Antique phonograph rescued for a second time at Newbury and Thatcham Repair Café

Antique phonograph, rescued from the Great Flood at Canvey Island in 1953, is ‘rescued’ again at the Newbury and Thatcham Repair Café

An 1896 cylindrical phonograph was brought along to the Repair Cafe by local resident Peter on Sunday 28 April 2024 for a replacement drive belt.  The phonograph was originally purchased by Peter’s grandfather during the early 1900s when he was courting his wife-to-be.  The pair set up home on Canvey Island, a very low-lying area of Essex.

On the night of January 31, 1953, a storm surged in the North Sea, caused by a very high spring tide and unusual weather conditions. Many villages and towns on the UK’s east coast were engulfed in water.  On Canvey Island the storm overwhelmed the sea wall and flooded the island.  Sadly 58 people on Canvey Island lost their lives but Peter’s grandparents manage to survive 12 hours in freezing cold water before being rescued by boat. Afterwards they moved to other accommodation.

When the floods subsided several weeks later, Peter’s father and other relatives returned to the home to salvage as much as possible, and the phonograph was found, completely covered in mud.  Peter, then aged 15 years, cleaned the phonograph and got it working again, and his grandfather then gave it to him – a treasured family heirloom. Peter even created a new coiled metal drive belt to replace the original one – he loved the phonograph.

At the Repair Café on Sunday, a volunteer investigated why the phonograph wasn’t working any more, and diagnosed a loose ‘flywheel’ which he tightened up.  The drive belt Peter had made back in 1953 still worked!

The sound of the phonograph playing again was heard throughout the Café!  Peter is delighted. Now it’s been repaired it will be given to his daughter.  It will have been in the family for five generations, thanks to the care Peter has given it since he was a teenager and the skill of our volunteer.

Our monthly repair cafes run on Sunday afternoons in Newbury, and Sunday mornings in Thatcham. Please see here for upcoming dates.

Newbury & Thatcham Repair Cafe



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