1501 - 8-key conical flute by Thomas William Ingram

Ingram was one of the more important and skilful makers in London during the period 1815-1860, and this is one of his earlier instruments, stamped INGRAM/3 ANGEL COURT/STRAND/LONDON. The flute therefore dates from around 1820, during a period in which this workshop was the base for John Willis, with whom Ingram probably worked, and possibly apprenticed. Waterhouse (1993) suggests the existence of a John Ingram, but extensive research by Stephen Chambers and myself has failed to provide any evidence that there was such a character. The 1836 registry listing of him is clearly an error in which the forenames of two entries are transposed. Thomas, however, appears in Middlesex archives by 1819, on his first marriage to Mary Ann Smith, and again on 1 January 1828 when he marries Ann Harrington in St. Pancras. His baptismal records have not yet been found, but from Census returns we know he was born in around 1798. Thomas William Ingram, flute maker of Plumtree Street is named as the father on the baptismal record of his son William on 24 May 1835 at St George, Bloomsbury (William was born 22 April). Thomas William Ingram is still at the address in Pigot’s Directory for 1839, and with his wife and three children in the 1841 Census.

Ingram would have been at the Angel Court workshop at the same time that Henry Wylde was there as an apprentice to John Willis, and the association between Wylde and Ingram continues, as they both went on to work for Rudall & Rose - in my view probably as the foremen in that workshop (Ingram is called as a witness in an Old Bailey court case by John Rose on 15 June 1835) - and they both subsequently set up in the 25 Villiers Street workshop started by John Willis at the end of his life. This is not the only time Ingram appears in such a context. In The Times of July 16, 1844 he is a witness in a fraud case, in which we learn that he has strong sympathies for the Anti Corn Law League. This particular flute, restored by Robert Bigio, has extraordinarily good internal tuning, a precise focused sound, and plays best considerably below A440. The keywork, the pinning of the blocks and other details strongly suggest the influence of Willis, although the C# key is stamped RP (possibly AP) under the touch. This might possibly indicate some continuity with the previous owner of the Angel Court workshop, John Parker.

Clues to the date of the instrument include its close similarity to a number of flutes stamped GEORGE RUDALL/WILLIS FECIT, which Willis probably made in the Angel Court workshop at the same time that Ingram made this instrument (c.1820). The majority of surviving Rudall/Willis flutes are in boxwood, but many have this characteristic arrangement of simple silver ring mounts, with broader plain 'tips' at the crown and foot of the flute. At the height of the flute boom in London small stylistic changes almost certainly indicated one's fashionability or otherwise, and this particular 'look' is clearly de rigeur as it is the model of flute which a young Henry Wylde chooses to hold for a portrait of him painted in around 1825, and still in possession of his descendants. My thanks to Catherine Ballingall for permission to reproduce the painting below.