No. 968: Adelaide Street, WC2
Adelaide Street, London, WC2. Photo © Roger Dean 2013
Curiosities of London Life: or, Phases, Physiological and Social, of the Great Metropolis – Charles Manby Smith, 1857:
[Handcart-organists] generally travel in firms of two, three, or even four partners, drawing the cart by turns. Their equipage consists of an organ of very complicated construction, containing, besides a deal of very marvellous machinery within its entrails, a collection of bells, drums, triangles, gongs, and cymbals, in addition to the usual quantity of pipes and metal-reeds that go to make up the travelling organ. The music they play is of a species that is not very easy to describe, as it is not once in a hundred times that a stranger can detect the melody through the clash and clangor of the gross amount of brass, steel, and bell-metal put in vibration by the machinery. This, however,if of very little consequence as it is not the music in particular which forms the principal attraction: if it serve to call a crowd together, that is sufficient for their purpose; and it is for this reason, we imagine, that the effect of the whole is contrived to resemble, as it very closely does, the hum and jangle of Greenwich Fair when heard of an Easter Monday from the summit of the Observatory Hill. No, the main attraction is essentially dramatic. In front of the great chest of heterogeneous sounds there is a stage about five or six feet in width, four in height, and perhaps 18 inches or two feet in depth. Upon this are a variety of figures, about fourteen inches long. gorgeously arrayed in crimson, purple, emerald-green, blue, and orange draperies, and loaded with gold and tinsel, and sparkling stones and spangles, all doubled in splendour by the reflection of a mirror in the background. The figures, set in motion by the same machinery which grinds the incomprehensible overture, perform a drama equally incomprehensible. At the left-hand corner is Daniel in the lion’s den, the lion opening his mouth in six-eight time, and an angel with outspread wings, but securely transfixed through the loins by a revolving brass pivot, shutting it again to the same lively movement.