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Extensive museum exhibit in former England hospital

By Neal McChristy
04-Apr-00

Les OwenIn a 19th-century hospital reputed to have once been visited by Florence Nightingale is a place where a large assortment of antique typewriters and cash registers are on display.

The Landbee Collection, a museum housing antique equipment, is located approximately 12 miles from Liverpool in an area of northwest England. Liverpool, the closest port in England to Ireland, has a high Irish population. The grandmother of the founder of the museum, Les Owen, was Irish.

Owen was with National Cash Register Co. from 1958-1962 as a cash-register salesman. "Hence my interest in cash registers," Owen said. "I left them in 1962 to become self-employed selling typewriters, cash registers and the usual run of calculators and commercial stationery. We were Olympia and Sweda agents."

MuseumOwen sold this business in 1984 and eventually formed a printing company that he said lasted until two or three years ago.

"Fortunately, when we sold the businesses we kept ownership of the premises - an old Cottage Hospital - which is an excellent place to house an antique collection," Owen said.

The name "Cottage Hospital" is a name once used for small hospitals built in England. The hospital that would one day house the collection was built in Haydock outside St. Helens in 1886 and was reputed to have been visited by Florence Nightingale in her late life, according to Gary Campbell. Campbell is one of two people employed at the museum, and notes: "When Mr. Owen first came here there were still remnants of the old Victorian operating theatre and the mortuary, the latter still being used until the late 1960s. The hospital finally closed in the 1980s, at which time Mr Owen decided to buy it."

Owen started the Landbee Collection several years ago. "This was basically an excuse for me to collect the typewriters and cash registers and tin toys I admired," Owen said, "and to con my wife into thinking that it was to be a profit-making business idea, rather than a pretty costly hobby. The collection grew to include other items that interested me."

The Landbee Collection includes mechanical music boxes, cameras, scientific equipment, trains and tin toys, in addition to office equipment. Among the latest additions to our collection are a New Crandall typewriter and two antique printing presses (1882 and 1884). Said Owen: "The presses have pride of place in the foyer."

"All the equipment is on public display, and we use the premises, on occasion, to hold small functions to raise money for a local charity with which my wife is involved."

Editor's Note: Rental of The Landbee Collection pieces is possible and the company will appraise. Some items are for sale. Contact by e-mail by clicking here or, for more information about items for sale, visit the Web site at http://www.landbee.co.uk/aboutus.html.

Do you know someone who collects antique office equipment for a hobby and would make a good subject for "Yesterday's Office?" If so, click here to e-mail Neal McChristy, editor.

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