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A few weeks ago I wrote one of my own “One Man and His Dog” columns about my sadness at the passing of the good, old fashioned typewriter. And a few days later I received a phone call from Les Holmes of Hightown. Les told me he had built up a typewriter museum – would I be interested in coming and having a look?
Would I? I wouldn’t have missed it for the world – or if I had, I’d certainly missed one of Sefton’s hidden jewels.
In fact, Les’ tiny museum, housed in little more than a large garage, is more than a museum of typewriters (though it is one of the most comprehensive collections of them in the country).
Because Les wanted to link his machines with the people and businesses in and around Merseyside which used them.
So along with some 200 typewriters, some now really quite valuable, there are photos of old Liverpool institutions and people, other business ephemera including an old “time clock”, a truly frightening looking till, a Liverpool Corporation bus conductor’s ticket machine, photos of offices and shops, mostly long gone or now serving different purposes from those intended.
But all linked one way or another to the good old mechanical typewriter. Of course, even before he started his museum, Les knew a thing or two about typewriters. Before he retired he was a typewriter engineer, travelling all over the area repairing different machines which for a century or more kept the wheels of commerce turning.
Which makes it wonderful that Les styles his marvellous collection: “The Museum of Commercial History of Liverpool”.
Above all else though, it is a comprehensive history of the typewriter – and its place in history.
It all started when Les retired. “At first I just started collecting, hopefully to get one example of each make of portable typewriter I’d worked on”, he says. Well he did that – and more. The earliest machines he serviced and repaired dated from the late 1920’s to early `30’s.
But the star of his show, and the machine he reckons is probably his favourite, is a Remington typewriting machine dating from 1885 or thereabouts – right at the beginning of typewriters as we knew them. “I had to save like hell to get it. It’s the closest thing to the first commercially produced typewriter you can get. Anyway it just looks nice!”
Les would like to let interested parties come and see his collection but logistically it is difficult. “It would be nice to bring in a class from Edge Hill University so they could see how things were before spell-checkers and automatic this and thats”, he says.
It’s a problem I really hope he solves because his is a truly brilliant museum which links old buildings, the people who worked in them and the machines they used in their work.
(The Champion – Wednesday 13th July 2011)
The Brother Factory in Wrexham, North Wales On the 16th of November 2012, the last typewriter to be produced in the UK by Brother, rolled off the production line in Wrexham North Wales. This ended a run of approximately 5.9 million that had been produced in Wrexham since the factory opened in 1985.
Les Holmes has been to Wrexham, to visit the factory and has been presented with one of the very last Brother CM-1000 models that were part of this momentous period in typewriter history. Les is pleased to have this machine on display in his Museum, and thanks all the people at Brother Industries UK Ltd who made this possible.