Melba time capsule mystery – can you help?

On the 13th May 1907 opera singer (later Dame) Nellie Melba ceremonially placed the cornerstone for the Gramophone Company and Typewriter Ltd, New Cabinet Factory at Hayes, Middlesex. It is rumoured during this ceremony a time capsule of recorded music was deposited with the cornerstone. Whether or not this is true is difficult to say.

We know the French branch of the Gramophone Company deposited time capsules (sealed urns of recording discs) in 1907 at the Paris Opéra.  In 1989 these sealed urns were transferred into the care of Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) and in 2007 the time capsules were opened to great celebration, almost 100 years to the day of the original deposit.

EMI in collaboration with BNF and Paris Opéra later released ‘Les Urnes de L’Opéra’, in 2009,  based on the recordings discovered and digitised from copies held by the BNF record library to avoid damaging the delicate time capsule collection. 

With the evidence that the company deposited a time capsule in Paris in 1907, is it possible the Gramophone Company Head Quarters in Hayes followed suit?  Some believe one was deposited but without evidence it remains a mystery.

The Melba cornerstone was moved in 1971 to the EMI archive building in Hayes and was later gifted to the EMI Archive Trust collection in 1996.

Our archive holds no records on the Melba stone move or anything else that might have been with it. If you hold any information e.g. photos, archives or articles about the Hayes time capsule, we love to hear from you – you can email our tips hotline at the following:

Pictured Left to Right: Theodore Birnbaum- MD Gram Co, Trevor Williams – Chairman Gram Co, Madame Nellie Melba- New Cabinet Factory at Hayes, Middlesex, 13th May 1907. Photo part of the EMI Archive Trust collection.