Late Wheatstone Chidley System Duet Concertina


Kenneth Vernon Chidley (1892-1964), was a son of Edward Chidley junior (1858-1941), and grandson of Edward Chidley senior (1830-1899) both associated with Wheatstone & Co. going back to the days of Professor Wheatstone (dates and genealogy from Wes Williams's unpublished research).

K. V. Chidley said that he entered the family business in 1906, and managed production from 1924. He was a director of C. Wheatstone & Co. in the mid twentieth century, and is recorded as experimenting with new fingering for duets before World War II.

At the end of 1950, when Wheatstone was just emerging from its hibernation of 1939-1949, an article written by him appeared in "The Concertina," a section in the World Accordion Review, of which Chidley was at the time the Technical Advisor. In the article, he described a new fingering system for Wheatstone duets (the "Chidley system").

Like the Maccann system, his design had six columns, but with each column containing a strict alternation of exactly two notes of the twelve-note scale (for example, column 3 on the right side contained the notes a, e’, a’, e’’, a’’, e’’’, a’’’ ). To a Maccann player this resembles the Maccann arrangement with all the "irregularities" removed, and so Chidley-system instruments are now often referred to as "Chidley-Variant Maccanns" (and they did replace the Maccann-system instruments in the Wheatstone catalog). But Chidley’s discussion in this article suggests that his thought process was not to modify the Maccann design, but to go back to earlier Wheatstone designs and to extend them in a better way than Maccann had done. Chidley particularly singles out for mention William Wheatstone’s otherwise-obscure seven-column design from the patent of 1861 (and from the unique instrument #35074, though unmentioned), and he adopts a feature seen in #35074, the deeper overlap of one and a half octaves between the two sides.

This new fingering system in fact began to be manufactured by Wheatstone just a few months later. In the Wheatstone production ledgers, instruments with the Chidley-system fingering are identified as "uniform keyboard" or "uniform fingering." The first such instrument was #35736, completed 3 April 1951. But Wheatstone was making few duets in the 1950s, and some of those were Maccann-system instruments requested by purchasers; it seems likely that fewer than 50 Chidley-system duets were ever made, all between 1951 and 1966.

Robert Gaskins



chidley-duet-system The 'Duet' System, discussed by K. V. Chidley
by Kenneth V. Chidley
Review of the history of the duet concertina leading up to Chidley's own post-war "Chidley System". As published in World Accordion Review 6:3 (December 1950): 31-32. Also a differing version as reprinted with notes by Neil Wayne as K. V. Chidley, "The Duet Concertina--Its History and the Evolution of its Keyboard," Free Reed: The Concertina Newsletter 17 (Jan/Feb 1974): 15-17.
Posted 15 November 2001
» read full article in pdf
wheatstone-fingering-systems Fingering Systems of the “Wheatstone” Concertina
by C. Wheatstone & Co.
A leaflet showing the four concertina systems made by Wheatstone in the late 1950s: English, Anglo, Chidley duet, and Crane/Triumph duet. As was Wheatstone’s invariable practise, the Chidley system is called simply the “Wheatstone Duet” (as the Maccann system had also been styled previously), and there is no mention of the fact that the keyboard layout has been changed—apart from the evidence of the keyboard diagram. The printing is apparently before 1956, but this copy was issued with overstamping dating from at least 1959. Collected by Chris Algar.
Posted 15 February 2003
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nichols-chidley-page Keyboard Diagrams for Chidley System Duet
by DoN Nichols
Keyboard layout of a Wheatstone model “4D” manufactured in September 1960, well after Wheatstone’s switch to making Chidley System Duets by default.
Posted 15 February 2003
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ledgers entry for first chidley system duet
Entry in Wheatstone & Co.
Production Ledgers for the
earliest Chidley System Duet
found, 72-key Ebony No. 35736
completed 03 April 1951