A flageolet is a woodwind musical instrument and a member of the fipple flute family. Its invention is ascribed to the 16th century Sieur Juvigny in 1581. It had 4 holes on the front and 2 on the back. The English instrument maker William Bainbridge developed it further and patented the "improved English flageolet" in 1803 as well as the double flageolet around 1805. They were continued to be made until the 20th century when it was succeeded by the tin whistle.
Flageolets have varied greatly during the last 400 years. The first flageolets were called "French flageolets", and have four tone-holes on the front and two on the back. This instrument was played by Frédéric Chalon and Samuel Pepys, and Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel both wrote pieces for it.
Small versions of this instrument, called bird flageolets were also made and were used for teaching birds to sing.
In the late 18th and early 19th century certain English instrument makers started to make flageolets with six finger-holes on the front. These instruments are called "English flageolets" and were eventually produced in metal as tin whistles. The keys range between none and six. Some were produced with changeable top joints which allowed the flageolet to be played as a flute or fife.
An English maker, William Bainbridge, in around 1810 patented a double flageolet which consisted of two English flageolets joined together so that the player could harmonise the tunes that he played. He also produced a triple flageolet which added a third, drone pipe which was fingered in a similar way to an ocarina.
The flageolet was eventually entirely replaced by the tin whistle and is rarely played today. However, it is a very easy instrument to play and the tone is soft and gentle. It has a range of about two octaves.