Worswick Flute #10
If you own a Worswick flute or know where one is, please contact me! Ashton's son John would very much like to acquire an example of his late father's craft.

 

The Worswick Flute/Boston/#10
              box engraving Ashton Worswick/Boston/#10
              embouchure

Ashton "Jack" Worswick
Serial # 10; Boston; c. 1930; silver tube and pointed plateau keywork; soldered; sl 600mm; 399g; .014"h .014"b

Susan Berdahl compiled most of the following biographical data in her splendid 1985 dissertation, The First Hundred Years of the Boehm Flute in the United States, 1845-1945: A Biographical Dictionary of American Boehm Flutemakers.

In 1926 Ashton "Jack" Worswick was foreman of flutemaking at Selmer's "George W. Haynes, Inc." when that company moved to Boston. When Selmer relocated its flutemaking division to Indiana in 1927, Worswick became one of the first few artisans to join Verne Q. Powell's new firm just after Powell left Haynes to became an independent flutemaker).


Worswick #10 post on foot
              ferrule Worswick tried to open his own shop in 1930. Perhaps due in part to the economic hardships of the great depression, this enterprise must have been short-lived, as records have him working for Haynes-Schwelm in 1934, then back with Powell again in 1935. In 1936 Worswick again tried his hand at opening an independent shop, which once again appears to have failed quickly since he is listed working for William S. Haynes in 1937 and for the next few years. The relocation of his residence to Jamaica Plain several miles southwest of the peninsula suggest he might then have worked for yet another major Boston flutemaker, Harry Bettoney. During WW2 Worswick worked for the war effort as a machinist in the Boston naval yard. At the war's end he resumed flutemaking for Wm. S. Haynes Co, where he practiced his former craft from 1947-1953.  Described by acquaintances as "an elegant man," Ashton died in 1956 at 66 years of age.

Worswick #10 Bb trill touch The Worswick Flute/Boston/10 displays the understated elegance of the best handmade Boston flutes of the period, perhaps rather more like an early Haynes than a Powell in mechanism design and finish. Toneholes, points and posts are fitted and soldered with the care one would expect from an artisan intent on impressing a potential clientele in the city which already laid claim to some of the best flutemakers in the world. 
 
Worswick C# and trill strap Susan Berdahl ended her narrative on Ashton Worswick with the statement, "No Worswick Flute Company flutes are known to exist."  At that time this flute was safely ensconced in the closet of Ed Ransom. His parents (both graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago) located this flute in a shop in the Chicago area in the early 1950's and purchased it for Ed to play in the 7th grade. Ed was kind enough to pass this bit of flute history along to me. Solder joins appeared sound, mechanism sluggish but solid, less worn than many flutes of similar vintage (perhaps due to its long retirement). Pads, corks and shims were shot and a hodgepodge of spring types hint at earlier work done to the flute over the years. 

Worswick R4 cluster Surprisingly, the only major sign of truly outrageous fortune is an odd longitudinal dent in the headjoint that at first appeared to be delamination of a seamed tube but, extruded tubing being the norm for flutes of this period, further inspection revealed the obvious. The damage was no doubt caused by improper and energetic use of a swab stick, perhaps to adjust the cork placement. The headjoint nonetheless spoke well when used in a body in better repair, with a resistance and tonal color not unlike a very early Powell.

Following a proper overhaul by Harold Phillips at J. L. Smith & Co., the mech is light and tight without the "fragile" feeling of some older flutes, and the crease in the headjoint has been smoothed down to near invisibility. I agree with Larry Woodall, who performed a similar resurrection on his Worswick #7: "the Worswick flute plays fantastically ... as good or better than any Powell or Brannen."  It is a real player with good intonation (if you can stay away from the A=442+ ensembles) and a responsive and strongly centered voice from low C on up into the somewhat reserved third octave.  If only Mr. Worswick had picked better economic times to strike out on his own -- and maybe changed his name to something a bit easier to remember -- he might have taken his place among the best of the Boston makers.


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Thanks to Ed Ransom and Susan Berdahl for the lesson in flute history.
Images © J. W. Sallenger
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