Four key studios in Walthamstow are the linchpin of England's silent film heritage

 

Cunard /BROADWEST

The Cunard Film Company Limited  moved into their purpose-built studio at 245 Wood Street in October 1914.

 The studio had a 115 foot by 45 foot glass roofed daylight stage with extra lighting from 30 Westminster arc lamps.

Broadwest finally went into receivership in 1921 and although other smaller companies took possession of the building at various stages  The building itself was demolished sometime before the 1950's.

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IB DAVIDSON

 I.B. Davidson converted an old horse tram shed at 588 Lea Bridge Road. Davidson’s studio was a "dark stage" studio making it unique in the area in that they used artificial lighting exclusively. 

 Two of their original stars were the legendary “Bombadier” Billy Wells and Victor McLaglen. McLaglen got his start in film acting appearing in The Gay Corinthian after being persuaded by producer A E Colby to give up boxing as a profession. Like B&C they fell victim to Black November and by the end of 1924 were out of business.

 


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BRITISH & COLONIAL

The already established British and Colonial Kinematograph Company, who by 1914 were one of the top six film companies in Britain. They moved into what was a former roller skating rink at 317-319 Hoe Street (now a BT Exchange).

In the summer of 1913 they made what is considered the first ever British epic The Battle of Waterloo shooting some scenes on Whipps Cross 

PRECISION

Early in 1910 the Gobbett brothers, who had formed The Precision Film Company in 1908 had a film studio built at 280 Wood Street, at the junction with Lea Bridge Road. This studio, The Precision Film Studio was the first purpose built film studio in Walthamstow. The two-story building overlooked Epping Forest which came right up to the East of Wood Street in those days. 

Success of the studio was short-lived and by 1915 it closed (which may or may not have been connected to the untimely death of one of the brothers at the age of 34) and by 1919 it was operating as a tool factory. The building itself was finally demolished, probably in the 1950's and on it's site now stands Beuleigh Court.

MAY DAY BLUE PLAQUE UNVEILING

blue plaques unveiled at beuleigh court and 237 wood street, e17

 

Between 1910 and 1926, 400 silent films were made by four film studios, located on around Wood Street, E17, including the 1916 classic The Battle of the Somme.

Many important actors first appeared in Walthamstow films including Victor Mclaglen, a John Ford stalwart who went on to win an Oscar for his role in The Informer and the famous Hollywood star Ronald Colman also launched his career was at Broadwest films. 

The studios were situated in Walthamstow outside the "fog zone" away from the pollution and gawping crowds film makers experienced in the city. They were also close enough to the city for actors to be back in time for evening performances in the west end theatres. 

Timeline of Events:

1910 - Precision Film Studio Opens 

1913 - British & Colonial Opens 

1914 - Broadwest aka Walthamstow Studios Opens

1914 - I.B Davidson begins working 

1915 - Precision Film Studio Closes 

1924 - British & Colonial Closes 

1930 - Broadwest aka Walthamstow Studios Closes 

 

 

FACTS AT A GLANCE


1) "Throughout the autumn of 1916, 20 million people flocked to see a silent film, The Battle of the Somme. This was nearly half the population of Britain at the time. The film remains one of the most watched in British cinema history, even bigger than Star Wars." Francine Stock, The Film Programme


2) While cinema audiences had been shown newsreel footage for many years, it was never a major attraction – they were drawn in by the comedies of Charlie Chaplin, serials such as The Perils of Pauline or sweeping dramas from Hollywood like Intolerance.Francine Stock, The Film Programme


3) The Battle of the Somme was different. It took real life footage and turned it into a main feature with mass appeal. The film showed images of the first week of the ‘Big Push’, the joint offensive which began in July 1916 where British and French armies hoped to break through the German lines and achieve victory on the Western Front.Francine Stock, The Film Programme


4) Street location work Cobden Road Leytonstone 1913. The Film WHILE LONDON SLEEPS was made by British & Colonial based in Hoe Street assisted by Leyton & Leytonstone Volunteer Fire Bridgade (Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


5) Epping Forest was ideal for location work, starring in man ya horseback or duel scene. (Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


6) Precision was the first film company to establish a base in Waltham Forest. 

The purpose built studio built in 1910 at 280 Wood Street survived until 1914

Precision's Director was AE Radcliffe and specialised in short films plus British "features"

(Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


7) IB Davidson was situated in Lea Bridge Road. The former tram shed enjoyed the work of producers AE Colby and Arthur Rooke who produced films around boxing, horse racing and "low life" 

(Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


8) This was in contrast to the society dramas, which in the 1920s were now considered old fashioned.  The studios closed in 1924 after a British film industry slump.(Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


9) "Walthamstow was in those days one of the centres of the British film industry which was a frail concern.... including money or man power to put them (ideas) into effect". (Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


10) Other problems which affected the British film industry included American rivals, unreliable weather, location shooting risks, small home audiences and low returns.  Not to mention snobbery about mass appeal. Investors because wary and stage actors considered the work "slumming".  In 1909, one third of pictures in British cinemas came from the USA. (Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)


11) British & Colonial Kinematograph company existed from 1913 to 1924.  The move from East Finchley to Hoe Street to a converted roller skating rink in Hoe street which now hosts the Telephone Exchange building.

Studios revived after the war with an injection of American cash. But 1921 found it in trouble again and it folded in July 1924. Actors included Elisabeth Risdom and Joan Morgan. (Flickering Screens Vestry House Museum)