The Journals of Sydney Race

Source: Ann Featherstone (ed.), The Journals of Sydney Race 1892-1900: A Provincial View of Popular Entertainment (London: The Society for Theatre Research, 2007), pp. 85-86

Text: 1898, October 6th, 7th, 8th
Goose Fair

I have not the patience to describe the Fair fully, but these were the shows:

Bostocks menagerie
Wall’s ghost (opposite Market Street)
Lawrence’s Cinematograph (facing Spaldings)
Wadbrooke’s Cinematographe (commencing the avenue from Binghams to Lambs)
Day’s Menagerie
? Cinematographe
Wallace the Untameable Lion
A second sight woman
Coxswain Terry’s Crocodiles
Randall Williams’s Cinematograph (looking down Wheeler’s Gate)
Count Orloff, the transparent man
The bear-faced woman
A child-dwarf
Ayme’s Mechanical Exhibition
Radford and Chappell’s Marionettes (late Ghost)
Buckley’s Performing dogs etc.
A swimming exhibition
Prof Burnett’s Military Exhibition
(opp Wombwell’s) Baby incubator and midgets

I am not sure this is a correct list as I cannot find the particulars I took down at the Fair, if indeed I did take any. But it is substantially correct.

I saw the child-dwarf. She was a poor little thing, the size of a baby a few weeks old, but said to have been born three years ago. She sat in a little chair and was lifted up by her mother for us to see her; but it was a poor exhibition and the child was not ‘all there.’

I went in most of the cinematograph shows and saw some really good pictures. Most of them showed a bull-fight – views of the actual thing – and very savage did the bull show himself. We did not see the actual death, but we saw several poor horses knocked down and dragged out of the arena lifeless. Randall Williams had a capital picture taken at Lords on Dr Grace’s Jubilee Day, taken as the two elevens were making a ceremonial parade of the ground. The Doctor came first and raised his hat most affably, as he got up to us. Walking with him was Arthur Shrewsbury whom it was quite easy to recognise, and the great Gunn came a little way behind, and also W. Nixon, the Notts Captain.

Walls showed two coloured pictures – the first I have seen – and also a view of the Gladstone funeral procession. This last was a very good picture. The Commons came first, marching four abreast, then there was a little interval and the Lord Chancellor wobbled across preceded by his mace bearer. After him came the Archbishop of York, walking alone, some of the temporal peers in fours, a group of bishops, and another set of peers. Last came the mourners, before whom walked the Bishop of London and then the body. The pall bearers who walked beside the hearse were quite recognisable – of Lord Salisbury we had a particularly good view and the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York we could see at the end. Among the mourners were some little boys who hardly seemed to comprehend the ceremony and at the rear walked the Revd. Gladstone by himself. Any faces one knew were easily picked out. Sir Mathew White Ridley and other Front bench men who headed the Commons I quickly recognised.

Another capital picture shown here was taken in front of a train as it dashed through the country. The hedges, the signal posts and telephone wires all went quickly by and the bridge which we could see ahead grew larger and larger as we approached until we had passed under it. Then we rushed by a station and could see the people walking up and down its platform and rapidly drew near a tunnel ahead. We saw the train entering it, then the sheet went black as we were [pages missing]

Comments: Sydney Race (1875-1960) was the working-class son of a cotton mill engineer and worked as an insurance clerk in Nottingham. His private journal documents the different kinds of entertainment he witnessed in Nottingham. The above is part of his account of visiting the Nottingham Goose Fair in October 1898. Dr Grace is the cricketer W.G. Grace and the film described is W.G. Grace Celebrates at Lord’s on His 50th Birthday (1898), made by the Prestwich Manufacturing Company. William Gunn and John Dixon were both Nottinghamshire players. The jubilee procession took place on 18 July 1898. The funeral of former prime minister William Gladstone took place 28 May 1898 and was filmed by several companies. Lord Salisbury was the serving prime minister. The ‘coloured pictures’ would have been hand-painted. Films taken from the front of moving trains were a common attraction in early film shows, often being given the name ‘phantom rides’.

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