Discover A Hidden Collection Of Musical Stones


Did you know that rocks make musical sounds and can be made into instruments?  A rare set of heritage musical stones, known as a ‘lithophone’, is now displayed in the conservatory at Cliffe Castle museum for visitors to play. Re-discovered after years in storage, the stones were donated to the museum in 1906 by Henry Phillipson, who was the museum curator at the time.

Musical stones like these became very popular in the 19th Century, but few have survived to this day. The first set of musical stones dates back to 1785 when Peter Crosthwaite found six tuned bars in a river near Skiddaw in the Lake District. Another stonemason and self-taught musician, Joseph Richardson, later built a huge lithophone and toured Europe, giving royal command performances to Queen Victoria.

There is some mystery around the Cliffe Castle set of musical stones, as we don’t yet know who made them. One possibility is William Till, who went on to make several instruments. One of his instruments that has some similarities to the Cliffe Castle instrument, made its way to the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The musical stones at Cliffe Castle are a type of rock known as hornfels, and you can discover more about this metamorphic rock in the museum’s extensive geology collection.

This project has been delivered in partnership with Quarry Arts and has been funded by the Arts Council England Project Grants with further funding from the Cliffe Castle Support Group, Kala Sangam and Ilkley & District Round Table.

Come and join us at the museum on Saturday 3rd December 2022 for a recital and informal talk to find out more about musical stones and hear four new compositions written especially for the instrument.

Just turn up – however please note seating for this event will be first come first served!

And you can make an afternoon of it – because from 4pm, Cliffe Castle Park will be hosting an evening of art, music, performance and more to get you in the festive spirit.

The event on Saturday 3 December from 4pm – 6pm is to celebrate the launch of Keighley Photo Hub’s new exhibition, Photosynthesis, which will see Cliffe Castle’s glasshouses covered in photographic images created by the local community using plant based techniques.  Visitors at the event will be the first to see the launch of the lightshow which will be accompanied on the night by a festive soundtrack from Haworth Brass Band and Keighley Rock Choir. Winter warmer refreshments will also be available raising money for Keighley’s Good Food project.

A unique projection display which has been created by the Hope Project will also be on display. The “Projections of Hope” display, supported by National Lottery Project Funding via Arts Council England, and by Bradford Council and Bradford 2025, will use everyday objects to project community messages of hope across big distances and onto public spaces for everyone to see. Make sure you see come see it for yourself at Cliffe Castle during the festive celebration.

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Discover A Hidden Collection Of Musical Stones


Cliffe Castle Museum, Spring Gardens Lane, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD20 6LH
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Tel01535 618231

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Cliffe Castle Exterior © Phil JacksonCliffe Castle Museum and Park, KeighleyA former mansion built 1875 - 1882, now the local museum in a park.

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