Tour of the Poppy Factory

Welcome to the Orihuela Costa and District Branch of The Royal British Legion

Tour of the Poppy Factory and the Musical Museum

The Totton Branch of the U3A, of which the sister of Dee Reeves is a member, recently visited the Poppy Factory and the Musical Museum. Here is an account of her day.

Having dragged ourselves out of bed at some unearthly hour in the morning we made our way to Salisbury Road to catch a coach for 8am. Then it was up the M3 to Richmond (without too much delay) to the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory. Strangely it is not actually part of the Royal British Legion but it is the only organisation that they supply.

The factory was established in 1920, the brain child of Major George Howson MC and Major Jack Cohen, plus a grant of £2,000 from the Royal British Legion to employ disabled ex-service personnel. Today it continues to employ disabled ex-servicemen both in the factory and also as home workers. But it goes further, helping them with job applications, training as well as finding them employment in different areas of commerce.

The workforce is mainly made up of disabled veterans and their dependants. They produce 9 million ordinary poppies each year plus 80,000 poppy wreaths, including many for the Royal Family, other dignitaries and for all the armed services.

It also makes the oblong setting that surrounds the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. This is replaced every six months and refreshed. It was interesting to know that the Queen, the Princes of Wales and Cambridge and Prince Harry each choose their own designs.

Following the ceremony on Remembrance Day all the wreaths are removed and burned and the ashes scattered in Normandy.

The factory also makes the 2 million paper petals which cascade from the roof of the Albert Hall at the end of the Remembrance Service as well as the small wooden tokens of remembrance.

After chatting to some of the workers we were invited to make our own poppy but only using one hand! Then it was a quick visit to see the machines which are used for cutting out the poppies and the gift shop.

Leaving the Poppy Factory it was a quick lunch before re boarding the coach for the Musical Museum.

It is situated in a purpose built and designed building into which it transferred 10 years ago. We were given a very warm welcome and were soon immersed in its main collection with a very able guide whose enthusiasm bubbled as he demonstrated an array of sophisticated self-playing pianos, violins, orchestrions, orchestrelles and organs which were once installed in the large houses and mansions in the 1800s and early 20th century.

They were subsequently superseded by electronic instruments, films and the other modern methods of providing entertainment.

The intricacies of some of their workings was almost spell-binding. A piano roll with the notes of music punched out was demonstrated and we all joined in with a grand rendition of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” followed by a recital from Rachmaninoff.

We completed our visit in the Concert Hall for teas and biscuits and we were entertained by a demonstration of the “Mighty Wurlitzer” console which could rise from beneath the stage. The demonstrator (curator of the museum) then answered all our questions with great knowledge. We had a quick visit to the gift shop for souvenirs before re-joining the coach for our homeward journey.

A most enjoyable and diverse day out.

Words by Chris...Pictures by Sandra

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