Development of the Rudall flute


Rudall & Rose were one of the most impressive flute making companies of the 19th century, and one of the few to start near the start and see it through to the next.  They thus provide us with a sort of skeleton upon which we can see how flute-making developed through the flute's most glorious period.  It struck me that we would benefit by constructing a chronology of their flute's development during that period, overlaid over that company's history.

Firstly, a word of explanation.  You'll see I've used the short form "Rudall" flute in the title.  I use this to include conveniently all flutes made by the series of companies from Rudall and Rose through to to Rudall Carte & Co.

Our starting points

We're fortunate in being able to see fairly clearly how things were, back in 1820, before the start of the company.  George Rudall had returned from the Napoleonic wars and set himself up as a flute teacher in London.  For this, he needed a good supply of good flutes, and turned to London maker John Willis for these.  We're even more fortunate in that I have one in my Research Collection that we can pore over.

George Rudall, Willis Fecit, c 1820.  
(From the McGee Flutes Research Collection)

You can see much more information on this flute by clicking on the image above.  For our purposes though, we can summarise the main stylistic and functional differences between this flute and later Rudall flutes as:

  • Cap - rounded shape

  • Indicator - ivory ball end

  • Head outside diameter - 29.34mm (fat!), giving chimney depth 5.23mm

  • Metals - sterling silver

  • Key cups - flat silver discs

  • Pads - plain leather discs

  • Key seats - flat bottomed

  • Slot liners with double springs (but not on upper C key)

  • Upper C key - straight, three block mounts

  • Long F key - none

  • "Strengthening" pins on RH and Foot blocks

  • "Fly-over" low C key shaft.

  • C#-D# length - 262mm

  • Hole 5 - 7.15mm

  • Embouchure hole - 11.2 x 10.5mm, equiv diam 10.85, ratio 1.07

  • C, C# touches - hockey stick overlapping.

We're equally fortunate in being able to see the work of John Rose before he met Rudall:

John M. Rose, Bate Collection, Oxford.

Again you can see more by clicking on the image.  From this flute and one in Edinburgh, we can summarise differences from his later work with Rudall:

  • Cap - cylindrical with metal cover

  • Indicator - silver inscribed rod

  • Head bore - large at 19.6mm

  • Head outside diameter - 28.7mm (fat!), giving chimney depth 4.55mm

  • Metals - sterling silver

  • Key cups - flat silver square plates

  • Pads - plain leather squares

  • Key seats - flat bottomed

  • Reverse tenoned

  • Upper C key - none

  • Long F key - none

  • Integral RH and Foot

  • "Cut around" low C key shaft.

  • Slot liners on low C and C# only

  • C#-D# length - 259.5mm

  • Hole 5 - 8.3mm

  • Holes well undercut conically

  • Embouchure hole - 10.85 x 9.9mm, equiv diam 10.38, ratio 107.4

  • C, C# touches - hockey stick overlapping.

And an ending point?

We're also pretty lucky here.  Although Rudall & Carte went on to produce 8-key style flutes well into the 20th century, there wasn't much development in that last period, as the heyday of the 8-key flute was well over, and the company was concentrating on modern Boehm instruments.  So for our end point, we can make do with a very late (1893) 19th century flute, conveniently also in the writer's collection.  That needn't stop us adding more information about 20th century Rudalls if it comes to light.

For more on this flute, see 7120 - A very late Rudall Carte.

For the purposes of this investigation, we can summarise RR7120 as:

  • Cap - cylindrical with decorative end face

  • Indicator - wooden ball end

  • Head outside diameter - 27mm, giving chimney depth 4mm

  • Metals - German silver

  • Key cups - hemispherical (imitating "salt-spoon")

  • Pads - probably card-backed

  • Key seats - flat bottomed (but large holed)

  • No slot liners

  • Blued steel fixed spring plates

  • Upper C key - mild hockey stick, two block mounts

  • Long F key - hockey stick, offset more than the G#

  • "Cut-around" low C key shaft.

  • C#-D# length - 248mm

  • Pewter plugs on C & C#

  • Hole 5 - 11mm

  • Embouchure hole - 12.42 x 11.05mm, equiv diam 11.74, ratio 1.12

  • C, C# touches - hockey stick overlapping

  • Address - 23 Berners St.

The check list

So, we have a starting point (well, two actually) and a finishing point.  So are we just looking to see what the differences are between these?

No.  That might have been the case had we been looking at a simple case of continuing development, but I think we'll see something more complex.  I think we'll see development, and then perhaps stagnation and even some decay, although not spread equally over all aspects of the flute.  Some developments will appear along the way, and then disappear before the end.  So, what are the developments we're looking to pinpoint in time?

Of flutes in general

  • Addresses - earliest and latest serial numbers at each

  • When did we start to see German silver; when did it become more common?

  • Does cocuswood give way to blackwood?  When?

  • Does ebonite ever feature significantly?  When?

  • At what serial numbers do logos change?

Of Heads

  • when did the Head outside diameter come down to 27mm?

  • when did the characteristic "cylindrical cap with decorative end face" start and end?

  • ditto the wooden ball end Stopper Indicator?

  • Serial number of earliest flute with patent head?

Of key blocks and springs

  • when were slot liners used?

  • What periods had double springs, blued steel fixed spring plates and just plain wood for the springs to bear on?

  • When were strengthening pins in blocks discontinued?

Of key shafts

  • Upper C key - when straight, when mild hockey stick, any other shapes?

