One of the many treasures held on Clevedon Pier is a Mutoscope or what is often called a What the Butler Saw device. Victorian seaside visitors would pop a penny in the slot, turn the wheel and, by bending to look through a viewing device could watch a sort of early motion picture. The effect was created by hundreds of images flickering around the drum of the mutoscope.
The image on the left is the Pier’s mutoscope which is on display in the Discovery Centre in the Tollhouse. On the right is the actual cassette of images originally found in the mutoscope. They are a little bit risqué and so the Pier introduced a rather more neutral little video clip in its mutoscope of the day pier fell down. But you can find out more below…..
A popular Mutoscope theme in the early 1900s was called What the Butler Saw and involved the household’s butler peeping through a bedroom door keyhole whence he saw the lady of the house stepping out of her bloomers. So saucy was this early erotica that all mutoscopes were subsequently nicknamed “What The Butler Saw” devices.
The Clevedon Pier Mutoscope needs much more research but early investigations have taught us that it is most likely of French origin and the photos in the original cassette seem to relate the story – as seen through the keyhole – of a man in his underclothes and a woman in her nighty applying warm wax bandages to the man’s back with the aim of removing the hair from his back. Capturing the images is difficult but the few shared below hopefully give a flavour of what the cassette pictures look like.
It all looks rather painful and at some point the poor chap is left on his own to try and wiggle and squirm to get the wax patch off.
We would love to get all of the images on the mutoscope cassette digitised and reproduced in a sort of ‘flick book’ arrangement so that the What The Butler Saw story can be enjoyed in its entirety. Any offers of help out there? Please get in touch on:
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive holds several hundred artefacts to do with the history and heritage of the pier and the town. The Archive Volunteers aim to share them online. It is a work in progress.
The Las Vegas One Armed Bandit
For many years – right up to the time the pier was closed in 1970 – there was a dance hall with slot machines on the end of the pier. This made it a great place for young people to meet and dance and socialise. The Las Vegas, is the last remaining slot machine or ‘one armed bandit.’ It is a heavy beat approximately 3′ high by 2′ wide by 1′ deep. Its date is unknown but likely to be from the 1950s or 1960s. The coin slot clearly seen at the top above the words ‘Las Vegas’ hole at top takes old style 1d coins and when the archive team began work to store and protect it six old penny coins were found inside. They date between 880 and 1910 showing Queen Victoria as a young woman with her hair in a bun – known as Bun Coins – and later as a widow wearing a veil – known as Veil Coins. This was believed to have been one of probably four slot machines once held in the dance hall at the end of the Pier. Sadly, the others have gone but this one was found, in a sorry state of repair, in the basement of the Tollhouse before being removed to the Pier Archive.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive.
Model of the Paddlesteamer Waverley
Clevedon Pier has a long association with the many pleasure boats and paddlesteamers that have landed on the pierhead in order to pick up or set down passengers taking a day trip to Wales, North Devon or into Bristol. The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust is very proud to hold this beautiful model of the Waverley Paddlesteamer which has called in at Clevedon Pier over many decades.
This advertising bill is dated August 1875 when, the global phenomena known as, Captain Boyton demonstrated his rubber life saving dress off of Clevedon Pier. It is a favourite item in the archive’s collection of ephemera. The bill is printed on very thin newsprint by George Caple, Machine Printer, in the Clevedon Mercury and Courier newspaper offices and it is one of the few – perhaps only – surviving examples of this advertising bill many of which would have been printed and posted up and around the town of Clevedon. Records held elsewhere in the archive tell us Captain Boyton was charged £10 by the Clevedon Pier Company for the privilege of demonstrating his rubber life saving dress off of the pier – around £1,000 is contemporary money.
The poster is approximately 3′ high by 2′ wide, framed behind glass for protection.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive.
Plaque commemorating opening of new pier head and landing stage.
In 1891 the pier was taken over by the Clevedon Local Board and a new pier head and landing stage were built to make the pier safer. It was officially opened on April 3rd, 1893 to great excitement and celebration and a beautiful brass plaque, approximately 2’6″ wide and 18″ deep, was erected on the pier to commemorate the occasion. That plaque is very degraded by years in the sea air and is held in the archive collections. An unusued but identical plaque is also in the collections and is as shiny and new as the day it was made in 1893. Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust.
