NORTHLEACH’S “warm” and “generous” music museum owner has died at the age of 82.
Keith Harding of Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music died peacefully in his own home on Saturday, June 7, after suffering from bowel cancer.
“Keith was a very generous, kind, and warm man,” said his partner of 20 years John Ferris, 67. “He was quite an intellect and in his life he had done many things.”
Born in Nottinghamshire, Keith was educated at Oakley Hall in Cirencester before moving on to Haileybury College in Hertfordshire. He had originally hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor, but instead took an engineering degree and became a pilot officer at RAF Cranwell.
Trying his hand at many other professions, Keith also spent time as a Dominican monk, a librarian and a typist.
He moved to London in his mid-twenties and, through a friend at the British Museum, was introduced to time pieces and clocks.
He began his journey by trading antiques on Portobello Road.
Through chance Keith met his future business partner, Cliff Burnett, while looking for someone to share a flat with.
Together they set up Harding’s Antiques, which soon became a world renowned music box restorer, in North London.
“It was a time where there were music boxes everywhere but Keith had lots of them which needed repairing,” said John. “No-one knew how to mend them properly so he and Cliff devised all the methods needed to repair them.”
It was in London he met his now former wife and her three children. After marrying, they went on to have two children of their own together.
In 1987, Keith and his wife and children moved to Northleach and Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music was born. Cliff moved with them and was his business partner for 50 years. After Cliff’s death three years ago, John said Keith was “never the same again”.
Following his move to Northleach, Keith threw himself into everything he could in the community. He was an active member of Cotswold Canal Trust, a member of Cirencester Church Choir and Cirencester Male Voice Choir.
Keith and his wife divorced 15 years after moving to the Cotswolds and soon after, a chance meeting led him to meet John.
“He was an absolutely incredible character to talk to and we struck up a friendship immediately,” said John. “We adopted each other’s hobbies. I would go with him to help clear the canals and he would help me in the kitchen at Swindon and Cricklade Railway.”
The pair became civil partners in 2007 and had a ceremony at the Swindon and Cricklade railway.
A funeral for Keith will be held at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Northleach this Thursday, June 26 at noon. Family flowers only but donations to charity Kate’s Carers can be sent to G and L Evans funeral directors.
His ashes will be put in a steam train at Swindon Cricklade and Railway.