, the shop and workshop moved to Blandford Street. In 1968, when Blandford Street was being redeveloped, Howarth moved to Chiltern Street, the address we are still at today! The manufacturing workshop moved to Sussex. By this time Howarth oboes were being played by oboists in many of the major orchestras.

    Later, the shop expanded with specialist showrooms for bassoon, clarinet, and saxophone in addition to oboe and in 2008 changed the name to ‘Howarth of London Ltd’ as we remain today.

    What can customers expect when they come to visit you?

    Howarth is a specialist woodwind music shop and woodwind instrument maker and we’re known all over the world as makers of the finest oboe, oboes d’amore and cors anglaise. Our retail showrooms are based in London and manufacturing workshop in Worthing, West Sussex where our instruments are made in our dedicated manufacturing workshop.

    The London showrooms are a bustling meeting point for players and offers a range of instruments, accessories, and woodwind sheet music. We offer the opportunity to try out instruments and accessories on site in our testing rooms, encourage and aiding players in finding the best tools to complement their playing.

    Our staff are all players and can help you however long you have been playing – or even if you have not started yet!

    two people examining some oboes at Howarth of London

    What’s the most unusual instrument in your shop?

    Currently, I think the most unusual would be our purple and black swirled oboe with gold plated keys! This instrument is one of two that have been manufactured and alongside looking very different to conventional blackwood oboes it showcases the advances in oboe manufacturing. The oboe is made of ebonite and plays to the same professional standard as our traditional professional models. It is always an eye catcher, and it has started many interesting conversations with musicians from all different backgrounds!

    Oboe from Howarth of London

    What’s been your most popular instrument over lockdown?

    We have seen a large increase in people buying and renting oboes, particularly from those who are returning to the instrument after a long break or have always wanted to play. The extra time that lockdowns have provided has given these players the opportunity to get their teeth into the oboe world.

    What additional services can customers come to you for?

    In our onsite workshop in Chiltern Street, we have highly trained and experienced technicians who offer repair, service and overhauls as well as making custom adaptations and modifications to customers’ specifications for oboe, bassoon, clarinet and saxophone as well as other woodwind instruments. You can see some of our adapted instruments such as the Small Hands Cor Anglais, Mini-Bassoon PLUS+ and Simplefit Mouthpiece for Clarinet in the Take it away Guide to Adaptive Musical Instruments. Recently, Howarth technician Paul, completed this bespoke modification to a Howarth Oboe, allowing the player to use a lyre on the middle joint:

    bespoke oboe joint allowing a lyre to be removed from the oboe

    How do you get involved in your local community?

    We frequently exhibit our instruments and products at events such as Big Double Reed Day and the Music and Drama Education Expo. We also host masterclasses in our shop led by professional musicians, aiming to help woodwind players develop their performance skills and introduce them to new products. These will always be advertised on our social channels so follow us to stay in the loop!

    We rent many instruments to schools, and along with the Take it away Scheme and the Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme, we offer a discount to educational establishments. This helps to reduce the financial pressures of learning an instrument and therefore enable more students to begin and continue playing.

    In one sentence, why do you think music shops like yours are vital and important to your community?


    Music shops provide vital support to musicians within a community by offering resources and specialist knowledge which are vital in encouraging their progress.

    It’s been a tough year! How can the music community support you?

    Following the last lockdown during which non-essential retail shops could not be open to the public, we’re very pleased to be able to open our doors to customers again!

    We are currently booking appointments for those wishing to try instruments and are enjoying hearing customers playing music in our shops again. Our shops offer a huge range of woodwind instruments and related products, and all of our staff members are woodwind players, so we welcome anybody looking for specialist advice to come and visit us.

    And finally, why do you think payment options like the Take it away scheme are of value to your customers?

    Being a musician comes with financial pressures which are unfortunately sometimes a barrier to people taking up an instrument or purchasing the instrument model which would be most suitable for their standard. Finance options such as the Take it away scheme make it possible for people to purchase instruments who may otherwise be unable to.

    Thank you Katie!

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