  • Long F key - hockey stick bent down, bent up, other shapes?

  • Long F key - did it come in right at the beginning or later?

  • Long F key - in line with, or offset around the flute more than the G#?

  • low C key shaft - when does "Fly-over" give away to "Cut-around" the C# pad?

  • C, C# touches - hockey stick overlapping, the claw, others?  When?

  • When did the Boehm foot arrangement take over?

Of key cups, seats and pads

  • Key cups - when were the first and last of all these types:

    • flat disks with plain leather "pads"
    • pewter plugs
    • saltspoon
    • dished cups
    • wide cups with vertical sides and a low domed top
    • others?
  • Key seats - when flat bottomed, hemispherical, volcano, flat bottomed but large holed?

  • Pads - can we infer from the cups and the seats when various pad types reigned?

  • Pewter plugs on C & C# - when?  Before that?

  • Pewter plug on Eb - what period?

Of tuning

  • C#-D# length - starts at 262, ends at 248mm.  Smooth gradation, or series of steps along the way?  Can we correlate these changes with any other events?

Is that it?

An impressive list of questions for starters!  But, before we move on, what other developments might we have missed?  Or which of these are not worth trying to pin down?  Let's talk!

Our Resources?

So what are our resources in attempting to flesh out this chronological skeleton?

  • my own Rudall Rose or Carte study conclusions

  • David Migoya's Rudall Rose Catalog (currently in revision)

  • The New Langwill Index

  • Rudall Carte factory records

  • Museum collections

  • Private owners

  • Repairers and restorers

The RR or C study conclusion will be helpful in linking dates and serial numbers:

Aha, and did you notice Private Owners in the list above?  If that's you, do feel free to check your flute against the list below as it grows, and let us know if it confirms or confronts assumptions we have made.

The Chronology

And so, at last, we come to the chronology of developments itself.  A very naked skeleton at the moment, as you can see, especially when we consider all those interesting details to be found dates for that we identified above.  An empty canvas, just beckoning!  Who will open bidding?

A few suggested conventions.  Let's apply a "?" to anything we think may be right but can't prove.  And provide [sources] in square brackets where possible to allow follow-up and confirmation.

Year Serial No Detail
1821   Rudall & Rose, 11 Tavistock St [NLI]
  437 Earliest R&R flute so far located [Migoya]
Rudall & Rose, 7 Tavistock St [Migoya]
  458 Last at 7 Tavistock [Migoya]
  519 Only flute so far at 11 Tavistock [Migoya]
1824   Rudall & Rose, 15 Piazza, Covent Garden [NLI]
Authenticity certificate appears in cases [NLI]
  590 Earliest Serial No at 15 Piazza [Migoya]
1832   Patent Head patented
1837   Authenticity certificate stops appearing in cases [NLI]
Authenticity certificate starts appearing in cases [Migoya]
Quattrefoil (4-petalled flower) adopted [Migoya]
  3869 Last serial no at 15 Piazza [Migoya]
1838   Rudall & Rose, 1 Tavistock St, Covent Garden [NLI]
  4031 Earliest Serial No at 1 Tavistock [Migoya]
1840? 4260 Embouchure holes reach 10.5 x 12 (previously smaller) [McGee]
1843   RR release their version of Boehm's 1832 ring-key conical
  5389 Last serial no at 1 Tavistock? [McGee]
1847   Rudall & Rose, 38 Southhampton St [NLI]
Earliest Serial No at this address?

Rose patents Boehm's new cylinder flute design in England

  5605 Stamped Rudall & Rose, but certificate indicates RR&Co.[Roxburgh]
1851   Rudall Rose & Co, 38 Southhampton St [NLI]
Earliest Serial No with this name?
1852   Rudall Rose Carte & Co, 100 New Bond St [NLI]
Earliest Serial No at this address?
Earliest Serial No with this name?

Pratten brings out his Perfected, with different appearance, larger bore and C#-D# around 245mm.  Any impact on Rudalls?

1854   Rudall Rose Carte & Co, 100 New Bond and 20 Charing Cross [NLI]
Earliest Serial No with Charing Cross address?
1856   Rudall retires, Richard Carte takes over proprietorship [NLI]
1860   Society of Arts proposes shift to A440, but makes fork for A445; any impact on Rudalls?
1858   Rudall Rose Carte & Co, 20 Charing Cross [NLI]
1866   Rose dies, 19 July.
1869 6485 Earliest extant factory records for Rudall Carte [Bigio]
1871   Rudall dies.
1872   Rudall, Carte & Co (Ltd), 23 Berner's St, Oxford St [NLI]
Earliest Serial No at this address?
1883   Henry Carte takes over from father as proprietor [NLI]
1893 7120 Factory records indicate 27 Feb 1893 [Bigio]
C#-D# length 248mm [McGee]
1895 7152 From factory records [Bigio]
1895   End of High Pitch (A452-455) era (apart from for military flutes)
1943/44   Rudall Carte bought out by Boosey & Hawkes [NLI]


Apparent discrepancies

Perhaps not surprisingly so long after the fact, we seem to be seeing a few discrepancies between differing sources.  It might be handy to highlight those for further attention.

  • Migoya notes flutes with 7 Tavistock St Addresses, not noted by NLI
  • NLI claims the authenticity certificate runs 1824-37; Migoya notes certificates start from 1837.  My own records appear to support the latter.


Thanks in appreciation to those who help us fill in the details above!



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  Created 12 September 2010