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Music Room

The trompe-le-oil ceiling depicts baby angels playing instruments and the baby angel over the window is just curious as to what is happening on the floor.

The ceiling was painted by students from Gateshead College. The fabric of the wall hangings and drapes was specially ordered from a mill in the Como district of Italy. The carpet is a hand woven Beshir and incorporates their traditional ‘Guls’ design. 28ft. by 13ft. The chandelier was purchased in Belgium. The oak fireplace with shields is original to the castle. The Gothic cabinet was restored by students at Lincoln College.

Many of the Automatic Music Machine Collection in this room are considered amongst the finest and rarest in the world. They include:

The Mills Violano-Virtuoso manufactured in Chicago, Illinois by the Mills Novelty Company between 1900 and 1930. Nearly 5,000 of these instruments were produced, most of them in plain rectangular cases of oak and mahogany. The very ornate and attractive “Commercial” model in the Allerton Castle collection is a notable exception. Made about 1914 the instrument features a curved quartered-oak case with Florentine brass decorations. Music is produced by a real violin, played by four rosined celluloid circular bow wheels which turn at varying speeds upon the desired strings. Tiny metal ‘fingers’ stop each violin string at intervals. A forty-four note piano provides musical accompaniment to the violin. The Mills Novelty Company billed the instrument as ‘the word’s greatest musical attraction” and noted that ‘no composition is too difficult for the Violano-Virtuoso’. Classical, operatic and even popular music are all equally well played. Every note is clear, full and true. It is, without doubt, the musical masterpiece of its day.

The Wurlitzer Automatic Harp is one of the rarest and most unusual of all the mechanical machines built. Its rich Italianate curved case, carved and formed of quartered oak, looks much like a very fine harp. However inside the case is the mechanism that automatically plucks each individual harp string, utilising tiny mechanical ‘fingers’. Perforated paper rolls provide a varied programme of six songs each. The automatic harp was first patented in 1899 by J.W. Whitelock of Rising Sun, Indiana. In 1905 the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was given an exclusive license to market the product. The first Wurlitzer harp, the Model A, was contained in a square case bearing no resemblance to an actual harp. The harp in the Allerton Castle collection, Model B, was introduced in about 1908. Relatively few instruments of this style were manufactured and only about ten are known to have survived.

The Encore Automatic Banjo features a real four-string banjo. Leather covered buttons press the appropriate frets for the desired notes and the strings are plucked by metal ‘fingers’. Like many of these instruments, the music is punched on a perforated paper roll. It is not known how many Encore Banjo’s were manufactured by The American Automatic Banjo Company of New Jersey but only about 20 survived.

The Regina Orchestral Corona (Style 33) was the ‘king’ of a range of disc-type music boxes manufactured by The Regina Music Box Company in Rathway, New Jersey. This instrument uses a 27 inch perforated disc, the largest disc used by any player. The duplex music combs have a total of 172 teeth tuned in chromatic scales embracing over seven octaves providing over twice the music ranged over a concert grand piano. This allows presentation of very long intricate compositions. According to a brochure, ‘because of the very large discs and combs and the piano sounding board, it has a volume and sweetness of tone to be compared to the finest piano.’ The oak case of this instrument is the most ornate of the cases available. It has spool railing or gallery across the top with brass at each front corner. Note the painted cherubs on the sound board at the rear which provided the inspiration for the baby angels painted in the ceiling. The first Regina Orchestral Carona was shipped on March 12th 1897. This particular instrument dates from late 1900. Production ceased in 1908.

The Regina Hexaphone six selection phonograph was the first “juke box”. This instrument allowed the operator to select the tune of their choice from the six Edison or Columbia cylinder records. The instrument is entirely mechanical and very loud. Volume control is efficient and simple – by stuffing a stocking down the throat of the horn. Note the mechanics behind the glass.