The French Trombone’s Conquest of Britain

Research output: Contributions to books, editions, reports or conference proceedingsChapter



The French style of trombone was adopted in Britain in the 1860s. This was partly a result of Henry Distin’s adoption of French manufacturing practices[1] and Gustave Besson’s opening a London factory in 1858 using Paris designs[2], also from the import to London of excellent instruments by Antoine Courtois from the 1850s. For the next 100 years, nearly all British tenot trombones were very similar. There were slight differences in bore and bell diameter, but apart from the maker’s inscription, trombones were much the same whether made by Besson, Boosey, Gisborne, Hawkes, Higham, Keat, Rudall Carte, or other British makers. It thus makes sense to talk of a ‘French model trombone’ for this group of products by different makers. Today, when the very different American models such as the Conn 8H are the instruments of choice for professionals and amateurs alike, the French model trombone is often dismissed as a ‘peashooter’. But it is the model that is needed for historically informed performance of a wide swathe of music, both British and French, written in the century 1850 to 1950.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusiques. Images. Instruments.
Subtitle of host publicationMélanges en l’honneur de Florence Gétreau
EditorsYves Balmer, Alban Framboisier, Fabien Guilloux, Catherine Massip
Place of PublicationBelgium
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-2-503-58371-6
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 2019

Publication series

NameMusic and Visual Culture