The Pleasant Companion is dedicated to the family of instruments known as “flageolets”. Popular in Europe and America from the late 16th until the early 20th centuries, particularly amongst amateur musicians, flageolets are interesting instruments which deserve greater interest than they current receive.
Latest News (see also the Old News):
I recently came across a page from the “New York Jeweler Annual Catalogue” for 1900 which advertised musical instruments at wholesale prices.
Two types of English flageolet made from Cocoa-wood are offered. They are described as being “in B” and “in C”, although from the illustration it seems they have seven tone holes on the front so they were probably a standard English flageolet in D and a far more unusual one in C. Both types of flageolet came with at least one key, although the flageolet “in C” was also available with four or six keys.
What, however, particularly interests me is the pricing. The cheapest flageolet “in B” with one key was $3.60. The most expensive, “in C” with six keys was $5.95. The inflation charts I have looked at suggest that that equates to about $100 to $175 at today’s prices which, curiously, is not dissimilar to what an antique English flageolet might sell for today!
Although these are not huge sums of money, they are considerably more than other instruments advertised on the same page. Two tin whistles, both described as “flageolets” and made by Clark or an American company sell for 25-40c; whilst fifes range from 13c for a tin one to $2.50 for a Grenadilla “extra qualty” model. Only the Ebony fifes with pure silver ferrels are more expensive. Indeed, the prices are far more equivalent to for more professional instruments such as flutes (ranging from $3.33 to $6.58 for one- to six-key models) or piccolos. At these prices it is easy to see why the English flageolet lost so much ground to the tin whistle following its invention amongst it primarily amateur audience.Published on: Sat, 02 Sep 2017 11:06:08 +0100
This site’s navigation has relied on hovering over the menus with the cursor for some time now. I realise that this has made it almost impossible to use on a touch-screen device. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to rectify by making a proper small-screen or mobile-compatible version but have provided a semi-fix by making the arrows non-links so you can touch them to get the menu without reloading the page.Published on: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 18:05:26 +0100
About this Site: “The Pleasant Companion” is designed to be a resource for anyone interested in flageolets and their history and music. Transcriptions of Historical Flageolet Tutors from the 17th to 19th Centuries are available, along with free sheet music; biographies of famous flageolet–players, such as Samuel Pepys, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Parry; articles about flageolets (both new and historic); and a bibliography and discography for further listening and reading.
A short introduction: From simple beginnings in France as recorder–like instruments, over the centuries flageolets became increasing complicated and sophisticated instruments, used for personal enjoyment; making guest appearances in operas and even being used to teach birds to sing. In an attempt to smooth rough amateur breath control a distinctive arrangement of barrels and beaks was introduced in the early 18th Century and, soon, instrument makers were combining this unique profile with the simple 6–holed fingering system of recorders and transverse flutes to make a new instrument—the English flageolet. Both this and the traditional (“French”) flageolet continued to be popular in the 19th century, joined with the multiple–flageolets, invented at the turn–of–the–Century. However, despite a late revival as the solo instrument in Quadrille bands, the production of cheap tin or penny whistles took away the amateur market, resulting in a slow decline of the instruments into obscurity.
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Add a Comment
There are 71 comments for this page.
—jeanette, posted on: 28th November 2017 at 9.42 PM
—Rubens Küffer, posted on: 22nd August 2016 at 10.21 PM
—Jacob, posted on: 8th August 2016 at 2.21 PM
And this one in a live concert:
—Rubens Küffer, posted on: 19th July 2016 at 3.18 PM
—Jacob, posted on: 6th May 2016 at 8.33 AM
—Drake, posted on: 6th May 2016 at 7.19 AM
Thanks for your message. Yes, the picture is Robert Louis Stevenson who, along with Samuel Pepys, is probably the most famous player of the flageolet (and the most famous player of the English flageolet). I have a page about him and his playing if you are interested in more information.
