Film ID:
NEFA 19978



Visitor Tabs


Educational film produced as part of the Ministry of Education Visual Unit on Local Studies by Basic Films in October 1945, and released in 1949.  The film describes how a group of school children in Bishop Auckland become interested in local studies, and follows their progress as they plan, organize, and begin their studies of the locality, co-ordinating the results of their work in an exhibition of maps, models, graphs, records, charts, diagrams, plans and photographs. The film includes casting in steel at Wilson’s Forge, panoramic views of the rural landscape from Brusselton Hill, south of Bishop Auckland, footage of activities at Grange Hill Farm, and of parts of the Roman fort at Binchester.

Title: Near Home Part 1. Sound print

Still of historic map of Bishop Auckland.

Title: This film is part of the Ministry of Education Visual Unit on Local Studies


Produced by Basic Films

Photography Gerald Gibbs

Recording Leo Wilkins

Music Francis Chagrin

"Richards" played by Donald Finlay

Credit: Written & directed by Kay Mander with the assistance of children and townspeople of Bishop Auckland

The film opens with a panoramic view of the rural landscape from Brusselton Hill, south of Bishop Auckland and aerial views of Bishop Auckland.

Two boys run through country fields and join a group of schoolchildren and their teacher lounging on a grassy hill near an old stone tower.  The children discuss their local area and the history of Bishop Auckland with their teacher.  The teacher suggests separating into groups to investigate different areas and industries around Bishop Auckland.

The children are now gathered with their teacher in an informal school classroom with trestle table and Bentwood chairs, discussing their different local studies interests, the resources they will use, and the local people they will talk to in investigating the history of the Bishop Auckland area.

Close-up of a child writing a list in a school exercise book: “1. Where Bishop Auckland is and the weather. 2. Hide forge. 3. Growth of Bishop Auckland.

Inside the classroom, the teacher asks the children, including two girls with long pigtails, questions about their local studies interests and the children suggest things they would like to research.  One of the girls would like to know what happens at the Town Hall.

The children leave the stone school house building and cluster eagerly around the teacher on the street.  Three of the boys are not as enthusiastic about the project and tramp off down the street to play, their arms around each other’s shoulders.

Next, one of the girls wearing pigtails runs down a street, and opens the gate to her home. Inside, her father picks an old book from his library, and her mother retrieves old documents from a bureau drawer, which may help with the local studies project.

Three of the children walk along a path beside a rail track, looking over a fence at some large 1930s factory buildings, one of which houses the West Auckland Clothing Company in St Helen’s Auckland.

Another girl and boy look at a framed old photograph on a wall.

Two girls walk with a man they are questioning through the gardens of a mansion (or possibly Auckland Palace). Two children head off Newgate in Bishop Auckland (the shop front for Maurice’s in shot) down a side street, and enter the offices of the South West Durham Development Board.  Two other boys talk to a man on the doorstep of the firm, J. Ford Engineers and Surveyors. 

The teacher makes a telephone call.  He must also do research to keep in touch with the children’s interests.   Dressed in raincoat and hat, he meets a man in the Market Place, chats to another over a pint of beer at the bar of a local pub.  Close-up of hands typing, and of a typed letter addressed to Wilson’s Forge, North Church Road, Bishop Auckland.

Four of the children and the teacher visit a farm, talking to the farmer outside in the yard.

Back at the school, the children study maps with the teacher, and cluster around the sand model of the area they have made.  Close-ups of the sand model are intercut with school children observing the models and discussions. 

Some of the school children visit Wilson’s Forge in South Church Road, opposite Bishop Auckland cemetery, and observe the casting process.  Others visit the Parish Church of St. Andrews Auckland, St. Ann’s Chapel, Bishop’s Palace.  They consult antiquarian books and records.  Some children walk through the farmyard of Grange Hill Farm.  Others are pouring through old records and a census.

High angle view of Market square, Durham, as the children head across towards Durham University Palace Green Library.  The scene then cuts to the interior of Bishop Auckland Public Library with its old card catalogue cabinets.  Helped by the librarian, they consult various reference materials, including maps.

The children enter their school once again and begin to work on a relief scale model of the area. They paint signs and construct exhibition stands to display their local study.

A group of boys put up a poster for their exhibition outside a building.

Local people visit the local studies exhibition.  One boy explains the work to an army officer at the show. Exterior shots of Bishop Auckland from a nearby hill follow.  Two children skim stones in the river beside Jock’s Bridge carrying the public road to Binchester over the River Gaunless near the confluence with River Wear, at the edge of Auckland Castle Park.

Back inside the local studies exhibition, children continue to explain details of their displays to visitors.  Their points are then illustrated with shots of their visits.  A high angle shot of Bishop Auckland Market Place is followed by shots of the children peering from a church window at the views outside of Newgate Street and Auckland Castle gatehouse.

Four children head down the steep Wear Chare in Bishop Auckland.  General views of the meadows beside the River Wear viewed from Wear Chare.

A flock of geese move through the village green at Binchester.  Some school children walk around the area looking for the remains of the Roman fort (Vinovia).  They look at the remains of a Roman military bath house hypocaust, or heating system, and move through the underground tunnels of the bath house.  Outside again, they examine some of the remaining Roman walls. 

At the local studies exhibition the teacher shows displays to a male visitor and discusses it with the boy.  Children visit Linford’s Baking powder factory, where Co-operative Society Bakery department carts are parked up outside.  Three children peer over a fence at the West Auckland Clothing Company in St Helen Auckland.  A large group of the children walk in front of the 1930s factory building.

Two children cycle down a country road.  Inside Wilson’s Forge, a group of the children on the Local Studies project observe how pit-tub wheels are cast in the steel working workshops, look at coal tubs for local mines lined up on a rail track outside, and watch a man operating a mechanical saw used to make patterns for the casting process.  Outside, five children look at the Bessemer converter furnace.  Close-ups of the furnace and of molten metal pouring into small moulds follow.

Once more, there are scenes inside the children’s exhibition.  Some of the children are then seen at Grange Hill Farm, where they observe the processes of dairy farming.  Cows are milked by a mechanical milking machine.  A boy joins his class mates in an upstairs grain store.  Out in the farm’s barley fields, two children ride a tractor with a farm worker, and then collapse together on the newly harvested barley field.

Back in the exhibition, there are shots of the different wall displays including a poster illustrating the distribution of collieries in the area.  The teacher and a visiting councillor (?) discuss local studies as an educational tool.

The film ends with general views of children in the countryside and a panoramic view of the landscape south of Bishop Auckland.

End Credits: The End.  A Basic Film for the Ministry of Information October 1945.

Title: End of Part 3. Near Home

[This charming vision of small school education in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, follows a group of children who embark on an ambitious study of their town, guided by an inspirational teacher. The film was produced by the Ministry of Education and suggests that, as self-directed learners, the children are being prepared for a life of freedom and enquiry in the post-war world. The film documents many Bishop Auckland landmarks as the children's investigations lead them all over town: from Wilson's Forge on South Church Road (closed in 1997), to Grange Hill Farm and Lingford's baking powder factory on Durham Street. It was directed by the prolific and innovative documentary filmmaker Kay Mander through her own production company, Basic Films. BFI ]