Theatre Images

Theatres in Ayrshire ~1800 - 2013
1.   Nuw Brig

2.   today

3.   Raree Show 
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Street Theatre in Ayr

1.   Ayr New Bridge with Street Theatre Diorama at the Newton Toll Gate (ca. 1839)


2.  Composite photograph showing the location today. The actual viewpoint used by Hill would have been further north, at a point now occupied by the Darlington Church. 

Date :  2009
Photographer : Mike Bailey


3.   Detail: Ayr New Bridge with Street Theatre Diorama at the Newton Toll Gate (ca. 1839)


Street Theatre in Ayr ca 1840

Ayr : The Twa Briggs,   David Octavius Hill (1802-1870).  "The Land of Burns, a Series of Landscapes and Portraits" 1840. Blackie & Son, Glasgow 1840. Steel line engraving by Thomas Higham (1796-1844).  Engraved surface 108 x 133mm.

The obvious features of this view of Ayr from the Burgh of Newton are the town spire beside the Assembly Rooms, the Auld Brig and the Wallace Tower.   The Assembly Rooms had been built at the site of the old Malt Cross.  In the late eighteenth century the volume of traffic was too great for the Auld Brig and in 1787 the New Bridge, an adaptation of a Robert Adam design, was completed.  The New Bridge linked the Main Street in Newton on Ayr with the Sandgate, which became a principal thoroughfare in the town.

In this image a feature of particular interest is the raree show in the left foreground.  Amongst the group of children, a girl is seen peering into the "show".

Peep shows, also known as peep box or raree show ("rarity show") can be traced back to ancient times.  They were certainly known in 15th century in Europe and are known in other cultures. A peep show, as seen in this illustration, could be a wooden box with a hole or several holes, containing a set of pictures which the show-man could set into a viewing position by pulling a corresponding strings. The boxes were often decorated inside to resemble theatrical scenes. The show was accompanied by spoken recitation that explained or dramatized what was happening inside.

Raree shows were precursors of toy theatres, with movable scenes and paper figurines, popular in the 19th century.  Later, the device was associated images of an explicit or scandalous nature.

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