AMBC September Weekend Visit to Suffolk
After a Friday night stay at the Holiday Inn, Ipswich, our first visit was to “Sounds of the Past” housed in an old chapel in Monks Eleigh village. We were hosted by Paul Goodchild, founder of the collection, now a trust. It is a sort of retirement home for elderly and sometimes infirm radios, televisions, record players and gramophones, no longer wanted by their owners.
We spent a little time looking around the huge collection arranged on banks of shelving, with Paul and a fellow volunteer on hand to answer questions and demonstrate some of the exhibits. After partaking of Mrs Goodchild’s home-made cakes and coffee we settled down to hear Paul’s story of how his interest in these things began.
All too soon we had to tear ourselves away to head for the Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds, principally to see the Gershom Parkington Clock Collection, which is outstanding for the beauty and rarity of its exhibits. It is impossible to do it justice in a short article. The cabinets house superb examples of every imaginable type of timepiece. This collection alone deserved much more time than we could give it, let alone all the rest the museum had to offer.
Saturday afternoon was left free for members to choose their own activity from all the interesting possibilities in this area. Our little group went to the pretty town of Lavenham where many of the half-timbered houses are decorated all over in a greyish white lime wash. It looks as though they are following the modern trend for “shabby chic”, but in fact it is a traditional treatment dating back centuries. The famous “Suffolk Pink” colour seen on cottages throughout the county is achieved by adding various natural pigments to the lime wash.
All the arrangements for Sunday were taken care of by Jonny Ling and fellow members of MOOS (Mechanical Organ Owners Society), starting with a visit to his personal collection at the Grange. Jonny told us how his love of organs had begun as a child, hearing his grandmother play the church organ. A photo on the wall showed her seated at the organ console.All the instruments demonstrated had an interesting background and provenance. First up was a 1796 domestic barrel organ by William Ayton, purchased from the sad break-up of the Finchcocks collection. There was an impressive Belgian penny-in-the-slot barrel piano by Pasquale, in art nouveau style with engraved mirrors. Amongst others we heard a rare Lochmann barrel piano, a Swedish table barrel piano (piano harpa) c1890 by Andersson, and a Lochmann disc musical box with eight nested tuned bells. Our chairman also recognised a John Hicks barrel piano which had belonged to him some twenty years previously. We then went across to the organ barn to see and hear the large street organs and dance organ housed there. The first to be demonstrated by its owner, Alan Smith (Chairman of MOOS), was the “de Jonker” made in 1926 by Pierre Verbeeck of Antwerp. Like most organs, it had undergone many changes over the years, his own contribution being the replacement of the three carved figures and restoration of the paintwork and gilding. He also added a rank of Bourdon pipes made by the famous organ tuner Judith Howard. Going round the barn the next instrument was an 84 key Mortier playing “Rock Around the Clock”, followed by an alleged Carl Frei organ. This was a fraudulent attempt, by simply painting the name, to give some provenance to an instrument which, according to Jonny, was made from the sweepings from the organ maker’s floor! It was further abused being overturned by Jonny on a motorway. The final exhibit in the barn was the Decap dance organ, playing Chattanooga Choo Choo.
It was now time to move on. Jonny led a procession of cars to Alan’s home a few miles away in Hoxne, where we arrived to the sound of De Vondeling (the foundling) by Foucher-Gasparini of Paris. It was rebuilt in the 1950s by Gillet of Rotterdam and played there in the streets before spending fifty years in America. It returned to Europe in 2005. Since its acquisition Alan has lovingly restored and enhanced its paintwork. Music was forgotten for the time being as we partook of an excellent buffet lunch prepared by Carole Smith. We then had a choice of which of Alan’s talks we would like to hear next. In the end I think we managed to get them all. There was the story of Alan’s Hoxne Penny, a privately minted coin or token issued in 1795. At that time the aristocracy were fearful of a French invasion so created private militias. The “Hoxne and Hartismere Suffolk Loyal Yeomanry and Cavalry” were founded by General Kerrison who owned Hoxne and other surrounding villages. These volunteers were paid with Hoxne pennies which they could only spend in his shop, now Alan’s home. We were also shown a selection of his large and very fine collection of Staffordshire figures, a street busker’s organ and a magnificent Ottoman Empire style clock with musical bells. The party was then invited to troop round his house to view more of his clock collection.
Then it was back to the car procession to be led to the Mechanical Music Museum at Cotton. Various instruments were played, including the rare Gavioli 62 key fairground organ, as we wandered about looking at the eclectic collections of bygones. Very prominent is the Wurlitzer organ on a stage at the far end of the room. It was brought from New York in 1930 to the Leicester Square Theatre. When the theatre was modernised in the 1960s the organ was sold off and eventually made its way to Cotton in time for a concert to mark the opening of the museum in 1982. The audience settled down to watch a Buster Keaton silent movie to the accompaniment of the Wurlitzer played by resident organist David Ivory, followed by a selection of Scottish tunes. He then took us into the side room housing a collection of smaller instruments, including a large Nicole Freres musical box, with bells and drum, a musical chair, a piano player, a musical automaton doll, disc boxes, organettes and more.
After an exhilarating day those unfortunate enough to have to go to work on Monday departed for home, leaving the retired folk to enjoy another night in the hotel and a leisurely departure after breakfast.