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Historian seeks info on Stourbridge peepshowman
12:00pm Friday 9th August 2013 in News
A PRE-CINEMA historian is seeking for information about Joseph Shallcross, a Stourbridge pub landlord and peepshowman in the 1830s.
Mike Smith, from Ripon, North Yorkshire, collects paintings and porcelain figurines of peepshowmen and his curiosity about Mr Shallcross began when he tracked down a painting of him by William J Pringle called ‘The Peepshow’ through the BBC’s Your Paintings website.
A peep show involved a wooden box with several holes, containing a set of pictures which the showman could set into a viewing position by pulling a corresponding string.
The show was accompanied by spoken recitation that explained or dramatised what was happening inside.
The painting, which is kept at Himley Hall, shows Mr Shallcross doing a peepshow and on the reverse of the painting is a label which reads “Foley Arms - back of the house (site present Rutland’s Buildings). Mr Shallcross, landlord and showman - a celebrated character.”
Mr Smith said: “I was unaware of the existence of this painting until this website was launched a year or so ago.
“I visited Himley Hall in May to see this painting and not until I saw the label of the back of the painting did I know the showman depicted was a Mr Shallcross.
“I discovered his christian name via Pigot and Co's directory. It is very rare to know the name of the peepshowmen depicted in paintings and for this reason I would like to find out more about Mr Shallcross and perhaps even trace his family.
“I understand there was a Foley Arms in the High Street and this is shown on the 1837 survey of Stourbridge. It was located in the area roughly where Bordeaux House is today.
“If more information could be found about Joseph Shallcross there is the possibility of an exhibition devoted to this early form of street entertainment with this local painting being the star exhibit.”
Anyone with more information can contact Mr Smith by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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