—Jacob, posted on: 25th October 2015 at 6.53 AM
—Katherine, posted on: 25th October 2015 at 1.44 AM
I tried to send you an email, but I got it back saying it was an invalid email address. So I don't know if you got my email or not.
—Titia titiageertman[AT]hetnet[DOT]nl, posted on: 24th February 2014 at 2.56 PM
—Virginia George , posted on: 18th November 2013 at 6.28 AM
Very educational site. I enjoyed perusing these pages.
—Michael, posted on: 12th September 2013 at 12.00 PM
Hi, I have an old flageolet which I have had for years and never knew what it was until I did some online research. Your website was the most useful!
Problem is it has 7 keys, and none of those you mention in your family have 7 keys so I don't know if it is French or English? I'd be happy to email a photo. It doesn't have a name or date anywhere and no case or ivory beak. (inherited from a great grandparent). Thanks for your help, Emily
—Emily Hall - kocopetl (at) hot mail (dot) com, posted on: 22nd August 2013 at 4.21 PM
great site! have just recently learned about the flageolet and would be interested in finding an inexpensive one if this is possible
—Mary Sullivan , posted on: 8th August 2013 at 12.47 AM
I have an old brass flageolet which I think was my Grandfather's (born before 1900. It has no mouthpiece, 6 holes and a badge on the instrument has The Flageolet and in between the and flageolet are the letters M B or H B I think as they are stylised.
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 30th May 2013 at 3.02 AM
Excellent site. Douglas MacMillan in his article, "The English flageolet, 1800-1900", Early Music 38/4 (Nov. 2010) mentions that you list 12 extant triple flageolets by Bainbridge. However, I was not able to find it on your site. I may be able to add another triple to your list in a private collection in southern California
—Albert R. Rice, email@example.com, posted on: 22nd February 2013 at 12.46 AM
dear sir i french
and i m a collectionor of double flageolet of bainbridge i have two wust be restored i like your web site
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 12th January 2013 at 3.36 PM
i m christophe from france and i have 2 bainbridge to restored and i need information to restore in the good way and i need to know the age of my 2 double bainbridge flageolet i have pictures
very good site congratulation
—ccfifi at aol dot com, posted on: 10th January 2013 at 9.10 PM
Thank you for a wonderful site. I just got my first Flageolet it was probably made in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It has seven holes on the top, one Thumb hole on the bottom and one silver key on the foot. It plays in Nominal D with no maker listed. I was able to figure out the fingering easily because of your site. Thanks for all the help and information.
—vanwhel at mtaonline dot net, posted on: 12th December 2012 at 9.59 PM
I have a french flageolet (4 key, ivory beak) in mint condition and beautiful tone I would like to sell. If anyone is interested, please contact me. Many thanks! I would be happy to send photos, videos, or sound clips; I am looking for about $425 CAN.
—Neil Burnett (n.b.burnett AT gmail DOT com), posted on: 7th December 2012 at 9.22 PM
My name is Véronique Laplante, i am a master student in maritime archaeology at Syddansk University in Esbjerg Denmark.
I am presently doing my thesis on the personal belongins of the HMS St. George royal navy ship of the line.
On board they found a english flageolet belongins to William Bainbridge, i was wondering if you had any information about the actual cost of the object in the 19th century London.
Or maybe any information concerning the social background of the object, what kind of customers (class of society) or who could afford a Baindbrige flageolet
Any additional informations will be very much appreciated
—email@example.com, posted on: 30th May 2012 at 4.53 PM
James - In the early eighteenth century - assuming by 'barrel' you mean the windcap, which may or may not contain a sponge - hence its other term 'sponge chamber'. The windcap first apperaed on the tiny bord flageolets which were used to teach caged birds to sing.
—Douglas MacMillan douglas.oriana[AT]btinterntet[DOT]com, posted on: 22nd May 2012 at 7.47 PM
[I tried emailling you but the email address is not being recognised.]
I was wondering if you know precisely when the first flageolets with a 'barrel' appeared?
Also, do you perhaps have an image showing a cross-section of the barrel / head joint of a flageolet?
