Fine Victorian entertainment at the museum

Thelma and John Burgess with the Victorian magic lantern
Thelma and John Burgess with the Victorian magic lantern

A Victorian entertainment was staged by John and Thelma Burgess for the delectation of Bexhill Museum members and friends on 29th April at St Augustine’s Hall.

Forget about Powerpoint presentations, these were genuine 19th century glass slides using a Victorian lantern, lovingly operated, complete with commentary which accompanied the show.

It was surprising to learn how early this type of entertainment was and we were shown a diverse range from the comic style stories aimed at children to the sophisticated educational travel photographs of the late 1890s.

The fine detail of the painted slides, only a few inches across, showed the skill of the artists when projected to viewing size.

A voyage to the Holy Land of 1865 had not only such detail but movement of the sea journey, as manipulated by the lantern operator.

Of course the quality of the artwork varied enormously, from the simple cartoon style for the children, such as that which illustrated the Old Mother Hubbard rhyme and the comic Glasgow drunk with his changing heads. However artists of great skill produced extremely detailed illustration to convey dramatic events.

The 1881 series relating the work of the lifeboat men when a vessel was grounded on the Goodwin Sands, is a fine example. Naturally moral tales were told using this form and we were shown the sad tale of Little Nell and her brother who suffer from their parents’ dependence on the Demon Drink.

A special selection from a 1910 travel series of 130 black and white photographs, lightly hand—coloured, was a centre piece of the show.

This had a piano accompaniment, thoughtfully added by Thelma’s CD player, while scenes from Japanese life were shown.

By the early 1900s it was realised that a captive audience could be receptive to commercial advertisements and two for Cadburys cocoa were shown.

The famous animated snoring man and the mouse concluded this Victorian show, as it apparently often did in the past magic lantern shows.

This was a fitting event to conclude the Museum’s stirring season of lectures.

The autumn/spring season launches in early October when the life of a noted Bexhillian, Oscar Browning, will be recounted.