The Clevedon Pier Company Ledger.
14” high by 10” wide. Hard covers with soft leather binding. Spine broken and needs repair. Holds the early records of the Clevedon Pier Company. First entry is on the 18th October 1864. Last entry on 10th February 1888.
Contains minutes of meetings, records of the sale of shares, information about acquiring Act of Parliament to build a pier, letting contracts etc.
Original held in a private collection. Digitised by CPHT Archive for public access.
Captain Alexander Campbell Citation
4′ high by 2′ wide framed, gilded citation to Captain Alexander Campbell following the successful paddlesteamer season in the Bristol Channel of 1891. The citation accompanied gifts to Captain Alexander and his brother Peter for their service on the Paddlesteamers Ravenswood and Waverly.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by Campbell family
The Old Pier Charges Board
Notice board made from what appears to be a cut down garden gate, painted green and handpainted with the charges for entry on to the pier.
4’6″ high by 3′ wide.
Date unknown. Circa 1940s or 1950s?
Includes prices for day and season tickets for adults and children; for taking a dog or cycle or motorcycle onto the pier and for fishing off the pier and charge to use the pier to embark on a Steamer.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by R. Gregory
The Old Phone
Magneto mechanism and buzzer contained in wooden box 8” wide by 12” high by 10” deep. Bakelite handset with remains of cotton bound cord, 2 bakelite bells and bell mechanism and a hand crank mechanism (missing handle) used to activate the bells. Sticker printed with ‘Western Electric’. Date: Unknown, likely to be circa 1870s
Believed to have been one of a pair used on the pier for communication between the tollhouse and the pier head. This phone system was used from the 1870s onwards for telephones that were not on an exchange system but each personal telephone had its own battery. The crank handle on the side would work a magneto inside the box, and this would ring a bell or activate a buzzer on the other phone.
Property of Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive
Model of Clevedon Pier
When the Pier collapsed in 1970 the town of Clevedon pulled together to save it from total demolition. This model was commissioned by Clevedonians, Tony and Carole Wring, to show the Pier Public Inquiry the beauty and value of the Pier and it undoubtedly helped in the decision being made that the Pier should be saved from demolition. Tony Wring was, at the time, Chairman of the Pier Preservation Trust.
Property of the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. Donated by T and C Wring.
Captain Alexander Campbell was part of the Scottish Campbell family famous for building steamships and paddlesteamers. Alexander captained many of these ships including those that sailed in the Bristol Channel. In 1891 the passengers wanted to acknowledge Alexander and had this beautiful gilded citation created and presented to him. It sat for many years in the basement of the Pier Tollhouse but was retrieved by the archive team and stored safely until the opportunity arose to have the item conserved and brought back to life again. The citation was covered in mould, the gilding was gone and the frame in a parlous condition including containing the old cases of case bearing clothes larvae. This work was funded by the Campbell family and was undertaken by a local conservator who also volunteers for the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive. We are delighted to have this item fully restored and available for public viewing. Below is a close up of the citation showing clearly the four images at each corner of Clifton Suspension Bridge, top left. Birnbeck Pier, Weston super Mare, top right and Lynton and Lynmouth bottom left with the Cliff Railway. Below is a transcription of what the citation reads. A copy of the conservation report is available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcription of gilded citation
Captain Alexander Campbell
At the close of the season 1891, a number of Season Ticket Holders and other Passengers by the Ravenswood and Waverly were desirous of presenting you with some slight token of their appreciation of the care, skill and courtesy with which you have conducted the Passenger Traffic and the Bristol Channel.
Feeling that great credit is due to you and your brother Captain Peter Campbell for the enterprise you have displayed in providing Bristol with such an excellent service of Steamers. We on behalf of the Subscribers ask your acceptance of the accompanying Diamond Scarf Ring and Stud, Marine Glass and Davenport, at the same time assuring you of their continued confidence and esteem and thanking you for the consideration which you have all times shown for the comfort and enjoyment of the passengers using your boats.
Signed on behalf of the Subscribers
John Northhaw?, W H Blinkhorn, J W Lane, M Levy, Henry William Ridgway
Another favourite from the collections is this board laying out admission charges referred to as Pier Tolls. The notice board is made from what appears to be a cut down garden gate, painted green and handpainted with the charges for entry on to the pier. Donated by R Gregory the date isn’t known but possibly the board is from the 1940s or 1950s. It is 4’6″ high and 3″ wide and a very heavy thing to move around.