- I'm interested to see what, if any, similarities there may be between the inner configuration of this particular part of a flageolet and the corresponding section of a Native American flute.
Thanks in advance for any info you can provide.
—jamestdeacon[AT]gmail[DOT]com, posted on: 17th May 2012 at 1.38 PM
Your website seemed to be the most helpful I have found on flageolets confirm my thoughts on the piece I have? I have tried to email yopu however this has not seemed to work so I have been unable to send you a photo?
Looking at your photos I think I may have and English 6 key.
If you could let me know your thoughts on this I would really apprechiate it and maybe point me in the direction of a dealer who may be interested in buying it in the south west? or where best to try and sell it for a good price?
—suziekit84[AT]hotmail[DOT]COM):, posted on: 20th March 2012 at 10.03 PM
Hello, I have trying to find out information about a musical woodwind instrument that has been left to me by my Aunt. I thought that it was a Recorder but it has Keys and comes apart with interchangeable mouth pieces.
After looking through your web site I think that it maybe an English Flageolet . I have attached a photo of the item and wondered if you can tell me anything about it. I presume that it is old because my Aunt was 90 years old when she died and that was 30 odd years ago. It's been kept in a draw since then.
Many Thanks, Susan.
—S Davies. kad@ntlworld[dot]com, posted on: 13th February 2012 at 6.12 PM
Very interesting, something a person could pick up as a hobby and carry around quite easily, too.
—Pam criSpinWalker(at) gmail(dot)coM, posted on: 11th December 2011 at 7.42 PM
Wonderful site! Thank you for this. I have recently purchased a four key flageolet online and it appears to be in good order. The tone is very beautiful in the lower octave but is hit and miss in the upper register. I suspect that one or two of the key pads are possibly leaking and need replacing and the instrument is minus a beak. Can you recommend any restorers?
—jamiekendallAThotmailDOTcom, posted on: 29th November 2011 at 4.13 PM
What an interesting instrument! I understand it got replaced largely by the pennywhistle and the harmonica.
—alex, posted on: 24th November 2011 at 9.53 PM
I am considering purchasing a double flageolet from Daniel Bingham. Do you have a recording of someone playing the one you have pictured on http://www.flageolets.com/buying/newreviews.php?
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 9th October 2011 at 3.55 AM
I have a 19th century 6 key English flageolet which is in good condition but needs a bit of a service to address a couple of minor issues.
Can you recommend anyone in the London area or Southeast who could do this for me?
—dwhthompson[AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]uk, posted on: 29th September 2011 at 10.21 PM
Bjr collectionneur français, de flageolets
anglais et français, je posséde dans diverses tonalités des BAINBRIDGE simple ou double plus d'une dizaine,avec l'espoir de dénicher un triple
je maitrise parfaitement la forme des clefs
car je fais les réfections moi même
j'espère en réparer encore de nombreux
—email@example.com, posted on: 10th April 2011 at 3.58 PM
Un site trés intéréssant.
M'autoriser vous à faire un article dans mon blog sur votre site.
—rene.pierre at noos.fr, posted on: 31st March 2011 at 11.02 AM
Collectionneur de flageolets Anglais et Français
Je suis heureux de posséder plus de 10 Flageolets
Bainbridge simples ou doubles en diverses tonalités
Dont 1 simple du tout début 2 little Queen street
en érable teinté
—DASINIERES, posted on: 20th March 2011 at 10.14 AM
I think you will find that the recorder was more popular than the flageolet in France in the C18 - especially in the first half of the century. The C18 was a low point for the flageolet following its popularity in the C17 and its very substantial resuscitation in France (and elsewhere) in C19. Personally, I do not consider that the tiny French flageolet (which is the type under consideration) with its four finger holes and two thumb holes bears any comparison with the recorder in C18 music. The exception is in its role of the 'bird flageolet'for teaching birds to sing.
