Monday, 23 February 2015

GIHS Meeting -GLIAS had been there before

Last week's GIHS meeting was entertained by the speaker, John Kennedy Melling, on the Noakesoscope.  That, it turns out, was an ingenious sort of magic lantern, showing moving pictures, invented by one of the Noakes, Greenwich based forage merchants.

One of the mysteries is what happened to the machine - which Mr. Melling had hoped to acquire on the death of the last Noakes, but which went to a descendant and hasn't been seen since 1961!  Where is it??

Mr. Melling told us a lot about some of the family - there was a famous conjurer who lived in my road in Blackheath. He told us how a boat used to tour the canals giving shows by various similar bits of equipment   -  and  --  

We have been pointed in the direction of the following item from the Greater London Archaeology Society's Newsletter No.75 - please see


On the evening of 20th February [1981] last a party of 29 GLIAS people attended the Magic Lantern Theatre aboard the narrow boat "Phantasmagoria", then moored on the Regent's Canal at Delamere Terrace. 22 people were packed into the rather cramped auditorium, whilst seven were accommodated behind the screen and able to witness some of the "Showman's Magic". Hand painted glass slides depicting scenes 3" in diameter were back-projected onto a screen 4' in diameter located amidships, the slides being magnified 15 times, compared with the 50 times magnification of the original Victorian shows. The action varied from the simple two position 'flips' of an acrobatic circus equestrian and a 'skipping' child, through dissolving scenes such as 'Day and Night' and the 'Four Seasons', to the very impressive 'Storm at Sea' accompanied by the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning. This sequence depicts an old favourite of mines Eddystone Lighthouse (Smeaton's of course). Then followed a mesmerising sequence of chromotropes turning and twisting, coming and going and changing colour. The show ended with Anita hand cranking a 1905 Moliere cinematograph and showing an especially printed reel of the first films of the Lumière brothers. (The original films were all of one minute's duration.)

Doug and Anita Dean, who run this marvellous theatre, are at present on their summer holiday tour, but will be back in September, I believe, to prepare for their next season at Delamere Terrace (October to May). I look forward to seeing their 'second show' which includes a Victorian 'Journey into Outer Space'.

NB I'd never heard of chromotropes either!
Tom Smith

Let us know if you were among the party??

Author of the piece Tom Smith was a GLIAS member for several years and was GLIAS Sales Officer. He was a Widnes man who spent much of his life in the Royal Artillery, and after leaving the Army he settled in Woolwich. Before he retired he worked as a clerical officer with the Post Office

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