On the first Sunday of the month, between November and March, surprising noise issues from a unit on a small industrial estate, just off Amersham’s Plantation Road, a few minutes from the railway station. The source of the noise takes a bit of finding. You have to locate the right, inconspicuous white door. Once you open it and step through, prepare for an assault on your senses.
For this is the unlikely home of the Amersham Fair Organ Museum, a collection of English fair organs guaranteed to press your nostalgia buttons and transport you to holidays, long ago, the moment they begin to play. Fairground organs evolved from street barrel organs, with the music being created from folding sheets of perforated cardboard music. Travelling showmen used them, at least until the interwar years when amplified music began to come in.
Although this means almost everyone who heard and saw fairground organs in their heyday must be gone, there is no lack of interest or enthusiasm even today, as the audience sits with their tea and cake to listen to It’s a long way to Tipperary and other tunes from years gone by (and even, God help us, the music from those annoying Go Compare ads…) The Museum is a registered charity and runs occasional special events for subscribing Friends, as well as its Open Days. It’s a visual and aural feast, and an important link back to one of the ways in which our ancestors used to enjoy themselves.