—Douglas MacMillan: douglas.oriana[AT]btinternet.com, posted on: 8th March 2011 at 8.19 PM
I'd like to know what advantages the flageolet has over the recorder and why it became more popular than that instrument in 18h century France in particular
—David Fletcher, posted on: 20th February 2011 at 9.45 AM
very nice and unusual, will be back, Roger B.
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 2nd February 2011 at 10.02 PM
An excellent page of pics of flageolets; lovely design, easy to read. I came here via a link from Pepys Diary.
—Fern Robinson, decor8or94@[NOSPAM]hotmail.com, posted on: 23rd January 2011 at 7.01 PM
I have a six hole English Flageolet, in "average" condition. It was made by Starck, London around 1865 - 1868.
A couple of the lever keys are missing and the holes have been plugged with cork. I also suspect the dampers on the remaining lever keys are in need of refurbishment as I am having trouble getting all the notes to play clearly.
I plan to do the refurbishing myself, using brass to make the missing keys. I have some ebony which I will use to mend the damaged hinge area on the pipe. I would also like to take the existing lever keys off and replace the seals with felt or cork. Can you advise which is appropriate?
I am pretty handy with this sort of thing, but have never attempted anything so detailed. Have you ever attempted such a rebuild? Am I being too optomistic?
I have enjoyed reading through your extensive web site and would appreciate any help and advice you can give.
—Nick Rowe, email@example.com, posted on: 7th January 2011 at 11.27 AM
Ensemble Les Pantalons
Balls and Salons in 19th century Paris and London.
Flageolet, cornet à pistons, violin, square piano.
Concerts - workshops.
—a_hopchet[AT]hotmail[DOT]com, posted on: 6th January 2011 at 1.20 PM
Hi Jacob, I tripped over your site because my name is William Bainbridge and was searching the internet on the name. Interesting article to me and it generates a bit of interest as to what happened with William Bainbridge's children. Although I am not particularly interested in musical instuments the story was still of interest because I like reading about people that even if not well known, find ways to build or invent things they see are needed at the time. Thank you,
—wwbainbridge[at]sbcglobal[dot]net, posted on: 25th October 2010 at 4.58 PM
hello Jacob,i am sorry but i would like to know if you are Sue Head's son?my name is Carmela,i am from switzerland,and i was in london in 1989 at swansfield street58 london.Iwas au pair there.I trie to send a mail with the adrese you give on your web site,but it doesn't work.Please if you are the Jacob i think can you answer me,i would send to you pictures i have.tank you Carmela
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 16th June 2010 at 3.39 PM
Dear Jacob Head
I wrote an article about Eugène Roy in Glareana 2008/2.
I found many details about Roy. But the idea of my article is mainly, to encourage flageolet specialist for further research.
May be, you have Glareana or I can send you a pdf.
Adrian v. Steiger, Bern, CH
—email@example.com, posted on: 6th April 2010 at 3.00 PM
Congratulations for this really interesting website. I'm a good friend of Hugo Reyne and have the same interests for the french flageolet. I have created a website with some informations about authors, instruments, repertory. I 've put your website link on mine. It will be a great pleasure to have some email exchange about this marvellous unknown instrument. I expect to play and why not to record the quadrilles and the ninetieth french music in a near future. Looking forward to reading you soon. Yours. Philippe Perlot
—Philippe Perlot - firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 1st April 2010 at 1.35 PM
I have gone through the material posted in this site. very rich information is available.One should join this site and become regular viewer! Excellent efforts done by the administrator.i ur site i will wondering about mcse tutorial because now a days i am giving training
—mark, posted on: 18th March 2010 at 11.07 AM
interesting research work Jacob. I will surely link through to your website at some point/
—, posted on: 13th March 2010 at 8.12 PM
I just came home from cleaning out my parent's house after Mom moved to a retirement home. One of the strange treasures I found and kept was a small wooden case containing a two-piece recorder-like instrument with 5 keys in addition to 7 finger holes and a rear thumb hole. My great-grandfather had penned his name and the date "July 1874" inside the case, but the instrument has no maker's identification. Thanks for helping me identify my "new" flageolet.
