Wilson Peck

WILSON PECK, “the home of music”, would seem to hold the honour of being Sheffield’s longest running record shop. It was open for business by 1896, and the two founders – Arthur Wilson (a pseudonym) and John Peck – had been in business selling pianos for some years before this.

an early 78 rpm shop sleeve

They established a big retail shop on Pinstone Street, right opposite the town hall, now occupied by Barclays Bank, which they named Beethoven House. Traces of a large painted advert for the shop’s original occupiers can still be seen in the alleyway left of the shop. Their business was described as pianoforte, harmonium and American organ merchants, tuners and repairers, as well as sole agents for Bechstein pianos. And they also sold 78 rpm records and sheet music.

This is the original shop, now Barclays Bank

When I were a lad the firm had moved round the corner to an equally impressive store (also named Beethoven House) at the junction of Leopold Street and Barker’s Pool (as well as opening smaller shops elsewhere in the city and one in Nottingham).
Curving round the corner of the two streets the store had big ground floor windows and a large neon-lit sign which dominated the block.  A 1956 advert claims the shop to be “the place to go for everything musical: Pianos, Television, Radio, Radiograms, Records, Concert Tickets, etc.” Rooms upstairs would be hired out by piano teachers who gave lessons.
The record section was in the basement, with listening booths and the ticket counter. To ensure a ticket for the bigger shows, you had to find out when they were going on sale and queue up, sometimes overnight (26 hours to get tickets for Bob Dylan at Earls Court in 1978 was one fan’s record!).

This shows the new shop on the left, with the location of the original shop on the right (Timpson Shoes at this time)

Pianos and, in later years, organs and other modern keyboards were sold on the ground floor (saved having to carry them upstairs I suppose!), other instruments and sheet music on the first floor.
Today the former Wilson Peck building is the last survivor of the old block, but when they moved out the developers just kept the facade and ripped out the original interior and destroyed the landmark sign. Jewellers H.L. Brown moved in when in 1988 Wilson Peck moved to a more modest shop on Rockingham Gate. They stopped selling records, so I had no reason to ever go in! After a few years this store also shut and they moved right out of town to an end-of-terrace corner shop on Abbeydale Road (quite a sad sight to see if you’d known the city centre store in it’s prime), eventually closing for good in 2001 on the retirement of the then owner. 
 

I have tweaked the colours to improve the visibility of the faded sign on the original shop side wall

I’d love to hear from anyone who worked in the store, or who has interior pictures, or even if you have memories of buying records there.

a later 78rpm bag used in the Sheffield and Nottingham branches

You can see more images on the entry in the Sheffield A-Z of record shops.

29 Responses to Wilson Peck

  1. Sheila evans. says:

    I have in my possession several very old and very large recordings of, Wilson Peck private recordings, labled ‘Have A Go’. I was wondering if you have any information that you could impart regarding their history. Thanking you. Sheila Evans.

    • simon robinson says:

      Sheila, this is a tough one! Is there any chance of a snap of the labels? This might help me guess at a date, but as for the content…

  2. Michael Isaacs says:

    Looking for information on a Wilson Peck upright piano serial number 19459. Anyone know where I can trace its origins?

  3. Christopher Sullivan says:

    It may be of interest to know that a recording team from Odeon (then part of the International Talking Machine Company whose Head Office was in Berlin), visited Sheffield in 1907 and, according to the Sheffield Daily Independent of 15th July 1907 recorded the Sheffield Choir under the direction of Henry Coward on Saturday 13th July 1907.

    Odeon’s British base was in Hemsell Street in London but for the Sheffield visit, the premises of Wilson Peck & Co was apparently the venue. At least ten recordings were made (matrices Lx2358-2367) mostly choruses from Handel’s “Messiah” and at least six sides were issued the following October on three double sided Odeon records. I am indebted to my friend John Ward for this information.

    If anyone knows anything about the recordings themselves, I’d be very interested to hear. Henry Coward (1849-1944) was an important musician in the Victorian era and the Sheffield Choir grew out of the Sheffield Tonic sol-fa Association (later the Sheffield Musical Union) which he formed in 1876 remaining its director until 1933.

    • simon robinson says:

      This is interesting Chris. I know a couple of record / music shops in the city back then offered recording services of one sort or another, and would speculate that as Wilson Peck was such a large shop the demonstration rooms or similar could probably have accommodated a choir. Though as I assume they could equally have found a suitable space elsewhere, perhaps Wilson Pecks were set up to offer this facility.

  4. Janet Moss says:

    Have just been “reviving” my Wilson Peck piano stool no. 68697. It belonged to my Grandfather and has been used at a variety of pianos since then. It has the original upholstery on the seat-threadbare, but I can’t think of parting with it. I would love to know when it was made etc.

    • simon robinson says:

      As the firm was selling pianos and accessories back in the late 1800s, it’s very hard to tell when it might have been made.

  5. Kirsty says:

    I actually have a Wilson Peck piano in my living room, do you know roughly how old these pianos are?

    • simon robinson says:

      I’m not much of a help on pianos Kirsty. Although the firm were trading pianos back in the late 1800s, I don’t know if they began having instruments made and badged up. I recall seeing them in the shop in the 1970s, but would imagine they started doing this at least as far back as the 1920s.

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  7. My grandfather bought an upright Bechstein piano in 1908 as a wedding present for my granny from Wilson Peck of Nottingham. He was the vicar of Clifton. My mother and I learned to play on it. I now have it, an excellent piano.

