A wonderful indoor world of performing magic, containing a mixture of exhibits and live shows
An Introduction to Davenports Magic Kingdom
Situated on the outskirts of the North Norfolk market town of North Walsham, this hidden emporium contains a fabulous world of magic. Visitors are taken on a time-travel tour through 500 years of magical entertainment and in particular, the story of the Davenport family, who have been at the heart of British magical performance for over 100 years.
The Davenport family have been performing magic for five generations, starting with Lewis Davenport during the early 20th century. Lewis opened the Davenport's first magic shop in London in 1908, but spent most of his time performing, with his son eventually taking over running the shop. Over the years the family built a substantial collection of magical props and they also acquired the performing rights to many famous illusions and effects. It is the current generation of Davenports that now run the family business, with Bill Davenport running the London magic shop (now at Charing Cross) and Roy Davenport who has established himself as a professional performer. Roy is the driving force behind the Magic Kingdom, which is home to much of the Davenport magic collection.
We start our tour of Davenport's Magic Kingdom in the Magic Emporium. This is where you not only purchase your tickets but also where you can saw your boss in half! Various magic props are displayed around the hall, including a saw and two boxes used during the famous, saw the person in half illusion. Various magic tricks and illusions are also on sale in the Emporium shop, most with pocket money sized price tags. The entrance to the exhibition is hidden and is only revealed when a group of visitors say the magic words and wave their hands! (you should visit and experience this illusion for yourself).
The Magic Emporium, the entrance hall of Davenport's Magic Kingdom
Magic displays in the Emporium
Various Magic Products available to purchase in the Emporium
The entrance to the magic exhibition? the door is locked? say the magic words and wave your hands!
You can book a specific time slot on Davenport's Magic Kingdom Website. This is well worth doing as it avoids having to wait for the next available free group, if you decide to just turn up on the day.
Having negotiated the museum entrance, we find ourselves in the Elizabethan Market Place. The room re-creates a 16th century town and a story teller reveals the gruesome secrets this place holds. Among the Elizabethan street scenes, you will discover stories of superstition, witches and execution. A skeleton is set into the floor. A sign reads "It hath been found that Elizabeth Butchen and Jone Lingwood were tryed convicted and condemned in Gt Yarmouth in Nofolke on the 13th Day of March in the 24th Yeare of our Queen's reign 1584 and shall be executed in this place." The market place shows that the journey to modern magic, as a performing art, began in 16th century superstition.
An Elizabethan Street Scene, complete with Witches Dunking Stool
A set of Gallows in the Elizabethan Market Place
A Skeleton in the floor of the Elizabethan Market Place
A superstitious Black Cat
A doorway leads from the Elizabethan Market Place
The journey continues through time and the next hall tells how conjuring and superstition started to emerge as a performing art during the 18th and 19th centuries. One story tells of Robert Houdin, known as the "Father of Modern Magic". Robert transformed the way conjuring was presented and in 1830 he moved to Paris and demonstrated his "Soirees Fantastiques" in 1845 at the Palais Royal. He ditched the wizard's robes for evening clothes and used elegant furniture in the latest style for his show. 20 years after his death in 1871, a young American called Ehrich Weisz was so inspired by Robert Houdin, that he adopted his surname, adding an 'i' to the end (more of him later). The exhibition tells the story of plenty of others like this and you can try on the clothes of early magicians.
Replica furniture used by Robert Houdin during the 19th century in Paris, as part of his "Soirees Fantastiques" shows
Issac Fawkes, an 18th century conjuror
Children and Adults can try on early Magician's costumes
The magnificent replica entrance to the Egyptian Hall stands tall in the centre of the exhibition. The Egyptian Hall was built in 1812 in Piccadilly in London as an Egyptian themed exhibition hall. The magnificent interior was used to exhibit Nepoleon's carriage after it was captured during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The hall was first used for magic shows in 1861 and the American magician Alexander Herrmann performed over 1000 shows between 1870 and 1873. The Egyptian Hall became known as "England's Home of Mystery" and was used for magic shows until 1905 when the hall was sadly demolished. The replica at Davenport's holds various exhibits, including advertising posters for 19th century magic shows held at the hall.
The entrance to the Egyptian Hall
Egyptian figures in the Egyptian Hall
Inside the replica Egyptian Hall at Davenport's
After the closure of the Egyptian Hall in 1905, the Home of English Mystery had to be moved. The new location was St George's Hall at the Northern end of Regent Street in London, which housed England's Home of Mystery during the early 20th century. The next stage in our time-travel tour of Magic's fascinating history is to explore artefacts from this era of performing magic. The display includes costumes, a dolls house illusion and a section devoted to Chinese Magic and Magicians.
