Wonders of Cremorne: acrobats and angels

This is a companion piece to the author’s recent post called Dancing at Cremorne. The Cremorne crowd loved their dancing and drinking but it wasn’t the only reason to come there.

Visitors

There was something for thrill seekers of all tastes.

Magic!

De Vere

De Vere, changing things in a startling way, creating illusions and surprises, even dabbling in necromancy.

De Vere 00011

And the rabbit in the hat of course.

Acrobatics!

Professor Risley

Fresh from Drury Lane, Professor Risley and his slightly not to scale sons.

And the Chantrells:

Chantrells

No end to their balancing skills, it seems.

Horses!

Madame Caroline

If Madame Caroline wasn’t enough for you, on special occasions there could be some re-enactments.

Cremorne Gardens tournament 1863

A medieval tournament brought back to life for entertainment and edification.

Prodigies!

Beckwith frogs

The remarkable underwater activities of the Beckwith Frogs, an entire family capable of diverse aquatic pursuits.

Beckwith frogs 00007

Your author has been reading Matthew Sweet’s excellent treatise Inventing the Victorians, included in which is an educational chapter on “freaks”, a term not much used in the days of Cremorne. The term prodigies was preferred when referring to performers such as this gentleman:

Baux

This “remarkable specimen of humanity on a small scale, who was present at the Massacre at Cawnpore and an eye-witness of many of the battles in India” held court at the Indian Temple (near the King’s Road  entrance).

Performers such as Mr Baux became celebrities of the age, rather than objects of ridicule or pity. I cannot promise the same for these two performers.

Kostroma people - Copy

Discounting the possibility of fakery, there is a medical / genetic condition which would give rise to excessive body hair. There were of course many bearded women in circuses and travelling fairs well into the twentieth century. Mr Sweet argues that the Victorian attitude to people who made a living from their unusual appearance was no more unenlightened than modern views. (Think of all those television documentaries about sensational afflictions).

World of the Strange!

fortune teller

Step inside, Madam and see what awaits in the fortune teller’s booth. Or come and see an even stranger phenomenon.

Fakir of Oolu - Copy - Copy

The Fakir performed a levitation act, apparently balancing the “entranced girl” on “two solid silver pedestals” which are then removed leaving her floating unsupported in the air.

There were skeptics then as now, who insisted that it was merely an illusion, and the Fakir a faker. But there were greater marvels to be found in the spiritual world:

Anderson combined

While bound to a chair (purely to prevent any cheating) Mrs Anderson makes contact with the world beyond our own, conversing with angels and cherubs, causing musical instruments to play themselves, and messing about with disembodied objects, with witnesses seated close by observing all. Who could fail to be amazed?

No? Well, get back to the Dancing Platform, ladies and gentlemen. The orchestra is in full swing, and there will be fireworks later.

And come back another day. There is always something happening.

Handbill 1855

And I haven’t even mentioned the Talking Fish.

Postscript

Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians is an excellent antidote to the cliches about 19th century life and I have been enjoying it recently.

I referred you to Lee Jackson’s The last pleasure garden in the recent Cremorne post. The book also features the Beckwith Frogs.

The Talking Fish, like the Great Sea Bear was a phrase describing a performing seal, or sea-lion. You can see a picture in one of our early posts. Another early post featured a balloon adventure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: