Autumn Meeting 2016, Hampshire

After Friday evening’s usual informal affair of socialising after dinner we decamped to West Dean College for the day, where we enjoyed a number of presentations in its auditorium, receiving a special welcome from Hugh Morgan paying his recently acquired Pell organ.

The first presentation was a fascinating talk by Malcolm Archer about the restoration of a George Pyke organ clock with automata now in the Temple Newsham Museum. Since restoration the museum has found the automata particularly useful for attracting the attention of younger visitors, although the automata now have to be activated manually. Despite the subject’s potential for a rather dry presentation, Mr Archer’s masterful approach and delivery was such that it never failed to hold the audience, and it was gratifying to see the amount of interaction between the listeners and the speaker during the course of the talk.

The next presentation was more of a practical demonstration by John Farmer and Roy Evett on the care of musical box discs. Whilst this was aimed primarily at newer members, again many of the ‘regulars’ participated with questions of their own, as well as offering tips and observations on the subject.

After a brief picnic lunch, we were both entertained and educated by another exceptional guest speaker: Jean-Marc Lebout, from Brussels, who gave a very informative power point presentation on the subject of French cylinder musical box manufacturers. These were Pierre-Henri Paur, August L’Epée, David Cadet, Alexandre Soualle, and Clément Fils & Cie. Despite the final presentation being another repeat from a few years ago, Kath Turner’s advice and tips on restoring cases generated a lot of interest and further questions by members of the audience.


Saturday evening afforded the opportunity for some ‘show and tell’ items, which included another item courtesy of Jean-Marc Lebout: an usual box by David Lecoultre, with hidden drums and bells, and expression delivered by long and short pins. Also featured were: an unusual Chapuis Zoller four-air box, with two combs of 52 teeth each, with the teeth in pairs, driven by a fusée motor between plates; a Paillard interchangeable box, with four cylinders, each playing five airs. The one demonstrated consisted of ‘patriotic tunes’ and national anthems.


Our meeting concluded on Sunday with a visit to the Hollycombe Working Steam Museum, which opened half an hour early for our benefit. After a brief introductory talk by the museum’s Brian Gooding about its history, we were let loose to explore the extensive grounds for ourselves and discover the gems on site. The steam train ride proved to be very popular, as were many of the fairground rides. Despite their age (or maybe because of it) they were surprisingly exhilarating. There were also the fairground organs to enjoy, although not all were of the same vintage, and a Pell and McCarthy featured alongside a Gavioli and Limonaire, while a Marenghi was undergoing repairs in a workshop. Dating from the 1870s, the oldest known ride in the UK, Mr Field’s Steam Circus, thought to be the oldest mechanical ride in the world, resides at Hollycombe, accompanied by what is thought to be the oldest Gavioli in this country.