Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Everybody knows who lives at the Old Rectory, Grantchester. Fewer people know who lives at the Old Rectory at Landbeach, another village also just a few miles outside Cambridge.
It is the home of Tom Poole and the Cambridge Pianola Company, which sells and renovates pianos and pianolas, those fascinating Victorian machines like a piano that plays itself.
If you live in or near East Anglia, and are looking for an affordable second-hand piano, I recommend you arrange a visit to Landbeach, where you will be able to choose between twenty or more. There is a very nice Zimmerman upright with a lovely tone, which would be my choice.
The Old Rectory is a house with a remarkable history. It dates back to Tudor times at least and incorporates some ancient carved archways, together with Restoration and Georgian extensions. On the outside it looks neat and symmetrical but inside it is a maze of rooms, creaking corridors and winding staircases. It is full of secret cupboards, hidden doors and passageways.
Tom Poole, who was born in a small cottage in Landbeach, bought this house with the proceeds of his work as a barrister. Then he was caught up in the Lloyds crash and for twenty years he faced the imminent prospect of having to sell it, with all its contents. But Lloyds found that Tom Poole was quite a tough nut to crack. He would not give in without a hell of a struggle, and in fact he fought back through the courts on behalf of a group of other Lloyds investors as well as himself. Tom, with his invaluable experience as a barrister, argued that there was a clause in some obscure contract or regulation document that required Lloyds to exercise more care than they had done. By demonstrating that Lloyds was guilty of some degree of negligence, he persuaded a court to shield the investors from unlimited liability, and while most still lost millions they were not forced to sell their homes.
The case was stressful and protracted, and the most remarkable thing about it is not only that Tom Poole won, but that he is totally blind and has been so from earliest childhood. His entire legal career was conducted by means of reading Braille, and it is with the help of Braille, and the telephone, that he now, in his retirement, runs the Cambridge Pianola Company. He employs three other people and sells pianos all over England and beyond.
There are also regular jazz evenings held at the Old Rectory where friends play sax, clarinet and of course piano, while hearers can sip wine and enjoy the scent of a nice, big log fire.
If you are looking for a piano (or pianola) you can get in touch with the Old Rectory on 01223.861507.