You never know what you might see at The Magic Circle…..

While many rail travellers will be relieved to learn of Network Rail’s decision to scrap charges to use their toilet facilities, magic fans may be interested in the ‘spend a penny’ history.

Our second president, John Nevil Maskelyne was, in addition to being a magician and theatrical producer, was an inventor of several Victorian era devices.

Born in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, he trained as a watchmaker but went on to become one of Britain’s most famous and respected magicians.

In the late 19th Century he invented the first modern pay-toilet mechanism, which needed a penny to operate it and open the door. The expression and euphemism ‘to spend a penny’ soon followed!

So, next time you need to use the toilet facilities, you can consider that The Magic Circle’s second president is partially to blame for you having to pay!

Next time you visit The Magic Circle, check out The Maskelyne display which features a rare example of the penny lock.