John Baptist Grano

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John Baptist Grano
Bornc. 1692
Diedc. 1748
ResidenceLondon, England
OccupationTrumpeter, flutist, composer
Known forImprisonment in the Marshalsea prison, 1728–1729
Notable work
Dairy of John Baptist Grano, held in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (Rawlinson D. 34)
Spouse(s)Mary Thurman
Parent(s)John Baptist Grano or Granom, Jane Villeneuve

John Baptist Grano (c. 1692 – c. 1748) was an English trumpeter, flutist and composer, who worked with George Frederick Handel at the opera house in London's Haymarket. [1]

Haymarket, London Street in the St. Jamess area of the City of Westminster, London

Haymarket is a street in the St. James's area of the City of Westminster, London. It runs from Piccadilly Circus in the north to Pall Mall at the southern end. It is the location of a variety of restaurants, the Theatre Royal and Her Majesty's Theatre, a cinema complex, and New Zealand House.


Grano is best known for having been imprisoned for a debt of £99 in the notorious Marshalsea prison in Southwark from May 1728 until September 1729. He kept a diary of his time there, the manuscript of which is held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was published in 1998 as Handel's Trumpeter: The Diary of John Grano, edited by John Ginger, with a foreword by Crispian Steele-Perkins. The diary has become an important primary source of material about the Marshalsea. It details Grano's friendships, love affairs and adventures as he struggles to earn enough money to buy his freedom. [2]

Marshalsea Former prison in Southwark, London

The Marshalsea (1373–1842) was a notorious prison in Southwark, just south of the River Thames. Although it housed a variety of prisoners, including men accused of crimes at sea and political figures charged with sedition, it became known, in particular, for its incarceration of the poorest of London's debtors. Over half the population of England's prisons in the 18th century were in jail because of debt.

Bodleian Library main research library of the University of Oxford

The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items, it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 it is one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom and under Irish Law it is entitled to request a copy of each book published in the Republic of Ireland. Known to Oxford scholars as "Bodley" or "the Bod", it operates principally as a reference library and, in general, documents may not be removed from the reading rooms.

Crispian Steele-Perkins British musician

Crispian Steele-Perkins is an internationally acclaimed classical trumpeter who was educated at Copthorne Preparatory School, Marlborough College and the Guildhall School of Music.

Personal life

Grano's father, John Baptist Grano (also written Granom), and his mother Jane Villeneuve, originally from France, lived in London toward the end of the 17th century. An entry in the poor rate returns in 1698 places them in Angel Court, Charing Cross. John Ginger writes that the father may have been a regimental trumpeter in the Dutch Guards who travelled to England during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when James II was overthrown. [3]

Poor rate

In England and Wales the poor rate was a tax on property levied in each parish, which was used to provide poor relief. It was collected under both the Old Poor Law and the New Poor Law. It was absorbed into 'general rate' local taxation in the 1920s, and has continuity with the currently existing Council Tax.

Glorious Revolution 17th Century British revolution

The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, refers to the November 1688 deposition and subsequent replacement of James II and VII as ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland by his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange. The outcome of events in all three kingdoms and Europe, the Revolution was quick and relatively bloodless, though establishing the new regime took much longer and led to significant casualties. The term was first used by John Hampden in late 1689.

James II of England 17th-century King of England and Ireland, and of Scotland (as James VII)

James II and VII was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, his reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance. However, it also involved the principles of absolutism and divine right of kings and his deposition ended a century of political and civil strife by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown.

The couple later moved to Pall Mall, where they ran a haberdasher's. Their first son, John Baptist, died in 1691, and their second, the John Baptist of this article, was given the same name. There were three other children: Jane, born in 1697, Mary, and Lewis. The surviving brothers were given a musical education. [3]

Pall Mall, London street in London, England

Pall Mall is a street in the St James's area of the City of Westminster, Central London. It connects St James's Street to Trafalgar Square and is a section of the regional A4 road. The street's name is derived from 'pall-mall', a ball game played there during the 17th century.

Haberdasher person who sells small articles for sewing

A haberdasher is a person who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons and zippers, or a men's outfitter, often providing one of custom bespoke orders of various requirements, in particular neckties. The sewing articles are called haberdashery, or "notions".

