My Favourites

The Patrick Matthew Violin

Photograph is copyright of Andy Sutton of Nottingham

Made in 2024 by master violin maker Steve Burnett of Edinburgh. The sides back, pegs and tailpiece of this beautiful unique violin were made from a 150+ year old ancient fallen apple tree from the historic orchard of Megginch Castle that was quite likely planted there by the famous orchardist and pomologist Patrick Matthew for his friend and neighbour, John Murray Drummond, the castle owner.

More information about this truly wonderful Scottish heritage violin and why it was made, along with more performances of it, can be found on The Patrick Matthew Website

Professional photographs of the violin, photographed by Jane Barlow of the Press Association can be found here

Mentioned on page 5 in the Scottish Herald newspaper, May 22 2024 Here  

Actor and violinist Thoren Ferguson plays The Patrick Matthew Violin at  Megginch Castle, May 2024.

Photograph is copyright of Andy Sutton of Nottingham

Thoren Ferguson with the Patrick Matthew at Megginch Castle in May 2024. Photograph is copryight of Jane Barlow of The Press Association-

The Mull of Kintyre Campbeltown Violin. Made in 1904 in Campbeltown, Scotland by Archibald Smith. 

All photographs of the Campbeltown Violin on this website are the copyright of Andy Sutton of Nottingham

If you look at the photo of the back of the violin you will note the neck is flat, rather than curved. I am told that this is something done by some Scottish violin makers and is most likely done specifically to suit particular folk music players who hold the neck with the flat of their hand, rather than support it with the thumb as classical players do. The late and famous Scottish fiddle player Johnny Cunningham played in this style (see here)

I restored this violin in 2024, 120 years after it was made. The violin is heavily nicotine stained. The sound is clear, loud, brightly even and perfectly resonant with that magical D-string silvery bell-like resonance I really love.  The original internal label, written with a fountain pen, complete with cigarette ash burn reads exactly as follows:

"Copy of a Guarnerius, Archibald Smith, Campbeltown. 1904." 

Campbeltown is where Paul McCartney lived and wrote Mull of Kintyre. It is where they hold the annual Mull Of Kintyre (Mok Fest) music festival every August. The violin was restored and re-voiced in Nottingham. Mull of Kintyre is the official song of Forest (Nottingham Forest Football Club) fans. 

Recognition of Archibald Smith

The Ashover Violin. Made in Ashover Derbyshire in 1850 by John Wilson

The lovely unique folk art fiddle has a British cherry tree back and a fine grained spruce front. It sounds beautiful. The violin is around 7/8ths in size and was played by Bob Day at the Ashover Mayday Festival 2024 and was accompanied on guitar by his wife Sue. In this video, as the restorer and current owner, I talk about the violin and then it is played in All Saints Church Ashover in Derbyshire.

This violin is to be donated to a music charity in Ashover to hold in trust for the village and for the formal enablement of folk musicians to play for the enjoyment of the people of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

An article on The Ashover Violin, by John Winter, in Wings Magazine (June 2024)

Rigart Rubus Tribute Violins

Many, and probably most, luthiers will tell you they have never come across a Rigart Rubus violin. I have worked on a few because I sometimes seek them out and really quite like them when they are properly set up. The ones I have worked on to date were not made by Rubus, instead they are European (French or German?) dated 1850. These violins have labels that simply read "Rigart Rubus. Petersburg 1850. In reality, he was born in 1850 so he can't have made them and they must have been made decades after 1850. The video below by the punk folk violinist Ursula Donnelley, of Erik and the Worldly Savages is a review one of the two Rigart Rubus violins in my collection.

Some further archived and currently live sources of information about Rigart Rubus violins. 

Mystery violin: I don't even know what the branding actually says

A couple of years ago I won an auction on eBay for a violin in need of repair. It was filthy with an open join on the table and had clearly not been played for decades. I don't know where or when it was made. I don't know whether the pencil writing inside is likely to be by the maker or a 19th century repairer. It is surely a late 18th century early 19th century violin. That is, unless the handwriting inside is inacurate.

The violin has a very warm and sweet tone. It is currently strung with Dominant medium tension strings. 

The violin is very light in weight and appears reasonably well made, although not at all fully lined or blocked. 

The varnish seems to be a yellow, gold and it a very hard varnish. I think its original. It has had an historic re-angling (re calibration) of the fingerboard to raise it. I fitted it with a new fingerboard, nut, soundpost, brdge, tailpiece and endpin.

The pencil writing inside appears to read: "Thomas Stone" It might then say "Bretton" but I don't know. It has a date along with the handwriting. Dec 10 1836.

The back of the violin has an engraved brand name but I can't read it. Does it read Poirson?

