Sunday, 26 April 2009

Northleach Museum of Mechanical Music

Saturday 4 June 1994. It was still raining as we returned towards Bourton-On-The-Water and our hotel from Cheltenham and Gloucester, but before we arrived back at the hotel we had noticed another mention of a museum on the map.

At the village of Northleach we found Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music.

If ever you find yourself with a couple of hours to spare, pay it a visit. The small room was packed with people. The guide (who it turned out was Keith Harding himself) welcomed us and then asked an unexpected question.

"Before we start, would you like to see the collection of clocks?"
Somewhat bemused we glanced around at each other. Someone nodded and it became infectious. Yes we would like to see the clocks! "Come through, it may be a little squashed!" he apologised, leading us from the museum room into the hallway of his living quarters. A small collection of clocks stood in the hallway - every size of clock you could imagine, from a mantleshelf clock to one that belonged in a clock tower (albeit fitted with a more modest face!)

He proceeded to talk about the clocks, about how, when and where they were made, the type of people who would have had a clock like that and the way in which they were wound. In the middle of his talk a small terrier came down the stairs and launched into a frenzy of friendly leg licking.

We patted it dutifully and then with enthusiasm, for as his tale of the clocks went on we became fascinated until he finished with the church clock, demonstrating how the clock in the Tower of Westminster was wound each day.

And then, spellbound we were led back into the museum where he played a piece of music on each of the instruments in the place - polyphons, beautiful music boxes with automated figures and birds, player pianos, wax cylinder phonographs (Come Into The Garden, Maude) and finally the horn gramophone (Teddy Bears' Picnic).

The horn (he explained) was made of papier mache, and all horned gramophones had a horn no bigger than (now how large was it? No matter!). He smiled at us. "Can anyone think why?" he asked gently. There was silence. His smile became broader. "Come now," he chided, "no one with a practical mind?" The answer hit me and I laughed out loud.
"So they could get through the door!" I said and his smile became even broader, nodding his delight that he hadn't had to say it himself.

We left the museum, agreeing with the other visitors how pleasant a place it was and what a good time we had had. The guide had worked his magic so well we were all friends by now, even without knowing names! We decided there and then that we would revisit the museum some day.

The rain had stopped. In fact, by the time we had driven up to Bourton-On-The-Water, the sun had decided to come out and it was a lovely evening.

Looking through the trees over the River Windrush with its wonderful little bridges, you see the group of buildings where our hotel was.

Apparently on the Friday night someone had tried to ram-raid the shop underneath our hotel room in a car. He forgot about the concrete flower pots (trenches more like!) and only succeeded in wrecking the car and had fled, leaving blood in the car. We had slept blissfully through it all! Serves the dipstick right!

Large versions of the photos: Northleach Union Hotel, Northleach Cross, Bourton-On-The-Water, Bourton-On-The-Water 2

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