Archive for the ‘clockwork’ Category

Brill Mill

June 19, 2016

From Brill in Buckinghamshire to central London is something like 45 miles in s straight line. Yet once this lovely village was served by trains operated by London Underground. But in visiting Brill on Spring Bank Holiday Sunday we were not interested in the old railway which closed in 1935 but rather with the mill. Now I featured this on this blog back in January (click here) but that was about a visit in the early 1980s. We had the mill to ourselves then. On a sunny Sunday afternoon we certainly did not. The place was humming with people.

The mill features on village signs.


But actually that isn’t quite the mill as we see it now. On the road sign it has a trestle base. These days there is a round house. However, the sign shows, quite rightly, the simplest of mills. It is a post mill where the whole structure hangs from the central, hefty support and is free to turn on it. Turning was achieved by hand – pushing the pole poking out of the back of the mill. The miller could make sure his sails faced the wind to extract the maximum power from it.

And here is the mill on its lovely hill top site.image004

Yes, there were other people about. The deserted mill photo I might have hoped for was not to be, but never mind.

Actually, hunting out the right location and using a low angle all but got rid of all trace of people and it gave a clue to the wonderful weather.image006The mill was open so we paid our couple of quid and went in.


It’s a cramped space. On either side of the horizontal wheel we have grain hoppers. At the bottom, cased in, as always, are the grinding stones. The floor below collects and grades grain and is where the miller ‘drives’ the mill.

There are only a couple of small windows in the mill but views are good.


No! I have no idea what the white building is.

I’m in the market

June 17, 2016

Time for some music! Today we bring you ‘I’m in the market for you’ played by the Cunard Dance Band. Cunard certainly had dance bands on their liners which, in those days, were taking people on journeys rather than just cruising.

The Cunard Dance Band did not have fixed personnel. It depended who was available.

The record was released on the cut price Piccadilly label. This label only operated from 1928 to 1932 so that fixes us fairly well in history. In fact this record was released in 1930.


So there is the record, complete with a Piccadilly paper sleeve showing a price of 1/6 or 7½p in present money.

The label itself is quite pleasant.


And you can click the link to hear it – played on my little Peter Pan Gramophone.


Getting the needle

June 13, 2016

I owe something to my father here. He had real foresight back in the 1960s and stocked me up with items I still use – old steel gramophone needles.

A shop in Bexhill – my dad’s original home town, had a stock of needles back in the 1960s. We bought thousands of them and I still use them to this day – 50 years on.

They were (and are) of the type known as Songster needles. And they came in neat little tins which suffered a bit from years of loft storage. But here is one of them.


We can see these were made of Sheffield steel and have the advice to ‘use once only. The tin has a little advert around the edge of the lid.image004 image006 image008

Electrical records – using a microphone rather than a horn to make the recording, came in in 1925 and rapidly became pretty well universal.

Further information is on the underside.


Inside, this tin still has plenty of the thin soft tone needles.image012From memory, back in the 1960s they cost half a crown for two hundred needles in a tin. You can still buy needles. However 200 needles might cost you more like £10 although you can shop around and get them cheaper. These days a tin in good order (which this one isn’t) is deemed collectible. When you buy needles today expect them in a poly bag

Old Father Time (2)

May 2, 2016

My previous post entitled Old Father Time was about my dad playing the part in 1953. You can click here to read that.

This is totally different for this is actually about a clock. The clock is no antique being a standard quartz mechanism driven item. But I liked the decoration which features Old Father Time made up of old clock and watch parts.


The clock has a glass front which makes reflection a bit of a problem. But we can see the working clock with the big second hand in the middle and brass work, dials and cogs making up the old man with the scythe.

Memory fails me here. I am fairly sure I bought this clock from a shop in Helston in Cornwall – probably getting on for thirty years ago. This was before the time when I became the depository for family clocks proving troublesome to keep going. We may have felt that, apart from loving the clock, it would actually be useful somewhere in the house for time telling. These days most of our rooms have more than one clock and often they tell slightly different times which makes time telling a problem. This one retains accuracy so can be relied upon until the battery, like my memory, fails.

