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English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910 - #1894

Front image of an English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910
Back image of an English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910
Side image of an English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910
Scroll image of an English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910
Click to zoom to an English Double Bass by Tom Nuttall circa 1910

I'm looking for a named English double bass with distinctive looks and a strong punchy sort of sound. What have you got?

You definitely must come and try this great looking instrument by Tom Nuttall. It ticks all of the boxes you mention and many more.

How do you know that the instrument was made by Tom Nuttall?

The instrument bears the maker's original label on the bass side of the inside back.
In size the label measures approximately 22cm in length and 4cm across.

Would you say that the label is quite large?

Yes - it is long enough to partially cover the central brace and cover half the lower of two upper braces.

What does the label say?

The label is printed in black ink and states, 'TOM NUTTALL, MAKER & REPAIRER OF, Violins, Violoncellos and Double Basses, 39 ROSE STREET (Manchester Road) BOLTON.'

Are there any other maker's marks?

Yes - the instrument is branded 'T. NUTTALL' in no less than four places on the central brace. One of the brands is located close to the label - the other three are positioned towards the middle of the back brace and form a triangle with the letters facing inwards.

The instrument isn't a typical Northern English model and the label says that he was a repairer. How do you know that Nuttall didn't just repair the instrument?

Good question. The answer is because all the original materials and quality of work on the inside are consistent with the same hand.

The original label inside the double bass by Tom Nuttall.

The original label inside the double bass by Tom Nuttall.
Click on the image above to see some large views.

What do you mean about the materials?

Most instrument makers use spruce or willow for the internal blocks, linings and braces. On this instrument the central brace, the one immediately above it, the bottom block and all the linings are made from a hard wood - possibly mahogany.

Wow that is quite unusual. I'll bet that Nuttall had a bit of a job to bend the linings.

Yes - the linings are made from three strips of mahogany glued together to form a sort of laminate. The work certainly isn't the neatest or the lightest that we have ever seen.

Does the slightly heavy internal work and use of mahogany suggest that Nuttall may have been a furniture or cabinet maker before starting to make instruments?

It is certainly a good line of thought.

Have you seen any other instruments made by Tom Nuttall?

We have seen images of a violin that bears a near identical label and is stamped with his brand on both the upper and lower outer back. This instrument is dated 1921 and is numbered 33.

Do you have any information on Tom Nuttall?

Unfortunately Nuttall isn't recorded in any of our violin maker dictionaries or reference books.

Did you do any more research?

We have already established that Nuttall made a violin in 1921. What we really wanted to try and find out is how long he had been making instruments by that time. With a view to try and establish his date of birth we took the liberty of looking into some registers for the county of Lancashire.

Did you find anything in the registers?

The baptism records for the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Egerton Street, Farnworh, Lancashire show that a Tom Nuttall was born on the 16th May 1876 and that he was baptised at the church on 20th Jan 1877. His parents were James & Sarah Nuttall who lived at Spring Cottage, Moses Gate, Farnworth.

Is Farnworth a suburb of Bolton?

Yes - it is about 7 miles south of Bolton's town centre.

How can you be so sure that this is the correct Tom Nuttall?

In the marriage records for the town of Bolton it is recorded that on the 11th April 1925 an Emma Nuttall aged 26 got married to a William Hughes aged 27 at the Holy Trinity Church, Bolton, Lancashire. The records show that both Emma and William lived at 39 Rose Street and that the bride's father was Thomas Nuttall - a musician.

So Tom Nuttall was 23 when his daughter was born?

Yes correct. The dates and addresses all tie in nicely.

Feedback from Edward G Hellewell - a retired bass player and amateur genealogist.

Please click here to read Mr Hellewell's extensive and most interesting research into the Nuttall family history.

Wow - Mr Hellewell must have spent a fair amount of time and effort on this research.

Yes - a big thank you is due to Mr Hellewell for all his interest, time, effort and commitment.

You mentioned a little earlier that the model is very distinctive. What are your thoughts on that?

I would have to say that the characteristics that we tend to associate with Northern English instruments are present in this instrument - it is just that they are a little more disguised than we are used to seeing.

What do you mean disguised?

Well to start with the model is viol shaped and has the flat back with angle break as we would expect from a Northern English maker. What tends to confuse our eyes is the sort of squashed outline and squareish lines - particularly in the centre bouts of the instrument.

What else would you say is a bit different?

We have already mentioned that the wood used internally is a little unconventional.
If you take a look at the wood that Nuttall has used for the front of this instrument you will see that it has been cut on the "quarter" so that the grain is shown as wide circular or elliptical lines rather than narrow vertical lines.

Is that unusual for a Northern English maker?

Yes - this sort of wood selection would be pretty unusual for any nineteenth or twentieth English maker.

Would you say that the F-holes are distinctive too?

Yes - they are certainly nice and generous in their width and in the size of the lobes. There is something English about them but at the same time there isn't an English feel about them - if you know what I mean.

Maybe Nuttall saw something Italian and decided to copy its characteristics.

Yes - this is quite possible.

Was the instrument in good condition when you purchased it?

Apart from the fact that the upper part of the back - from the angle break upwards was missing - not too bad.

What work did you do on the inside of the instrument?

Internally both the upper and lower back braces have been replaced and any cracks have been washed out and restudded.

The neck looks nicely flamed. Is that new?

Yes. New "D" neck and fingerboard and first class set up.

What else will I like about the instrument?

The small string length which measures only 105.1cm.

Final Words.

Wherever the inspiration came from to make this subtle and distinctive instrument Tom Nuttall did a pretty decent job of adopting and adapting it into his own unique and individual style.

Final, final words.

This really is a charming instrument with Italianesque looks and a positive punchy type of sound. If you are hoping to create a very special sort of image for yourself this could well be the perfect partner for you.

Stats:

LOB (length of back) - 108.4cm (42.65in)
Width across upper bouts - 54.4cm (21.45in)
Width across middle bouts - 35.3cm (13.85in)
Width across lower bouts - 68.0cm (26.75in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 20.5cm (8.15in)
Body Stop - 60.0cm (23.65in)
String length - 105.1cm (41.40in)

Price on application.

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