Grano married Mary Thurman at St James Piccadilly on 30 July 1713. Ginger writes that the application for the marriage licence states that bride and groom were both over 21, although Mary was in fact 15. The marriage produced one child and ended in or around 1719. [3]



Ginger writes that, around 1709, Grano joined the orchestra in the Haymarket. He was paid 10 shillings per performance twice a week, playing the rest of the time in salons in Lincoln's Inn Fields or St James's Square, where he earned between two and four guineas an evening. The earliest record of him as a trumpeter is around 1711, when the Duchess of Shrewsbury hired him to play during a reception in the Lord Chamberlain's apartment at Kensington Palace. [3]

Lincolns Inn Fields public square in London

Lincoln's Inn Fields is the largest public square in London. It was laid out in the 1630s under the initiative of the speculative builder and contractor William Newton, "the first in a long series of entrepreneurs who took a hand in developing London", as Sir Nikolaus Pevsner observes. The original plan for "laying out and planting" these fields, drawn by the hand of Inigo Jones, was said still to be seen in Lord Pembroke's collection at Wilton House in the 19th century, but is untraced. The grounds, which had remained private property, were acquired by London County Council in 1895. It is today managed by the London Borough of Camden and forms part of the southern boundary of that borough with the City of Westminster.

St Jamess Square square in the City of Westminster, London

St James's Square is the only square in the exclusive St James's district of the City of Westminster. It has predominantly Georgian and Neo-Georgian architecture and a garden in the centre. For its first two hundred or so years it was one of the three or four most fashionable residential multi-owner estates in London. It is now home to the headquarters of a number of well-known businesses, including BP and Rio Tinto Group; to four private members' clubs, the East India Club, the Naval and Military Club, the Canning Club, and the Army and Navy Club; to the High Commission of Cyprus; and to the London Library. Also based in the square is the premises of the think tank Chatham House. A principal feature of the square is an equestrian statue of William III erected in 1808.

Kensington Palace royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, London, England

Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

Grano joined the Horse Guards on a salary of 17s. 6d., but Ginger writes that in 1719 he left suddenly for The Hague. A reward of three guineas was offered for his return. A notice of the reward in the Daily Courant described him as a "short black man in a light tye wig," a joke on the part of Grano's commander, the Marquess of Winchester, who intended to imply that Grano was a common runaway, according to Ginger. [4]

Grano returned to England around March 1720, playing his trumpet and flute compositions in several salons, including in Drury Lane. During the same year, his name was added as a member of the orchestra of the proposed Royal Academy of Music, with George Frederick Handel as master of the orchestra and John James Heidegger as manager. He set up home with John Jones, a violinist, in Oxford Street, between Holles Street and Cavendish Street. By 1728 there is a record of Jones's wife living with them. [5]


According to Ginger, Grano's financial problems began with the South Sea bubble of 1720. Ginger writes that it was a bad time for anyone who relied for their living on the moneyed classes, as Grano did. [6] As a result, Grano was imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea from 30 May 1728 until 23 September 1729, owing 99 pounds to "Andrew Turner et al." [7] He was held on the "Master's side" of the prison, which catered for wealthier prisoners able to pay both the prison fees and an additional amount that allowed them to leave the prison during the day. This was crucial, as it meant he could work to pay off the debt. [8] These privileges existed in contrast to the squalid "Commons side," where prisoners were held indefinitely and routinely starved to death. [9]

Grano kept a diary of his 480 days there. The 510-page manuscript is part of the Bodleian Library's Rawlinson collection, as Rawlinson D. 34. [10] [11] It was published in 1998 as Handel's Trumpeter: The Diary of John Grano, edited by John Ginger.

Musical legacy

Grano has an entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians . A book of his flute sonatas was published in 1728. [12]

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  1. White, Jerry. "Pain and Degradation in Georgian London: Life in the Marshalsea Prison", History Workshop Journal, 2009, 68 (1), 69–98. JSTOR   40646165
  2. Grano, John Baptist and Ginger, John. Handel's Trumpeter: The Diary of John Grano. Pendragon Press, 1998.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Grano and Ginger, 1, 3.
  4. Grano and Ginger, 12.
  5. Grano and Ginger, 13–14.
  6. Grano and Ginger, 16.
  7. "An Account of the Prisoners in the Marshalsea, February 1729", House of Lords Records Office, cited in Grano and Ginger, 25, n. 99.
  8. "Angel Place", "Southwark Prisons," Survey of London, volume 25: St George's Fields, 1955), 9–21.
  9. Grano and Ginger, 45,  14.
  10. Grano and Ginger, 354.
  11. Also see "Collection Level Description: Rawlinson Manuscripts", Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
  12. Ginger, John and Byrne, Maurice. "Grano, John Baptist," in Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Volume 10. Oxford University Press, 2001.