Royal College
Royal College Hurdy-gurdy
Royal College Hurdy-gurdy

This hurdy-gurdy is based on a late 16th or early 17th century example in the instrument collection of the Royal College of Music, London. My working plans are derived from an exhaustive set of measurements I took a few years ago.

Hurdy-gurdies of this type were common throughout most of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th. They were also revived at the French courts in the 18th century as "rustic" instruments. A similar instrument in the Victoria and Albert Museum was overhauled in about 1750, with the addition of much ivory and ebony.

Original instrument
Original in the Royal College Collection
Front View
Front View
Back View
Back View

The Royal College model has two chanterelles, mouche, trompette, tenor and bass bourdons, and, unusually, a fifth drone running through the pegbox, between the chanterelles. This can be set up in a number of ways - e.g. as a unison with the mouche or trompette, as a high drone, or tuned to an alternative note to facilitate quick key chages.

There is a built-in storage compartment between the head and the front block, accessed from the underside. This is very useful for storing the tuning peg, cotton, spare strings, and any other small accessories.

The tone is satisfying and rounded, not too loud, but it is incisive enough to play for dancing, and blends excellently with a renaissance guitar.

Soundhole - simple but effective pyrography
Aged finish
"Aged" finish

Sound Clips

C tuning


G tuning


G tuning, no trompette, keybox drone in g



"Royal College" hurdy-gurdy, natural wood, oil finish
"Royal College" hurdy-gurdy, aged (or other custom) finish

To order or enquire, pleasecontact me


Cases - Excellent cases can be ordered from specialist manufacturers such as Kingham MTM, but they're pricy. I can supply an attractive, custom-built plywood case, black with chrome fittings, for £220 when ordered with an instrument.

Delivery - the price depends on where you live. Please enquire.

I hate it when websites say "Phone for a quote", so to give you some idea - getting a baroque guitar in its case to America, including insurance, is currently about £170. Getting one to Kent is about half that.

Waiting time, from placing an order to clutching your new baby, is currently about 14 months. It's very approximate, because the schedule often contains items that are somewhat experimental, and they may take more or less time to complete than anticipated. Usually more.

Deposit- I usually ask for £150 (non-returnable unless I'm dead, insane, incapacitated or incarcerated) to secure an order and cover materials. Once that's paid, your order is entered into my Magic Book. Nothing happens for several months, then you receive an email to tell you I've started construction. A few weeks later, a big parcel arrives, and you squeal with delight.

Anote on HUMIDITY - delicate wooden instruments are remarkably resilient, but they can have major problems with both high and low atmospheric humidity levels. I keep my workshop at the recommended humidity level, between 45% and 50%, and I strongly recommend that instruments are kept as close to that range as possible. Electronic humidity meters are available cheaply on the Internet. They're small enough to keep in your instrument's case.
Low humidity can shrink wood, resulting in cracks and distortion. Case humidifiers, again available quite cheaply, should prevent this.
High humidity can swell the wood enough to cause cracking and warping, but the main risk is the formation of water droplets, either from condensation or perspiration while playing. These can damage varnish and slowly dissolve glue joints. A silica gel sachet can be kept in the case, but use a humidity meter as well. Take care it doesn't reduce the case humidity too far.