This clock is both decorative and functional.

The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomon’

April 13, 2016

The Bonn1e Banks o’ Loch Lomon’

We have been up alongside Loch Lomond on several occasions. It really isn’t that far from Glasgow and maybe it owes its fame to that closeness – as well, of course, as lovely scenery.

But before taking a look at it, let’s look at one of my 78rpm records.


This record is venerable for it is a single sided disc. The other side has no groove, no sound and no label.

image004Instead it carries the company logo.

You can her Peter Dawson singing by clicking here –  . This recording was made in 1907.

Our first trip to Loch Lomond was back in 1970 when my true love and I arrived at Balloch Pier by train from Glasgow to await a trip up to Tarbet on a lake ship which turned out to be Maid of the Loch. The voice of the lad behind us in the queue sticks in the memory. This excited Glaswegian boy saw Maid of the Loch approaching and told his mother, ‘Maamy. It’s a beg shap’. We were struck by how what we would say as big ship, both with the same vowel sound had been spoken with two different vowel sounds – neither of them the one we’d use. I do hope that the Glaswegian accent has survived and hasn’t been changed by what some folks perceive as correct English.

We were in luck that day. The sun shone and the banks of Loch Lomon’ did indeed look bonnie.

image006Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond from Maid of the Loch.

image008The ‘beg shap’, Maid of the Loch leaves Tarbet.

Since then we have not been so lucky. Well first of all we have taken a car and you can drive very happily up the west side and really find almost nowhere to stop – until Tarbet, that is. We seem to have found Tarbet a place of mist and drizzle but it will, of course, have weather like anywhere else.

So here are a few Loch Lomond photos from the 21st century.


This was Tarbet in 2001 and again in 2004


image014This was Tarbet in 2009 and on our return a bit bonnier near Inveruglas


All that jazz

March 2, 2016

I am a jazz enthusiast. I may reckon that Duke Ellington was ‘the greatest’ but today I’m remembering the UK jazz revival of the 1950s. I suspect Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball were the most commercially successful of these bands but from that era of UK bands I always reckoned good old Humph (Humphrey Littleton) was fantastic but best of all was the Chris Barber band which, amongst others featured a chap called Lonnie Donegan on banjo and the fantastic Monty Sunshine on clarinet.

Here’s a lesser known Barber record – on a 78 rpm disc.


For once I have a record in a correct sleeve.


This record is called Bye and Bye – actually regarded as the B side.

It’s a Louis Armstrong composition and was published in 1957.


This is a late recording to be on 78 (the very last in the UK was in 1960) but the record is no longer a shellac one. It is a vinyl style and is designed for light weight electric gramophone heads so I’m playing it on my suitably period battery portable Philips machine. Click here to listen.


February 23, 2016

Northleach is a little market town in the Cotswolds. Now it’s time here for a dreadful admission. The Cotswolds are OK, but they are not my favourite place. The towns and villages are very twee and pretty – too manicured for my taste. Northleach does something to address the balance. It feels like a place where real people live and work. It is pretty, of course. In fact, a charming place.

We visited with a specific destination in mind and we’ll come to that but let’s see a bit of Northleach first.

The town sign stands in the Market Place.


The houses are in the local stone which always looks mellow.


And yes, there is a market. Presumably Wednesday, when we were there, is market day.


The local butcher – what a delightful building.



It really is a case of every prospect pleases.

Local house owners clearly accept that their windows are clearly visible to passers-by. They add interest to them.


I loved these jelly moulds.

We took a picnic in the churchyard.


But the purpose of our visit had been to visit the mechanical music museum and what a fantastic place that is. Our tour included music boxes, polyphons, piano players and gramophones. There were a number of barrel organs – and I had the pleasure of winding a handle to play one. I was taken back to childhood when we found a hymn tune barrel organ in Tarring Neville Church near Newhaven. There were also small reed organs with music on card discs or paper rolls.