—Barb Smith, posted on: 24th January 2010 at 7.47 PM
I have just been given, what was called a piccolo, but having looked at your pictures, it appears to be a six-holed English flageolet. It has no mouthpiece, and I wondered whether it was possible to obtain the requisite mouthpiece and reed so that the instrument could be played? I play a clarinet and am a professional pianist
—maureen swire email@example.com, posted on: 21st January 2010 at 1.36 PM
looking for a connection between sir henry wood
whose mother was reputed to be a hastrick (within
the family)interested to find in your notes j wood
worked with bainbridge.
—sandra.hastrickntlworld., posted on: 30th November 2009 at 3.39 PM
Thanks for the pdf and Sibelius versions of "Keel Row".
—firstname.lastname@example.org, posted on: 16th October 2009 at 9.58 AM
This is a really valuable website. I picked up a Boehm-system French flageolet (no maker's mark, alas)in France this August and I'm having it refurbished by a flute-maker. Your pages have helped me to make sense of the instrument, and I'm looking forward to mastering it in due course.
—r[DOT]p[DOT]scales[AT]gmail[DOT]com, posted on: 3rd October 2009 at 1.56 PM
I love your site - very clear to read and understand how to navigate around it. I am searching for references to the pipe and tabor, particularly from 1780 - 1830 for a talk I am giving in July. I am the archivist for The Taborers Society. Pleased to have found your site.
I have met Charles Wells and all I know is that he has retired. regards
—, posted on: 5th June 2009 at 9.22 PM
In case anyone comes to this page with the same query as Christopher Birch, I thought I would post part of the email I sent to him here:
As far as I'm aware, Charles Wells has taken down his site because he has retired from making new instruments. I did read that he was going to continue to service his instruments for a while but I'm not sure if that is still the case.
Unfortunately, I think this means that there are now no French flageolets left in practice.
—Jacob Head, posted on: 14th May 2009 at 12.52 PM
Interesting site. Any idea whether Charles Wells is still present on the Internet? I can't find him and the link doesn't work.
—Christopher Birch me[dot][AT]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu, posted on: 11th May 2009 at 11.43 AM
I liked your site.
—eqg-Williams4008@damailbox.com, posted on: 24th February 2009 at 8.06 AM
A wonderful resource! I'm a recorder player putting together a program of 18th/19th c. czakan and flageolet repertoire and I can see that this site will be a valuable reference.
—Aaron Minnick aarondminnick at aol, posted on: 20th February 2009 at 5.07 PM
I see the website entered in my earlier entry doesn't show up as I imagined. So it isn't "mentioned below" (as I wrote) but clickable from the title of the entry.
—Marc Schneiders, posted on: 10th February 2009 at 2.28 AM
Thanks for this most informative and documented website, which I had seen before but recently looked at in more detail, since I acquired a modern bass flageolet (in G3 [196 Hz], almost a bass recorder in range). I am curious if there are similar modern instruments, of this and other sizes. More details about mine at the website mentioned below, which I hope to add to in the near future.
—Marc Schneiders (marc AT schneiders D0T org), posted on: 10th February 2009 at 2.23 AM
Félicitations pour votre site. Vivent les flageolets ! I have a collection of flageolets and I had published music for. I hope to realise a cd one day.
Happy new year 2009 !
Hugo Reyne (France)
—email@example.com, posted on: 31st December 2008 at 11.34 PM
I was surfing the net to try to find some information on a flageolet I
just purchase at a local estate auction and came across your web site....can
you help me? There are 4 sections,
3 sections are marked WILLIAM HALL & SONS N.YORK. 1 section has the address 239 BROADWAY. and 1 section has the letter D. It measures about
14" long WITHOUT the end mouth piece, with the mouth piece its approx.15 1/4" long. Wondering on the history and a value. Any help would be appreciated. photos can be sent if needed.
