The Shop - C. Milsom & Son


One Hundred Years of Music 
- a short history of Duck, Son and Pinker (now known as C.Milsom & Son, Northgate, Bath)

Written by Albert E Manns - Managing Director

Dated 21 April 1948


"Foreward - it is with pleasure and justifiable pride that I have agreed to write a short history of Duck, Son and Pinker, whose centenary we are celebrating this year (1948) and we who are entrusted with the present day administration, acknowledge with gratitude what our predecessors did to bring this fine old business to what it is today. On the following pages will be found not only the interesting story of the growth of the House, but photographs of those men who have, by dint of hard work and application, built up the Firm to its present dimensions, together with illustrations of the various Business Establishments in Bath, Clifton, Swindon, Swansea and Bedminster.  


Duck, Son and Pinker is a household name in the West of England and Wales and to our thousands of customers and friends, we send our greetings and thanks for past valued patronage.

In the year 1848 the business was founded by Mr William Duck, a native of Bath, who was formerly a hairdresser with premises in Bridge Street, Bath. He was born in the year 1820 and died on May 13, 1892, aged 72 years.

His first piano shop was at No.2 Pulteney Bridge, and this small business has greatly expanded, until today it occupies the whole of one side of famous Pulteney Bridge, comprising 7 shops in all.

Mr Duck was educated at the Bath Bluecoat School and Bancroft's School,  London. He developed a talent for music and gained considerable repute as a performed on the concertina. He made tours all over England as an amateur and these he found profitable. Later in life he became the lessee of the Theatre Royal, Bath, and in 1875 purchased the provincial rights of the famous H J Byron comedy, "Our Boys". The first performance of this play out of London was at Bath on March 29, 1875, and the reception was such as to cheer the heart of any Manager. Four years later, on 5 February, 1879, the 1000th performance was given at Bath (as was the 2000th performance subsequently) and, at that time, the long run was something unprecedented in the annals of the stage. In commemoration of this success, Mr Duck named his residence in Oldfield Park, Bath, "Our Boys", which house is now the home of the City of Bath Girls' School.

He served on the Bath City Council for 4 years and represented the Widcombe Ward.

In the year 1878 he took his son, Mr Edward George Duck, into partnership and in 1884, Mr Thomas Joseph Pinker joined the partnership, when the title then became Duck, Son & Pinker.

Mr E G Duck was born in 1855 and died on April 17 1910. He was a bachelor and until his father's death lived with him in Oldfield Park, but upon the latter's death, he moved to Clifton, Bristol and lived with his sisters there until the time of his death. Upon the death of Mr Pinker in 1887, he became the sole proprietor of the business. He never took part in public affairs and during the last few years of his life he suffered from ill health.

Mr Pinker was born on 1 February 1844 and was drowned whilst yachting off Ilfracombe on 26 August 1887, at the early age of 43 years. He was a tuner in the employ of Mr Duck before being taken into partnership and was a man of considerable business ability. He was a musician and organist at St John's Church, Weston, Bath and was also a member of the Bath Rowing Club.

It was after the death of Mr E G Duck that the Company was formed on 8 July 1911 and Mr W F Collins, a son-in-law of the late Mr William Duck, became the first Chairman. Mr David Owen was the first Secretary and Messrs A E Ball and C H Shiner were appointed joint Managing Directors, the other Directors at that time being Mr David Owen, Mr George Riseley   and Dr Rupert Waterhouse. The business grew exceedingly and branches were opened at Swansea, Hereford and Swindon. Fine premises were also acquired at Queen's Road, Clifton.

The following music businesses were incorporated in the years as under:-

        Messrs P J Smith & Sons, Bristol 1892

Mr J H Macfarlane, Bath 1914
Messrs Henry Simms & Son, Bath 1916
Messrs Griffen & Stroud, Organ Builders, Bath 1918
Messrs Mason, Hereford 1919
    Messrs C Milsom & Son, Bath, Bristol and Swindon 1921
Mr Walter Scott, Bath 1924
Messrs J Sloane & Sons, Bath 1932
Mr C H Bishop, Bedminster, Bristol 1944


Duck Son & Pinker acquired Messrs C Milsom & Son, the famous old family business (established in the year 1825), and Mr F H Milsom became a Director and upon Mr Collins' resignation on 2 December 1924, owing to ill health (he died on 22 June 1930, aged 83). Mr Milsom was appointed Chairman and held this position until his death on 12 April 1937. He was succeeded as Chairman by Mr Arthur E Ball who joined the firm in November 1889. He died on 30 March 1947 having completed 58 years of yeoman and faithful service in which he saw the business grow to its present dimensions. Its success was due in no small measure to his wonderful ability and business acumen and it is not too much to say that he gave his whole life to the welfare of the Company in particular and the Trade generally. The writer was associated with him for nearly 40 years (joining the firm in 1908 as cashier) and any success achieved is the result of the wonderful training and fine example he set. Mr Ball retired from active participation in the business in 1943 as the result of ill health and the writer being appointed Managing Director in his stead (having been invited to join the Board on the death of Mr G Riseley on 12 April 1932).