And here’s a player harmonium being explained by our wonderful tour guide who brought things to life. Clearly a real enthusiast.


A fantastic visit.

Ariel Music

February 1, 2016

Ariel Grand records were produced for a mail order company based in Yorkshire. The label appeared between 1910 and 1938. Here we have ‘Painting the Clouds with Sunshine’. It’s a well-known tune, but the band playing it here are rather anonymous. They are called The Ariel Dance Orchestra. There was no such actual orchestra for Ariel made use of other recordings and renamed the band. I’m afraid I can’t even guess the band here although I’m prepared to suggest it may have been recorded in about 1929.


There we have the label, complete with tax stamp. As ever the sleeve it happens to be in adds extra interest.


This sleeve was from a company in Dover, Kent with premises not so far away at Canterbury as well.

With the almost complete demise of High Street recorded music shops, youngsters might be surprised to realise that they used to exist in every town. Some of us recall, in the early 1960s going into town and into the listening booths in the record shop, requesting to hear the latest hits with little or no intention (or cash) to buy them.

These kentish shops were operating about 30 or more years before. I’d guess they had no booths and headphones.

We can hear this record by clicking this link – . It’s being played on my little Peter Pan portable from much the same era as the recording. The record isn’t in tip top condition but I can still enjoy it.

Brill Mill

January 2, 2016

Brill Mill

Windmills are lovely.

Brill Mill is particularly lovely. It is one of the oldest windmills in England and seems to have survived really well. It is set on a delightful hill in Buckinghamshire to the northwest of Aylesbury.

It must have been in the early 1980s when we took a look at the outside of the mill – and here it is.

image002There we see the mill, with four plain sales. These are the simplest kind and they need to be covered in canvas to enable them to catch the wind and drive the milling mechanism. The mill may look as though it sits on the brick built roundhouse but in fact it is perched just above it. It sits on the massive post that gives this kind of mill the name of post mill.

All of the wooden structure is able to rotate so that the sails face the wind. In more recent mills this process was automated with a fantail but at Brill, once again, there is the simplest system. Another hefty post out of the back of the mill can be pushed by the miller. It’s as simple as that although no doubt it is quite hard work.

My photo print is quite small and when I enlarged it I was surprised to see my son on the hillside leading up to the mill.


Yep. That’s him. These days he and his wife and our granddaughter live in Buckinghamshire about twenty miles from the mill. Maybe we should visit it sometime – on a Sunday afternoon between Easter and the end of October so we can actually go in the mill.

More Sleeves

December 18, 2015

I like my old records and I can also be fond of the sleeves they are in. That’s odd, in a way, for I tend to dislike advertising these days for its ability to persuade people they must have things they don’t need, can’t afford and may not have space for. But old adverts – well, that was a bit different. They tended to be more factual in style, although they would, of course, have been hoping to persuade people to part with hard earned cash.

Here is one of them.


Well they tell us it is a record that appeals to everybody. That, I rather doubt. I do not know if I own the record, but I have grave doubts as to whether it would be a favourite of mine. I think the recording might date to 1927 so presumably the sleeve is much the same age.

The other side has more advertisers’ language to be wary of.


Now I’m happy to accept the greatest artists and the finest recording of that time. But perfect reproduction? On 78rpm records? I don’t really think you could get away with such economy with the truth these days.

I have another sleeve to show as well today.


This one, to my way of thinking, only gives facts. It is an Imperial record which you could purchase for 1/3 (about 6p in present money). Jack Payne and his Band were the performers and the recordings are new and exclusive to Imperial. We have a large Jack overseeing his band.

On the other side there is a manufacturer’s name.


Imperial Records were made by the Crystalate Gramophone Company who had headquarters in London, but a manufacturing factory in Tonbridge in Kent. I have plenty of relatives who worked at ‘The Crystalate as they called it. I don’t imagine the sleeves were produced there but I know they made the records. So I always imagine an Imperial record may have been through the hands of a member of my family.