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The Kelly Street Harmonium

It was: Made on Kelly Street.

Then: Found on Kelly Street.

Finally: Played on Kelly Street.

What is a harmonium, we hear you ask?

FYI, it's a portable reed organ powered by foot pedals.

But that's not really important right now. Read on for the Kelly Street connection.

This tale begins with the 1871 census.

Shortly after it was published on this website, Graeme Durham called to ask if we realised that the 1871 census showed that a harmonium tuner/maker lived at 37 Kelly Street.

He did. Robert Snell lived at 37 Kelly Street. And his sons, Edward and William, were in the business too.

"Well", said Graeme, "Then I have an original harmonium made on the street. It is very beautiful and still works. It was a gift from a good friend who saw the Kelly Street connection and gave it to me as a present."

WOW. Let's do a reality check on this (they are all the rage at the moment :-)

So, who was Robert Snell and his sons who lived at 37 Kelly Street?

(Definitely not Robert Snell from the Archers)

As it happens, they were all quite famous organ makers.

Your intrepid investigator now breaches all the lock-down rules and ventures 20 meters up the street to find out more. With carefully pre-arranged social distancing, Graeme let me in to see his amazing organ. {fnar, fnar! - let's get all of this out of the way - for those who might have read VIZ comic c.1990's}

Graeme's harmonium features a lovely painted sign showing the company and its location.

No way could one of our tiny KS houses have been an organ factory, could it?

A bit more research was due.

RF Stevens Ltd had already become a well established keyboard manufacturer, differentiating themselves from the multitude of piano builders already established in the Kentish Town area, by building harmoniums and reed organs.

So on the assumption that Graeme's harmonium originated on Kelly Street, it must have been built between 1929 and 1951. Sadly, we know that Robert Stevens had passed away by then and his sons had moved on.

However, we can see that the Kelly Street works were based in the Royal Mail Yard - that must be the current {eyesore} BT yard, right?

Please let me have any more info, updates or corrections for this website.

Finally, let's have Graeme to play us out.

See all the images in the RF Stevens gallery here

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