1. Ayr New Bridge with Street Theatre Diorama at the Newton Toll Gate (ca.
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
Date : 2009
Photographer : Mike Bailey
3. Detail: Ayr New Bridge with Street Theatre Diorama at the Newton Toll Gate (ca.
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
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