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The Norfolk company transforming cow guts into beautiful music

PUBLISHED: 16:30 20 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:40 21 June 2018

Bow Brand in King's Lynn have been making natural gut strings for harps for more than 100 years. Checking the strings in the drying room is Rosina Russell Picture: Ian Burt

Bow Brand in King's Lynn have been making natural gut strings for harps for more than 100 years. Checking the strings in the drying room is Rosina Russell Picture: Ian Burt

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Natural harp strings can only be made by those who have the stomach for it.

Bow Brand based in King's Lynn, manufacture harp strings Picture: Ian BurtBow Brand based in King's Lynn, manufacture harp strings Picture: Ian Burt

It is a long process which involves barrels of cow guts being washed, spun and dried into strings that create beautiful music.

And one company tucked away in Gaywood, King’s Lynn, has been specialising in this niche technique for more than 100 years.

Bow Brand, in Highgate, mass produce natural gut strings for leading harpists and harp manufacturers across the world.

Bow Brand in King's Lynn use cow small instestines to make natural gut strings for harps Picture: Ian BurtBow Brand in King's Lynn use cow small instestines to make natural gut strings for harps Picture: Ian Burt

Their clientele stretch across Europe, Asia, North and South America and Africa, with Italian company Salvi Harp being one of their biggest customers.

They even create strings for the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales, who played at Kate and William’s wedding reception at Buckingham Palace.

The position was reintroduced by Prince Charles in 2000 for Welsh harpists after it was renounced by Queen Victoria in 1871.

Diane Toll pre gauging the strings before polishing. Picture: Ian BurtDiane Toll pre gauging the strings before polishing. Picture: Ian Burt

Production manager Rosina Russell, said: “There are smaller companies dotted around the country but I think we are the biggest in the world for making music gut strings.

“We try to treat everyone the same no matter who they are, it doesn’t matter if they buy one string or a thousand strings.”

She said an average of 1,550 cows would need to be slaughtered a day in order for the factory to turn 70,000 pieces of cow intestines into strings.

The strings are hung and ready for polishing. Picture: Ian BurtThe strings are hung and ready for polishing. Picture: Ian Burt

Once they arrive at the factory, they are washed and grouped together by hand into different octaves which each have seven notes, with three strands of small intestines forming the 1st octave.

They are then spun, dried and varnished using natural sea sponge from the Aegean Sea in Greece, before being packed and exported around the world.

The entire process usually lasts around eight weeks, with tonnes of the beef industry by-product being transformed into thousands of wiry musical strings.

Bow Brand in King's Lynn, have been making natural gut strings for classical musical instruments for more than 100 years. Picture: Ian BurtBow Brand in King's Lynn, have been making natural gut strings for classical musical instruments for more than 100 years. Picture: Ian Burt

When asked what made the natural gut strings so popular for classical musicians, Ms Russell said: “It’s just the sounds, a professional prefers the tone of a natural gut string.”

When it was set up in 1902, Bow Brand was conveniently located near an abattoir and the nearest cattle market was only a short walk away where the bus station car park now sits.

Matthew Hicks varnishing some of the new strings at Bow Brand in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtMatthew Hicks varnishing some of the new strings at Bow Brand in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Bow Brand in King's Lynn, have been making natural gut strings for classical musical instruments for more than 100 years. Pictured is Cherri Caudwell. Picture: Ian BurtBow Brand in King's Lynn, have been making natural gut strings for classical musical instruments for more than 100 years. Pictured is Cherri Caudwell. Picture: Ian Burt

Bow Brand based in King's Lynn, manufacture harp strings. Picture: Ian BurtBow Brand based in King's Lynn, manufacture harp strings. Picture: Ian Burt

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