Chapter 3: The Griesbach family

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This chapter will firstly give an overview of the Griesbach brothers’ background in Germany and George’s youth. It will then outline the court scene into which they came to work, and the role of their band. Thirdly, it will give brief biographical notes for each brother and for those of their offspring who became musicians.


i) Origins in Hanover and migration of the eldest brother

In 1756 England was at war with the French and her people were living in fear of invasion. The King summoned his Hanoverian troops to England to help defend the country. Amongst them were the Foot-Guards in which Isaac Herschel was serving, along with his two young sons, Jacob and William, as well as Isaac’s son-in-law, Heinrich Griesbach; all four of them musicians. They only remained in England for a matter of months, but William recorded that while here they had ‘made several valuable acquaintances with families that were fond of music, and which on mine and my brother’s return to England proved of great service to us’. By so doing, the seeds were sown for five of the Herschel siblings to come to England to work as musicians, and for the eventual emigration of their nephews, the five Griesbach brothers, who are the subject of this case study.[1]

Isaac Herschel had been brought up to be a gardener, but longed  to take up music and by the time he was twenty-one had learnt enough on the oboe to believe he might make it as a musician.  He became an oboist in the Foot- Guards in Hanover. From an early age his sons learnt musical instruments, all becoming professional musicians. In 1755 his eldest daughter, Sophia, married Heinrich Griesbach (a fellow musician in the Foot-Guards), though Isaac had some reservations about the match and thought him ‘a very middling musician’. In Spring 1757 Heinrich took his wife Sophia back to her parental home, knowing that the Guards were soon to march to war; she was three months’ pregnant with their first child. On 1 May 1757  Isaac, William and Heinrich departed with their regiment; Jacob was not with them as he was by this stage in the process of obtaining a position in the Hanoverian Court Band. Thus it was that George – the eldest of the Griesbach brothers and the author of the memoirs which form Appendix I of this thesis – was born in the home of his Herschel grandparents, while his father was away at war against the French.[2]

The war had a devastating effect on the Electorate of Hanover and her people,

[1] Lubbock, Herschel Chronicle,pp.7-8; Hoskin, Partnership,pp.12-13
[2] Lubbock, Herschel Chronicle,pp.2-9; Hoskin, Partnership,pp.12-13; Hoskin, Autobiographies,pp.24-25; Herschel, Memoir, p.5; ‘Memoirs’, p.1; Much detail which has been omitted here can be found the four biographical accounts of the Herschel family.
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and those in the troops who could get out, did so. William, along with Jacob, managed to get to England, where they began to make their way as musicians in London.  Heinrich Griesbach took the opportunity to obtain his discharge from the Foot-Guards when George was a few months old, and was appointed Stadtpfeifer (‘Town Musician’) of Coppenbrügge, a provincial town to the south-west of Hanover City.[3] It was there that Heinrich and Sophia worked and raised their family.

A town musician was employed by the town council and the church, and their job was to carry out all the public instrumental music in the town (at civic, dance and church activities). It provided a steady income, but the pay  was poor and the Griesbachs were not well off. Heinrich’s salary was augmented by corn as payment in kind and he had the use of a small garden which went with the post. To compensate for their meagre wages, a town musician had sole right to play for private functions in the town and surrounding area, and there was usually plenty of private work to do. In particular, weddings had immense financial significance, as the income from a big celebration could outweigh an entire year’s pay from the town council and church. Heinrich seems to have struggled financially nevertheless, and in all his spare moments tried to augment his income by making snuff, which was in popular use at the time. (Another way musicians supplemented their income was by copying music.)  Finding it difficult to make ends meet with a growing family, Sophia took on the job as schoolmistress at the public girls school at Coppenbrügge, a job which again was poorly paid, but included corn and tithe accommodation:  the family lived in a house in the churchyard alongside the parson’s and the boys’ schoolmaster. Even so, they appealed to Sophia’s parents for help with ‘extra’ expenses for the children’s needs, which may have been necessary because Heinrich squandered their income on drink.[4]

It was a moral duty and practical necessity for the Town Musician to have  at least one trainee, so Alexander Herschel, Sophia’s twelve-year-old brother, became Heinrich’s first apprentice. He lived with the family for six years, and, in return for learning the range of wind, string and keyboard instruments expected of a Town Musician, would probably have been expected ‘to do all sorts of housework, such as cooking, emptying chamber pots, and washing clothes and utensils with the women’ in payment. Joachim appears to have been very severe

