Joseph Higham's Band Instrument Factory

(The illustrations on this page come from the document "Peeps into the Famous Higham Band Instrument Factory" provided by Gary Newborough.)

Joseph Higham established his musical instrument factory in 1842.  Entries in the Slaters Directory of Manchester and Salford describe the company as, "wholesale brass musical instrument makers to the trade and for export, electroplaters and gilders."  Within ten years of the company's foundation it was supplying musical instruments to the British Army and later they added the British Navy to their list of customers.  For much of the time Higham's factory was located at 127 Great Ducie Street just across the road from the Assize Courts and Strangeways Prison.

However, according to the various Manchester and Salford Directories, this wasn't always the case.  In 1850 Joseph Higham, musical instrument maker, had premises at 73 Chapel Street in Salford. 

It was at this phase of the company's history that it played an interesting role in the formation of one of the country's iconic brass bands.  In 1855 a band formed in the Yorkshire village of Queenshead was experiencing difficult times.  The Halifax Courier newspaper reported in September of that year that: "John Foster & Son, having lately become acquainted with the depressed state of the band determined to make an effort themselves to raise it up again. Accordingly they have purchased from the eminent maker, Mr. Joseph Higham, of Manchester a new set of instruments which have this week been delivered to the band, which in future is to be denominated Black Dyke Mills Band."

By 1863 the Higham's address was 2 Victoria Terrace, Victoria Street and, interestingly, there is also a listing for a Thomas Higham who is selling musical instruments at 76 Bridge Street just off Deansgate.  Perhaps this is a retail outlet for the company.  By 1879, the address for Joseph Higham is 127 & 131 Great Ducie Street but they still had the premises on Victoria Street.  In 1883 ownership of the company passed to Higham's son-in-law Peter Robinson.

By 1895 there is no longer any mention of the Victoria Street address.  Higham's held a number of important patents and were major producers of quality instruments.  It is said that they employed over 90 craftsmen and in the first 51 years of business they produced 46,000 instruments.

After Robinson took over management of the company, it continued to expand and opened a branch in London.  He sold his portion of the company in 1911 and in 1923 the company was owned by "Mayers and Harrison."  Interestingly, the Slaters Directory of Manchester and Salford for 1927 actually still had a listing for Joseph Higham, musical instrument maker and electroplater but by that time their address was 58 Erskine Street, in Hulme.

Below you will find the rest of Higham's "Peek" into their factory.


I received a message from Klaus Langer, a restorer of organs and harmoniums, regarding Highams.  He pointed out that he had, "...finished restoration work on a pressure reed organ some time ago. On the back of its wind chest it is engraved 'Thos. Higham, 73 Bridge Street, Manchester'. This eye-catching instrument of good craftmenship and sound may be built around 1880. In Gellerman's 'Reed Organ Atlas' Higham is mentioned as "Harmonium Maker" during 1878 to 1883."  Below is the organ that Klaus restored.

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