Marple Local History Society

Marple, Marple Bridge, Mellor, Compstall, Strines, Hawk Green, Rose Hill, High Lane.

Click image to the music box cover

Most of us possess something that’s rather old, has seen better days, but which is far too interesting to throw away. Our Archive is no exception; the Archives team has worked hard for several years classifying and filing all our various documents and maps and has now moved on to the various artefacts we have been given over the years. One of the most unusual is a musical photograph album which doubled up as a souvenir of the life of William Gladstone, the “Grand Old Man” of Victorian politics.

It is a thick, leather bound book that opens up into several pages for family photographs (now gone) but the rest of the book is a compartment for a music box surrounded by portraits of famous musicians – the composers Wagner, Sullivan and Verdi and the singers Adeline Patti, Jenny Lind and Sims Reeves. The music box plays the tune “Soldiers of the Queen” or at least it used to. The title of the song is written in the book but the only way we can hear it is on YouTube: here 

We would love to hear the music box play its original tune once again. Does anyone know someone with the skills to mend a music box?

If we can’t find anybody, you would still be welcome to come along to Archives any Thursday morning and see the defunct mechanism but how much nice it would be if you could hear the original tune. Is there anyone out there who can hear our call? Please get in touch!

Hilary Atkinson - August 2023



Can you mend a music box?

I noticed a short article entitled “Can you mend a music box? in the recent edition of the Marple and High Peak Review. Marple Local History Archives had a thick, leather-bound, Victorian photograph album (now minus the photograph album section) and said they would love to hear the music box part of it play its original tune. Had anyone the skills to help?

What drew my eye was the photo of the album because I had a very similar one, passed down to me from my great aunt, who had inherited it from her mother – my great grandmother. Mine was in excellent condition, considering it was about 130 years old and what’s more, the music box still worked and the original key was in the box. I emailed Marple Local History Archives and was invited along (with my album) to one of their Thursday sessions at Mellor.

Two Music Boxes Sheila Holt (left) and the Gladstone (right) music boxes

The albums were indeed similar, at least the musical box section was, and I showed the group how, after winding up my album I could get the music mechanism working. Unfortunately the key to mine wasn’t compatible with the Archive’s music box but someone had improvised a watch key which worked and, hey presto, the music mechanism started to play. I wonder how many years had it been since it last played.

I was delighted to show off my album and gave a little of its history. It had belonged originally to my great grandmother, Martha Wilcoxon née Ashcroft 1861-1922. She was from a Lancashire family (near Ormskirk) born in Waterloo, Liverpool, and moved to Wallasey when she married in 1890. The photos in the album included some of my grandfather and his two sisters, one who had been a nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary in the 1890s. Many other Victorian characters, probably relatives, were there, one on a Penny Farthing. Sadly none of the photos had names to identify them – a lesson for us to write who the photos are of, (although how that works with digital photos is difficult).

I have traced my paternal Wilcoxon family back to the 1550s and Martha’s line to the mid 1700s - if only I could match the photos to the family names I have!

Note the difference between the two music boxes in depth

I realise how lucky I am that my family had these photographs taken – not cheap at that time, and that the album has been passed down for future generations. It was no doubt a treasured possession and my ancestors would have been thrilled to have known it was being looked at in the 21st century by the Marple Local History archive group.

Sheila Holt - November 2023
Photos - Bill Beard