  8. I came across this page doing a search for ‘Wilson Peck Ltd, Sheffield’ after being intrigued by a paper bag containing a 78rpm amongst my collection. Although a little yellowed with age, it has held up well. I moved to Sheffield in 2000, so never knew the store, but purchased a box of 78s from a charity shop to boost my collection, and several had no proper covers but were simply in Wilson Peck paper bags. It’s lovely to know the history.

  9. Carole Vafiadis says:

    I have a Crowley piano from Wilson Peck of Sheffield I’m hoping to sell it. Would you have any idea of the price I might ask?

    Many thanks

    Carole

  10. John Smith says:

    I remember Wilson Peck on the corner in Leopold Street very well. However I have just found an old 45 after clearing out stuff from my Mum’s and it was in a Wilson Peck cardboard sleeve. On the sleeve was printed two addresses for Wilson Peck. One was Fargate, Sheffield and the other was London Rd.Sheffield. I never went down to London Rd. so don’t remember that branch at all. However I went down Fargate regularly from the 50s onwards but don’t recall ever seeing Wilson Peck down there. I must say I didn’t start buying records until the 60s so I might have ‘missed’ it. Does anyone remember the Fargate branch or can anyone shed any light on this small ‘mystery’.

    • simon robinson says:

      Hi John, the Fargate branch was probably back in the early 1920s. If you click on the early sleeve on the page, you’ll see they also had shops on Ecclesall Road back then. So it’s not your memory playing tricks.

  11. Edward Bailey says:

    Two general notes. I do not know if the person enquiring about the records “Have a Go” obtained an answer but possibly they were recordings made from the BBC radio Show “Have a Go” with Wilfred and Mabel Pickles. (1946 to 1967 Wilfred was Halifax born and the catch phrase if I remember correctly was-give him the money, Mabel”.) The second comment (I am not a musician nor furniture man) is that my wife, a leader of a small local community choir, has been given a single seat lift up hinged lid piano stool marked “Wilson Peck of Sheffield & Nottingham” and has the imprint C2-008.

    • Susan Atkins says:

      Have a Go – with Violet Carson on the Piano. Name sounds familiar ? It should she was reincarnated as one if the most enduring soap characters ever – Ena Sharples.
      Re Wilson Peck – I am looking for information about a man who was one of their piano tuners -he was blind and possibly named Mt Wilde. I am not sure of the dates, but probably some time between 1920 and 1950. Any ideas?
      I didn’t grow up in Sheffield I came here in the late sixties for a job. Wilson Peck was a name from my childhood though because if those record covers – a very powerful image they were too

      • simon robinson says:

        I have an album by Violet Carson, she released one once her name became famous on TV. Regards Wilson Peck, I have heard about their piano tuner but not been able to find anything out about him.

  12. Thank you for the interesting article and information on Wilson Peck. I am a Piano Tuner based in Wolverhampton and have come across many Wilson Peck branded Upright Pianos. It’s great to see photos of the actual shop. I also collect 78rpm records and I find this very fascinating

    Regards Matthew

    • simon robinson says:

      Thanks Matthew, I suspect there is more research to be done on their actual pianos and how they were sourced but not easy to do at this distance, all the company paperwork was disposed of.

  13. Wendy nichols says:

    I think this shop was originally in my grandmother’s family. She was a Peck .

  14. ronald jackson says:

    I was the van lad there back in the late 60’s, with Ernest who was the driver, the manager then was a Mr Mcqueen. we delivered tvs and radiograms in the old Commer van and Les delivered the pianos and stuff. The manager in the repairs department , which was on the top floor, was a Mr Ogley, I never got on with him. I actually passed my driving test in the Commer van. When I went to see the director about my pay rise a couple of years later, he said they were getting another van lad instead, so I was to look for another job! Wouldn’t get away with that these days. I met my great friend Phillip Drury there, he was in the showroom helping customers . He lived in Kilnhurst near Rotherham then. If anyone remembers Ron Jackson (that’s me!), or Phil drury i would love to hear from you. Thanks, Ron

  15. Paul Chilcott says:

    I just wanted to share my fondest memory of Wilson Pecks. I used to visit the Leopold Street shop for both records and concert tickets. I had been to a concert at the City Hall (glad to see that’s still going strong), in late 1972 and on our way out, heading to the bus stop, we saw a queue outside Wilson Pecks. After a couple of enquiries we learned it was for Led Zeppelin tickets on sale the following day. The queue was already quite long by then so we quickly went to get some chips and then headed back to join the queue. I remember it being a fairly upbeat affair wait with lots of banter with the local constabulary as they regularly patrolled by us (bobbies on the beat – remember that?) and it was good company, with like minded people just passing time, so all in all, quite a pleasant time.
    We snapped up our tickets (£1 each), and needless to say, I didn’t get to work that day. When the great event came around on 2nd January 1973, they took to the stage and strutted their stuff. The only down side was that Robert Plant had the flu! Being the trooper he is though, he gave it his best shot, but let’s just say he wasn’t on top form. Fond memories though!
    Chilly.

    • simon robinson says:

      It’s a small world Paul, me and my brother were also in that queue! I think we went down early on the day of sale and as you say there were loads there. By the time the box office opened it snaked twice round the hall itself then down to Wilson Pecks door. I’m pretty sure the local newspaper came up to take photographs. I really enjoyed the concert and we made a cassette, but listening after you could tell Percy was a bit below par, but he did a good job. Do you remember some girl throwing a bra up at him from the audience? At the end he asked her to come and reclaim it, and there were dozens of girls by the stage door removing their underwear.

      • Paul Chilcott says:

        Hi Simon, I have a vague recollection of Percy and the bra, he was larking about with it over his head for a while. I would agree with your comments – still thoroughly enjoyed the concert despite Percy struggling through it all.

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