[3] Lubbock, Herschel Chronicle, pp.12-13; Hoskin, Autobiographies,p.107
[4] Fincher, (Editor), Die Musik in Geschichte, Vol. 8, pp.1719-1730; ‘Memoirs’,p.5; Hoskin, Autobiographies, pp.32,107,115; ‘Memoirs’,p.3,5-6; Sagarra, Social History, pp.95-96; London, British Library, ‘Correspondence of Caroline Herschel’:Egerton 3761, f.26-26v
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with Alexander, and may have been with his own children: corporal punishment was considered the norm at the time. [5]

However, George in his memoirs gives the impression that his childhood was happy: he loved school, which he attended from the age of six to fifteen, and highly esteemed his teacher, Rector Herbst, who became a close friend of the family. There was a strong community spirit, despite, or perhaps because of, the devastation wrought by the occupation by the French.  He was taught the violin from a very early age and could play simple tunes from the age of five. As he grew and became more able, he assisted his father, and within a few years he was learning eight instruments: the clavichord, the violin, violoncello, clarinet, oboe, French horn, sackbut and trumpet, on all of which he ‘lent a hand as occasion required’.  When possible he enjoyed going to Hanover, where his uncles Jacob, and Dietrich (in particular), gave him lessons on the violin. Later his brothers were taught by them too, though Caroline perceived them to have been imposing upon the Herschel family. [6]

After he left school, George continued to assist his father and sometimes went to help town musicians on public occasions elsewhere. But within a few months (in January 1773) his life was shattered when his father died – when only in his early forties – and rather than lose the steady income, his mother was given ‘the place of town musician’ ‘on condition that her sons should do the duty’. George, as the eldest son, took on the responsibility, though only fifteen at the time. (In actual fact, Heinrich died leaving debts which were paid off by William and Alexander, who were both by that stage working as musicians in Bath, England.) [7]

Five years later, in 1777, a letter arrived from Jacob Herschel in Hanover (where he was working as a member of the Court orchestra). A man had come to Hanover with a commission from George III to engage a military band to go to England, and Jacob (perhaps taking responsibility as George’s godfather) was suggesting George join and that he would recommend him, if he would ‘have courage’. (In this period a small wind instrument group was often called ‘Harmoniemusik’ in Germany and confusingly a ‘military band’ in England. ‘Military bands’ were usually the subjects of patronage and were not  army bands

[5] Fincher, (Editor), Die Musik in Geschichte, Vol. 8, p.1723; Hoskin, ‘Alexander Herschel’, p.4-5; Howey, ‘Lives of Hoftrompeter and Stadpfeiffer ‘, p.66; Sagarra, Social History, pp.98-99
[6] ‘Memoirs’, pp.5-7; London, British Library, ‘Correspondence of Caroline Herschel’, Egerton 3761, f.26-26v
[7] ‘Memoirs’,pp.9-12,22; London, British Library, ‘Correspondence of Caroline Herschel’, Egerton 3761, f.26-26v
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as modern ones are. It is likely that this is what was being referred to here.) George jumped at the opportunity and within a few months all was arranged and in early April 1778 he travelled to Hanover where he met up with the others who had been selected.[8]

(It should be pointed out here that migration, at least temporary migration, was perceived by the family to be, though not ideal, an economic necessity. Caroline Herschel recalled how her father had gone off to Münster or Paderborn sometimes in the early 1760s to work and how ‘the excursion[s] proved very profitable, and without them it would have been impossible for the Family to have been kept so long together’.  Also, by the time the opportunity arose for George to come to England the fact that his two uncles William and Alexander were well established as musicians in Bath seems significant.  As is often the case in migration, the role of the kinship network can be clearly seen: George must have been fairly well-informed about life in the place he was going to, and was aided in the migration process by his extended family.)[9]

The newly-assembled band (between eight and twelve persons in all) travelled north to Hamburg accompanied by one of the King’s pages, where they boarded a merchant ship to sail to England. After a very rough crossing, they landed on May 26th, 1778, at the Tower of London, and were taken to choose their new (wind) instruments at a German musical instrument maker’s. The following day they were taken to the Court tailor and measured for their uniforms, and then taken to the Palace at Kew, where the King and Queen were residing at the time. That very day the band played twice for the royal family. So began George’s career as a royal musician in England.[10]

ii) The King and Queen, and music at Court

George III was a keen lover of music, an ardent supporter and patron of musical activities, and a good friend to many musicians. The official court orchestra was the ‘King’s Band of Musik’, which consisted of twenty-four musicians, none of whom were foreigners.  In 1761 the King married Charlotte, a German princess, and soon afterwards a private orchestra was formed known as the ‘Queen’s Band of Musik’, members of which were again ‘all natives of England’. (Members of both of these bands are listed in contemporary

