This comes off the "What did they call them then" thread, but it's now a different question.
Henry Mayhew in the 1850's interviewed her, described her as a hurdy gurdy player, but she called it the "cymbal".
Geoff very kindly provided the list of tunes given as Old Sarah's repertoire .
Chasing this is going well - "Moll Brook" turns out to be "Marlborough" aka "For he's a jolly good Fellow"! - but more than one has pointed out that "cymbal" sounds much more like "cimbalom" (spell it how you will) even than "cymphan" or "Symphony", and apparently "hurdy gurdy" according to one scholarly emailer was a name applied to all sorts of street instruments at the time.
So what really was it?
Sarah says she had to spend some time learning tunes on it, so it obviously wasn't a barrel organ.
She also says she had to keep it covered or pennies could get in the works, which pushes it more towards being a gurdy as we know it.
On the other hand the parish paid, around the year 1800, for her to learn it so she could get out of the workhouse. I wonder if they'd have forked out the price of a gurdy, presumably more than a dulcimer, for such a pauper.
Then again she apparently wore out three in the course of 20 years of playing.
So if anyone has any further interpretations or views on whether the dear lady was playing a gurdy under the meaning of the Act now, or something else, and if so what, I'll be delighted to read more.
With thanks for your patience