27 Nov

Digging Deep

Allanna Brough, Archive

still remember the Eureka moment when I discovered that Frederick Rendell Burnette, Managing Director of the Picture House, was not using his real name. He was in fact Samuel John Rendell, son of a Blacksmith. As I uncovered his story, I was astounded by his varied career choices (legerdemain, painter, conjuror, magician, singer, actor, photographer, cinema owner) but also his business acumen. He was definitely a “Mover and Shaker” for his time.

I had already completed his Biography for the project but decided to go digging again. That’s my comfort zone, digging. Deep digging. I could not believe the treasure trove of newspaper listings and adverts for his many shows and performances that I found!

The earliest information I could find, came from 3rd September 1886 from both the Western Gazette and the Shepton Mallet Journal where Frederick Rendell Burnette was calling himself “Professor Burnette” and he is listed as a Wizard!!! By 1888, he was performing his magic tricks of “Parisian Wonders” and his “Cabinet of Mystery”. A little unsettling was the advert from the Gloucester Citizen in 1891, advertising his new magic show called “She At The Stake”! But I think the best advert for his show came in October 1888 from the Weston Super Mare Gazette where he was billed as a “Mind Reader”.

Mr Frederick Rendell Burnette/ Professor Burnette/ Samuel John Rendell was quite a character, who saw opportunity at every turn and grabbed it with both hands.

One thing I have learned is this: sometimes it’s not where you search that gives the results, it’s how you search.

Image 1: Profile image from article in Campbeltown Courier, 31st May 1913 (with permission)
Image 2: Western Gazette Newspaper 3rd September 1886.

In the new Picture Ho… November 27, 2017 Melodrama ! November 27, 2017