[8] I am indebted to Prof. Trevor Herbert of the Open University, Wales, for insight into the meaning of ‘military band’ here; ‘Memoirs’, pp.12-13
[9] Hoskin, Autobiographies,p.111; Choldin, ‘Kinship networks’,pp.3-15
[10] ‘Royal patronage’,p.154; McVeigh, Concert Life,p.50; ‘Memoirs’,pp.13-18
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registers.)[11]  In addition, a select Chamber Band was formed in the 1770s, consisting mainly of Bach, Abel, Cramer and Fischer, which reflected the Queen’s preference for modern music and German musicians.[12]

Records of the royal band which the Griesbachs came to form a part of are sketchy, but it was known as the ‘Queen’s Private Band’ and appears to have been founded on the arrival of the German ‘military band’ in May 1778. (Although the band was styled the ‘Queen’s Private Band’, this may have been for convenience’ sake, in order that the royal couple might exercise a more personal control than would have been the case if the salaries had been defrayed from the ordinary civil list. This is borne out by the fact that there remain no detailed court records of the members of the band and only fragmentary listings of payments to them. Mrs Papendiek, who was very closely involved with the court, always referred to it as ‘the King’s Band’.)[13]  The musicians must have stood out as they wore distinctive livery: for everyday use they had a plain scarlet coat, waistcoat and breeches, a cocked hat and a sword. They were ordered to wear this whenever they ‘stirred out of doors’. On Sundays, and presumably for special occasions, they had full dress coats and ‘a cocked hat with gold lace and the inside of the rim lined with red feathers’.[14]

The band played for the King and Queen on an almost daily basis, and on the whole accompanied them to whichever residence they were staying at. St James’s Palace was used for court ceremonies, but had its own band. Buckingham House (also known as the Queen’s House – where Buckingham Palace is today) was the main London residence from 1762. During the 1770s the royal family spent much of every week at Kew during the summer, but from 1778 began to spend more time at Windsor, living not at the Castle, but at the Queen’s Lodge nearby.[15]  The living arrangements for band members are not clear, but it is probable that when the royal family were at Buckingham House, the band members were accommodated there, although their families may not have been. The address for most, but not all, of the members of the band listed in Doane’s Musical Directory, (published in 1794), was ‘Buckingham House’. However, when

[11] Scholes, ‘George the Third’,p.78; McVeigh, Concert Life,pp.49-50; I am indebted to Douglas Sulley of the Royal Archives at Windsor for information about the King’s and Queen’s official Bands.
[12] McVeigh, Concert Life,p.50
[13] Rohr, Careers,p.43; McVeigh,Concert Life,p.50; ‘Memoirs’, p.17, Dayton Greenwood,Lives,II,pp.59-60; Broughton, Court and Private Life II,p.188; In the Royal Archives there are a few payments by the ‘Groom of the Stole’ to musicians for such things as piano tuning, or money in lieu of clothing and a few payments of wages towards the end.
[14] ‘Memoirs’,pp.18-19; ‘Royal Patronage’,p.155
[15] ‘Royal patronage’, p.156; McVeigh, The Violinist,p.38; Hedley, ‘George III’,
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the band was at Kew or Windsor their pay was augmented by half a guinea a week, which may indicate that they had to find rented accommodation there. Christopher Papendiek, as a page/musician, had to rent accommodation as he moved around with royalty, and his family led a rather unsettled existence. John Henry Pick (a member of the Queen’s Private Band) was lodging ‘at [Widow] Brooker’s, in the Dean’s Yard’, Windsor, one hot summer when his heavily pregnant wife died of tetanus. The fact that so many of the band became denizens in 1795 and stated they were ‘now of New Windsor’ may indicate that they were settling more permanently there then.[16]

