A Magic Lantern Splutters Back into Life

“Would you like to look at a box of old black and white transparencies?”  This was the offer made to me by Peter Rathbone a few weeks ago. Peter brought them round and I settled down to go through them. The simple wooden box contained about five dozen old glass transparencies. Not your familiar modern 35mm slides, but 3¼” x 3¼” magic lantern glass plates, many in the form of glass sandwiches. A label in the top of the box indicated that they had been put together by the “late Ellis Groves 1872-1914”. Most were very dark and dusty and not always sharply focused. A few had begun to peel off the glass substrate. Not surprising as they had been kept in one of Grove’s sheds for thirty years and had been saved from going to the tip by Peter. Going by the rare labels, the collection appeared to date from the first decade of the 20th century. A few slides had been coloured by hand. Several I recognised having seen them already in the archives of the History Society. My first reaction was that it was unlikely there would be any treasure here – perhaps just half a dozen images could be salvaged? I was wrong.

In the end more than 40 interesting and usable images emerged from the collection. A few were very surprising and these are the images seen here below, in some cases probably for the first time in 125 years. The whole collection is now available for perusal on the Wychwoods History Web Site.

April – May 2022