Museum Brings the Music Back to Brentford

The Musical Museum opens the doors to its new purpose built home

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The Musical Museum, 399 High Street, Brentford, TW8 0DU

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After more than 40 years as an important feature of local life, the world famous Musical Museum has opened in its new purpose-built home.

The museum, opened officially on Tuesday 27 November, will receive a few finishing touches to the exhibits and the concert hall throughout the winter in readiness for the Grand Opening in spring 2008.

“Not only have we moved into new premises,” says Michael Ryder, Chairman of the Museum, “but we have also taken another giant step. Until now the Museum has always been staffed by volunteers. Now we have a newly appointed General Manager, Dave Gibson; and will, over the course of the next few months be appointing a catering manager, an education officer and a caretaker.”

The Musical Museum contains one of the world’s foremost collections of automatic musical instruments. From the tiniest of clockwork musical boxes to the self-playing ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ the collection embraces an impressive and comprehensive array of sophisticated reproducing pianos, orchestrions, orchestrelles, residence organs and violin players and also the world's largest collection of historic musical rolls.

The new Museum building, supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, is arranged on three floors. There are four galleries on the ground floor in which working instruments are displayed, providing a superb venue to demonstrate instruments once found in large houses of the wealthy; there’s a street setting with shop windows full of music, musical toys and street instruments; a gallery in which exhibits explain how music was ‘captured’ and how instruments were powered; and a fourth gallery in which the exhibits will be changed periodically and which is designed to incorporate not only instruments and music but other local interests.

“We are thrilled to finally be opening our doors to visitors,” says Michael Ryder. “We moved out of St George’s Church in Brentford High Street, our original home for 43 years, in June 2006. And what a sight that was as volunteers took on the arduous task of moving well over 40 tons of instruments and equipment by van and by pushing them along Brentford High Street!

“Since then we have been on a true roller-coaster ride. The builders charged with the fitting out of the building went into administration and new ones had to be found to finish the job; the giant lift – which can take up to 50 people – has been a never-ending challenge, not least of all because the lift supplier sub-contracted the work to another contractor without consulting our builders, which caused delaying contractual problems. At times we have felt a little like the characters in that Flanders and Swann song “The Gas Man Cometh” as we have almost lurched from one drama to another!

“Now though, all that is forgotten. We are about to declare ‘we’re open for business and enjoyment’ and look forward to welcoming old friends to our new home, and meeting lots of new ones. I would like to thank all – the Heritage Lottery Fund (who awarded the Museum £1,853,000), volunteers, Friends, and the London Borough of Hounslow for the tremendous support they have given us over the past two years. Now we can all enjoy the fruits of our labours and turn our attention to enthusing visitors of all ages about the history and delights of automatic musical instruments.”

More than a Museum

The second floor of The Musical Museum houses a concert hall seating 230 complete with stage and an orchestra pit from which the Wurlitzer console will rise to entertain visitors, just as it did in the cinemas of the 1930s. This area is also available for hire for conferences and social events; and the Museum boasts a coffee shop overlooking the river.

There are workshops in which conservation and repair work can be carried out on the incomparable collection of instruments on the second floor and a library holding the Museum’s collection of over 30,000 music rolls.

Opening times and prices Autumn-Winter 2007/8
The cost for attending the ‘sneak preview’ weekend (24-25 November) being run by the Friends of the Musical Museum is just £1 per head.

From 27 November the Musical Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday each week from 11.00-17.30 (last admissions 16.00). Standard entry is £7.00; Concessions (UB40, Student card, Pensioners): £5.50; Children under 16: free (but all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult). Pre-booked parties of 25 or more are entitled to a discount of £1.50 per person. There is disabled access to all areas.

November 28, 2007