George’s record of the band’s routine complements other contemporary accounts. The  band played daily at dinner time and in the evenings from 7 or 8 to 10pm in winter and summer; a pattern that continued for at least twenty-five years until the King’s illness. Although the original intention was for it to be ‘wholly military’, from the start the King realised that there were versatile and talented musicians amongst the members who could also play stringed instruments, so the band became more general and played a wider repertoire of music.  The King was actively involved in the choice of music, and  also wrote the bills (see the facsimile opposite of one of the bills in his handwriting); but sometimes the musicians were given the opportunity to choose a piece themselves. Mrs Delany, a close friend of the King and Queen’s, frequently attended concerts at the Queen’s Lodge, noting that the orchestra played in the side room and added: ‘the King generally directs them what pieces of music to play, chiefly Handel’. During the winters on Tuesdays and Thursdays the band played together with members of the Queen’s Chamber Band, viz. Bach, Abel, Cramer, Fischer and Nicolai. Not surprisingly the bandsmen called these occasions ‘Grand Concert Nights’ for ‘between two and three hundred [guests] were invited to cards and music. The concert consisted of the private band, with the addition of other talented performers’.  Charles Burney described how a ‘fine music room in the castle, next to the Terrace’ had been fitted up at Windsor ‘for His Majesty’s evening concerts, and an organ erected.’[17] Sundays were different as only sacred music was played: the band performed an oratorio or a selection of Handel’s music; the melody of the songs being taken by the instrument within whose compass it lay.[18]

[16] Doane,Musical Directory; ‘Memoirs’,p.13; Broughton, Court and Private Life II,pp67-68,125 -126; 260-262; Shaw, Letters of Denization,p.202-203
[17] ‘Memoirs’, pp.19,23,18; ‘Royal Patronage’,pp.154-155; ‘Memoirs’,p.29-30; Cited in McVeigh, Concert Life,p.51; Broughton, Court and Private Life I,p.94; Barrett (Editor), Diary and Letters, IV, pp.101-102
[18] Griesbach, ‘Acoustical laws’,pp.63-64; ‘Royal Patronage’,p.155, ‘Memoirs’,p.29
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As years passed, other musicians were added to the band. (Membership was fairly fluid; George’s memoirs give the impression that musicians came and went.) All four younger Griesbach brothers came to join during the 1780s. Burney attended one of the King’s concerts with William Herschel and noted Herschel had ‘permission to go when he chooses, his five nephews (Griesbachs) making a principal part of the band’. Individual members were taught by the top musicians of the day, at the King’s expense, which meant that the standard of their playing improved markedly and they gained a good reputation, not only in London, but further afield.[19]

During the summer months the royal family went on a walkabout on the terrace on a Sunday evening. A visitor from Germany described the scene in  Windsor in 1787: while two bands on either side of the terrace played ‘God save the King’ in a rousing manner, the King, Queen and older princesses moved through ‘the colourful throng, composed of all ranks of society, of all ages and of many nationalities, for no stranger would lightly miss the opportunity of visiting Windsor from London on a Sunday’.[20] Bandsmen’s duties also included accompanying the royal family when they went away on holiday, sometimes to the coast in the summer. Weymouth was a favourite resort, and the band played on board the royal yacht three to five times a week, while the royal family dined, and sometimes in the cabin during the evening. In 1788 when the King was unwell, it was recommended he go to take the waters at Cheltenham. He decided to attend the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester, and arranged for  the Queen’s Private Band to join the orchestra. The festival was held in the Cathedral and it was reported afterwards that ‘Performances were aided by the powerful support of his majesty’s private band’. (Note the reference to his majesty’s  private band.)[21]

Figure 6:  The Queen's Band (c 1778 - 1795)
Figure 6: The Queen’s Band (c 1778 – 1795)

In the absence of any official listing of the band, an attempt has been made to draw up a list those who were probable core members from four sources (see figure 6). The first two sources are articles which list the members of the band: Carl Friedrich Cramer’s Magazine der Musik, (published in Hamburg in 1783),  and ‘Royal patronage of music’ (published in 1818, but recounting the early history of the band).  In the fourth column is the official list of the fifteen musicians  who became denizens in 1795, and who were almost certainly the German musicians in the Queen’s Private Band. (This source is significant in that it gives

