This automaton in the Davenport Collection was in very poor condition and Tony Middleton repaired it in 2016. The automaton does not, and according to Betty Davenport never did, make a laughing noise. Nevertheless, when switched on, the sailor rocks from side to side as though something very funny has got to him. Davenports used to hire out this sailor to TV and theatre companies. In the photograph Roy Davenport is on the left and Tony Middleton on the right.
Binkie has been in the Davenport family, probably since the 1930s or 1940s. Binkie lived at Ivydene, Lewis and Wynne Davenport’s family home. The photograph shows him sitting on the piano (which came from Maskelyne’s) at Ivydene in 1971 when Wynne Davenport was playing the piano for a young Roy Davenport in the drawing room. Binkie’s arms and legs are jointed and, in his youth, he used to growl. As a young child John Davenport was frightened of him – he was too loud and scary!
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.
For a variety of reasons Davenports Magic Kingdom changed its name to the British Magic Museum in 2017.
As you walk past the head it turns to follow you. John & Anne Davenport in 2012 commissioned Josie Camus in Cambridge to make this as a gift for Roy & Anne Davenport. Its purpose was to mark the opening of Davenports Magic Kingdom in 2013. It was given to Roy & Anne on 18 Dec 2012.
Purchased on 13 September 2013 at Davenport’s Magic Kingdom, Norfolk. Full price £3.50. The Kingdom in North Walsham was run by Roy Davenport.