December 6th The 'Electric Fairyland' in Penzance (1909)


Penzance received its first electric street lighting in 1912 but three years earlier an entrepreneur, Robert Thompson, had established his, temporary, ‘Electric Fairyland’ in a disused woollen factory in New Street which had also, further down the road, been the last home of John Divane (December 1st).

The attraction comprised a skating rink with mechanical skates (as shown left), an ‘orchestra’ of thirty-five different mechanical musical entertainments, a comedienne, stage hall performances and a travelling cinema.  Most extraordinarily, for people unfamiliar with the use of electricity, the hall was lit by a ceiling filled with 280 electric lightbulbs. 

For most people this was their first experience of electric lighting. Powered by an electrical generator which, connected in total using six miles of wiring, it was installed by the staff of the Union Hotel (adjacent to the Assembly Rooms, this was the location of the public announcement of the death of Admiral Lord Nelson, November 4th).  An electrician monitored and controlled a switchboard to produce different special effects. 

This was at the time that many people in London spent evenings looking into shop windows, not window shopping, but really just to see the amazing new phenomenon of electrically – powered window displays.  Three years later, Penzance was provided with mains electricity which also facilitated the establishment of  building and street lighting on Market Jew Street and Causeway Head.  In 1912, Causeway Head became home to the Savoy Cinema, which is now one of the oldest continuously operating cinemas in Britain.



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