As I am double bass maker in Sheffield the name Thomas Tarr had been floating around since day one and so I felt I should do some investigating. There is little published information on him as he is a lesser known maker and is overshadowed by his father. Following my research, I was lucky enough to be able to contribute a small amount of the information for inclusion in the new English Double Bass Book by Thomas Martin, George Martin and Martin Lawrence.
Thomas Tarr was born in Manchester in 1833, to the famous double bass maker William Tarr and his wife Eliza, he started training at his father's Manchester workshop in 1846 when he was only 13. By the time he was 14 he had completed his first violin and was already being played in the Theatre Royal in Manchester. Thomas continued training and working for his father for another 12 years.
In 1858 (at the age of 25) he moved to Sheffield with his first wife Mary Anne. At the time, Sheffield was famous for it's blind fiddlers, a group who gathered at the local 'Q in the Corner' pub in Paradise Square. Thomas and Mary Anne first moved into another pub, 'The Old Cock Inn' which backed onto Paradise Square, at the time it was known as a very rowdy area, with brawling and music late into the night. Thomas opened his business in a room there, as advertised in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (image above), but soon moved to his main workshop at 33 Orchard Street (which is currently a Fat Face clothing shop).
The Orchard Street shop was perfectly located, in the centre of the city, near many of the big piano stores, rehearsal rooms and music venues. It had a large showroom in the front where he sold violins, violas, cellos, double basses, bows, strings and occasional pianos. The back and upstairs of the shop was a workshop where he would make and repair instruments. Over the years he expanded his business by opening other shops around the city, (56 Division Street, 23 Lydgate, 49 Arundel Street, 13 Kearsley Street, 98 Norfolk Street). As he moved house regularly some of the workshops he had would have been in the houses (53 Suffolk Road, 35 Mckenzie Street, 35 Arundel Street).
At the time Sheffield had a great number of music and entertainment venues, Thomas played double bass and violin for a number of local groups and orchestras and would occasionally play concerts around the city.
Thomas had three children with Mary Anne, (Aubrey b. 1861, Charlotte b. 1863 and Annie b. 1867) and two children with his second wife Elizabeth (Charles b. 1885 and Jenny b. 1887).
On Monday 03 July 1899 Thomas retired, auctioning his remaining stock the following day through W.H. And J.A. Cadon. The instruments on the list included: Piano by Kirkman, Violin by Joesph Guanarius filimus Andreas, Cello by Richard Duke, Violin by Klotz, Violin by Schmidt, Violin by Martin as well as instruments made by himself.
Thomas Tarr died of heart disease on 20th November 1900 at the age of 67 on Crookes Moor Road, Sheffield (in a strange coincidence, this was the same road which I lived on when I first started learning instrument making), and was buried in Norton Cemetery on 23rd November 1900.