Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

John & Thelma keep the magic alive

By John Humphries, Dec 2011

John & Thelma in their attic projection room with double magic lantern

John & Thelma in their attic projection room with double magic lantern

John & Thelma Burgess have been collecting slides (they now have over 3,500) and giving shows for 25 years.
Their ‘season’ runs from Autumn to Spring. “We don’t give shows in the summer, as to show the slides properly we need complete darkness”. John bought his first lantern in Bohemia – from the antique shop (no longer there) at the corner of Bohemia Road and Tower Road. It came with a box of 130 slides. “They were actual photographs from Egypt, many hand-coloured”, said John. “They’d apparently been used by a Glasgow mission as part of a nationwide fund-raising tour and were of amazing quality”. The attic of their Hastings home has been converted into a mini-exhibition area. When the Voice visited, a double lantern had been set up for us to see some of the wonderful slides in their collection. They are heavily booked by local organisations to give their shows; John works the slides and lantern – Thelma does the talking. John said, “Slides such as the Robinson Crusoe set (see separate entry) were made by a London firm, W. Butcher & Sons in the early part of the 20th century. Magic lanterns were extremely popular; most middle income families would have owned one – they were the televisions of their day. They predated TV and cinema”. They are active members of the Magic Lantern Society and attend meetings in London, Bath and Birmingham.
o Victorian Magic Lantern Shows – presented by John & Thelma Burgess. Tel: 01424 423121.
o The Magic Lantern Society –

magic lantern copy

A magic lantern is a device for projecting an enlarged image of a slide onto a screen. The device was developed in the 1650s by Dutch physicist and astronomer Christiaan Huygens. Originally candles or oil lamps were used as a light source. Limelight was invented in the 1820s, the electric arc lamp in the 1860s and later electric lamps.

Crusoe box

This little box of 3¼” x 3¼” glass slides originally cost 2/6d (12½p). A page of lecture notes was included. The slides would have been used in a ‘magic lantern’.



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