Magic Exhibits from the early 20th century
An empty dolls house, from which a lady appears
Chinese Magic and Magicians Props on Display
Lewis Davenport opened his magic shop in London's West End in 1910, only a short walk from Hamleys toy shop. In that same year Lewis married Winifred (Wynne) Forde, who was a performer and together (with her brother) they formed The Davenport Duo & Wynne. Despite the First World War, Lewis performed regularly, closing the show at St George's Hall in 1917 and even appeared on the same bill as Harry Houdini. A replica of his 1920s London shop can be seen in the exhibition, complete with a performing magician behind the counter. Outside the shop stands his vintage Rolls Royce.
Lewis Davenport's 1920s London Shop
The entrance to the replica 1920s shop
Magic props as they were sold in the 1920s Shop
Lewis Davenport's Office
Lewis Davenport's Vintage Rolls Royce
Harry Houdini is one of the most famous names in magic. He was born in Budapest in 1874, later emigrating to the USA. He became fascinated with travelling magicians and adopted the name of his hero Robert Houdin (see earlier). Houdini began performing, without much success. It was not until he visited an 'Insane Asylum' in 1896 that he had the idea of escapology, initially from strait-jackets. His fame quickly spread and by 1900, even Scotland Yard had invited him to escape for a pair of their famous handcuffs. The exhibition tells the story of Houdini and you can see some of his props. This section of the museum also has a large collection of ventriloquist dummies and tells the story of ventriloquism and the doll makers. Three mock living rooms highlight the transition from theatre to T.V. during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The museum highlights several magicians from the TV era including Cardini, Harry Blackstone, Alan Shaxon, David Nixon, Robert Harbin, Wayne Dobson, Tommy Cooper and Paul Daniels. There is photo opportunity to have your picture taken with a model of Paul Daniels, while being levitated!!
Ventriloquist Dummies in the Performing Arts Section
Houdini exhibits, including one of his famous water tanks
A Group of Ventriloquist Dolls Playing Cards
Various Illusions, including 'krazy' mirrors to try
A typical 1950s T.V. viewing lounge
A typical 1970s T.V. viewing lounge
Have your picture taken with Paul Daniels
Can you squeeze into Houdini's milk bottle?
THE BUTTERFLY GIRL
The exhibition area at Davenport's Magic Kingdom (and included in your entry ticket) has a sideshow which runs throughout the day. These shows change, but one example sideshow was called 'The Butterfly Girl' and the contents of the show are a secret. The only clue is that the show promises that whatever you get to see will be human and alive! The show preview goes on to make the pledge that if it fails to fulfil these promises, then they will pay £1000 :)
Please note that the Butterfly Girl sideshow is just one of a number of sideshows and they are regularly changed with a similar, but different show. Other sideshows include the Headless Lady who apparently is completely human and alive!
Take your seats for the Butterfly Girl Sideshow at Davenport's Magic Kingdom
The highlight of your visit is a 30 minute family magic show which takes place in the 120 seat St George's Theatre. Shows are normally given by Roy Davenport or one of the other resident magicians. Sometimes shows are given by guest magicians. The shows are brilliant fun for all the family.
St George's Theatre at Davenport's Magic Kingdom
At the end of your time travel journey through the wonderful world of performing magic, you will find yourself in the Ace to Eat Cafe. The cafe, contained in a large hall, offers a good choice of hot and cold drinks, cakes, snacks and meals. There are also plenty of interesting, amusing and entertaining exhibits to explore. Many of these will keep younger ones busy while the older ones enjoy their refreshment, but many will be enjoyed by all ages; look out for the Illusion Mirrors, Punch & Judy shows, Noah's Ark Illusion and the gallery of Magic Art and Posters.
Ace to Eat Cafe at Davenport's Magic Kingdom
One of the mirror illusions in the Cafe
Punch & Judy and other sideshows
A trick of reflection, one of the illusions on display in the Cafe
10 Things to SEE & DO at Davenports Magic Kingdom
Explore the Magic Emporium and even buy a trick or illusion to try out yourself.
Wave you hands and say the magic words to discover the entrance to the exhibition.
Take a trip through the Elizabethan Market Place and hear tales of witchcraft and superstition.
Discover how performing magic emerged during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Visit the replica Egyptian Hall, "England's Home of Mystery", which was built in London in 1812.
Watch the tricks shown by the magician in Lewis Davenport's 1920s magic shop.
Learn the story of Harry Houdini and see one of his water tanks, from which he famously escaped.
Enjoy the 30 minute family Magic Show in the St George's Theatre.
Have your photograph taken with Paul Daniels, while being levitated.
Enjoy a refreshment or meal in the Ace to Eat Cafe and explore the sideshows.
Davenport's Magic Kingdom is a unique attraction and a fascinating window into the world of performing magic. There is something for everyone, not just magic enthusiasts, and the mix of exhibition and live shows brings the whole world of mystery to life. Do not be put off by the plain exterior of the building, we thoroughly recommend you venture inside and we guarantee you will not be disappointed!