Beale’s Piano Factory was the largest Piano Factory in the British Empire.

Image courtesy of National Library of Australia.

Beale’s Piano Factory was historically renowned as the Largest Piano Factory in the British Empire.

Beale and Company were the largest producer of pianos in Australia from the 1890’s through to the early 1960s. Being a Sydney based firm they are of particular significance to the museum’s musical instrument collection which has a strong emphasis on Australian made keyboards including the earliest surviving Australian made piano by John Benham of Sydney dating from about 1835 through to the state of the art Stuart and Sons concert grand piano made in 1998-1999. The Beale company was established by Octavius Charles Beale in 1879 and did not begin manufacturing pianos in Australia until 1893. They later opened a large factory in the Sydney suburb of Annandale in 1902 which was heralded in the Sydney Mail as “a notable step in the march of industrial progress” (18/1/1902 p.166) and was opened by the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. OC Beale was a strong advocate of protection of Australian industry and this in part contributed to Beale being able to manufacture pianos successfully, unhindered by foreign competition especially from Germany and the USA. Beale was a vigorous member and President of the Federated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia, the NSW Chamber of Manufactures and the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Beale Company prided itself on making Australian made pianos for Australian conditions, and to this end took out a patent in 1902 for a tuning pin locking system with a metal wrest plank that aimed to prevent the strings from going out of tune given the humidity and temperature fluctuations of the Australian climate. The company existed until the early 1960s when they were taken over and their local production ceased.

Michael Lea Curator, music & musical instruments.

Piano Making (c.1924)  – Film clip of Piano making from Australian Screen.

Radio Mueseum

10 thoughts on “Beale’s Piano Factory was the largest Piano Factory in the British Empire.

  1. I think Leichhardt Library has a fantastic collection of Beale’s Piano Factory photos and they did a nice little exhibition on the Beale story a few years back, there were Beale family members who came from far away to attend. Be great to see some of those pictures again.

  2. As a former employee of that great family business and my whole married life began there on
    the 23rd March 1956. When my wife met me at the factory gate house when signing off on that day.
    I returned from my Honeymoon after the Easter holidays
    Greeted by my foreman ( George Ashbury.) on the foor where I had left my tools and began working as before .( In THE FLY FINISHING DEPT.). this work involved the Finishing of the cabinet work after leaving the initial turning room that was adjacent to my work bench area.
    I am now 80 and look back on these happy days

  3. Maxwell E Lowe JP.AAMI.AIEE.
    March 7 2013
    I remember the floors were covered in thick steel plate to allow the Piano’s to be moved with ease to and fro especially to the lift between floors. The mechanism that powered the lift was water powered with a heavy rope to open and close the water valve below.

    These floors were kept spotless so to move the piano’s around.
    Once the iron flames were bolted to the heavy timber forming the sounding board. The ends of the unit were fixed in place and moved on to the next area being the action and key board
    once this was done the instrument came to the FLY FINISHING DEPT.
    At this point the Key BLocks were cut and fitted with other components . Red felt was adhered to various areas as required.
    As the entire components were fully polished at this time. Your white cotten apron was reversed and worn backwards so glue on the apron would not scratch the finished unit.

  4. After some time George Ashbury and I worked on the final Concert grand built in this factory.All around now were Admiral TV cabinets being put together and sewing machine cabinets where most of the design and templates for drilling and assembly had been carried out by other depts.

    Now was the time for me to leave and find a job more suited to my ability.
    This was when the Elizabethan Thrt/Trust Building burnt to the ground ,Being in the area that day I went to site the damage. Of course the Grand Piano was destroyed.

  5. May 2014 .Now 81 I begin to think back about the feature and fitments of that fine old building.
    To transport the piano frame and finished piano’s from floor to floor a water powered lift was at end of the dept ( Fly Finishing Dept ) This was run by water pressure from the street , it was silent and very effective.
    To operate two large ropes ran though the the lift itself from top floor to basement shut off valves.

  6. August 2014 In cleaning up my workshop found some pieces of the piano’s I had brought home that were rejected
    and being newly married in 1958 applied them to the walls for shelving only this week Aug 2014 cleaned these
    Down and found their condition good The actual piano pieces were the FALLS themselves the section that covered the keys Such as MIGNON and PALING models.

  7. Maxwell, just wanted you to know that I have read your posts with interest.I have moved into the area for a short while and was trying to imagine it how it was – I also noticed many music related shops. This helps explains that history. Thank you for your memories.

  8. Ive just purchased one of these pianos with a serial number :Hapsburg 2317. Its a beautiful piece, not in the best condition but given its age i think its faired well. A few of the keys have cracked and one missing. But we love it.
    I’ve jumped on-line to find some information into what its age maybe.

  9. Very interesting to read these comments about Beale Pianos. My grandfather worked for them after coming from Scotland to Australia, after World War 1, in about 1926. Later on his great grandson lived in this building after it was made into housing apartments ( late 1990’s).

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