The company's success is mainly due to its founder Jonathan Mark Askey.
Early in the 60's, Jonathan was teaching crafts in a local school in Bradford and having already made a number of guitars, he continued making some viols and other musical instruments. He has been always proud that one of his racketts formed part of David Munrow's collection.
Mr Askey has been involved in running the early music business since he joined J Wood & Sons Ltd. back in 1972. He has profoundly influenced the development of the early music movement and the quality of instrument making. He managed Woods Bradford music shop, 'The Early Music Shop' (EMS) for many years and helped to turn it in a Mecca for early music enthusiasts. The Early Music Shop was set up in 1968 along with a workshop manufacturing replicas of medieval and renaissance instruments marketed with the brands “Woods” and "EMS". Jonathan Askey drove the workshop until 1999.
From the beginning, instrument kits have continued to be a feature of the catalogue. The first ones were the Renaissance windcaps, hurdy gurdies, lutes that still remain the most popular. The company is greatly indebted to John Barnes for his input to the keyboard kits, particularly, the spinet. They make up into first class instruments.
In 1999, Richard Wood, the owner, sold separately the Bradford's showroom and the workshops. The showroom was sold to G. A. Williams of Darlington and Newcastle that continued operating it with Richard Wood as the manager with the name 'The Early Music Shop'.
The complete EMS’ workshops, including all the licenses and copyrights, machinery and customer portfolio were sold to the director Jonathan M. Askey, who changing only its name founded the Renaissance Workshop Company Ltd. with the express purpose of going on with the development of the product range and with the enlargement of the customer base, but initially with the same staff, in the same premises, with the same catalogue…
The EMS undertook among other clauses "not to produce or have produced any product of a similar design…" By this agreement, the EMS renounced to compete in the future against the RWC producing or having produced similar musical instruments and undertook to resell the RWC production.
Located in the same building, having been in the past part of it, and sharing the same product catalogue, the Renaissance Workshop Company (RWC) grew under the shadow of the Early Music Shop (EMS) and not all the customers realised that the EMS had become a mere dealer of RWC. The confusion grew up because the Early Music Shop continued marketing the RWC products as if they were still made in their own workshop, that is, they continued offering the RWC production with the brand EMS.
Due to poor health, Mr. Askey reluctantly decided in 2004 that he would have to wind down the workshops that was effectively his life¹s work. The Early Music Shop was offered first to re-purchase the workshop but they declined and so Mr. Askey sought for other partners (See the untrue rumour of closure of the RWC).
Among all the offers, Mr. Askey chose a new partner to take on the day to day running of the company while he acts in an advisory capacity and be involved with the development of new instruments and kits. As this new partner is Spanish and the lease run out on the previous premises it seemed a logical step to move RWC production to Spain. After considerable thought, Toledo (one of the Spain¹s oldest cities) seemed to offer just the right atmosphere for a workshop manufacturing early musical instruments.
Our top quality range of instruments and kits are being produced to the same high standards but in much sunnier surroundings than Bradford!
All necessary spares are available as usual and our excellent kit building backup will become bilingual, either English or Spanish once the workshops are completely settled in their new home. We cannot hide that the move has brought a delay in the standard rate production mainly caused by administrative bureaucracy but we can proudly say that our new workshop in Toledo is the rightful heir and keeps all the designs, copyrights, machinery, documentation, portfolio and more of the 40-year old one in Bradford (*).
You can appreciate this legacy in the quality of our instruments and kits. Beware of imitations.
(*) The comprehensive catalogue, designs, techniques and quality of Renaissance Workshop Company (RWC) is the result of the natural evolution and improvements of a workshop that was born and run within the 'Early Music Shop' selling its products with the brands 'Woods' and 'EMS' for 31 years and afterwards for financial reasons, in 1999, as a separate company but still with the same staff, in the same premises, with the same catalogue and having the Early Music Shops in Bradford and other locations as its main dealers.
In the other side, The 'Early Music Shop' has been publishing about themselves during 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009: "New workshops, New Products, New Designs, New Instruments, New Kits'. "A completely new workshop has had to be created around several of the existing staff. New models have been devised… Fresh manufacturing techniques will enable us to produce the kits and completed instruments… The emphasis will be set firmly on the production of a completely new range of affordable instruments and kits…" "New EMS Crumhorn Kits. We are excited to announce the first in a new line of woodwind kits, launched at the recent Frankfurt Music Trade in early April (2009)"