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Slide Trumpet in F by George Henry Rodenbostel and Richard Woodham
London, before 1797/1798

NMM 13505. Slide trumpet in F by George Henry Rodenbostel and Richard Woodham, Lodon, before 1797/1798 Slide trumpet front view Slide trumpet front view 2 Slide trumpet side view 2

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NMM 13505.  Natural trumpet in F by George Henry Rodenbostel, London, before 1789/90, converted into a slide trumpet by Richard Woodham, London, before 1797/98. The earliest surviving English mechanical slide trumpet and possible prototype of the design that dominated English trumpet manufacture for a century. Ex coll.: Canon Francis W. Galpin; R. Morley-Pegge; Brian Galpin. Utley Foundation, 2008.

Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), the widely-traveled, eighteenth-century music historian, wrote about the trumpet in 1785:  "It is very much wished that this animating and brilliant instrument could have its defects removed by some ingenious mechanical contrivance . . . ."  The defects to which he refers were some out-of-tune notes in the harmonic series, such as the eleventh (f2) and thirteenth partials (a2).

London-based instrument maker Richard Woodham († 1797/98) came up with a groundbreaking solution to this problem:  he added a slide at the back bow of a natural trumpet made in London by George Henry Rodenbostel († 1789/90). This slide lowered the pitch by a semitone and was automatically returned by a double clock-spring mechanism. The resulting configuration enabled trumpeters to play perfectly in tune. In addition, all the notes of the harmonic series could be lowered by a semitone; thus, some new notes, previously not available on the natural trumpet, became attainable. Although trumpeter John Hyde claimed to be the inventor of this new design, he mentions in his Preceptor for the Trumpet and Bugle Horn (1799) that Woodham was the first to make such trumpets.

Makers' Signatures

Rodenbostel's signature engraved on bell garland Rodenbostel's signature continued

The garland is engraved with the name of the maker who crafted the natural trumpet:  Geo' Heny Rodenbostel Maker Piccadilly London. Below the signature, the garland is decorated in repoussé with floral patterns (some identifiable as roses), scrolling foliage, and an empty cartouche flanked on each side by a trumpet and a banner.

Woodham's signature

The signature of Richard Woodham, who converted the instrument into a slide trumpet, is engraved on the outer cover of the clock-spring mechanism:  Woodham / Inventor / & Maker / EXETER COURT / STRAND LONDON.

Slide, Clock-Spring Return Mechanism, and Fine-Tuning Device

Double clock-spring mechanism Gut string

The slide, located at the back bow, is automatically returned by a double clock-spring mechanism housed in two barrels and hidden underneath cover-plates (left). The clock-springs move in opposite directions, clockwise and counter-clockwise. A gut string, wound around each barrel, is guided through the slide push-rod and tied to a brass disc at the opposite end where it is connected to the slide (right). The extra gut string terminates outside the spring box in a small, brass block. Debate continues with regard to the function of the second clock spring. It was either intended to be a tension-adjuster or to function as a reserve in the event that the main gut string broke. In the latter case, the brass block could be hooked onto the slide finger pull and the trumpet slide would continue to function.

Fine-tuning mechanism in closed position Fine tuning mechanism in use

The trumpet's pitch can be adjusted by a fine-tuning device located at the central slide push-rod. The device consists of a sleeve with a comb-shaped perforation that locks into brass lugs soldered to the push-rod. The length of the slide, and consequently the length of the air-column, can be altered by using this device, which is stopped at one end by a ring soldered to the push-rod. The maximum pitch alteration that can be achieved is 10 Hz. This device also adjusts the length of the slide for use with different crooks.

Left:  slide locked into its shortest position. Right:  when locked into the last brass lug, the slide is elongated to its maximum length.

Alterations from Natural Trumpet to Slide Trumpet

Holes in garland Patch over holes

Several details of construction found on this trumpet verify its origin as a natural trumpet. Two holes in the garland close to the front bow (left) indicate that the bow was once attached with a wire in the typical English manner (Nürnberg trumpets have only one hole for the same purpose). A patch on the inside of the bell (right) covers the original holes.

Tripartite ball

Typical, late-eighteenth-century, English tripartite ball. The larger, middle section is grooved to accept the first yard. All three sections are decorated with floral patterns. A natural trumpet by Rodenbostel at the Bate Collection in Oxford (PC72) exhibits the same ball design, ferrule style, and garland decoration as the NMM's example.

Ferrule 1

Ferrule 2

Two subtly different ferrule styles are found on this trumpet. Those original to the natural trumpet by Rodenbostel (top) show hatched stripes and a plain band, while those replaced by Woodham (bottom) lack the hatching and feature a cord pattern instead of the plain band. Woodham's ferrules are found in areas affected by the alteration.


One single-coiled brass crook for D; one crooked brass shank with two ears; silver-plated brass mouthpiece with fairly narrow and rounded rim, and smooth transition between cup and throat. All accessories presumably not original.


Sounding length:  1747 mm (effective length crook:  360 mm; effective length shank:  30 mm); maximum slide extension:  122 mm; internal diameter receiver:  12.5 mm; internal diameter minimum (at ca. 73 mm):  10.7 mm; bell diameter:  117 mm.


Francis W. Galpin, Old English Instruments of Music (London 1910), fourth edition, revised with supplementary notes by Thurston Dart (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1965), plate 42.

Lyndesay G. Langwill, "Two Rare Eighteenth-Century London Directories," Music and Letters, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1949), p. 40.

Cynthia Adams Hoover, "The Slide Trumpet of the Nineteenth Century," Brass Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Summer 1963), pp. 159-174 and table II.

Wheeler, Joseph, "Further Notes on the Classic Trumpet," The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 18 (1965), p. 16.

The Galpin Society, An Exhibition of European Musical Instruments (Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University, 1968), p. 45, no. 314.

Peter Barton, "The Woodham-Rodenbostel Slide Trumpet and Others, Employing the 'Clock-Spring' Mechanism," The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 42 (August 1989), pp. 112-120.

Art Brownlow, The Last Trumpet.  A History of the English Slide Trumpet (Stuyvesant, New York:  Pendragon Press, 1996), pp. 46, 47, 49, and 50.

Albert Rice, "Curtis Janssen and a Selection of Outstanding Brasses at the Fiske Museum, The Claremont Colleges, California," Historic Brass Society Journal, Vol. 17 (2005), p. 90.

Sabine K. Klaus, "A Fresh Look at 'Some Ingenious Mechanical Contrivance'—The Rodenbostel/Woodham Slide Trumpet," Historic Brass Society Journal 20 (2008): 37-67.

Sabine K. Klaus, "'Some Ingenious Mechanical Contrivance'—An Extraordinary Slide Trumpet from 18th-Century England," National Music Museum Newsletter 36, No. 1/2 (February/May 2009): 1 and 5.

Sabine K. Klaus, "Renowned English Trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins Helps Celebrate the Arrival of the Rodenbostel/Woodham Trumpet at the Utley Collection," National Music Museum Newsletter 36, No. 1/2 (February/May 2009): 14-15.

Sabine K. Klaus, "Slide Trumpet by George Henry Rodenbostel and Richard Woodham," in "Historical Instrument Window," Sabine K. Klaus, editor, International Trumpet Guild Journal 34, No. 2 (January 2010), p. 48.

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