ESSEX has bred some pretty clever inventors throughout history.

Chester Hall from Leigh designed the first achromatic lenses for telescopes, coach-builder Lionel Lukin from Dunmow invented the earliest form of lifeboat and Thomas Darby came up with ‘The Darby Digger’ – a steam-powered ploughing machine that could cover one acre per hour without the need for horses.

Today, of course, there is a pub named in his honour in Wickford.

But members of the Rayleigh Town Museum have surely stumbled across one of the most quirky inventions of all.

One of the museum’s volunteer researchers has uncovered the story of a man who invented his own curious musical instrument.

Think Dick Van Dyke’s one man band from Mary Poppins, crank it up a few notches and you’ll get the picture.

The story initially featured in the Southend Standard back in October of 1933 and told how Victor Shepherd, son of William Shepherd, the licensee of the Weir Hotel in Rayleigh, had invented his own version of the One Man Band and called it a Victophonium.

Rayleigh Town Museum Volunteer, Sandra Gibson, explained: “Victor perfected equipment whereby he could operate a jazz band entirely by himself, not only playing the instruments, but controlling the lighting effects and announcing and displaying the tunes!

“Occupying only a few feet of floor space, this revolutionary apparatus supplied as much volume as a symphony orchestra and the performer needed no assistance of any sort.

“The additional instruments included a side drum, a bass drum, double foot cymbals, slung cymbals, timpani, triangle and megaphone.”

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Victor told a newspaper reporter in 1933 that his invention had taken him years to perfect and had cost him £200 to build. It was decorated in a combination of red and gold.

Rayleigh Town Museum would like to know more about the Victophonium.

Sandra added: “We would love to know if there are any of Victor’s family members who might have more information or pictures of the Victophonium.

“We are hoping that parts of it might be hidden in someone’s garden shed in Rayleigh or Southend!

“We would love to be able to put it on display in our museum. Our projector from the Regal Cinema was found in a shed and renovated, so who knows?”

If anyone has information about Victor and his Victophonium, you can get in touch with Sandra on 01268 751664.

The Rayleigh Town Museum has been closed during the lockdown but is due to reopen to the public from June 2 on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am-4pm.

As well as displaying thousands of artefacts pertaining to Rayleigh’s history, the museum holds a significant archive of Southend-area newspapers dating from 1875 to the 1970s which have been entrusted to the museum by the Echo.

These newspapers are available to borrow for research. If you are interested in seeing the historical newspapers contact the museum when it reopens on June 2 or email .