great places to visit off the beaten path.
This museum has nothing to do with West End musicals… but everything to do with self-playing ‘musical’ instruments. This fascinating range of self-playing instruments and music rolls tells the story of how people listened to music before the days of microphones and electronics. The collection started in the 1960s and has grown over the years but has always focused on musical devices that playback music. The smallest items in the collection are clockwork musical boxes. The large items are sizeable – including a ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ organ. In between there are a variety of reproducing pianos, self-playing violins (quite fascinating), orchestrions and orchestrelles. All new words to me! Visitors here tend to be surprised at how much they enjoy the museum. Many people who write reviews on well known traveller websites often rate this one of their best museum experiences in London.
Combining a visit here with a visit to the Kew Bridge Steam museum makes for a great afternoon out. See my review on the Steam Museum here.
The museum is housed in a new modern facility that opened in 2008. This large building houses the museum on the ground floor across several galleries. Upstairs is the concert hall that contains the Wurlitzer that was originally housed at the Regal Cinema in Kingston. Guided tours are £10 and well worth it as they really bring the story of the instruments to life. The purchase of a tour also allow for unlimited free admission for a year.
Special Events: Throughout the year various special events are held that utilize the Wurlitzer or other musical instruments. These special events include concerts, films and dance shows. A full listing of all the events are available on their website. For example, classic black and white films accompanied or preceded by Wurlitzer music is quite spectacular. Scenes from some of these classic films are captured in art by their Artist in Residence – all of which are for sale. Admission prices for special events typically range from £5 – £10.
Visiting: Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays from 11am-5pm, last entry is at 4pm. Tours with live demonstrations (including the Mighty Wurlitzer) at 11.30am, 1.30pm & 3.30pm. An audio tour (in several languages) is available.
Riverview Tearoom: With a view of the Thames, this tearoom offers the usual range of food and drink. Open when the museum is open.
Located at: 399 High Street, Brentford, TW8 0DU
Closest Transport: Kew Bridge overground (from Waterloo); or District Line to Gunnersbury, then 237 or 267 bus; or Piccadilly Line to South Ealing, then 65 Bus.