Widely regarded as one of the most significant early keyboard collections in the British Isles, Kenneth Mobbs (formerly Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Bristol, U.K) and his wife Mary (professional harpsichord soundboard painter and keen amateur musician) began to collect early pianos in 1975.
Their collection grew steadily, eventually reaching a total of thirty-nine instruments with the majority in playing order.
The Southern Hemisphere is now fortunate to have fourteen of these instruments, following a generous bequest to Kemp English (New Zealand’s leading specialist fortepiano exponent) and his wife Helen, a cousin of Kenneth Mobbs. Five instruments have also been donated to the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, and nine are on permanent loan to the York Gate Collection at the Royal Academy of Music, London.
The instruments, housed in a purposely designed studio in Golden Bay (at the top of the South Island of New Zealand), include several early Square Pianos ranging from 1792-1812, five Horizontal Grands including a Kirckman (c.1798), a Viennese Fritz fortepiano (c.1815) with jannissary effects, and an unusual up-striking downstriker action Wornum 1842 grand. There are also two rare examples of Upright Grand pianos by Clementi (1806) and Broadwood (c.1817) of the tallest models ever made (each approximately 8 ft. 6 ins. high). The Longman & Broderip 1785 harpsichord is one of only three known full-specification one-manual instruments made by Culliford with both Machine Stop and Venetian Swell.