Copyright Keith Newstead. Produced exclusively for National Gallery Company Limited, and available from The National Gallery, London.
This is a reproduction of a Victorian Sand Toy. The clown performs acrobatic feats, powered by a mill turned by hand. Tobar Limited, Norfolk, England.
This simple automaton comes in kit form. As the handle is turned, Hartley repeatedly pulls a carrot out of the ground. The kit was made by Mundos Bizarro, Wysing Arts, Bourn, Cambs, CB3 7TX and assembled by John Davenport.
This brilliant automaton was designed by Ron Fuller. As the handle is turned, the sheep uses the scissors to try and shear the man’s hair. However, each time it tries, the man ducks down below the scissors. Nevertheless, after about ten attempts, the man leaves it too late to duck and his head is chopped off. The cycle then repeats.
This clock was on the wall of Gus and Kate Davenport’s family home in Tonbridge, Kent in the 1950s. It has since been restored. The two birds at the bottom of the clock rotate backwards and forwards each time the cuckoo comes out on the hour and half hour.
This figure was found at Ivydene, the Davenport family home, in poor condition. There is no memory as to whether the mouse was dressed as Mickey or Minnie. Be that as it may, Harry Carson and his wife Jean, who lived in Norwich, renovated the figure and dressed it as a Minnie Mouse in the mid 1980s. The figure is clockwork and when switched on (the switch is at the back of its head) it shakes its head and waves its arms. Although we do not know how Lewis Davenport used Mickey and Minnie Mouse in his show, we have a carbon copy of a letter written by him to an agent on 5 January 1931 which includes ‘We have many new Novelties and a New Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Finish. A great laughing finish.’ The photograph shows Harry Carson renovating Minnie Mouse. See also Ref. no. N834 and N837.
This Mickey Mouse figure was found at Ivydene, the Davenport family home, in poor condition. In the mid 1980s Harry Carson and his wife Jean, who lived in Norwich, renovated the figure and redressed it. The figure is clockwork and when switched on (the switch is at the back of its head) it shakes its head and waves its arms. Harry modelled the clothes on illustrations of Mickey in a 1935 copy of ‘Good Housekeeping’ magazine. We have a photograph, illustrated, of Lewis Davenport with the model Mickey Mouse, but we do not know what part it played in his show. See also Ref. no. N833 and N837.
When a penny is placed in the slot, a young lady appears in the horizontal box on the right of the photograph, at which point the magician slices her through many times with a vicious looking sword. After a while the lady vanishes from the box and appears in the gold cage on the left. The illusion operates on the principle of Pepper’s Ghost. This machine, part of the Davenport Collection, was in extremely poor condition. It was renovated by engineer and magician Tony Middleton of Cambridge, with help from John Davenport and other friends in 2015. It is the belief of the restoration team that the coin-op was a prototype because of various design faults that would have made it unsuitable for commercial use. These faults have now been rectified. Roy Davenport is on the left and Tony Middleton on the right of the photograph.
In 2015 the bare mechanism of this electrically operated window figure was found in a Davenport store in very bad condition. The figure turned its head from side to side and raised and lowered its arms. In 2016 a Cambridge magician and family friend, Tony Middleton, had the vision to strip it down and re-engineer the figure, to convert it into a Chinese magician performing a magic trick. With the help of John Davenport, the figure now levitates a Chinese lantern up and down in the air, passing a ring over it to show there is nothing but magic holding the lantern suspended. Tony christened the magician Chung Ling Soo from the outset. The figure has been on display in the family’s magic museum in Norfolk, England. One of the photographs here shows Roy Davenport on the left and Tony Middleton on the right.
In 2016 a Cambridge magician and family friend, Tony Middleton, took an existing automaton of Snow White, which was part of the Davenport family collection, and converted it to this gypsy with a plasma ball. The original age of the electrically operated figure is not known, but is probably mid to late 20th century. One photograph shows Tony Middleton with the figure.