The Shaw-Hellier Music Collections

In the early 1990s, the music scores and instruments at The Wodehouse came to the attention of researchers resulting in the musical instruments being loaned to the University of Edinburgh and the music loaned to the University of Birmingham. There are 54 items in the Musical Instruments Museums Edingburgh, many of which can be viewed on their website.

The collection of printed and manuscript music is housed at University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library; it was subject to a number of studies, by Percy Young, and Ian Ledsham. A detailed catalogue was produced:

Ledsham, Ian, A Catalogue of the Shaw-Hellier Collection in the Music Library, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, The University of Birmingham (London: Ashgate, 1999)

We know from the surviving collection of music that Samuel Hellier senior was an enthusiastic amateur musician, and it is therefore easy to see where the influence on his son came from. The Shaw-Hellier music collection contains numerous prints of music dating prior to Hellier senior’s death in 1751. These include the works of Corelli, Handel, Felton, Geminiani, etc. Most of these are to be found in bound part books, often with Hellier junior’s bookplate pasted onto the inside front cover. Some are also bound with music dated after 1751; even so, it is difficult to state with any certainty whether the music was inherited by Hellier junior or acquired by him independently. The music Hellier junior acquired whilst at Oxford often included an inscription to that effect along with his bookplate, and his collecting tastes during these years included both new music, old and ‘classics’ of Handel and Corelli.

Hellier senior had subscribed to a publication of violin sonatas by James Lyndon, the organist of St Peter’s church, Wolverhampton, in 1751.[1] It is possible that Lyndon new the Hellier family, perhaps teaching family members, but this cannot be corroborated. Despite the many works colleted by Hellier senior, he did not subscribe to any other publication. His son, on the other hand, subscribed to eight works between 1756 and 1770, most having a local connection and therefore suggests a personal link. Particularly so are the works of John Pixell, vicar of Edgbaston, Birmingham (A Collection of Songs : with their Recitatives and Symphonies, op 1, 1759), Jeremiah Clark, (Eight Songs, [op 1], 1760), and Capel Bond, organist of Coventry (Six Concertos in Seven Parts, 1766). This last work is not present in the surviving Shaw-Hellier Collection.


[1] James Lyndon, Six Solo's for a Violin and Thorough Bass, Birmingham: 1751.