[19] ‘Memoirs’, pp.21-24; ‘Royal Patronage’, pp.154-155; Barrett (Editor), Diary and Letters, IV, pp.100-101; Sievers, Hannoversche Musikgeschichte,p.364
[20] Michaelis-Jena and Merson (Editors), A lady travels,pp.228-229
[21] ‘Memoirs’,pp.28-29; Brooke,King George III, pp.322-323; Lysons, Origin and Progress,p.69
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the provenance of each individual.)[22] In total there are twenty-two musicians (including members of the Chamber Band),  and this concurs with contemporary accounts. The third column shows the instruments which these musicians played at the Handel Commemoration Concerts in 1784. In his article ‘The sackbut in England in the 17th and 18th centuries’, Herbert discusses the problem that arose when musicians were being assembled for the 1784 Handel Commemoration concerts – there being no known sackbut players in England. He quotes Burney: ‘It was, however, discovered, after much useless enquiry, not only here, but by letter, on the continent, that in his Majesty’s military band there were six musicians who played the three several species of sacbut: tenor, base and double base.’ Herbert goes on to say: ‘There was some difficulty in procuring trombonists and they were eventually found, but it is not entirely clear from Burney’s account from where they were obtained.’ He also suggests that Burney was ‘in error in referring to them as ‘His Majesty’s band’ ’, but guesses they were German as they all ‘have German names’ (Karst, Kneller, Moeller, Neibour, Pick and Zink). The list in figure 6 makes it plain that Burney was referring to members of the Queen’s Private Band – musicians already in London – who ‘came to the rescue’ when occasion demanded it. Burney also stated ‘These performers played other instruments when the sacbuts were not wanted.’ There is no reason to suppose that other members of the band had a very different musical background from the Griesbach brothers, so it is hardly surprising that these skills were found to be theirs, nor that they should be able to move from one instrument to another at the Handel Commemoration concerts.  Burney’s error was in referring to them as ‘His Majesty’s  Band, instead of ‘The Queen’s  Band’. It is amusing, however, to think that a letter had to go to Germany before the true abilities of the musicians were realised! [23]

What is clear is that almost all of them were Germans (first generation migrants initially, and from the turn of the century there began to be second generation ones, as sons of those who had migrated decades earlier joined). The band was sometimes known to commoners as ‘The Queen’s German  Band’ (my italics), and visitors to the court observed that most of the musicians were German. The blind flautist, Friedrich Ludwig Dülon, visited London in March 1786 and noted: ‘Since the court orchestra consisted in large part of Germans, and the king spoke this language very fluently, I heard more German and French than English

[22] ‘Memoirs’,p.24; Quoted in Sievers, Hannoversche Musikgeschichte,pp.362-364; ‘Royal Patronage’,pp.154-155; Shaw, Letters of Denization,pp.202-203
[23] Herbert,’The Sackbut’,p.614; Burney,An account, pp.17-19
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spoken there.’[24] The Griesbachs and the others were part of the large sub-community of Germans who worked in the court, and as such were very involved with one another’s lives, and maintained German customs, ate German food and used the language freely whenever possible.[25]

It is not possible to gauge fully how the members of the band fared economically. George stated that the new bandsmen were contracted in 1778 on a salary of thirty-six guineas a year, and elsewhere that he had received ‘about £34 odd a year’ and that he had had that ‘near 30 years’.  It was not a very substantial sum, but they probably enjoyed other benefits, such as health care, as part of the court community. They were glad of extra opportunities to supplement their incomes, and were paid for performing at the Handel Commemoration Concerts in 1784. Subsequently, the King arranged for them all to play in the Concerts of Antient Music, for which they were paid twelve guineas a year, or  twenty-four if they were a leader. Some, if not all, of the bandsmen taught privately, and in some cases, at schools, and this proved quite profitable for as long as it lasted. (If teaching opportunities arose, the economic benefits eclipsed those of performing as an ordinary performer at concerts.)[26] In the early 1780s a member of a royal band, Charles Suck, went off and performed at other concerts without permission, after which the bandsmen were all told in no uncertain terms that that was forbidden, and Suck was dismissed. Similarly, when another bandsman misbehaved, he was banished back to Germany. In the late 1780s, the band drew up ‘a memorial’ to request permission ‘to have musical parties of a morning at friends’ houses’. Though the Queen thought it a reasonable request, the King ‘refused… and said that he would allow them to attend no meeting where they would receive payment, except in cases when his Majesty ordered them to perform’.  Soon afterwards the band went on a mini-strike, refusing to accompany a visiting performer. The band was paid out of the Privy Purse, and when the King first fell ill, their salaries fell into an arrear of eight months. When realised, steps were taken that it might not happen again.[27]

A number of the bandsmen are known to have remained with the band until the death of the King in 1820. Four of the Griesbach brothers had a pension of

