Orchestrion

Visitors to Kinloch Castle are amazed at the wonderful Orchestrion. This magnificent instrument was originally ordered by Queen Victoria but she died before it could be delivered. Made by the German firm of Imhof and Mukle, it rested in their showroom for some time until Sir George Bullough decided to buy it for his castle. The Kinloch Castle instrument is one of the biggest ever made, and one of the few now left. It is in urgent need of restoration.

The Orchestrion is suffering from woodworm and the whole mechanism needs extensive repair. It is not in a playable condition at the moment. It is, however, repairable and the KCFA have asked Michael Macdonald, a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Organ Builders and who has also done some previous work on it, to give a quotation for the full cost of the work needed and also a costing for work which will rescue the instrument but not fully repair it. The full cost will be £35,880; the rescue alone £18,660. The KCFA are to launch an appeal to get funding for this work. The instrument, a highlight of tours of the castle, helps to make Rum an attraction for visitors which in turn helps the local economy. 

This instrument, job number 3220, was originally constructed by Messrs Imhof & Mukle of Vohrenbach, near Baden in the Black Forest in or around 1900.

The manufacture of barrel organs for the purpose of providing music originated in the Black Forest, but slowly builders appeared in Berlin , Leipzig and in Switzerland . These instruments were exported all over the World. It is generally thought that the Orchestrion was introduced into Britain in 1852 by Leopold Mukle, a clockmaker from the Black Forest who came to London at the same time as Daniel Imhof and had set up in partnership together. In 1874 the two men returned to Vohrenbach and established the Orchestrion factory, keeping showrooms in Oxford Street and Bedford Street in London .

 

At the beginning, the firm constructed barrel organs, but in 1898 the company had perfected their own 'Music Leaf System' comprising a roll of thick manila paper, more like cardboard, on beautifully made large wooden reels as used at Kinloch. These rolls were far more expensive than paper, but passed slowly through the key frame allowing more music per yard of length. Although the system was better and more durable, by 1915 they had changed over to perforated paper music in line with other manufacturers.

 

The era of the Orchestrion, which began slowly in 1852, exploded with a galaxy of truly marvellous instruments reaching its height by 1900. This was only terminated by the effects of the First World War and the invention of the Gramophone.

 

KCFA member and organ builder Stephen Frankland wrote an article about the Orchestrion which was published in the KCFA newsletter No 9 of March 2000 and is here reproduced by the kind permission of his widow, Frances.