“ Address: 50 St Lukes Road / Brighton / BN2 2ZD / England „
The man who owns and runs this museum single handed also publishes a monthly magzine dedicated to vintage slot machines, it can be found here www.pennymachines.co.uk/MMM.htm
Officially known as the Mechanical Memories Museum this is small museum that enjoys a location right on Brighton's seafront. It is located in an area known as "The Arches" which stretches either side of the pier and the museum lies just to the west of the pier, but very close to it, maybe less than 100 metres away.
The Arches is the name given to the area that occupies the space below the promenade at beach level. Since the promenade is raised above the level of the beach it effectively sits on top of a bridge and "The Arches" are the arches of this bridge that date back to Victorian times. These arches are now prime locations for businesses and are mainly occupied by gift shops and cafes, they are located right on the edge of the beach but they do have the disadvantage that they are not visible from the promenade. Fortunately a small sign on the promenade alerted me to the existence of The Mechanical Memories Museum; otherwise I would have certainly missed it.
I was intrigued by the sign that proclaimed that this was "an old fashioned penny arcade" and to grab my attention further it was apparently "as seen on TV".
Admission to the museum is completely free but best of all the exhibits inside are actual working machines. Each of these machines has been lovingly restored by a dedicated group of volunteers and almost all of them were in full working order. They are operated by an old British penny that hasn't been in circulation since 1971 so just in case you haven't got any of these in your purse/wallet you can change some current money at the kiosk where one modern pound can be exchanged for ten old pennies. Should you strike lucky and win the jackpot then you can always convert the winnings back. I suspect however most people would just put it back into the machines so I guess that this serves as a way of generating a small amount of revenue for the upkeep of the museum.
It's fair to say that the museum is rather small inside with just space for around twenty or so different machines. There are no facilities like toilets just a man behind the kiosk who will happily answer any questions that you should have. The premises are however fully accessible by wheelchair users and pushchairs.
The machines range in date from the early 1900's through to the early 1970's. The one arm bandit type machines are the ones that many people will be familiar with, where you pull down a lever to spin the reels. These are very basic in comparison to the modern digital machines in the arcades on the pier but in my opinion they are much more fun.
In addition to the bandits that offer prize money there are other curiosities too. These include things like a fortune teller where you place your hand on a crystal ball and for the price of a penny you can get a printed report of your future, such a machine must have been quite a novelty back in the 1950's. There was also a ghost scene that is basically a model of a church. Insert an old penny and the whole church lights up but then the gravestones start to move and the whole scene comes alive. Again, this must have been quite an eye opener a few decades ago but by modern standards it's not really scary at all, but interesting nonetheless. My favourite machines however were the musical ones where the price of an old Penny will bring a jazz band to life.
Overall I found the Mechanical Memories Museum to be a fascinating place and I think that it's great that such machines are being preserved for future generations to enjoy. The fact that these machines are in working order, as opposed to being concealed within glass cabinets out of reach, in my opinion makes it all the more interesting.
The museum is open daily from March to October and at weekends during the winter.
The Mechanical Memories Museum
250c King Road Arches
Telephone: (01273) 608620
A volunteer run national museum that houses vintage archade slot machines and coin operated amusements.