Collection Description

Collection name Erddig
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Description Although built in the 1680s for Joseph Edisbury, most of Erddig’s history has been dominated by the Yorke family. A noted family of collectors, from the famous collections of servants’ portraits commissioned by the earlier Yorkes, to the eccentricities of the final Squire of Erddig, Philip Yorke III (1905-1978), the Yorkes, especially the later generations, did not like to throw anything away, and as a result Erddig has the second-largest collection of items in the whole National Trust.

The large music collection of approximately 1,000 items, dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is indigenous, and with approximately half of the sheet music having family members’ ownership inscriptions, the tastes and abilities of certain key family members can be traced. Almost all of the printed music was published in London and purchased in Wrexham, as evidenced by booksellers’ stamps. Much of the music is stored neatly in dedicated music cabinets.

The earliest music in the collection belonged to Anne Jemima Yorke (1754-1770), whose enthusiasm for harpsichord playing is documented in family letters. This volume of 1760s English operas would have been used by Anne Jemima on her 1769 Jacob Kirkman harpsichord – an instrument commissioned in secret lest her uncle, on whom she was financially dependent, believed her guilty of extravagance. This harpsichord is regrettably no longer at Erddig, having last been documented in 1835.

A sizeable amount of music at Erddig bears the name of Victoria Mary Louisa Cust, Mrs. Simon Yorke III (1823-1895), and consists of mid-nineteenth-century piano music and songs. It was Victoria Mary Louisa and her husband Simon Yorke III (1811-1894) who built the house’s Music Room in the Entrance Hall. The largest contributor to the printed music collection, however, was Louisa Matilda Scott, Mrs. Philip Yorke II (1863-1951), whose ownership inscriptions can be found on approximately a third of all the music in the Erddig collection. While mostly consisting of piano music and songs from the early twentieth century, her collection also contains some music for vocal ensemble, hymn books, and harmonium music, the latter dating from her childhood years at Chilton Foliat Rectory. A particularly interesting item relating to Louisa Matilda is “The order of the music at the marriage of Miss L. M. Scott to Mr. Philip Yorke … 23rd April 1902.” This musical scrapbook contains hymns excerpted from printed publications, as well as manuscript music. The parishioners at Chilton Foliat presented the newlyweds at their wedding with “The hymnal companion to the Book of Common Prayer” (1890), which remains in the collection today. Louisa Matilda was evidently a very keen musician, and besides playing, she subscribed to The Musical Times, and even composed a little. Erddig’s collection contains a manuscript piano work of hers, “A fandango by L. M. York [sic]”, as well as manuscript parts for the same work “arranged for small orchestra by J. Lovelady … Liverpool.” A sketch for this composition may also be found at the back of the aforementioned wedding music scrapbook.

More prolific as a composer, however, was Louisa Matilda’s sister Helenita M. S. Scott (1873-1940). The Erddig collection contains approximately 30 of her songs, some being Helenita’s original manuscripts, while others are published. A number of these bear inscriptions from Helenita to Louisa Matilda.

The remainder of the sheet music collection is similar in scope, comprising more piano music and songs, vocal ensembles, hymns books, and harp music. Other family members’ names found in the collection include Simon Yorke II (1771-1834), as a subscriber in “New Welch music” (1805); Pierce Wynne Yorke (1789-1837); Anne Yorke (1810-1853); Simon Yorke III, as a subscriber in “Dynwared yr eos” (1840); Thomas James Scott (1828-1907); Edward Lionel Scott (1844-1922); Philip Yorke II (1849-1922); Simon Yorke IV (1903-1966); and Philip Yorke III, the aforementioned final Squire of Erddig. A small number of manuscripts, containing musical exercises or transcriptions, exist in the collection, bearing the names of some of the above family members.

One of the outliers in the collection is music (from approximately 1810-1820) by Edward Light written for the “harp-lute”. The Erddig collection of instruments contains a Light harp-lute from this period. These five harp-lute publications (bound in two volumes) bear the bookplate of Robert Henry Hobart Cust (1861-1940), a relative of the Yorke family.

The collection of instruments at Erddig is quite remarkable. The keyboard instruments are a Collard & Collard grand piano; an 1889 Klems baby grand piano; an 1860s H. Christophe and Etienne harmonium; an 1865 Bevington chamber organ, purchased for the 15-year-old Philip Yorke II; a W. Bell and Co. American organ; and a portable table organ/harmonium. Accompanying the Bevington chamber organ is a “dumb organist” in restored working condition. This has six tunes, ranging from Italian opera to Humpty Dumpty. The W. Bell and Co. American organ is installed below a case from a genuine pipe organ, purchased from St. Deiniol Church (Worthenbury) in 1913. This curious installation gives the superficial impression of a working pipe organ.

