Collection Description

Collection name Shaw's Corner
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Description Shaw’s Corner was George Bernard Shaw’s primary residence from 1906 until 1950. Although he is now best known as a playwright, much material remains relating to Shaw’s music criticism. Much of Shaw’s library was sold in 1947, but approximately 3,000 books remain at Shaw’s Corner, many of them related to music, with all other subjects also being represented.

While Shaw’s Corner contains an indigenous Bechstein upright piano (1899/1900), Shaw’s printed music collection of approximately 70 items consists of publications evidently used for study or review, rather than private practice or performance. Large-scale works such as opera and oratorio predominate, whereas there is almost no solo piano music, besides piano scores of works originally written for large ensembles.

The largest portion of the sheet music collection consists of opera vocal scores - approximately 30 in total - dating from 1870-1930 and mostly consisting of the most popular operas of the day by composers such as Wagner, Strauss, and Gilbert & Sullivan. Some lesser-known composers also feature, such as Ignace Lilien, whose inscription and a typescript letter are present in Shaw’s copy of his opera Beatrys (1927).

Other well-represented genres are oratorios and masses (in vocal score), songs, and full scores of orchestral works. Composers which frequently appear are Handel, Mozart, Elgar, and Schubert, amongst others. Shaw’s Corner also contains a large number of madrigals, part songs and canzonets by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century composers, in contemporary editions edited by Edmund Fellowes. “Echoes of the coming day : socialist songs and rhymes” by Fred Henderson (1887) is an atypical item in the collection, but does relate to Shaw’s political views.

Further items inscribed by composers include Strauss’ Metamorphosen (1946), bearing the inscription “Dem grossen Dichter Bernard Shaw in hoher Verehrung Richard Strauss Montreux, Weihnachten 1947”; and Rutland Boughton’s The immortal hour.

The collection of approximately 30 books on music at Shaw’s Corner spans from 1862-1950, and includes music history, theory, instruction, and biography. Biographies include those of Beethoven (Romain Rolland, 1928), Bach (Rutland Boughton, 1930), Cecil Sharp (A. H. Fox Strangways, 1933), and Elgar (William H. Reed, 1936). Some books of particular interest are “Bernard Shaw zum 70. Geburtstage 1926”, a book of manuscript tributes to Bernard Shaw on his 70th birthday, including some manuscript music by Arnold Schoenberg and Richard Strauss; and a proof copy of Shaw’s Music in London (1931), being an anthology of his music criticism.

A small number of concert programmes exist at Shaw’s Corner, including four from the Malvern Festival Concerts of 1936; the Elgar Festival Malvern (1947); and BBC Proms (1958).

Besides the aforementioned Bechstein piano, Shaw’s Corner also contains a locally-made (Letchworth or Baldock) Chaplin tenor recorder from approximately 1940, formerly owned by Shaw’s secretary, Blanche Patch.

Shaw’s Corner holds a Philco radiogram, with Shaw’s large collection of 78rpm records, being mostly classical recordings. Some are sorted by Shaw into albums according to musical style. There are also three radios; and six pianola rolls. The house contained a pianola until 1950.

All items are listed on Printed items are catalogued on Jisc Library Hub Discover, while the instruments appear on

Jonathan Frank, May 2020

Printed music
Private papers/diaries/letters
Manuscript music
Concert programmes
Playback devices
Vinyl discs
Date range -
Associated People and Organisations Shaw, George Bernard - Bechstein, piano makers - Wagner, Richard - Strauss, Richard - Gilbert, William Schwenck - Sullivan, Arthur - Ignace Lilien - Handel, George Frideric - Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus - Elgar, Edward - Schubert, Franz - Fellowes, Edmund H - Fred Henderson - Boughton, Rutland - Beethoven, Ludwig van - Romain Rolland - Bach, Johann Sebastian - Sharp, Cecil James - A. H. Fox Strangways - Reed, William Henry (Billy) - Schoenberg, Arnold - Malvern Festival - Elgar Festival - Chaplin - Philco -
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Associated Times 19th Century 20th Century
Associated Content Piano Opera Songs Vocal music Orchestral music Political music Music history and theory Biography Music critic Musical criticism Festival Recorder Pianola Oratorio
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National Trust, Shaw's Corner

Ayot St Lawrence near Welwyn AL6 9BX Open Map
Building Information Country home of playwright Bernard Shaw for 44 years.
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