The triple flageolet is an extraordinarily rare and unusual wind instrument. Invented by William Bainbridge in early 19th century London, this particular flageolet was crafted around 1840 by Bainbridge’s apprentice and eventual successor, Henry Hastrick. Made of three turned boxwood pipes, the instrument has an ivory mouthpiece, brass keys, and ivory knobs that help guide a player’s fingers. The boxwood pipes are stamped with Hastrick’s maker’s marks, as well as pitch labels besides the finger holes and keys. Like a recorder, the flageolet makes sound with a “fipple” located inside of the pipe, forcing air through a narrow duct and across an edge.
Compared to a single flageolet, the triple flageolet has a curious appearance. The instrument is arranged with two treble pipes on the frontside, and a thick bass pipe in the back. The treble pipes are played with the fingers of the left and right hand, and the bass pipe is played with the thumbs. An extended foot rest juts out from the bottom of the bass pipe, which enables the player to rest the instrument upon a surface for better control. A limited number of triple flageolets survive in collections across the world.
William Bainbridge, and later Henry Hastrick, represent a particularly innovative shop tradition in nineteenth century London. Bainbridge was a wood turner and professional musician, and was dedicated to improving the flageolet. He filed multiple patents and made great strides with the instrument, inventing the double flageolet before the triple flageolet. Henry Hastrick began to apprentice with Bainbridge around 1814, and took over the shop at 35 Holborn Hill after Bainbridge’s death in 1831. Hastrick continued to be dedicated to the improvement of the flageolet until his own death in 1854.
While most wind instruments can only produce a single pitch, the triple flageolet has the ability to play three distinct notes at once, thus creating a chord and accompanying itself. Enjoy the video below to witness the rare tenor triple flageolet in action:
For more on the Bainbridge and Hastrick shop, see William Waterhouse, “The Double Flageolet – Made in England,” in The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 52 (April 1999), 172-182.