J P Guivier & Co. Ltd, one of Britain’s foremost violin dealers and restorers, was founded by a Frenchman named Joseph Prosper Guivier.
Joseph’s father, Jean Prospère, who was an acclaimed military bandsman and a famous exponent of the “monstre” ophicleide, brought his family to London in 1840. He continued his celebrated playing career until moving back to France, primarily for health reasons in 1858.
Joseph Prosper remained in London and established the company with another Frenchman, Alphonse Villin in 1863. Messrs. J.P. Guivier, Villin & Co. was established for the manufacture and importing of strings for musical instruments. However, an 1874 trade advert indicated a sideline in selling musical instruments themselves. The advertising slogan states a “Speciality of cheap old violins“.
The connection with Villin lasted just a short time, and after some years based at Golden Square, J.P. Guivier & Co. moved, in 1880, to Warwick Street, just off fashionable Regent Street.
Retiring back to France in 1886 Joseph sold the business into English ownership. Now back in Golden Square it was purchased by a Mrs Ellen Cohn, formerly Miss Hawkes of the company Hawkes & Son, later to become Boosey & Hawkes. Under her guidance and leadership the business expanded and grew to include the sale and restoration of violins and bows, thus instigating a further move to larger premises in Great Marlborough Street.
From 1921 to 1960 Mrs Cohn’s son, Henry George (Harry) took over the running of the family business, moving the premises once again during the early 1940s to its current address at 99 Mortimer Street, and becoming Managing Director when it became a limited company in 1952.
Since the early 1960s J P Guivier has been moulded into the successful and thriving business it is today. Firstly by Alan Wilks, who served with the firm from 1947 to 1993, his latter thirty years as Managing Director. From 1993 Robin Hamilton and Richard White jointly ran the business, and with over fifty years of combined expertise, offered comprehensive advice on all matters relating to the world of violins.
Today, after Robin’s retirement in 2017, the company is left under the care of Richard and his wife Julie, as co-director, together with a dedicated team including a workshop of highly skilled craftsmen and women.