The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores.
April’s object of the month is a Serpent, a low-pitched early brass instrument, which became popular in the Renaissance era.
It has a trombone style mouthpiece, but with tone holes like a woodwind instrument. Keys were added in later versions.
They were commonly used from the 17th to the early 19th centuries, although you can still buy them from specialist makers.
Initially they were used to compliment bass parts in choirs, but by the mid-18th century, they began to appear in chamber ensembles, and later in orchestras.
The sound of a serpent is somewhere between a bassoon and a euphonium, and it is typically played in a seated position, with the instrument resting upright on the player’s thighs.
The version we are displaying in the museum this month dates to the 1830s and was played in St Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden.
See it on display in the museum in April or in the blog article on our website.