now in the


1.  The instrument was acquired on 12 April 1873 for £52.10s. from Charles Kensington Salaman (1814-1901), English pianist, conductor and composer. [2]   The following description (in 2-4 below) is taken from the official V & A museum catalogue.

2.  It bears on the front of the jack-rail the ascription John Loosemore fecit 1655.  The apparent keyboard compass is 51 notes, C-d3, i.e. 4 octaves + 1 tone, upwards from one octave below middle C.  However, the lowest key can be used to play either of two notes, depending on which of the two bottom mortises holds a jack.  The standard measurement is 473mm.  The naturals, covered in boxwood, are 107mm long, with keyheads 32mm in length by 21mm wide.  The natural fronts are covered with arcades of embossed paper.  The designs of the arcades vary considerably and are not arranged in any discernible sequence.  The sharps, of stained hardwood 65-66mm long by 9mm wide, are canted towards the rear, perhaps reflecting current organ-building practice.  The keys are guided by wooden slips sliding in a rack.  The jacks are old and may be original in part.

3.  The scaling and plucking points are as follows:





























4.  The drop front, coffered lid and parts of the case (front, sides, wrestplank and hitchpin rail) are of oak.  The spine and bottom board are of a soft wood.  The outside of the case is undecorated, adorned only by fancy hinges and hasps of iron.  The inner surfaces of the coffered lid and drop-front contain naïve decorative paintings, with scenes of a stag-hunt, shipping, Adam and Eve, and various birds (probably peacock, turkey, pheasant and cockerel), in a rural setting.  The front of the instrument and the soundboard are covered with embossed and gilded papier maché in the Flemish manner.  A small panel of looking-glass is set centrally above the keyboard.  The soundboard is decorated in gouache and contains two ornamental roses of gilded carved wood of 95mm & 65mm diameter. The lid of the small tool-compartment to the left of the key-well is decorated with a painted design in the Flemish style.  The virginal measures 1740mm long ´ 521mm wide ´ 282mm high.  There is no stand (the acquisition certificate describes the instrument as having a carved oak stand, which was probably not contemporary, now lost).

5.  Some additional details and a photograph have appeared in The Connoisseur, with an account of a similar instrument by Charles Rewallin, a little-known maker of keyboard instruments active in Exeter in 1675. [3]   Rewallin was married in the Cathedral in 1657 and was living in St. Sidwell parish in 1660 and 1671. [4]

6.  In 1855 Charles Salaman gave a series of lectures in London on the history of keyboard instruments. [5]   In the first of these lectures he introduced the virginals

…and performed on it “The Carman’s Whistle”, with variations by the famous William Byrde.  The virginal upon which Mr. Salaman performed is most picturesque, and is a very rare specimen of that venerable instrument…

     That instrument was probably the one described here, that he later sold to the V & A museum.  Salaman later repeated his first lecture before Queen Victoria and her children, but failed to impress his royal audience.  The Queen’s private journal merely states that ‘…then we heard a Mr Soloman (sic) play on some very old instruments…’. [6]

     Attempts to trace its earlier history have so far failed, though it may possibly have been made for the Earl of Bath and installed in Tawstock House, the Devonshire home of his family.  Tawstock house accounts for 1655, the year in which the V & A instrument was made, record a payment to John Loosemore by command in part of £21.05, a much larger sum than would be required for repair and general maintenance.  Unfortunately the reason for such a large payment is not stated. [7]


[1] Victoria & Albert Museum acquisition ref. no. 813-1873.  See main text, Chapter 6, section “Exeter and Civil War”.

[2] See New Grove, 1981, under name for further details of Charles Salaman.

[3] The Connoisseur, October 1916, 77-85.

[4] H Tapley-Soper, DCNQ, ix, 1916-17, 241-3 for Charles Rewallin.

[5] See The Musical World, 1855, for January 13, 20, March 10, 17, May 19, June 23, November 3 for reviews of Salaman’s lectures.

[6] Private communication from Royal Archives, Windsor, dated 25 March 1986.

[7] W.R.Loosemore, enquiry letter in The Musical Times, May 1986, 254, and extracts from Tawstock House accounts discussed in Chapter 6 of the present main text, section “Early work in Exeter”.