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The Vamping Horn

The Vamping Horn

The Vamping Horn, which is 1.5 meters long, was found in Braybrook Church and is thought to have been bought to the church sometime in the 17th century. The ‘Shawm’ as it was called, was a kind of trumpet used in church during choir services to ‘vamp up’ the singing hence the name Vamping Horn.

The Vamping Horn was invented in 1670 by Sir Samuel Moreland. Originally Vamping Horns were used as megaphones for communication at a distance over one mile and for public addresses such as fire alarms, parish events and the banns of marriage.

Sir Samuel Moreland demonstrated it to King Charles II in the Mall, St James Park, who heard him clearly at nearly 800 meters. The King ordered some for his ships and three very large ones for his castle at Deal. Some were over two meters long. Vamping horns were then adapted for use by church choirs.

A picture of the Vamping Horn from the church in Braybrooke
The Vamping Horn from the church in Braybrooke, which is by the interactive floor and Story Place in Harborough Museum

Nobody knows exactly what Vamping Horns were used for in churches but they probably helped the choir to sing by blowing or humming the tune down the trumpet to assist the choir. When organs became popular the horns were used less and less, towards the end of the 19th century.

The largest horn can be found at East Leake, Nottinghamshire and is about 2.5 meters long, and the smallest in Ashhurst, West Sussex and is just under a meter long. As far as it’s known there are only about eight Vamping Horns in existence in England located in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire and West Sussex.

It is thought the horn in Harborough Museum was last used in the church at Braybrooke on Easter Sunday 1958 by the Reverend G R Loxton.


Braybrook is a small village, eight miles to the west of Kettering and three miles south-east of Market Harborough. In the late 18th century, the main village industry was weaving. At the heart of the village is the 13th century church of All Saints, which at one time was surrounded by cottages.  These have long since been demolished and their stones were used to build other houses. The cobbled pavements and streets are from time to time uncovered by ploughing.

The key feature of the church is the magnificent elongated spire which was built in the late 14th century or early 15th century. The oldest surviving parts of the church are the molded south doorway and the eastern bay of the nave, which is the central part of the church, are thought to date from the 13th century.

A sepia image of All Saint's Church, Braybrooke
All Saint’s Church, Braybrooke

The other notable area is Braybrook Castle but today it’s no more than a large area of earthworks on the east side of the village. The castle was actually a fortified manor house but in 1329-30 there is mention of a waterfilled moat surrounding it, hence the association to a castle. The two main families that lived there were the Latimers and the Griffins.

Inside the Swan Inn at Braybrooke
Inside the Swan Inn at Braybrooke

Why not plan a local walk using the Choose How You Move Website and stop for a break at the Swan Inn.

Our thanks to volunteer, Janet, for writing this month’s object of the month. If you’d like to see more of the historic images featured in this post, please visit Image Leicestershire.

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