—gary nardecchia ... firstname.lastname@example.org(dot)com, posted on: 7th October 2008 at 1.27 PM
Hello, I'm playing flageolet since one year using the "methode pour le flageolet" from Carnaud(i have an original version). My flageolet is an original peace from B. Werdeau if you have information about this Werdeau i'm intersted.
—Michel Notredame mno(at)swing(dot)be, posted on: 7th October 2008 at 9.33 AM
Hello, I'm playing flageolet since one year using the "methode pour le flageolet" from Carnaud(i have an original version). My flageolet is an original peace from B. Werdeau if you have information about this Werdeau i'm intersted.
—Michel Notredame mno(at)swing(dot)be, posted on: 7th October 2008 at 8.55 AM
Sebastiaan, I haven’t come across any myself, but I remember seeing one listed:
which should be available from any CIMCIM institute. Replicas have been made of one of the French flageolets in the Horniman museum (http://www.horniman.ac.uk) so it might also be worth speaking to them to see if they took a copy.
—Jacob Head, posted on: 12th September 2008 at 10.45 AM
Thanks for the site, it si very informative and has provoked my curiosity. Are there technical drawings for this instrument anywhere?
—sebastiaan, posted on: 10th September 2008 at 3.15 AM
I'm looking for a copy of the msuic that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote for the flageolet. Can you help?
—email@example.com, posted on: 20th July 2008 at 2.58 PM
Thanks very much for your web page. It's very informative and useful.
I'm interested in more advanced solo flageolet music from the period 1870-1899. Your page mentions Bonnisseau and Bousquet. The British Library has entries for Ernst William Ritter, who apparently wrote in the 1880's. Do you have any examples of his music or know where it might be obtained? I would also like know where to find more of Bonnisseau. Thanks.
—j-russell[at]northwestern[dot]edu, posted on: 25th June 2008 at 1.13 PM
Thank you for rediscovering this interesting instrument.
—Giuseppe Sigismondi - gsdrATgsdrDOTeu, posted on: 20th March 2008 at 4.53 PM
Alright, now I know what a flageolet is. Apparently it was used by the band SuperTramp. Too bad you don't seem to have any samples of the music on your website. But thanks anyway.
—geowen@@shaw.ca, posted on: 22nd January 2008 at 11.55 PM
Thanks for the sheet music. I will return the favor when and if possible. I like the site, well designed and thought out.
—Scotty - arcticpalmtree[at]Yah00[dot]c0m, posted on: 3rd November 2007 at 3.00 AM
A Lovely site.
—Walt Sweet: waltsweet at the high-temperature mail, dot calm, posted on: 27th October 2007 at 12.38 AM
I was very pleased to find this website, and the information is very helpful and much appreciated. I research and collect pre-1850 American woodwinds, including flageolets. I have several single and two early double flageolets, one by C. Toomey, the other by Firth and Hall. I am a member of the American Musical Instrument Society and present papers on my research from time to time.
—Doug Koeppe - koeppe1 [AT] verizon [dot] net, posted on: 16th October 2007 at 5.06 PM
Unfortunately, it appears that a mistake in a php script caused the old guestbook to be wiped. Equally annoyingly, it seems I didn't have a decent backup from when we moved the guestbook from plain html to RSS. Many apologies for all of this.
—Jacob Head, posted on: 30th September 2007 at 12.17 AM
A very fine site round the flageolet. I am working on a small article based on a strange story from 1655 where a 17-year old latin-schoolboy (in the town Koege in Denmark) in 1647 swallowed a french flageolet (about 13 cm) which went through his body in three dayes. He survived and the flute was still playable!! I am looking for a picture “ Musicians playing to caged nightingales" what in my opinion must be flageolets, they are shown on a plate in a volume published in Rome in 1684. This information is written in the preface of Stanley Godman to The Birds Fancyer's Delight, Schott 5884 from 1954. I have not been able to find it, and I will be very happy if somebody you can help me with informations about it?
—mogens(dot)friis(at)stofanet(dot)dk, posted on: 30th September 2007 at 12.14 AM