As pub entertainment took off in the second half of the 19th century, the George & Dragon may have been one of the many pubs to have pianos installed. The pub landlord would not have had far to travel to purchase one: by 1895 piano manufacturers Samuel Howard & Co were operating from 2 & 4 Swan St, currently the site of HBL (Habib Bank Ltd). By 1905 Howards’ Ltd had moved to Oldham Street where they remained into the fifties. The 1911 Census also lists two ‘pianoforte manufacturers’ — F Weber (Berlin) and Callum & Best (London) — in Swan Buildings on the other side of the street from the George & Dragon.
The pioneers of piano sales in the North West were Rushworths of Liverpool who from the 1830s sold pianos and other instruments; in the early 1960s, their customers included Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison who bought guitars at the music store.
The job of pub pianist could have its risks. The pianist at the Custom House Hotel in Chapel Street, Salford, was knocked off her stool by a gang of 20 youths. When police arrived they found eight of them trying to play the piano – four were arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour.63
By 1886, annual piano production in England was estimated at 35,000, with a significant proportion going to pubs and music halls.64
Slater’s 1863 Directory for Manchester lists 27 piano tuners.