Davenports Magic Kingdom
Cromer Road, North Walsham, Norfolk, NR28 0NBhttp://www.davenportsmagickingdom.co.uk
Tel: 01692 405254
£10 for Wizards and Witches aged 17+
£7 for Apprentice Conjurors aged 5-16
No charge for those Just Waving a Wand under 5
A Magical Family of two adults and two children get in for £31
£9 for Old Far, er Retired Sorcerers aged 60+
The process starts with a guided tour of The Witches to Wonder exhibition, then some time to check out some of the magical memorabilia which includes a first edition of Discoverie of Witchcraft. The tours are timed and take place every 20 or 40 minutes depending on the time of day. This was a rather short event IMHO but the very nice young witch who took us round did so very well and performed a routine straight from the late 1500s. Entering this tour isn’t via the door like normal people would expect but courtesy of some basic special FX which gets you into the exhibition.
After that you enter a reproduction of the Davenports shop from the 1920s and a magician performs several routines using the old props. Then there’s more memorabilia which would take many hours to properly examine and includes a great section devoted to ventriloquism and the manufacture of dolls. Interesting facts are gleaned such as, although Archie Andrews was closely associated with Peter Brough, that wasn’t his first doll. The original Archie was made by Davenports but later version was made elsewhere. In the midst of all this a typical sideshow from the 1950’s bursts into life, this year it’s Gloria the Living Half Lady illusion – visitors to the Blackpool Convention will probably recall the exhibits in the Winter Gardens basement as part of Showzam which featured these same sideshows. Apparently a different sideshow will be at Davenports each year.
There are then several set scenes which feature some of the great names of UK magic – David Nixon, Robert Harbin, Tommy Cooper, Cardini and so on, vids of their work play in suitably ancient TV sets in each scene. At one point you can take a photo which shows Paul Daniels levitating you! At some point you will see a half hour show in the theatre, there are three shows a day so you may see it half way through your tour or even beforehand. Usually it would be Roy Davenport performing but other magicians present their own shows from time to time. There’s café area surrounded by even more props and memorabilia, Lewis Davenport’s Rolls Royce is on show and it looks as though a lot more development will take place as there’s plenty of room for such enhancements. By the side of the Reception area is a well-stocked shop selling all sorts of Magic stuff, there are some low priced items and things like low cost Svengali decks for those on a tight budget but the full price items are those you would expect to see in any reputable bricks and mortar shop.
Pre booking on line or by phone is advised although you can just turn up and see if there are spaces available – check the Tourist Info places and hotel lobbies where racks of leaflets are to be had – there might be visiting card size promotions offering 10% off.
An offshoot of the famous London shop, Davenports Magic Kingdom is advertised as being a great place to spend a few hours and to see and find out a lot about magic. They lay on other events during the year, Ladies Night, Comedy Night, Music Nights, Murder Mystery Night and, naturally there are Christmas Party Nights as well as offers to arrange corporate evenings. Having visited Cromer many times in the past 10 years or so I was surprised to only find out about this place earlier this year when Googling for something totally different. How could I have not known? The answer was simple, it only opened late in 2013 so missed all the opportunities for publicity and promotion despite having a celebrity festooned opening ceremony! The whole thing is housed in a large cream coloured industrial unit on the A149 near to Waitrose - heading from Great Yarmouth you can't miss it, heading from Cromer it's not so visible unless you go past. Either way you need to follow the road up the side of Waitrose and round to Davenports.
Well recommended, half a day is enough to see and do all there is unless you want to examine every exhibit in minute detail, and the prices charged reflect excellent value for money. When I was there all the other visitors were lay people who thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the behind the scenes stuff, the close up magic and a superb theatre show. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, don’t miss the chance to see this place!