OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 29, 2018
Webpage updated: March 29, 2018

        

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MOON AND SONS (PIANOS) LIMITED

The Plymouth business house of Messrs Moon and Sons (Pianos) Ltd, piano manufacturers and music retailers, were located at 6, 7 and 8 George Street, Plymouth, before the Second World War.  Their piano manufacturing side was carried on in Victoria Road, later part of Millbay Road, right outside the Great Western Docks at Millbay.  After both buildings were blitzed in 1941 they moved their shops to 6 Ebrington Street and 1 Saint Andrew's Cross, until they transferred to New George Street after the City Centre was reconstructed.

Mr Thomas Moon, the founder of the business, was baptised on October 28th 1765 in the parish of Saint German's, in east Cornwall, where his father, Mr Edward Moon, held Methodist meetings in the large kitchen of the family home.  As a boy he used to sing in the choir of the parish church.   In 1804 he moved to Plymouth to help found and construct the Ebenezer Wesleyan Chapel.  He lodged with a Mrs Kessell, another Methodist, where he met his future wife, Miss Jane Thomas.   She was the daughter of stone mason Mr Martin Thomas, of Land's End and she was only 17-years-old when she married Thomas.

As their family grew he set up in business as a cabinet maker and took a shop in what was then Butcher's Lane, later number 6 Treville Street.  That was in 1809, the year of foundation that was to form part of the Moon's business logo.  He was one of the first people to start a Sunday School in the Town and, with his eldest daughter, became a visitor for the Strangers' Friend Society.  He was apparently described as 'a plain, lovely man, kindly, and known widely and esteemed and loved as "Father Moon"'.

Their son, Mr Edward Moon, was more interested in chemistry than music until he was blinded in an accident in December 1823.  He was then sent to Ashburton to learn music and the organ under the parish organist, Mr Chappell, who was also blind.  He is said to have entered the family business in 1836.

Mr Thomas Moon died in his eighties on January 22nd 1850.   It was a bad year for the family because Mr Edward Moon died on December 30th 1850 at the age of 42 and it was then left in the hands of his Coventry-born widow, Anna, who was also in her mid-forties.

Luckily she had two sons and by 1861 the eldest, Mr James Edward Moon, had joined her in the business, to be followed by Mr George Winter Moon shortly afterwards, probably when he attained his majority in 1864.

At this time the family were not only selling harps, harpsichords and pianofortes but also other musical instruments and sheet music.  They also offered music lessons and piano tuning.

On September 9th 1865 Mr James Edward Moon married Miss Jane Elizabeth Munford Conway at Brixton Parish Church and early in 1868 Harold Edward Percy Moon was born.  They lived at Cloudsleigh, Plymouth Road, Brixton.

The younger son, Mr George Winter Moon, married in 1869 and took his bride, Julia, to live over the shop premises in George Street, Plymouth.  It was probably at that time that Mrs Anna Moon, Edward's widow, retired from the business and went to live at Headland Park, Greenbank, with her 18-years-old servant, Miss Harriet Radmore.  Her retirement was short-lived, however, for she passed away towards the end of 1872, at the age of 68.

An interesting link with another local business family occurred on February 16th 1898, when Mr Harold Edward Percy Moon married Miss Muriel Spooner, daughter of Mr John Dawson Spooner, at Buckland Monachorum Parish Church.  In due course both he and George's son, Mr Sydney Edward Moon, took over control of the business.

In the early 1920s a man named Watts brought back from America a Columbia record of "O Come All ye Faithful", which was the first electrical recording ever made.  The 12-inch diameter record was copied in this country for Moon's and they sold it for 4s 6d each.  Despite being so expensive, what became known as "Moon's record" sold in its thousands.

Mr Harold Edward Percy Moon died at Cloudsleigh, Brixton, on Thursday April 10th 1924.  He was only 56 years of age, lord of the manor of Brixton and held the rank of Major in the Devon Royal Garrison Artillery (Territorial).   This left Mr Sydney Moon in charge and it was he who turned the business in to a Limited Liability Company in 1926.  It does not appear that Harold's son, Lieutenant Harold Rosslyn Moon, of the 16/5th Lancers, took any part in the business but that could be incorrect.

The premises at 6 and 7 George Street were remodelled in 1927.   In those days the Company also sold gramophones and radios and a good radiogram sold for about 20.  It is said that five truck loads of radios were delivered to the shop in one day and they sold out very quickly.

By the time that Sydney Moon's son, Mr Robert Moon, became a director in 1934 the business had branches in Exeter, Exmouth, Barnstaple, Truro and, for some reason, Bugle, in Cornwall.

The shop in George Street was destroyed during the Second World War and the business dispersed to other premises around the City.  The new double-fronted shop at 13-17 New George Street was opened on Thursday October 11th 1956.  Its most noted feature was a television screen placed just inside the entrance upon which customers could see themselves arriving at the store.  This was the earliest demonstration of what has become CCTV.  'The House of Moon' also boasted a "Browserie", where gramophone record enthusiasts could enter sound-proof boxes to listen privately to any record they chose.  Of course, it was hoped that you would buy the record once you had listened to it.  Another feature in the shop was a large Venetian glass mirror that was hung on the ground floor.  Mr James Moon, a grandson of the founder, had bought three of them in Venice in the 1870s but one of them was destroyed in the Plymouth Blitz.  At the time the new premises were opened the Company had 27 staff who had been with them for over 25 years.

Moon's offered at least two models of Pye transistor portable radios for the summer of 1959.  Prices were always quoted in Guineas as this looked lower than it actually was.  The cheaper model was 21 Guineas, which was in reality 24 0s 6d.  What was described as the luxury model cost 27 Guineas (34 7s 6d). 

Captain Sydney Edward Moon, the senior partner, died at Reigate in Surrey on January 24th 1961.  He was 88.

On January 1st 1963 Messrs Moon & Sons (Pianos) Ltd was taken over by Messrs J & F Stone Lighting & Radio Ltd, of 6 Broad Street Place, London.  This enabled some rationalisation to take place because Messrs J & M Stone, who dealt in similar items from their premises on the corner of Ebrington Street, were part of the same overall group.

In addition to the manufacture and sale of pianos, Moon's also tuned and repaired them over a wide area of Devon and Cornwall.  Two of those who did that work were Mr Harry Bolt and Mr Ted Brooks.  Mr Brooks worked for the Company for 39 years until it was taken over and it is worth mentioning that he did got get any redundancy money in those days.  The works had moved from Millbay to near Southside Street and there they used to service the instruments used by the Plymouth Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.  It is also worth noting that for most of his time with the Company he travelled by bus and train to visit his customers: his son, Mr Graham Brooks, recalling that he did not learn to drive until 1960, two years before the business was taken over.

The premises in New George Street that was once occupied by Moon's is currently the MacDonald's Restaurant.