[24] Glasgow, University Library,Euing Collection,86/86: ‘John Henry Griesbach’ , and 86/113: ‘Earnest Augustus Kellner’; Henstock, Diary of Abigail Gawthern, p.117; Rice, ‘The Blind Dülon’, p.30
[25] Broughton, Court and Private Life I p.199, II pp.48,257-258,300-301
[26] ‘Memoirs’,pp.13,25; Broughton, Court and Private Life I,p.59; ‘Memoirs’,pp.25-28; This is evident from the biographical sketches of musicians in the Euing Collection at Glasgow.
[27] ‘Memoirs’,p.24, 21-22; Broughton, Court and Private Life II,p.125, 136; ‘Royal Patronage’,p.156
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£100 in the early 1820s, and it is possible that they were all pensioned off when the group was disbanded. Some had spent an entire working life as members: when Christian Kellner died in 1822, it was reported that he ‘had been in his late Majesty’s private band’ for forty-two years.[28]


iii The Griesbach family[29] (see also family tree)


Figure 7: Concerts of Antient Music (Griesbachs)
Figure 7: Concerts of Antient Music (Griesbachs)


1) Georg(e) Ludolph Jacob (‘George’)  (b. 1757) Leader of the Queen’s Private Band. Played in the Concerts of Antient Music (see Figure 7) from 1785 to 1806.  In earlier years belonged to the New Musical Fund; in 1804 joined the Royal Society of Musicians (RSM). George married a pupil of his in 1786. Had nine children; two died young. Those remaining said to be ‘all brought up to the musical profession’. (Sophia, eldest daughter, worked for Lady Mary Harcourt, who helped the family financially and left £3,000 to Sophia in her will.) Youngest son, Alexander William, a vicar in Weston, East Yorkshire, was a fen entomologist, and founder member of the Entomological Society.[30] When George died, he left £300 (everything to his wife).[31] Widow claimant on RSM.


Figure 8: Philharmonic Society Ledger (Griesbachs)
Figure 8: Philharmonic Society Ledger (Griesbachs)


George’s son, George Adolphus Griesbach, (b. 1801) A fine violinist. Taught the violin and piano. Was member of King William IV’s Private Band; then of Queen Victoria’s. Played in the Concerts of Antient Music from 1822-1848, and in the Philharmonic Society Concerts (see Figure 8) from 1825 to 1864. Also member of the Covent Garden Opera Orchestra. Sir George Elvey said of him: “If we have Griesbach, he is worth two violins!” An entomologist. Claimant on RSM when his sight failed. He married in 1864 (aged 63) and had two sons. Widow claimant on RSM until 1916. Adolphus’s son, Walter Adolphus William Samuel Griesbach, (b.1865) was apprenticed to an organist at Chichester Cathedral in

[28] London, British Library, ‘Correspondence of Caroline Herschel’: Egerton 3671, f.26-26v; Gentleman’s Magazine, (1822),ii,p.477
[29] The main sources for these biographical notes are family papers, the four Herschel publications, the ‘Correspondence of Caroline Herschel’ at the British Library, George Griesbach’s memoirs, parish registers, musical biographical dictionaries or directories, the Griesbach papers in the Euing Collection, Glasgow, member files of the Royal Society of Music, and wills and death duty registers at the Public Record Office (PRO), Kew. When another source has been used, it is cited accordingly.
[30] I am indebted to Michael Darby for information on those of the Griesbachs who were entomologists. See also Neave, History of the Entomological Society, pp.8-9 and MacKechnie Jarvis, ‘A history of the British Coleoptera’,pp.100 -101; This clearly was a family interest going back to Hanover days, for Caroline wrote to her nephew, John, in 1825: ‘My brother [Dietrich] intends soon to write a few words about insects himself. It is well he does not see the word amuses for I suppose it should be sublime study for whenever he catches a fly with a leg more than usual he says it is as good as catching a comet.’ Egerton 3761, f.39v
[31] PRO ‘George Griesbach’ Will: Prob 11/1697; Death Duty Register: IR 26/104
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2) Karl Friedrich Ludwig, (‘Charles’) (b.1760) Lost the sight of one eye from smallpox at  the age of seven. Took over job as town musician in Coppenbrügge, when George came to England.  Later was engaged in the Foot Guards, Hanover. The second eldest brother, but the last to arrive in England (in 1788).  Composed ‘Twelve Military Divertimentos’ for wind bands.  Played at the Concerts of Ancient Music from 1790 to 1814, when he may have left the Queen’s Band, and Windsor. (He did not join the RSM.) Married in 1796  and had ten children. Caroline wrote: ‘Charles brings his children up to get their bread honestly’, but he fell into debt. Twice the Queen paid them off, and ‘he received a full salary with leave to go to Southampton to follow his profession’. In 1820s travelled round Austria and Poland ‘vagabond-like’, giving concerts which were not successful. In 1829 he asked Caroline for £100 travelling expenses so he could take his family back to England. She refused, and said he already had a pension of that sum already. She was incensed when he later asked for the legacy of £10 that she intended to leave him up front. He was clearly in dire straights financially. His wife died near Vienna in 1830, after which he returned to England. He died in 1835 in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, where his son, William Robert, was vicar. No will of his has been found. Two of Charles’s grandchildren (cousins) married each other, which prompted Caroline to comment: ‘The Breed at first was not good for much and has by some not been mended by intermarriage.’

