Charles Oswald Williams – Magician

Charles Oswald Williams initially grew up in Llanelly (it became Llanelli, after 1960),  born on 26th September 1864. When of age, Charles followed his father into the then successful tin industry in Llanelly.

Charles Oswald Williams magician portrait

However, around 1889 he moved to Cardiff and married Elizabeth Jane Bate. Living at 7, Stephenson Street and working as a Collector and Canvasser. In 1901 he lived at 10, Beauchamp Street and was a listed as a dealer in watches, musical instruments and homeware.

An enthusiastic, amateur conjurer, Williams corresponded regularly to all the burgeoning magic magazines with ideas, letters and magic effects.

From 1900 onwards he began a regular exchange of letters with Professor Louis Hoffmann, who was considered to be one of the greatest authorities, of his day, on the theory and practice of magic as entertainment.

Williams contributed to many seminal magic books; Hoffman’s ‘Later Magic’, Charles Lang Neil’s ‘The Modern Conjurer’ and many others.

Charles Oswald - Conjuror and Ventiloquist programme - picture of CO- Glamorgan Archives

(Picture credit: Glamorgan Archives)

Now living at 107, Stacey Road, Williams was known internationally and nationally as an inventive and skilled magician. Encouraged by Hoffmann he became a professional magician in 1903, working under the name of Charles Oswald. In 1904 he was on the front cover of the American based ’The Sphinx’ magazine as magician of the month.

On Tuesday, April 10th 1906 at Maskelyne’s Theatre of Mystery in St George’s Hall, London, Williams appeared as one of the performers to appear in the newly formed Magic Circle’s first show, or as they called it, ‘The First Grand Seance’. He opened his act by speaking in Welsh! He was amongst one the first magicians to be a member of the Magic Circles ‘Inner’circle.

Charles Oswald - Conjuror and Ventiloquist programme inside - pic- Glamorgan Archives

Charles Oswald programme (Picture credit: Glamorgan Archives)

In 1913 he started as a magic dealer and was the UK representative for the renowned Thayer Magic Co. of the U.S.

Many famous magicians of the day, when in Cardiff visited Williams. Whenever Chung Ling Soo was appearing in Cardiff his first port of call was always the Williams house, on a number of occasions he tried to persuade C.O. to go into business with him and open a magic depot in London, but always the careful businessman, Williams was doubtful about the continued prosperity of the conjuring industry. Besides he already had a thriving and successful business and he looked upon magic as a hobby. Eventually, Soo convinced Williams to start selling tricks. In addition, any magician Soo met he used to tell them that if you are going anywhere near Cardiff then go and see Charlie Williams, where they would see more new effects than all the London depots put together. As a result of this, ‘Afton House’ 107, Stacey Road, Cardiff would soon become known to conjurers all over the world.

During WW1 he performed charity shows for wounded soldiers, arranging concert parties and on occasions persuading his famous visitors to accompany him to the King Edward VII Hospital (now Cardiff Royal Infirmary) to entertain the soldiers on the wards.

Charles Oswald Williams died on the 30th January 1924. He had eight children.

Steve Sanders

Charles Oswald Williams has been added to our ‘People of Roath’ page and given a red plaque.

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