Bate Collection of Musical Instruments
Bate Collection of Musical Instruments

One of Oxford's secret treasures, this wonderful museum boasts a fascinating collection of historic musical instruments, with 300-year-old keyboards, harpsichords, woodwinds, brass, and percussion instruments on display.

The Bate is the largest and most complete collection of early musical woodwinds, brass, and percussion instruments in Europe. The core of the collection was donated to the Faculty of Music by Philip Bate, beginning in 1963.

The original collection consisted mostly of woodwinds, but to this have been added sizeable collections of recorders, brass, woodwind, keyboards, tools, equipment for making bows, books, and audio recordings donated by a large number of public and private donors.

More than 1000 instruments are on display, focussed primarily on French, German, and English makers, from the Renaissance to the modern era. There are spinnets, clavichords, virginals, and harpsichords, a harmonium, and a glassichord (a series of glass bars struck by cloth-covered hammers). The name is said to have been invented by Benjamin Franklin. There is a violin crafted in 1746 by Henry Jay of London, and horns dating to around 1700. In short, there is a little bit of everything!

I've had the pleasure of exploring 'The Bate', and believe me, 'explore' is the right word. For entering the Bate Collection is like being ushered into an Aladdin's cave of musical wonders. It is the sort of place you'll want to take your time, and poke your nose into every corner.

Play it Again!
What truly makes The Bate so enjoyable is that you can handle and play most of the instruments. Philip Bate made this a requirement of his donations; he wanted students to be able to handle, play, and enjoy these historic instruments, not have them stuck away behind a display case.