Boosey & Hawkes & Bayswater

We’re in Frederick Close. This is not the street in the City (Frederick’s Place) described by Pevsner as “an oasis of domesticity with Georgian houses on either side”, containing work by the Adam brothers and a regular stop for a guide with a better than superficial knowledge of the City, but a tucked away street off the Bayswater Road.

A tucked away street with a history, the home for many years – at 6a-10 Frederick Close - of a musical instrument factory, but now refurbished under the ownership of The Church Commissioners to provide superior residential apartments.

An intriguing view

The Close sits in Tyburnia, and if you thought that this name were no more than an estate agent’s tag to inflate local property values, you would be wrong. The name originates  from the early 1800s, when the Surveyor to the Bishop of London, Samuel Pepys Cockerell, began to plan the layout of an area bounded by Bayswater Road, Edgware Road and Sussex Gardens.

What became Connaught Square was formerly Frederick Square, and sits just to the north of the Close. Connaught Square houses the London home of The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, a location that would be anonymous other than for the 365/24/7 armed police protection at the front of the house and at the entrance to the mews immediately behind.

Tyburnia of course takes its name from the former gallows nearby. The plaque on the ground in a traffic island near the junction of Bayswater and Edgware Roads indicates that this was the site of the gallows, although some historians believe that the site was in the gardens of Connaught Square.

There is perhaps a piquancy in the possible conection between an execution site and the foreign policy record of our former Prime Minister, but that would be straying into dangerous territory for a modest London blogger.


Despite the title of this blog post, 6a-10’s musical connections start with the Distin family. John Distin founded a musical instrument manufacturing business, and in 1878 the then building on the site housed the Distin Musical Instrument Factory, although earlier the Distin business had been taken over by Boosey & Co, who in turn moved their military instrument making centre to the site from Newport Street (near Leicester Square).

A photograph on the internet shows the staff of Boosey & Co standing outside the manufactory in 1885 – it is understood that the original is in the custody of the Horniman Museum.

And from the opposite angle

The Distin family were brass instrument players, notably on the Saxhorn (little known today). That instrument  took its name from Adolph Sax (1814-1894), better known as the inventor of the Saxophone. And here is a fact that could help any quiz team – he was Belgian.

Boosey & Co became Boosey & Hawkes after a merger with Hawkes & Co in 1930. Since then the company has had occasionally troubled times, and the musical manufacture side was scaled down and finally ended in the early 2000s.

An imposing entrance

However, Boosey & Hawkes remains a force in music publishing, and retains the copyright for such composers as Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten and Aaron Copland.

And a building easy to date

As is evident from the photograph above, the building we see today dates from 1916, but in 2010 the building was refurbished to create “loft-style apartments”.

For further information on the rental opportunity one should consult property websites covering the area. However, you may be assisted by today's name of the building: “The Brassworks”. Who said anything about estate agents’ speak?

The author is a City of London and City of Westminster Guide, who runs walking tours in the City and in Westminster. Please see tabs for further information.