One of the most important and influential violin makers in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, John Betts was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1752. He came to London to work for Richard Duke in Holborn in 1765. In 1781 he was established there independently and in the following year he moved to the Royal Exchange, where he remained for the rest of his career. He became known as an expert dealer and businessman, and was appointed Official Valuer of violins to the Customs Office. His own workmanship was replaced by the efforts of his many employees after about 1790 and these represented the cream of the London profession, including John Carter, Joseph and Henry Lockey Hill, Richard Tobin and the Fendts. Vincenzo Panormo also worked closely with Betts and certainly provided the expertise in making that brought about a change from the Stainer- and Amati-modelled work that Betts himself specialised in, towards fine Stradivari copies. Most work is branded ‘Betts, Royal Exchange’ on the upper back. John died in 1823 and the shop continued as the centre of expertise in London, under his sons John and Arthur, until 1867.
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