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We visited the Musical Museum in Brentford on the weekend. Having been a Brentfordian for 26 years, it was my first visit, I’m ashamed to say. Founded in 1963 by Frank Holland MBE (1910-89), it’s celebrating its golden anniversary. The museum’s first home was the pretty 18C church of St George on the busy former trunk road between Kew and Hounslow. But the old place proved impossible financially to maintain and in the early 2000s, the museum moved to a purpose-built building next door. Far from pretty, it’s a much better home though, possessing a 230 seat auditorium and a dry, safe environment for what’s  most important – the treasure within.

musical museum brentford

The mainstay of the collection is self playing instruments. Keyboard, wind, strings, pipe organ, you name it. These contraptions are amazing to see, beautifully and lovingly restored and cared for. There are also juke boxes, music boxes and early gramaphone players – both for disk and Edison cylinder.

musical museum brentford

musical museum brentford

musical museum brentford

musical museum brentford

The museum has an excellent collection of models, toys…

musical museum brentford

…and ephemera.

Best of all, though, particularly for nostalgia buffs, is the 1929 Wurlitzer pipe organ, formerly of the Kingston Regal cinema. The 1920s and 30s were the golden age of the “Mighty Wurlitzer”. Originally they provided the soundtrack and effects for silent movies. Once talkies kicked in, the instruments were retained to provide intermission medleys of popular contemporary tunes. Today there are very few examples in good working order. The Musical Museum’s is one of them. We enjoyed a wonderful talk and recital by organist Chris Barber. As he tickled the keys, this magnificent, brazen Art Deco monster sang for us as it changed from red to green to yellow in the gloom. How can anything in the modern multiplex ever compare?

musical museum brentford

The Wurlitzer – a thing of beauty.

musical museum brentford

Wurlitzer maestro Chris Barber…

musical museum brentford

… tells us all about these magnificent instruments.

The Musical Museum is holding a number of events to celebrate it 50th anniversary, including a Jubilee Concert on Saturday 13th July. You can also go Waltzing to the Wurlitzer on the first Saturday of the month at 14:30.

Museum entrance is £8.00, £6.50, under 16s Free.

Musical Museum web site.
Chris Barber on the Wurlitzer – (YouTube).

Thanks to Fiona Pretorius for additional photography (most of it, in fact).

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