Stringed instruments include the aforementioned harp-lute, with case; a guitar painted in bright colours; an imitation Stradivarius violin; an Alvin D. Keech “banjulele” with case; and a small, possibly homemade, stringed instrument. The banjulele was formerly owned by Barry Roberts, one-time Erddig gardener, who himself received it from Philip Yorke III. The homemade instrument was a birthday gift to Philip Yorke III from his father.

Wind instruments in the collection consist of a late nineteenth-century Joseph Higham euphonium, with case and mouthpiece; three trumpets; a bugle; a Gianonni reed horn; two boatswain’s pipes; and a whistle shaped like a mandolin. Philip Yorke III, a keen musician, was known to be a proficient trombonist (a trombone method-book survives in the collection) and tenor horn player – it seems likely that the euphonium, at least, may have belonged to him.

The remaining instruments are a large eighteenth-century military horse drum with drumstick; and a musical saw with case, played with a violin bow. The latter certainly belonged to Philip Yorke III. The sheet music collection also contains an accordion tutor and a mandolin tutor, implying the presence of these instruments at some point.

Besides the large and diverse collection of instruments is an equally impressive collection of mechanical music devices. This includes two musical boxes (Mandoline, approximately 1850-1860, and Paillard, approximately 1870-1880); an Ariston organette with 37 discs; a Polyphon disc player with 24 discs in a case; a Thomas Edison phonograph from approximately 1906-1910, with 14 cylindrical records; three gramophones with approximately 110 records (including a relatively unusual red flexible Filmophone disc), plus a number of spare gramophone horns, needles, a needle cutter; an electric Broadcaster “Plus-A-Gram”; the aforementioned Bevington “dumb organist”; an Orchestrelle Thermodist pianola, with approximately 180 piano rolls; and a French musical automaton with an elderly man playing the piano. Complementing this impressive collection of devices are a number of catalogues for piano rolls and gramophone records.

Other items of musical interest include a music stand; three tuning forks in a single case; a number of prints with musical subjects; and a framed document entitled “Hymns for the chapel at Erddig.” One purchase which evidently turned out to be a disappointment is a mechanical device “for turning over the pages of music” – an inscription on its packaging reads, “a complete failure.”

One of Erddig’s most well-known paintings, part of the collection of servants’ portraits, is of a coachboy depicted holding a horn, his playing of which is highly praised in a humorous poem. Other musical artworks include “Cat musicians” (eighteenth-century); and a likely John Vanderbank the elder tapestry of approximately 1720, depicting players of stringed instruments.

All items, besides a small portion of the sheet music, are listed on A separate, incomplete, listing of the sheet music may also be found on Jisc Library Hub Discover. Most of the instruments are listed on The paintings may be viewed on

Jonathan Frank, May 2020

Printed music
Manuscript music
Playback devices
Vinyl discs
Date range -
Associated People and Organisations Philip Yorke 1905 - 1978 Anne Jemima Yorke 1754 - 1770 Kirkman, Jacob - Mrs. Simon Yorke III Victoria Mary Louisa Cust 1823 - 1895 Simon Yorke 1811 - 1894 Mrs. Philip Yorke II Louisa Matilda Scott 1863 - 1951 J. Lovelady - Helenita M. S. Scott 1873 - 1940 Simon Yorke 1771 - 1834 Pierce Wynne Yorke 1789 - 1837 Anne Yorke 1810 - 1853 Thomas James Scott 1828 - 1907 Edward Lionel Scott 1844 - 1922 Philip Yorke 1849 - 1922 Simon Yorke 1903 - 1966 Light, Edward - Robert Henry Hobart Cust 1861 - 1940 Collard & Collard - Klems - Christophe & Etienne - Bevington - Bell & Co. - Alvin D. Keech - Barry Roberts - Joseph Higham - Gianonni - Mandoline - Paillard - Ariston - Polyphon-Musikwerke - Thomas Edison - Filmophone - Orchestrelle - John Vanderbank -
Associated Places Chilton Foliat St Deiniol Church (Worthenbury)
Associated Times 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century
Associated Content Piano music Songs Vocal music Piano Harmonium Organ Guitar Violin Musical box Phonograph Gramophone Harpsichord music Harp music Harp-lute Banjulele Euphonium Bugle Trumpet Drum
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National Trust, Erddig

Wrexham LL13 0YT Open Map
Building Information A much-loved home, garden and estate.
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