At least two of Charles’s sons became musicians:

Charles James Griesbach (b.1797) Married 1819, and had three children, but later separated. When joined the RSM in 1826 stated ‘it was my father’s determination that I should be brought up to music’. Began performing at the Antient Concerts. (It is not clear when – perhaps he deputised for his father.) Also ‘in late King’s private band’, after which he taught in London: ‘has as much teaching as he can possibly attend to on the pianoforte, and plays the violin’. Also an entomologist. Claimant on RSM when ill. Adolphus (cousin) wrote to inform RSM of his death in 1853. Wife, though separated, continued to claim from RSM until 1866.  Charles’s son, Charles Frederick William is listed in the 1855 Musical Directory as a professor of music.

John Frederik Augustus (b.1803)  He probably went to the Continent with his parents as a teenager, and  went to Hanover ‘in the train of the newly created Baron in Geymüller’, where he visited Caroline. She ‘made him a present of a

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watch as a necessary thing for a teacher of musick’. He may have remained abroad.

3) Justus Heinrich Christian (‘Henry’) (b.1762)

Came to England c 1783  to join Queen’s Band, which he remained in until its break-up. Pupil of Crosdill’s at King’s expense. Played at the Concerts of Antient Music from 1785 to 1811. Was one of principal instrumentalists at Fischer’s benefit concert in Bath in January 1785,[32] and performed at public concerts at least until 1800.  Taught privately. Joined RSM in 1791 ‘performs on the Violoncello and the French Horn’. Married in 1791, and had five children. When he wrote his will in 1831, he left a legacy to ‘Mrs Mary Blumfield who resides with me’. The codicil reveals he had married her before he died in 1832. His executors were sons John Henry and John William. The only non-family legatee was Richard Sharman, linen draper, ‘my friend’. (Richard’s wife was his niece, daughter of George, and Richard’s son later married Henry’s granddaughter.) He left £5,000 in bank annuities.[33]

Two of his sons became musicians:

John Henry (b.1798) The most well-known member of the family, and the only one with an entry in New Grove. Had musical instruction from his father and uncle George. At age of twelve became a member of the Queen’s Band. Played violoncello and piano. Studied piano under Kalkbrenner for some years. Composer: major work was an oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast  (1835; revised and performed as Daniel  in 1854). A few other overtures performed by the Philharmonic Society and Sacred Harmonic Society. Chiefly engaged in teaching, but attained ‘no mean skill in astronomy, watercolour painting, entomology and mathematics’. He wrote several papers dealing with acoustics. He was fourteen times a director of the Philharmonic Society.[34]  He married in 1819, and had nine children, at least two of whom became musicians:

Miriam Mary (b.1822) ‘Miss Mira’ is listed as a soprano voice teacher in the 1855 Musical Directory.

Georgina Kate (b.1827) ‘Miss Nina’ is also listed as a soprano voice teacher in 1856.

John William (b.1800), Henry’s second son, was a musician and composer.  He is listed as a teacher in 1855 and 1856.

