As home to Britain’s most comprehensive collection of musical instruments, the Horniman has an impressive selection of historic European instruments in its interactive Music Gallery. Highlights include a German baroque lute (c.1740) made by J.S.Hoffman - a contemporary of J.S. Bach in Leipzig - and the first ever British-made French Horn made by William Bull, London, 1699. There is also an extensive collection of concertinas on display illustrating the evolution in design of this unique instrument.
Other instruments from Europe include examples of the distinctive Serpentine. Invented in France around 1590, the Serpentine is a bass member on the coronet family that was used in English churches in the 17th century and later featured in military bands. There is also a Hofner Bass on display in tribute to its worldwide popularity. This hollow body ‘Violin Bass’ electric guitar was first produced in 1956 by the German firm Hofner and is reminiscent of the double bass, the instrument it was designed to supplant. The popularity of the Hofner 500/1 was also due to it being the preferred model of choice for Sir Paul McCartney who still plays the instrument to this day.
Visitors can also marvel at the recently renovated Apostle Clock that was made in the Black Forest in the mid-nineteenth century. Cased in Walnut, the clock depicts scenes from Jesus’ life and features the Apostles passing in front of Christ. Each Apostle bows until it comes to Judas’ turn, who turns away from him.
Finally, the Spanish Torture Chair – once thought to have been used during the Spanish Inquisition but is now considered to be partly fake – has captured the curiosity of visitors for decades in the Centenary Gallery. Founder Frederick Horniman was also an avid collector of European folk art and examples on display in the Centenary Gallery include a selection of tradesman figures, ‘ugly’ masks from the border region of the Tyrol, animal masks from Poland and Punch and Judy puppets from England.