16 June 2020
Visitor Assistant Andrew Smith takes a closer look at some of the furniture in the Kettle’s Yard House.
Jim Ede bought this 18th Century French bread maker’s cabinet in 1952 when he and Helen moved to Les Charlottiers, a farmhouse in the Loire Valley. The former owner of the farmhouse, Mons. Beranger, sold it to Jim for three pounds.
It’s made from walnut which has developed a rich patina over years of use. It’s a good height for kneading dough, with plenty of room to store flour and other ingredients. As if by chance, the cabinet lines up almost perfectly with the dimensions of the William Congdon painting above, (but nothing in Kettle’s Yard is arranged by chance). The bottom part of the painting looks, from some angles, as if it might be a reflection of the top surface of the chest.
Purists might quibble over some of the damage and ‘non-original features’ of this piece of furniture. On the top is a stain left by a Stanley Knife hooked blade, presumably its protective grease reacted with traditional wax polish of the chest. Inside, the cabinet has been extensively remodelled and parts of the base have been cut away.
When he moved to Cambridge, Jim decided that the cabinet should have a new function. With the help of furniture restorer Bill Chapman from Stockbridge’s antique shop, who modified the internal structure, and an unnamed student who fitted and connected the components, Jim had it converted into a gramophone. Inside, (and sorry but we’re not allowed to open it for you), on the left side there’s a Garrard ‘5 HF’ turntable and Leak ‘Point One Plus’ mono amplifier, and on the right side there’s a large enclosure for a ten inch loudspeaker which is mounted in the base facing downwards. A metal grille has been introduced in the base to provide cooling ventilation for the valves in the amplifier.
These components look a little crude now, but in 1963 they were state-of-the-art. The amplifier was one of the last mono hi-fi products, and was soon joined in the Leak range by a stereo version.
I’d love to hear it play a record. I don’t imagine the sound quality would be particularly good. The ventilation grille relies on gravity to hold it in place and would surely have rattled on lower frequencies. The hinged lid of the speaker enclosure is lined with a piece of blanket material, presumably to prevent rattles and to dampen internal vibrations. Another, rather more attractive, piece of blanket has been pinned to the underside of the original lid of the cabinet.
The gramophone probably hasn’t been played since Jim left Kettle’s Yard in 1973. Mechanical parts will have seized, connectors corroded, and electrical components degraded over time. Spare parts hard to come by. Beyond economical repair.