The purfling has been inked. It appears to have a one piece back. However, on very close examination it is an incredibly finely made two piece back, the join being virtually invisible. 

A 4/4 (full size) violin measures 60cm in total length as does this violin. 

Ursula Donnelley plays and then assesses the mystery violin above.

The mystery of this violin remains unsolved. It was discussed at length a couple of years ago on the Fiddle Talk website here

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French violin. Number 3 model violin 

This full size (4/4) antique beautiful Mirecourt J.T.L. violin has been rated by professional performance violinist and teacher Ursula Donnelley as an advanced instrument suitable from beginner to Grade 8 ABRSM, and further to professional level. 

In very good original varnish condition for an antique instrument, new quality Mirecourt Deluxe bridge has been carefully tuned to the violin to maximise its abilities to the full.

The violin has a one piece back with delightful flaming.

The strings are new Pirastro Tonicas. A new top quality sound post has been added.

Wittner geared pegs have been fitted to dispense with the need for fine tuners on the antique original tailpiece. An extremely comfortable Wittner anti-allergic chinrest compliments this set-up. 

The orignal J.T.L label is still inside the instrument and the violin carries the maker's "number 3" designation inside the pegbox.

JTL violins of this superior quality are hard to find and cost well over £2,000 in most violin dealer shops. This violin has a very clear and yet sweet tone with great projection, perfect resonance and a mature sound. It is responsive and equally balanced across all stings with an open sound and very good volume. 

Demonstrated by an intermediate (ABRSM) violin student

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French Compagnon model violin. Full size. 

This full size (4/4) French Mirecourt violin has lovely original varnish with a nice antique patina.

This violin has a lovely one piece back and was made between 1900 and 1930, has a new set of Pirastro Tonica strings, a new sound post, new ebony fingerboard and a new Despaiu Superior bridge fitted and tuned to the violin.

The pegs are rosewood. The tailpiece is a special matching rosewood effect Witner model with fine tuners. The chinrest is new and is of real rosewood. 

This model orignally cost more and is superior to the now world renowned sumptuous sounding JTL Medio-Fino models, with a more complex and fuller character with a lovely sweet-warm and resonant tone that projects well and is even across all the strings.

This violin has been expertly rated suitable as a Grade 8 (ABRSM) instrument.

Many violin shops sell this model for between £1,000 and £2,000.

Above Compagnon Played by a Grade 3 ABRSM Student

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) (full size) French Compagnon model violin

This is the second (JTL) French Mirecourt Compagnon model violin that I own. This one is also in very nice condition This violin has a loud and sweet tone with good, projection, pleasing resonance and a subtle ring on all the strings.

Professionally rated as an advanced student violin to Grade 8 (ABRSM) this violin is a good buy for any serious student or other keen violinist looking for a nice antique French violin.

The violin, has a nice one piece back and was made around 1900-1910, has an ebony fingerboard, Witner composite fine tune pegs and an antique original tailpiece, requiring no tailpiece tuners thanks to the superb Witner fine tune geared pegs. It has a matching, extremely comfortable Witner composite anti alleregic chinrest. The ebony fingerboard has been refurbished. A top quality Mirecourt Luxe bridge is tuned to the violin and new Pirastro Tonica strings have been fitted. The violin appears to have the original sound post, which is in the optimal position, perhaps where it has been undisturbed for some 100 years or more.

An excellent violin suitable up to Grade 8, played here by an intermediate (ABRSM) student.

Antonio Martello Violin. Full size Antique French (4/4). Made in Paris.

Made between 1900 and 1910 in France, Paris, these really good student violins were made for the internationally famous violin dealers Beare and Son of London. This instrument has a label that has the B & S L logo in a shield, exactly as expected. The label reads “Antonio Martello, Fauburg St Martin, No. 2, Paris.”

These violins have a very nice subtle aged amber glowing tone to the varnish and are highly sought after. Prices usually exceed £1000, even at auctions that generally sell to dealers below wholesale prices.

When I bought this violin to restore fo my collection, it was fitted with a worn out set of Dominant strings and a tailpiece with heavy metal fine tuners that was too long for it. I re-fitted its original bridge better than before and gave it a new superior sound post. The new ebony pegs on it work very well and so I opted to fit it with a suitable antique ebony tailpiece with a nice understated vintage fine tuner on the e-string only. The violin is fitted with a new set of Pirastro Tonica strings.

I was amazed when I played this violin. I was thinking of Christmas at the time, for some reason, and played the Christmas carol “Once in Royal David City” on it. Something about its surprisingly delightful sound actually made me giggle and then say “wow!” I played it again and that put a huge grin on my face. Thinking it was just me, I took the instrument to my youngest daughter and simply handed it to her and asked her to play it and tell me what she thought. She played “Swan Lake” on it. She stopped midway and laughed out loud and also said “wow, it’s really very good”. Then she finished the piece. 

