Rosehill Instruments is a specialist brass and woodwind instrument retailer with more than fifty years continuous trading in the field. We always stock an extensive range of student, intermediate and professional instruments, both new and reconditioned, and available for immediate testing. We have excellent on-site workshop facilities staffed by highly skilled and experienced technicians, who will carry out every maintenance task from minor adjustments to full restorations and customisations.
The business was founded in 1967 by Trevor Austin, previously a musician in the Horse Guards whose period of service included playing euphonium on horseback at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Whilst following a career in industry alongside service in the Salvation Army as both a player and conductor, his knowledge of instruments and network of contacts led to requests to supply instruments around the UK and overseas. From these beginnings a full-time business subsequently developed. Rosehill Instruments is now managed by Trevor's son, Paul.
Our customer base extends well beyond our own locality, with people travelling from around the UK, and increasingly from overseas, to sample a wide selection of instruments from reputable manufacturers. We maintain close links with many military, brass and Salvation Army bands at home and abroad, and since 1999 have been an approved supplier of musical instruments to Her Majesty's military bands.
Having operated from a shop front at 64 London End, Beaconsfield since 1972, in mid-2019 we opened a new showroom to the rear of The Old House, as number 64 is known. Our new centre of operations is Harold Charles House, built in the 1980s and a former home of the British Bandsman editorial office during the 1990s. Our new facility offers off-the-street parking and ample room for displaying and testing our large and varied stock.
Trevor Austin named Rosehill Instruments after the Rosehill Band, a one-time staff band of the Salvation Army formed by employees of the Salvation Army Assurance Society following their evacuation in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II from bomb-threatened central London to a mansion named Rosehill House in Caversham, a suburb of Reading.
The band progressed rapidly through regular evening get-togethers, and within six months of its formation successfully auditioned for the BBC, providing wartime inspiration with broadcasts on the Home Service and the Light Programme, and producing many recordings on the Regal Zonophone label. Its founding bandmaster was Walter Ward. He was succeeded in 1942 by Eric Ball, and shortly afterwards by Albert Jakeway, who steered the band until it passed into history following its final engagement in May 1951. Our telephone on-hold music is Jakeway's Rosehill March.
Trevor joined the band in early 1948 by which time the Society had returned to offices in Tottenham Court Road. Other members included: cornet virtuoso Derek Smith (father of Philip Smith, former principal trumpet with the New York Phil) who after emigrating to the USA became bandmaster of the Salvation Army New York Staff Band; the late Harold Nash who was principal trombone at Covent Garden for more than twenty years before his retirement in 1997; the late James Williams MBE, cornet soloist and long-serving bandmaster of the Enfield Citadel Band; and Sir Gordon Jewkes, the career diplomatist who was govenor of the Falkland Islands between 1985 and 1988.
Trevor Austin's reminiscences:
"We formed Rosehill Instruments in 1967, originally running the business from home. As it grew, the house filled up with instruments. I remember one Christmas I promised to release the dining table that was then covered in instruments. I had to fetch my mother-in-law from Medmenham for a one o'clock lunch, but didn't clear the table until just before I left. Our house was clean, but I did leave a lot of lines of dust in between where the instrument cases had been standing.
“I ran the business from the garage and remember selling a trumpet to a man and his son. The father took the trumpet to drop it into the plastic bag before putting it into the case, but it wasn't a bag - just a sleeve - and the trumpet fell right through onto the concrete floor.
“I was called on from early morning until late at night. I remember selling a brass instrument at eight o'clock in the morning, and a ’cello at nine thirty in the evening in my pyjamas. We started getting bulk supplies including an overnight pantechnicon from Romania which arrived at 5am and parked between me and the house next-door, but the driver left his engine running for three hours until he felt he could knock. My neighbour Bob Bale chanced to be the town mayor, and came round for a little chat about running commercial activities from a residential house.
“I was learning lessons all the time. One was not to give a customer too much choice. The prime example was the chairman of Abingdon Band who came to buy a G trombone, a model that was going out of fashion at the time, and I had thirty-two of them. So, one Saturday afternoon I laid out all thirty-two in four lines of eight each. He went carefully down each line, and played every one. When he got to the end, he came in to see me and said he had forgotten which was the one he preferred. I think neither of us knew whether to laugh or cry. Anyhow, since that day I never gave a customer more than three instruments at a time.
“We went around the country making ourselves known. I'll never forget the bagpipe championships held in a Glasgow park near the river. We had taken a tent up in case of rain, but the wind was so strong that two of us could barely erect it. At the other end of the country we used to go every year to the Bugle contest near St Austell. It was an open-air contest and there were three years in succession when we were rained off.
“We combed the area searching for a shop. We were shown some old stables which had been connected with Carter Paterson, the road hauliers in High Wycombe. We also looked at a shop in Ivinghoe. Then one evening during the coffee break at a rehearsal of the Beaconsfield Operatic Society, I was talking to a tenor who was a local estate agent. He told me he had just had a cancellation. A builder had put a non-returnable deposit on the Old Town Coffee Shop in Beaconsfield. The council would not let him develop it as he had planned, so he had pulled out. I went to see the owner, Mr Harris. He said he would knock the deposit he had already received off the price, which meant I could just about get the mortgage.
“The building was over 250 years old at the back and over 200 years old at the front. Mrs Harris had a wooden leg: we later found a spare one on top of a wardrobe upstairs. The hardest day's work of my life was taking out the original bow windows and digging foundations for the new window frames. We had to keep the original front door because we are Grade II listed. The building had been a school, and the wooden treads on the stairs were bowed. There was a semi-circular panel above a door just outside what had been the kitchen, which I thought was brown wood. When we scraped it, we discovered it was glass covered in years of chip fat.
“Our opening day was 10 May 1972, charter fair day in Beaconsfield, and a Saturday. We had the local operatic society singing ‘Hey ho, come to the fair’. Two brass bands – one from Oxford and one from Berkhamsted – marched along the A40 which runs outside the shop, and we also had two steam engines. The A40 was lined with fair stalls and attractions. Our guest of honour was the entertainer Roy Castle who played a very long alpenhorn facing the front door. Harold Charles, who worked on deliveries, had a cord attached to the handle inside and as Roy blew Harold pulled the door open..."