The independent London newspaper

Stolen: Violin handed down through family since 19th century

'It's not worth thousands of pounds but it's irreplaceable to us', says West Hampstead musician

20 September, 2018 — By William McLennan

A MUSICIAN is appealing for help from New Journal readers following the theft of a prized violin that had been in her family since the 19th century.

Heather Johnson said the “irreplaceable” instrument had been stolen along with two computers during a break-in at her home in Messina Avenue, West Hampstead.

“It’s not worth thousands of pounds, but it has got a really interesting story and has a massive sentimental value to me,” she said.

The violin was bought in the 1890s by Joseph Gill, an ancestor of Ms Johnson, who worked as a horse-drawn Hackney carriage driver in Hull. The family believe it originally belonged to a sailor who was travelling through the port and may have been exchanged in lieu of a cab fare.

The 32-year-old, who works as a teacher and an actor, said: “I imagine it’s more well-travelled than I am. It’s has had such a rich history and it would be such a shame for this to be the end of it.”

Mr Gill gave the violin to his daughter and it was passed down through the family to Ms Johnson, who began to practice on it while at primary school.

It bears distinctive markings, including a cross etched into the back and a lion carving at the end of the fingerboard.
“One thing that breaks my heart is the idea that they’ll think it’s so unique that they don’t want to risk selling it and they just trash it. Let’s hope that’s not happened.”

Ms Johnson, who plays the violin in band called Serendipitous, alongside her father Alan and a friend, hopes that somebody may spot the unique violin in a second-hand shop or being offered for sale.

She said it would “restore her faith in humanity,” adding: “It would mean a great deal because it’s been part of my family history and my identity.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact

Share this story

Post a comment