This violin has a really pleasing character, with a beautifully subtle ethereal ringing and sweet even tone.

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French Medio Fino model violin (Full size 4/4)

This standard antique French JTL Medio Fino violin has a one piece back and was made in the late 19th century or very early 20th century. It has been very well looked after for a violin of this age and has had no repairs. It even appears to have the original soundpost in place. 

The violin has a two piece back. It has been fitted with new Witner geared pegs to allow a longer after string length and ease of tuning. The strings are new Piastro Tonica's. It also has a very high quality J and A Beare bridge and comes in a vintage  Beare case.

This advanced student intrument appears to have been first imported from France, or bought by the renowned international violin dealers Beare in London. At some point it next arrived in Canada, because that is where I imported it.

This highly desirable violin has the typical sumptuous Medio-Fino sound enjoyed by students and their teachers for over 100 years. It is very easy to play and as been professionall rated as suitable for students from beginner all the way to grade 8 ABRSM. 

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French Medio Fino model violin (Full size 4/4)

This medium fine antique French violin has a lovely flamed one piece maple back, which is much rarer in a Medio Fino and more desirable. It has a lovely sweet sumptuous tone that is typical of these famous violins.

Rated as suitable for an advanced student grades 4 - 8 (ABRSM) level. The violin has an AAA professional quality fingerboard, new set of Pirastro Tonica strings, new Witner composite integrated finetuner tailpiece, a new sound post and a new Despaiu Superior bridge fitted and tuned to the violin.

NOTE The thicker high quality, slightly wider, fingerboard makes this instrument significantly heavier than most student violins.

 Le Parisien.  Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French C19th century full size (4/4) Violin

This fully restored violin had really been quite severely damaged in its life. It has an old sound post crack to the face (table/top) of the violin that has a very expensive professional luthier internal oval patch repair that was clearly done some years ago and has held up perfectly. Other cracks to the table of the violin have been repaired in the old school traditional luthier style of hot hide gluing, clamping and internal hide glued acoustic parchment cleats having been very conservatively applied inside the instrument. 

If ever there was a demonstrable case to be made for lovingly repairing a damaged violin this is it. 

These Le Parisien violins are rare and sell for thousands in violin shops.

This violin has been rated as an advanced student violin suitable all the way to Grade 8 ABRSM and beyond.

A mid to higher end JTL instrument, this Le Parisien has a one piece back, original rosewood fine tuners, perfect rosewood fingerboard, a rosewood chinrest and a special rosewood effect Wittner composite tailpiece to match. It is strung with new Pirastro Tonica strings and has been fitted with a new soundpost. The bridge is old and of high quailty, in perfect condition.

This antique French. Mirecourt, violin has a lovely warm yet clear ringing tone across all stings with very good resonance and projection with just a tiny hint of grittiness beneath the surface that is also perfect for folk music.

Le Parisien 4/4 JTL French Violin

Genuine JTL Le Parisien French Antique Violin played by intemediate ABRSM student.

Meet "The Tobin" Unknown Maker C19th century faked old Amati Violin

This attractive full size (4/4) violin was previously owned by deceased "Doom Rock" music producer and famous performance bass guitarist Rolf Startin, who used down-tuned violins on music he produced and recorded for the doom rock band Electric Wizard.

More details about this violin and its history (including why the violin was faked) can be found on my blog (here). In sum, "The Tobin" is a very well faked copy of an 18th century (or older) master violin, along with faked cracks and even a faked neck graft. And the violin is now a real antique and collectors item as all that fakery was done well over 100 years ago. 

The violin has Witner geared pegs and is perfect for students (up to Grade 8 ABRSM). 

More details and informed speculation about the maker of this antique Amati copy violin are on my blogsite HERE

The story of this violin was featured on the Sonia Poulton Show in 2022: HERE  .

"Bobbie's Violin" A German 3/4 sized violin. Labelled "Christian Miesel" made in Klingenthal, 1931.

This 3/4 sized violin is in very good condition for a student violin of its age and it has a remarkable history. The violin was owned by RAF airman Robert (Bobbie) Salter who died aged just 19 years in an RAF aircraft crash just before the outbreak of World War 2, during the time Britain was rushing its fighter bombers into production following Nazi Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia. 


In the video below, also embedded in the news story in the link directly below, my youngest daughter - who had just passed her Grade 3 ABRSM - plays the violin for the first time since Bobby Salter played it.

The full story of Bobbie's violin, with newspaper and family photographs, of what we know of the violin can also be read in this news story:  Here (archived here)