Yesterday I recorded a podcast for History Today magazine, something I have never done before. And afterwards,since it was a nice day, T and I took a really pleasant walk around the central part of London and ended up in Whitfield Street, London W.1, at Pollocks Toy Museum.
Downstairs is an old fashioned shop, of the type which has pretty well disappeared now. Not much has been changed (and in fact this is a bone of contention because the shop's owner is NOT modernising or doing very much to the museum and the trust which owns the toys wants him to.... but I won't go into all this.) Let me just say that Pollocks also specialises in toy theatres, and the characters for them, and the toyshop grew out of the print making business.
It's typical of the shop that it doesn't even have a notice on the polyphon to say what it is, and most visitors probably don't know - but if you recognise it and ask the lady at the desk - there she is on the right, below - then she will get an old brown penny and put it in the slot at the side, and the
I filmed it yesterday and put it on Youtube so here it is below. (Sorry about the bit in the middle where I tried to show the enormous steel disk rotating inside the musical box and it was too dark - duh.). At the end you will see the little dog who likes to guard the reception desk, walking back to his place and sitting down.
It is really very nice, AND they give away free sweets in the shop!
This type of musical box was sometimes used in pubs in Victorian days - what they had instead of the juke box I suppose. Long ago I went into a pub in Suffolk and to my amazement there was a polyphon on the wall which was still in operational order. The pub had sawdust on the floor, and was full of local old men sitting round silently. It was a real village inn of a type that seemed extremely old fashioned even then. I suppose it has become a gastro pub or something now because I have never found it again and can't find anything about it on the internet.
Anyway. it is nice to look round Pollocks to the music of the polyphon, neither of them very modern and yet somehow both appealing. If you are in London and want to visit, it, it's open 10-5 Monday to Saturday and is at 1 Scala St, London W1T 2HL, just off Tottenham Court Road. It doesn't seem to have a website - so don't confuse it with Benjamin Pollocks in Covent Garden (which is also good - but not the same).