The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Harp making


The making of harps.


Status Endangered
Craft category  Instruments
Historic area of significance  UK
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  Early Medieval
Minimum no. of craftspeople required  1-5
Current no. of trainees  1-5
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  21-50
Current total no. of craftspeople  21-50



The harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, dating back to at least 2500 BCE. The earliest harps, found in Ancient Egypt, were bow-shaped or angular with only a few strings. The frame harp, with a straight forepillar, developed in western Europe in the eight century with ten to twelve strings. In the fourteenth century, harps with a curved forepillar, a hollowed soundbox, and 30-36 bass strings developed in Ireland; while in continental Europe the ‘Renaissance harp’ with a thinner and less curved forepillar with 24 or more strings developed. As the harp evolved, the material used for the strings changed from hair or plant fibre, to gut, to stiffer materials such as copper and brass.

Harps continued to develop in style across Europe from the seventeenth century onwards, from double-strung, triple-strung and cross-strung harps, to the single-action pedal and finally the double-action pedal harp, which was patented in 1810 and is still in use today.




Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Finding suitable younger people who have the dedication to learn the craft
  • The cost of training
  • Competition from cheap imports, and mass producers
  • Just staying viable enough to carry on the craft


Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

A list of harp makers currently practising in the UK can be found at A further list can be found on the Clarsach Society website.


Other information