Sepia photograph of hydraulic ramps

Sepia photograph of hydraulic ramps

In this picture you get a good view of the hydraulics which operated the stage machinery at Drury Lane. It was this extensive array of stage technology which made possible the extravagant spectacles and effects for which Bruce 'Sensation' Smith got his nickname.

In 1898 the theatre's manager Arthur Collins modernised the machinery backstage, installing new electric 'bridges'. Electrical operation made the movements much smoother, and paved the way for even more elaborate effects. The bridges could raise or lower any object or scenery placed on them. These ramps could be angled back and forth to simulate, for instance, the rocking of a ship. In September of that year, The Great Ruby made use of the new bridges for the first time, and Smith would go on to create sensation after sensation at Drury Lane: horse races, sinking ships, earthquakes, flooded towns, giants, balloon ascents, underwater fights and train crashes.