Film ID:
NEFA 21336

THE SECRET OF SHIP’S ENTRY

1957

Visitor Tabs

Description

 This amateur cine club production is a film within a film within a film. The Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA) hold a meeting at their cine club headquarters down Ship’s Entry, off Cloth Market, Newcastle upon Tyne. The members are bereft of ideas for their new production. The Secretary floats the bare bones of an idea about a new member joining the club, a story which subsequently plays out in this film as a series of flashbacks. The story recounts the member’s secret search for ‘treasure’ hidden in the cellar of the club house, following the lead of a letter written centuries ago, discovered in an old diary. A short, colour costume drama insert pieces together a dark story of religious persecution and murder, which took place at the club house at Ship’s Entry in the 17th century. Includes location footage of a delapidated Quayside area in the 1950s.

Credit: Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association Presents

Title: The Secret of Ship’s Entry

Credits: With

Elizabeth Venn

Morris Burdon

Tony Burnham

Ray Hinds

Sidney Kilvington

Robert Norman

Geoffrey Richardson

Tommy Thompson

Jack Wrightson

… and most of the club members

Credits:

Photography Reg. Hall

Technical Assistants

Doris Marshall

Florence Richardson

Eddie Dance

Jack Gibson

Leslie Greaves

Jack Morton

Michael Taylor

Keith Venn

And others …

Credit: Written and Produced by George Cummin

[Black and white film]

A meeting of the Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association is taking place at the cine club’s headquarters at Ship’s Entry, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Secretary and Chairman synchronise watches. It’s 7:30pm. Members are called to order at the meeting. The Chairman addresses the full audience of members who laugh. Close-up of his hand banging the table to quiet them. He reads from his meeting agenda.

Close-up of the agenda with points to discuss. First up is “discussion of ideas, stories, scripts, from those received”. He consults with the Secretary, who points to his own list. Next to the first item, he has scribbled “NIL”, underlined.

The Chairman can’t believe it. The Secretary points to his next scribble: “Any suggestions from meeting?” The audience of members are consulted. They think hard, but no ideas are forthcoming. They chat enthusiastically amongst themselves.

The Secretary has an idea. Close-up of his notes on an envelope: “? Film of club interest = New member. Its reason for joining etc.” He explains his idea to the audience. Close-up of the envelope: “Might start with the Chairman welcoming new member – “. The Chairman stands up to speak.

Title: “Oh yes, I ought to have welcomed a new member tonight – Mr Burdon. Perhaps he has an idea …”

Mr Burdon stands up to speak.

Title: Nothing to suggest I’m afraid – except this very old building of yours may have a story. Does anyone know?”

The Chairman quizzes the members. Mr Burdon sits down. The members have another think but remain silent. The Chairman consults his agenda. Next up: “Tea break”.

Everyone takes a break and chat to each other. The new member looks around at everyone then strolls out of the meeting room. He leaves his cup of tea on the steps to the basement. The Chairman spots the cup and peers down the stairs. Another member joins him and the two peer curiously downstairs.

Downstairs Mr Burdon is examining the structure of a door below the stage of the club house. When he returns back upstairs, the Chairman and Secretary point him in the right direction for the gentlemen’s toilets. They are a little suspicious.

Another ACA member points to his copy of the agenda. Number 3 on the list: “8:45pm approx. Films from Edinburgh C. S.” Some members head back to the screening room. Close-up of a pocket watch that reads 8:50pm. Dissolve to same pocket watch now reading 10:05pm.

The ACA Chairman turns off the lights in the screening room and joins other members leaving. All the lights are turned off. In the dark, Mr Burdon appears through a door and heads for the stairs. The Chairman and Secretary are also lurking in the darkened club house. Again, Mr Burdon begins to examine the frame of the door downstairs. The Chairman and Secretary sneak up and peer into the room to see what he’s up to. The new member now has a torch and walks down another flight of stairs in the basement. The Chairman and Secretary follow and spy on him. Again, he is checking the frame of a door. The Chairman and Secretary turn the lights on suddenly and surprise him. They interrogate him and the story unfolds.