The prices listed include for day and season tickets for adults and children; for taking a dog or cycle or motorcycle onto the pier as well as for fishing off the pier. It is made clear, in very large letters, at the lower part of the board that if you were using the pier to board a steamer you still had to pay the pier toll of 6d for the day. Clevedon Pier, built with the express purpose of enabling paddlesteamers to come to the town to encourage tourists, still needed to make a living in its own right.
New Pier Head Opened 1893
By 1893, Clevedon Pier – now owned and operated by the Clevedon Local Board – had fixed one of the main problems to its commercial success by building a new pier head and landing stage. More info on this link. This enabled paddlesteamers to call in and cater to the growing Victorian seaside holiday ambitions of the town of Clevedon.
The opening took place with a great celebration and the placing of a plaque, shown above, to commemorate the event. There are two plaques held in the archive – one which was on the pier for many years and is quite worn by decades in the sea air and the other – shown above which is in pristine condition. Both are beautiful items, in their own way, to be held in our collections.
The photograph, below, of the 1893 opening, is probably taken from the top of the pier tollhouse. A narrow avenue in the crowd is lined with the Police and Volunteer Artillery to the right, and to the left, the Fire Brigade and dignitaries. Note the triumphal arch of foliage and flowers under which the opening ceremony took place.
Captain Paul Boyton Advertising Bill 1875
This advertising bill comes from August 1875 when, the global phenomena known as, Captain Boyton demonstrated his rubber life saving dress off of Clevedon Pier. It is a favourite item in the archive’s collection of ephemera. The bill is printed on very thin newsprint by George Caple, Machine Printer, in the Clevedon Mercury and Courier newspaper offices and it is one of the few – perhaps only – surviving examples of this advertising bill many of which would have been printed and posted up and around the town of Clevedon.
The bill shows an image of Captain Boyton in his life saving ‘dress’ (sic) and text states that:
Captain Boynton will exhibit off the Clevedon Pier the life saving vest in which he recently crossed the Channel from France to England. Excursions will run. The gallant Captain will be in the water from Three to Four and from Seven to Eight pm
In 1875, the pier was still owned by the Clevedon Pier Company and other records held in the Pier’s Business Archive show that Captain Boyton was charged £10 for the privilege of exhibiting his suit off Clevedon Pier, the equivalent in today’s terms of just over £1,000.
This video clip gives more on the history of the rubber lifesaving suit and Captain Boyton’s role in developing and proving its worth.
Paddlesteamer Waverley Model
This beautiful model of the Paddle Steamer Waverley, held in the Archive collections and kept on display in the Pier Manager’s Office, is a lovely reminder of the Pier’s long history and heritage connections with pleasure cruisers and holiday visitors. The archive holds many items to do with its heritage links with paddle steamers – particularly to do with the Campbell Company – and liaised with the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society when work began on the Pier’s paddle steamer collection. We are grateful to the many people who have donated, given information and supported that work including descendants of the Campbell family. But particular thanks must go to Volunteer Archivist Mike who worked so diligently sorting, storing and cataloguing the Pier’s paddle steamer collection.
The Clevedon Pier Company Ledger
There were many attempts to ‘get going’ with building a pier in Clevedon. The first verifiable record is an advertisement from November 1828, in the Bristol Mirror, offering Ten Guineas to Surveyors for the most approved Plan, Specification and Estimate for building a Pier in Clevedon. It wasn’t until the 1860s, however, that the Clevedon Pier Company finally got underway.
The ledger, shown above, covers the records of the Clevedon Pier Company from 1864 onwards. The first entry is on the 18th October 1864 and contains information about the success of the application to the government, under the Piers and Harbour Act, to build a pier. More information about the legislation involved in building a pier in the 1860s can be found on this link.
This fascinating ledger contains the minutes of meetings, records of the sale of shares, information about acquiring permission to build Clevedon Pier, the letting of contracts to engineers and surveyors and so on and so on. The last entry is on 10th February 1888.
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive team have digitised this artefact with the aim of making its contents available to the general public.