William Taylor

Although there appears to be no doubt in the minds of the early World's Fair reporters about the identity of the showman who introduced moving pictures to the fairgoing public, confusion does arise over the showmen who followed Randall Williams' example. One of those who claimed to be the second showmen to present bioscope shows was William Taylor.

William Taylor was born in 1853 and was the son of the Ilkeston Giant and Mme Reader, whose family had a glass blowing act on the fairground. The family travelled a marionette show, but Williams' brother died, and he married his widow, Louisa Proctor, a member of another famous showfamily that would eventually become cinematograph proprietors.

His first bioscope had a small barrel organ, and was lit by naphtha flares. Electric lights were added at a later stage when a portable engine was acquired. In 1902 the showfront was further improved by additional carved work which replaced painted canvas banners above the waggons and entrance, and a larger trumpet barrel organ added. The famous row of bioscopes at the 1904 St Giles Fair included Taylor's No 1 show which was then called The Electric Living Picture Show.

Taylor's and Thurston's shows dominated the skyline of St Giles's Fair with both showmen vying with each other to exhibit the largest and greatest presentation at the fair. This rivalry continued when William Taylor purchased one of the largest shows ever built by Orton and Spooners in 1907. With this acquisition, William Taylor purchased arguably the most lavish of all the cinematograph shows to exhibit films to the fairgoing public, the new Cinema de Luxe. The organ truck which incorporated the showfront, when opened was fifty foot in length with the gigantic 104-key Marenghi dominating the stage. In a similar style to Annie Holland's show the opening sides of second box truck folded out to provide dummy royal boxes on either side of the screen and interior stage. A review from the Kettering Leader of 1909 reprinted in the World's Fair in 1932 includes a description and tribute to William Taylor's show:

The principal attraction of Kettering Feast is Taylor's Royal Coliseum De Luxe, the largest and most costly exhibition in England. This year the entire concern has been reconstructed and everything is arranged on the most elaborate style and design it is possible to conceive. The interior of this palace on wheels is equal to any West End place of amusement and the entertainment is of the highest order and second to none.

Not to be outdone, Charles Thurston ordered the Great Show, which included an ever bigger showfront constructed around the mammoth 120 key Gavioli organ. Both William and Charles continued to present these attractions until 1913 when they could be found side by side at Oxford and Cambridge Midsummer Fair with their latest cinematograph shows. However the rivalry between the two showmen was never malicious. A report from the World's Fair from 1928 includes a description of the showmanship that operated between these two great exhibitors. Both Charles Thurston and William Taylor made it a rule that their show organs would not be playing at the same time, therefore allowing the showmen to alternate the parading and then the exhibiting of the performances inside each show.

The Coliseum De Luxe travelled widely until 1913/1914, when William Taylor settled at Calne in Wiltshire to take control of the cinema he had built in 1913. The World's Fair in 1913 mentions, in the account of the opening of the new cinema, that although Mr and Mr Taylor had retired, the travelling concerns were to be carried on as usual by the family. Although they may have continued to travel the bioscope show after William Taylor's retirement, there is no record of it in the World's Fair.

William and Louisa had a son, John James (1896-1915) who at the breakout of WWI enlisted with the Essex Yeomanry. John was one of the first showmen to be killed in action. He died at Ypres on 14 May 1915, age 19 and is buried at the Menin Gate cemetery at Ypres.