On Mr Ball's resignation from the Chairmanship of the Board on 14 December 1994, Mr A C Milsom was appointed to succeed him. It is most gratifying that a member of this old Bath family is still associated with the business and his wise counsels are of much benefit to the Board.

Mr C H Shinner joined the Company on its formation and his special care was the Queen's Road, Bristol branch. These premises were destroyed by fire in the year 1942. He retired from active participation in the year 1937 but he is still with us and is Vice-Chairman of the Board. His comprehensive knowledge of the piano trade is of inestimable benefit to the Company and his services at the Bristol branch (which was opened in the year 1886) will long be remembered.

Mr Ralph D Owen was appointed Secretary to the Company on its formation and still holds this office. He is also a member of the Board and is untiring in his interest in all matters relating to the Company and the Staff.

Mr David Owen who, with Mr Ball and Mr Shinner, was primarily responsible for the formation of the Company in 1911, died on 19 September 1933, and his work in this connection will remain a lasting memorial to him. He never spared himself and took a very special pride and interest in the progress of the Company so successfully launched.

Mr George Riseley, the famous Bristol Organist who was an original member of the Board, died on 12 April 1932.  Mr P E Butler who joined the Board on 1 May 1933, died on 31 May 1942 and was succeeded by Mr W S Pearce, who joined the Board on 9 July 1943.

The Directors in 1948 were:-     

Mr A C Milsom


Mr C H Shinner


Mr R D Owen


Dr R Waterhouse


Mr W S Pearce


Mr A E Manns

Managing Director

The Head Offices are at Pulteney Bridge, Bath and the branches include C Milsom & Son, Northgate, Bath (managed by Mr Arthur Clark, the well known dance band leader); Whiteladies Road, Clifton (Manager: Mr L C Hewlett); Fleet Street, Swindon  (Manager: Mr F Swift); 11 Union Street, Swansea   (Manager: Mr A N James); and 74 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol (Manager: Mr W Griffen).

The Company unfortunately had to dispose of the Pipe Organ Branch of their business (formerly Griffen and Stroud) owing to the sudden death during the war of Mr H J Griffen. His son Mr L Griffen was in the army and there was no-one left to carry on this fine old business, all the pipe organ staff, with the exception of two, being in the Forces.

The extent of the Company's business may be gathered from the fact that in normal times, 65,000 piano tunings are carried out yearly, or an average of 1,250 per week. The tuning connection is certainly one of the largest in the country.

The Sheet Music Department has been for many years one of the largest in the Trade. The Radio Department is growing rapidly and a fine team of mechanics is employed. Duck, Son and Pinker pianos are renowned and the enormous volume of business done in the West of England and Wales (no less than 62,500 pianos, organs, etc have been sold since records were first kept in the year 1874) is a fine tribute to the Company and its employees, whose tuners and representatives are resident in various parts of the territory and reach as far afield as Tenby, Haverfordwest and Llandyssul and the service given in these distant parts is second to none.

The Board is proud of the war record of the employees, 44 of whom served in the First World War and 45 in the last war. Fortunately only one, the late Mr G H Ryall, was killed in action at Caen in 1944 and to his memory we pay tribute. Many of the older employees served in the Home Guard, Civilian Defence, Fire Service, Observer Corps etc during the last war.


NB:  my family ancestral line will end when my father passes away, and sadly none of our family have any historical information regarding individual pianos manufactured by my Milsom ancestors.  Also, to the best of my knowledge, Duck Son & Pinker no longer trade in either Swindon or Bath and therefore I doubt that that would be a helpful source to any readers hoping to find out the history of their specific piano.  I only wish that amongst all our archive material we had an inventory register of all the manufactured pianos to refer to, but sadly there does not appear such an archive anywhere.                       


Subpages (1): Milsom Street (1)