Hospitalfield Harp Renovation

An Arts project Arbroath, United Kingdom

Help us to repair the beautiful harp from within Hospitalfield House's collection, bought by Patrick Allan Fraser for his wife Elisabeth...

Help us to repair the beautiful harp from within Hospitalfield House's collection, bought by Patrick Allan Fraser for his wife Elisabeth Fraser when they were developing the house between 1843 and 1890. The artist and collector couple then left the house in trust to support education in the arts - a legacy which continues to the present day.


The Hospitalfield Harp

The Hospitalfield Harp is an elegant, Erard Grecian Harp. It has been stored behind the scenes at Hospitalfield and is in a very bad condition with extensive damage which needs repaired to bring it back to being an exceptional instrument which can be played.

Made around 1830, it is a double action pedal harp, the design of the mechanics was first patented in 1810 and became popular as it was the first pedal harp that was fully chromatic allowing the player to change of any key while playing. This type of harp was popular for grand houses but also for string quartets and other groups. The elaborate, decorative mouldings are made from gesso with burnished gold leaf, this was fashionable at the time as it reflected the flickering light of candlelit drawing rooms. The Grecian harp led to the development of the larger Gothic style harp which was the first real orchestral harp.

Why we want to repair the Harp

It's an important part of our collection and it completes the trio of historic instruments that we have here at Hospitalfield and were used by the Allan Frasers when they lived here together. The Broadwood Piano is in the centre of the Picture Gallery and the Kirckmann Harpsichord is in the Drawing Room - take an opportunity to come and see them all then next time we are open for tours or events.

We want to be able to display the harp as part of the collection, alongside the paintings, ceramics, embroidery, carving and sculpure so that it can be seen by visitors. Restoring the harp to a playable state means that audiences can hear expert harpists playing the instrument during special events, like the events within the rewards!

The Concert
For our celebratory Summer Harp Concert, programmed with help from the Scottish Harp Centre, with the newly restored Grecian Harp we will hear from a small selection of expert players who all bring with them particular skills and knowledge about harp music through the ages. The concert would include music which is most closely associated with the new technology afforded by the double action pedal harp, patented by Erard in 1810;  some contemporary compositions for harp showing how the almost 200 year old instrument can be used to reflect on culture now; and some traditional Scottish music - for this section we will also be joined by a Clarsach player.

About the Sebastian Erard the maker of the Hospitalfield Harp

Sebastian Erard was born in Strasbourg on 5th April 1752. He moved to Paris in 1768 to explore the fundamentals of instrument making, and it soon became apparent that he was a genius at finding ways around mechanical problems. In 1792 he opened a factory in Great Marlborough Street, London. 

He made several patented advances in harp technology and finally, in June 1810, after eight years of working on it, Sebastian Erard patented the double-action harp with seven pedals (number 3332). This is regarded by most people as the date of the invention of the concert harp. The instrument had one pedal for each note. Each pedal had three positions or two notches, which raised the pitch of the note by a semitone for one notch, or a tone for both notches, by moving the top bridges to shorten the speaking length of the strings. It is reported that Erard did not undress for three months before his harp was finished, snatching meals with pencil in hand and sleeping for an hour now and again. At this time the harp was almost as popular in the home as the piano, and Erard made large numbers of both. He was also regarded as a master organ repairer.


Who will be repairing the harp

Pilgrim Harps are a highly respected harp repair company, established in 1980 and based in rural Surrey. Their aims perfectly fit the Hospitalfield Harp project: to make the harp more accessible to everyone and to create harps tailored to each individual’s specific needs to suit performer, teacher or student.

Repairs they will do

Dismantle harp                                                       
Remake the pillar base plate                                 

Repairs to pedal box                                              
Fit steel to pillar support remount pillar                 
Remount the neck to the body                              
Clean and oil mechanics                                         
Full service, rebind pedals and rods, clean pedals 

Set of 19c strings & Grecian wires                        

About Hospitalfield

Dedicated to contemporary art and ideas, Hospitalfield is a place to work, study, learn, visit and enjoy. 

Hospitalfield is an artist's house in Arbroath with captivating cultural and social history that spans many hundreds of years. Than fantastical Arts & Crafts house that Hospitalfield is today was the project of artist Patrick Allan Fraser and his wife Elizabeth. Between 1843 and 1890, on the site of a Benedictine monastery, they accumulated their collections of art and created their highly crafted vision. On Patrick's death in 1890 the estate was left in trust as a place of learning for artists, and in 1902 became one of Scotland's first art schools.

Hospitalfield is renowned internationally as a place for the production of art and the support of artists. Our programmes are rooted in the visual arts yet we host many other creative practitioners through our residency programmes and public commissions.


How to visit Hospitalfield

We run a series of events throughout the year including four seasonal open weekends plus Wednesday Heritage Tours of the House and Grounds every Wednesday in the summer and the first Wednesday of the month during the winter. We also open the Walled Gardens on Saturday in the summer. More information about our opening times and programme can be found on our website.