RNCM Collection of Historic Musical Instruments

The RNCM Collection of Historic Musical Instruments comprises in excess of 300 instruments (European wind, strings and keyboard; Non-European wind, strings and percussion)

These include a number of keyboards by Broadwood; viols by Barak Norman and Collingwood; violins by Stradivarius and Guarnerius together with some wind instruments from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

4 instruments in the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments at the RNCM.

The collection is essentially an amalgamation of two collections originally assembled by Dr Henry Watson (1846-1911), and a smaller collection by Josiah Thomas Chapman (1843-1907).

A Catalogue of the Collection, which was shortlisted for the 2012 C B Oldman Prize (for 2010 imprints), was compiled by the eminent bassoonist William Waterhouse and is available in print. For details on how to purchase a copy, see below.

Location of the Collection

The Collection is located in the basement of the Library part of the College building (to the left of the main entrance on Booth Street West). It can be accessed using the staircase behind the Box Office or by the lift situated opposite the RNCM Library. Please note that outside advertised opening hours access is restricted.

Opening Times 

11/01/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
15/01/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
18/01/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
22/01/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
24/01/2024 Opera scenes 5pm-6pm
25/01/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
27/01/2024 Brass Band Festival 12pm-1pm
29/01/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
01/02/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
05/02/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
08/02/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
19/02/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
29/02/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
04/03/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
05/03/2024 RPS Awards 5.45pm-6.45pm
07/03/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
11/03/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
14/03/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
18/03/2024 Monday lunchtime 12pm-1pm
21/03/2024 Thursday lunchtime 12pm-1pm

Collection Catalogue 

The catalogue is case-bound, containing 336 pages (274 x 239mm) with colour photographs, including front and rear views of the stringed instruments and tip and frog details of bows. The prefatory text includes an introduction by Graham Wells (Galpin Society), a short essay by Charles Beare and a tribute to William Waterhouse. In addition to the descriptions of the instruments, it also contains William Waterhouse’s history of the Collection and indexes by instrument/item, makers, names of people with associations to the objects and lists of the original Watson & Chapman collections.

The catalogue of the Collection, compiled by William Waterhouse, is available in print, priced £40. Illustrated throughout with colour photos of most of the instruments and other artefacts, this is the first printed catalogue of the Collection in its entirety.

Price: £32
Postage and packing costs: UK £9.50, International £17.50

To order a copy please complete an order form and return by e-mail, fax or post.


All enquiries relating to the Collection should be directed to the Head of Library Services, Sarah D’Ardenne at [email protected] or Archive & Museum Manager, Heather Roberts at [email protected].

MAS English (teal)