Street View: 62
Address: 105 Wardour Street
In c. 1790, Valentine Metzler came to England from Bingen on the Rhine, Germany. He married an Englishwoman and their only son, George Richard (1797-1867) joined his father in the business, as did George’s son, George Thomas (1835-1879).(1) The earliest record I found is a July 1794 entry in the Sun Fire Office where Valentine insures premises at 344 Oxford Street. He describes himself as ‘wind musical instrument maker and dealer in iron and rags’. The next insurance record is for 1822 when Valentine and George can be found at 105 Wardour Street where they are ‘musical wind instrument makers and dealers in musical instruments’. An 1828 advertisement in The Harmonicon announces “New comic songs” that were published by the Metzlers and also the arrival of a shipment of Spanish guitars. In 1836, they advertise their improved seraphines in The Musical World which are “capable of giving effect to any organ music, at a price less than one fourth the cost of an organ of the same power and depth of tone”. In late 1839, George Richard registers a pianoforte damper for which he gets a one-year copyright.(2) A few years later, Metzler & Co move to Great Marlborough Street, starting at number 37, but expanding over time to include the neighbouring properties.
As can be seen from the advert Metzler & Co had in the Street View booklet, they sold much more than just piano fortes. Not only did they sell all kinds of other musical instruments, such as flutes and drums, they also sold and published music. George Thomas was a gifted songwriter himself. And although the names in the advert suggest their publications were only of the highest classical sort consisting of sheet music by composers such as Mozart or Beethoven, they also published more popular music as can be seen from the picture below.
Metzler’s also published instruction manuals, such as Joseph R.W. Harding’s New and Complete Method for the German Concertina (1858), Metzler and Co.’s tutor for the viola or tenor (1920), and even a magazine, Exeter Hall: a monthly magazine of sacred music (1842-1881).
The Metzler instruments sometimes come up for auction and a number can be found in various museums around the world. Below two examples, but many more can be found by searching the Internet. The first picture is of a boxwood clarinet that I saw advertised on Ebay (Thomas Flatt Antiques) and the second one is of some sort of piano in the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels (they just describe it as a ‘musical instrument’). Note the name label on the inside of the lid.
When they resided in Great Marlborough Street, Metzler’s became the agent for Mason & Hamlin, the American organ builders. The Metzler firm, after a few more moves to Charing Cross Road and Rathbone Place, was eventually taken over by J.B. Cramer in the 1930s.
(1) Grove’s A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, volume 4 (1900).
(2) National Archives, Kew: BT 42/1/128.
Postscript: A reader (see comments) sent me pictures of a guitar, according to the label imported by Metzler. An additional label indicates that the guitar was later sold by Alday’s in Dublin.