Secrets of the EMI Archive – 2

Queen Mary’s Doll’s House Gramophone

The 78 record pictured (top) was made specially for the Queen’s Doll’s House. It measures just 3.4cm across and plays ‘God Save The King’. 

By David Hughes MBE – Trustee of EMI Archive Trust.

Surely, as a child or adult, you will have visited Windsor Castle, the current Queen’s favourite Royal residence, despite the planes roaring into Heathrow every 2-3 minutes. Once there, equally surely you would have made a beeline for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. Designed and built by Sir Edward Lutyens in the 1920’s, when the Queen would have been in her fifties, this is no child’s plaything, but a wonder to behold.

Among the myriad of miniature wonders is a fully working wind-up gramophone, a replica of one of The Gramophone Company’s top models of the time.
Measuring 10.5 x 6.6 x 5.4cm “Seventy people from the Gramophone Co.Ltd were involved in the various stages of its manufacture. The record on it is ‘God save the King’.  It was banished to the nursery by Queen Mary as ‘G (George V) hates them’”…presumably she was referring to dolls’ houses rather than gramophones!!


A cut out and keep model of The ‘HMV Gramophone’ in the  Queens Dolls House – part of EMI Archive Trust.

At the archive are not only copies of the discs, (in addition to God Save the King pictured  5 other recordings, each running for approximately 10 seconds were manufactured – (Men of Harlech, St Patricks’s Day, Rule Britannia, Blue Bells of Scotland and Home Sweet Home), but the original metal work used to press the shellac discs. As well as a huge honour, this must have been an extraordinary and unique challenge for the engineers at Hayes. It seems The Company was able to recoup some of the costs of making this wonderful machine and discs by selling authentic copies at their licensed retail shops…what’s the equivalent of 1924 sixpence in today’s money?!

You can listen to one of our tiny records here – “Men of Harlech” by the Coldstream Guards, HMV Catalogue No. BB 2443, 1924.

Lead image courtesy of  Thomas butler photography part of collection.