My father bought me my first gramophone from a jumble sale in 1963 and gave it to me, aged five, as a cheap toy. Then my grandfather showed me how to take it apart properly, clean all the component parts and put it back together again and then – oh what magic – it worked! I was hooked, and for the next 15 years indulged in a fairly quirky hobby, collecting gramophones and the 78 RPM records to go with them, for pocket money.
By the 1980s gramophones were ceasing to be regarded as old junk, making the transition to collectable antiques. Antique dealers quickly realised that one that worked was worth a lot more than one that didn’t, and I realised that I had a saleable skill to offer. After a few years working for other traders I started my own shop at Alfies’ Antique Market in London, under the name ‘The Gramophone and Wireless Shop.’
The late 80s were a golden age for buying, restoring and selling mechanical antiques, but by 1992 the supply of machines from sale rooms and junk shops began to dry up, as auction houses started to post their sale catalogues on a new forum called ‘The Internet’, enabling collectors all around the world to bid for desirable ones directly. People are sorry to see a corner shop driven out of business by a big supermarket, or traditional fishermen forced to sell their boats because industrial trawlers have hoovered up all the cod, but no-one weeps for an antique dealer who’s lost his competitive advantage, so reluctantly I closed the shop and moved back to Sussex, creating a purpose – built gramophone workshop at my home in East Dean, a downland village near Chichester.
Having continued ever since to repair machines for dealers and collectors in my spare time, I now have the time to once again offer my services to the wider public.