[32] I am indebted to Ken James for this information.
[33] PRO ‘Henry Griesbach’ Will: Prob 11/1795; Death Duty Registers IR26/1287
[34] There are papers relating to him in the archives of the Royal Philharmonic Society at the British Library: RPS MS
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4) Johann Friedrich Alexander (‘Frederick’) (b.1769) Became the most outstanding  musician of the family. Came to England c1784. He appears as ‘Mr Guisbach Jun.’, in Burney’s listing of performers at the Handel Commemoration Concerts that year. (He was fifteen.) Member of the Queen’s Private Band. He learnt the oboe under Fischer for three years at the King’s expense. Played the violin at the Concerts of Antient Music from 1785 to 1808. Became a celebrated performer on the hautboy (oboe). He played the instrument at the Concerts of Antient Music from 1809 to 1822, also at the Philharmonic Society Concerts from its inception in 1813 to 1823. (He was paid considerably more than other ordinary performers – see for example the Philharmonic Society ledger entry for 1819.) He frequently played in ensembles during concerts.[35]  Parke tells of an incident at the Opera House, where Frederick was first hautboy for twenty-five years. In 1808, Madam Catalani, the singer, had acquired a lot of power over the proprietor. She sent for her brother from Italy, and insisted he take the place of first oboe, ‘removing at the same time Mr Griesbach, a German, who had for several years filled that situation with great ability. Mr Griesbach…condescended to play the second oboe to him, and even went further; for when any passages occurred in the operas which Mr Guillaume Catalani could not execute, as was frequently the case, Mr Griesbach kindly played them for him’.[36]  Frederick also played in the provinces: he was one of the leading players in the Birmingham Festival Orchestra in the early 1800s. He was billed as a principal player at the Three Choirs Festival concerts from 1809 to the early 1820s.[37]  He married the daughter of one of the cooks at Windsor Castle in 1793 and they had eight children. Latterly, he seems to have struggled financially, and in the early 1820s, when his health was failing, he wrote pathetic letters to the RSM soliciting support, and the Philharmonic Society asking to be paid in advance of his work. Caroline wrote in 1824: ‘If he is in prison it is the wife and children who keep him there’ – she thought that his family were a constant drain on his resources.  No record of his actually going to a debtors’ prison has been found, however. His brothers may have paid off his debts. He died a broken man in 1825. The notice of his death reported: ‘At Putney, aged 54, after two years illness, brought on entirely by his indefatigable application and intense study of the hautboy…In the performance of that instrument he was unrivalled.’[38]  No will of his has been found. His widow

[35]See Foster, History of the Philharmonic Society for the many instances of this.
[36] Parke, Musical Memoirs II,p.212
[37] See Lysons, Origin and Progress of the Three Choirs, for references to Frederick.
[38] Gentleman’s Magazine 95,1825,part 1,p.650
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went to Hanover to try to get a pension after his death. She remained a claimant on the RSM until 1858. At least four of his children became musicians:

George Townsend (b.c1800) became an oboist and worked in Dublin. Appears in concert programmes there in the 1830s, and was still listed as a professor of  the oboe in Dublin city directories in 1850.  Believed to have died in Dublin.

Charles Christian (b.c1808) became a violinist and like his brother George was billed as a concert performer in Dublin in the 1830s.[39] It is not known whether he returned to England or remained in Ireland.

‘Miss Griesbach’ Regarding Frederick’s children, Caroline wrote in 1824: ‘all remain a burden to the father except one daughter who was not brought up by her wretched mother. She might exist by her musical talents if her earnings were not taken from her by the rest.’ It is not known which of the three daughters she was referring to.

Henry Dougan Dickinson  (b.1811) became a violinist and is listed as a teacher of the violin and voice in 1856. Played in the Philharmonic Society Concerts from 1854 to 1860.

5) Johann Wilhelm (‘William’) (b.1772)  Came to England c.1785 ‘a mere boy’. Member of Queen’s Band. There is some music copied by him and/or owned by him in the Royal Music Library. Joined RSM in 1801: ‘has several scholars, and performs upon the Violin, Tenor [viola] and Violoncello’. Played violin at Concerts of Antient Music from 1792 to 1824, and at the Philharmonic Society Concerts from 1819 to 1824. He wrote self-effacingly in 1824 to Sainsbury: ‘I beg you will have the goodness to acquaint the Proprietors of the New Biographical Dictionary of Musicians that my Musical Career is of so uninteresting a nature not worthy of recording.’  He had an illegitimate daughter, Augusta Isabella Griesbach, who was a minor at the time of his death in 1825. In his will he refers to her as ‘the adopted daughter of my brother Charles’ and does not own her as his own. He left £2,000 to Charles and his wife to bring her up.  His estate was worth £4,000 (in bank annuities) and he left legacies to his brothers, or their widows, and to his sister in Germany, and personal effects (including musical instruments) to brothers and nephews. His best violin (a ‘Strad’) was left to his nephew, Adolphus, with the proviso: ‘on condition that he keeps the same and does not part from it’. He also left £200 and other effects to ‘Miss Lydia White, corset maker, of New Windsor’, presumably the mother of his child. When Augusta Isabella died in 1849 (probably in her thirties), the stigma of her birth remained: she was described as ‘Spinster, A bastard.’ [40]

[39] I am indebted to Derek Collins for information about the Griesbachs in Dublin.
[40] PRO ‘William Griesbach’ Will:Prob 11/1700; Death Duty Registers: IR26/1042; Deed: TS17/989
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