The historic record collection we built by accident

The gramophone at Polesden Lacey

Recent cataloguing work by the house team here at Polesden Lacey has revealed that over the course of two decades, donations of gramophone records from visitors and volunteers have accumulated to form an outstanding historic collection of early 20th century music.

For over 20 years, gramophone records have become a familiar part of a visit to Polesden Lacey. However, when the house was left to the National Trust upon Mrs Greville’s death in 1942, there were no gramophones or records within the inherited collection.
 

Recreating atmosphere through music

The house team decided to buy two gramophone players in order to enhance the visitor experience for those touring the house. The grainy melodies of a bygone era really evoke the atmosphere of what it was like when Margaret Greville entertained royals, politicians and poets here from 1908 – 1942.
 

The donations that became a collection

We started collecting records to play in the house and suddenly we began receiving stacks of records from generous volunteers and even visitors. Some of them are really rare.
 
The donated record collection stretches back as far as 1914. The majority of the collection is made up of the back catalogue of Joe Loss and Victor Silvester, both of whom were highly popular in the British dance band era during the 1930s.
 

Star finds and famous names

However, there are also some rarely heard recordings by famous names. One recording of ‘Waltz of my heart’ and ‘I can give you the starlight’ sung by Mary Ellis, features the great Ivor Novello on piano and is signed by both stars. Another record boasts the earliest published recording of Gracie fields singing ‘My blue heaven’ and ‘Because I love you’ back in 1928.
 
Perhaps the star discovery and my personal favourite is a recording of George Gershin’s ‘Rhapsody in blue’ with Gershwin at the piano playing alongside the Paul Whiteman orchestra, who commissioned the work in 1924.
 
We've worked really hard to clean, label and catalogue the collection of over 580 records and visitors can now browse the titles on the National Trust Collections website. If you'd like to hear a particular record then do speak to one of our room guides on your next visit to the house.
 
The house team cleaned and labeled over 580 records
The house team cleaning and label items from Polesden Lacey's historic record collection