In a flashback, Mr Burdon is browsing a second hand bookshop window. Back on the street, he is flicking through an old diary he has just bought at the shop. Close-up of the book cover, a handwritten label stuck on a ledger cover: “Anthony Richardson of Ship’s Entry Newcastle upon Tyne his Book”. Mr Burdon walks to a park bench and sits down next to a chap reading a newspaper. He begins to flick through the battered, old diary. He drops it and a letter slips out. He reads the letter: “Brother – Jr. Morson’s escape hathe cost a great price. The account is hid in the secret place above the door. It tells why the greatest treasures […] lies buried neath the […] of Ship’s Entry while I myself […] to France until it shall be safe to return for the better […] of these precious.” Mr Burdon ponders the meaning of the letter. General view of the two men on the bench.

Mr Burdon is now striding along the Quayside in Newcastle, the Tyne Bridge in the background. He examines an old door. Above, a street sign reads “Spencer’s Entry”. He continues a search on the Quayside, its old warehouses and houses looking quite derelict. He peers at the street sign for “Long Stairs”, a chare off the Quayside. He passes three lads on a corner and spots another sign, “Sandhill”. He continues along the Quayside and emerges on the steep hill of The Side. He questions the shop owner who directs him up the street. He crosses a street across from a branch of the Midland Bank, through a small square with a statue and finds Ship’s Entry, off Cloth Market. He walks down the narrow alley, checking doors, and spots the Newcastle ACA sign above a door.

The film cuts to Mr Burdon recounting his story to the ACA Chairman and Secretary at the club’s headquarters in Ship’s Entry. He shows them the old letter. The Chairman speaks.

Title: “If there’d been anything we’d have found it. We practically pulled the place to pieces when we took over.”

Down in the cellar, the ACA Chairman and Secretary look in a drawer full of old bits and pieces, finding an old key. They unlock a door to the cellar.

Title: “Ship’s Entry used to be a steep lane down to the Lort Burn and the river. This house lost its ground floor when the valley was filled in to make Grey Street.”

They examine an old fireplace and tap the plaster for signs of an old door. They accidently discover a small casket hidden in a crack between stones. Inside, they find a small oval pendant portrait of a woman in a bonnet. They pull out a wallet and discover a letter inside. The letter reads: “[…] of the events of Ship’s Entry on 15th April 1638. My wife and I returned from the country to our home at Ship’s Entry to receive Father Norman and to pass him on to the Ship’s Captain who hath arranged his transport to France. As we were … “

[Colour footage]

A flashback recreates the event, a tale of religious persecution. A married couple in 17th century costume light the candles and an oil lamp in a darkened room at home in Ship’s Entry. The man takes out a knife from a pouch, and pulls out a note, which he unfolds to read. The two look at the letter: “Must get Mr Morson away with tonight’s tide – Warn Ship – Danger from priest catcher with eyepatch [sic].”  The man hurries out. He uses his candle to signal to the ship. His wife (played by Elizabeth Venn) sets fire to the note.

The wife rushes out of the room and brings in the priest with a female servant. The man returns with Mr. Morson. The priest blesses the woman and presses rosary beads into her hand. The group leaves for the ship in the dead of night. The woman looks out into the dark.

The dreaded priest catcher with an eye patch appears in the dark, sneaking into the house at Ship’s Entry. In the room, he spots the rosary beads laying on the table. The wife returns to the room and takes a pistol from a drawer. The priest catcher comes back into the room, picking up the note on the table. But the wife appears behind him with the gun. They struggle and the gun goes off. The smoking gun is now in the priest catcher’s hand. The woman holds her hand to her gunshot wound. Her hand is covered in blood. She leans against a desk, and picks up a gun. She shoots the priest catcher, then collapses onto the desk.

The servant returns to the room and reads a letter written by her mistress before her death. The letter reads: “Only by killing the priest catcher could I save our plan. But I fear I too am mortally hurt. Bury me neath the house that my poor body may escape the fate of one dubbed traitor.” The light fades on a lit candle.

Later, the woman’s husband writes a letter: “Brother. Mr Morson’s escape hath cost a great price. The account is hid in the secret place – Above the door. It tells why the greatest of my treasures – my wife – lies buried deep neath the floor of Ship’s Entry, while myself will to France until it shall be safe to return for the better disposal of these precious remains.” The man finishes the letter, puts it in his pocket, and looks tenderly at the small oval portrait of his wife.

The last part of the letter reads: “… said task is done. My wife is buried safe from sacrilegious hands and the river hath received the other. I will hide this account in the old place that you – should you return – may know what truly befell. Anthony Richardson.”

[Black and white footage]

The ACA Chairman and Secretary discuss the letter hidden in the little casket.

The scene returns to the night of the meeting. The Secretary speaks.

Title: “– and that’s it. Question is – will it make a film?”

Title: The End