On a recent holiday to Norfolk, I was able to make a great trip to one of North Norfolk’s newest attractions – Davenports Magic Kingdom. A museum dedicated to the history of not only magic, but also one of magic’s oldest families.
The name Davenports has always held a fond place in my heart, as it was their shop in Charing Cross Underground that I visited almost every Saturday afternoon and met with other young magicians to watch, talk and perform magic – and eat copious amounts of McDonalds! (other fast food chains are available) – in the small studio behind the shop.
A studio, the walls of which, were covered in framed posters of magicians gone by; display cases of antique props – many still available for sale and even an illusion or two which we used to get out to try occasionally. You see for generations the Davenports family has collected all sorts of magical memorabilia such as antique close up magic effects, stage props and illusions, through to catalogues, posters and almost anything else you can think of. And it is this collection that forms the basis of the museum.
To try and list everything you will see would make this blog post very long indeed – as is evidenced by my first attempt. So here are some of the highlights. It starts with a short spoken tour giving the history of Magic itself from medieval times up to the times when the Davenports were first making their name in Magic. This includes a vary rare copy of, what is regarded as, the first book ever written on Magic – The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scott from 1584.
From this you then move through to a history of the family itself and there is plenty of memorabilia on display from their huge collection – of which this is only a tiny percentage! One part of this exhibition is a recreation of the original shop which once stood at 15 Oxford Street in the early 1900’s, including many of the original props that were for sale and the original display cabinets and counters. It really is like stepping back in time. Here you will also meet one of the many onsite magicians who will amuse and amaze you with a few effects before you move on.
Within your ticket price you also get a free 30 minute magic show in a small custom built theatre. When we were there we were treated to seeing Roy Davenport (owner and creator of the museum) recreating a portion of his Great-Grandfathers Act, as well as performing his signature Linking Rings routine amongst other routines. Roy plans to book other magicians from across Europe to guest perform as well, and he will also offer a Show Only ticket at a reduced rate which I think is a great idea if you are local.
Moving on from there, there is a recreation of an old side show which again will be changed on a regular basis, we saw the Headless Lady which is as baffling today as it was when it was originally performed, and plenty more memorabilia to look at.
And just before you exit, you get a chance to have your picture taken being levitated by Paul Daniels (the waxwork one, not the real one) and of course I couldn’t resist!
As well as the museum there is a cafe serving coffee and freshly made cakes and of course a magic shop where you can purchase from a range of their magical effects. I was feeling slightly nostalgic and picked up a small effect that I used to have when I first started out.
They also run a Kids Magic club on Saturday mornings similar to what we used to do in their shop studio many years ago – although this is more organised then we ever were! Check their website for details.
If there was one minor nit-pick it is that the outside is not that appealing, being on, what appears to be, a largely unused industrial estate. Even when you move inside you still get the feeling of being in a large warehouse – which of course you are.
However by having the extra space now, rather than trying to acquire more later, allows them the flexibility to expand easily in the future and is probably more cost effective for them. All in all though a good day out and well worth the price of admission. It was lovely to meet and speak to Roy again after all these years, and even better that he actually remembered who I was! His enthusiasm and energy is fantastic, and along with his friendly and knowledgeable staff I am sure he will make this a huge success.
If you are ever in the vicinity, then I highly recommend a visit. Go to www.davenportsmagickingdom.co.uk for more information and to book.