William Castle - Violin Maker

© William Castle 2013


William Castle

8 Welsh End, Whixall,Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 2NU

tel - 01948 880608

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As with a violin, the most important thing influencing the way I make a viola is the sound. The instrument must speak easily and to be interesting to listen to. I also want to make an instrument which I like the look of, and which suits my style of working. In the case of a viola there are also the practicalities of what size to make.  I make both ‘middle-size’ violas, with a back length of about 16 ¼” [41.2cm] and a smaller violas of between 15 ¼ and 15 ¾  inches. [38.8 – 40cm]

The middle size of viola I have been making for many years, as it is small enough to be comfortable for many viola players, whilst being large enough to develop a deep ‘tenor’ viola sound, particularly on the C string. This is also the size of viola which most soloists play. The model I use most frequently is based on an Andrea Guarneri viola of 1676. The original instrument has a pegbox with shoulders, like a cello, but I make a smaller scroll without shoulders, which makes the viola easier to play in 1/2 position, and it reduces the weight at the far end of the viola where it is most noticeable. Two of my instruments of this model are played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra, one by the principal viola of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and another by Matthew Souter, the violist of the Alberni quartet.

More recently I have also made some Maggini model violas, which are less sweet in tone, with a slightly more robust and edgy sound. I can’t decide which sound I prefer, it depends largely on how each musician creates the sound, but most viola players have a definite preference for one or the other.



Small viola made by leading English viola maker William Castle Viola modelled on Andrea Guarneri made by British viola maker, William Castle Viola scroll carved by Shropshire based luthier, William Castle f holes of Andrea Guarneri model viola made by English Luthier Willaim Castle

“My viola  has been my constant companion for the last 5 years, travelling with me all over the world and performing in various concert halls.  It is a gorgeous, beautifully-crafted instrument, producing a warm and subtle tone, and so lightweight to hold.  William is one of the most esteemed luthiers in Europe, and I am pleased to play on an instrument of this calibre.”   

-Carmen Flores, Principal Viola of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, & violist of                                                          the Villiers Quartet

“The viola is continually developing and I am discovering new qualities and sounds. I have learnt to be more careful with the bow because it speaks so easily without me having to make an effort, and the very best thing is that I haven’t had any pain since I have been playing on it.”

- Keen amateur chamber and orchestral musician.

For more information on viola size, please click here.

To find out what violas I have available, please click here.

To read about choosing an instrument, please click here.

    Small Violas

In the first years of my career I only made middle size violas, but after a number of requests, I started making small violas and now the majority of my violas are this size. Besides developing two 15 ½” models of my own, in part because there are so few good old instruments to use as a model, I also make a 15 ¼”  Belosio model viola.

My usual model for a 15 ½” viola is basically an enlarged violin, based on an instrument by Pietro Guarneri of Venice. This instrument is quite wide across the middle, though I have widened it some more to make it a better shape for a small viola, but the archings are worked completely differently in order to produce a good viola sound. Like all my violas, I keep the scroll small to help make the instrument feel comfortable. Not surprisingly, my small violas are popular with smaller viola players and others who have problems holding a larger viola.

The 15 ¼ “ Belosio model I measured in Austria, and it is a cracking small viola, with a small scroll and  interesting arching shapes that are ideal for producing a good sound on this size instrument. In many ways I like it as much as the slightly larger viola, and because the stop is so small it is ideal for the violinist who  also plays the viola.

To find out what violas I have available, please click here.