Film ID: YFA 3428 Video of YFA_3428 Bradford Town Hall Square 1896 BRADFORD TOWN HALL SQUARE 1896 Visitor TabsDescription This is a film of Bradford’s Town Hall Square taken in the early days of filmmaking and includes images of the crowded streets of the square. The film opens with a shot of the Town Hall which includes three placards affixed to the first floor of the building. Tram lines run in front of the building and across the square. A small brass band in the distance is watched by pedestrians. The band marches towards the camera. Traffic in the street also includes a horse-drawn carriage and a horse-drawn cart. A steam tram comes into view, and on the side of the tram is a Liptons advertising sign. People are walking around the square, and there are also two men on bicycles. Context This film was one of several deposited with the YFA by the North West Film Archive, without having, unfortunately, any accompanying information. Like many films made at the turn of the nineteenth century, the camera has been placed in a stationary position to film a simple street scene. The YFA has two similar films made in the late 1890s, Leeds Street Scenes (1898) – listed at the BFI as Street Scene in Boar Lane (Leeds) – and Queen Victoria Visits Sheffield (1897). This is a very early example of this type of film, when many cameras could only take film of very short length – although Prestwich cameras could take up to 500 foot of film in 1897. At this time most cameras used the claw mechanism, originally devised by the Lumières; others used a ‘beater’ mechanism or an eccentric sprocket roller to move the film down a frame at a time, although a few used the maltese cross , including the Kinetograph developed by Thomas Edison in the U.S. and reproduced by Robert Paul in England. However, the design and production of cameras multiplied at the end of the century, although often on a small scale and limited to local area. The cameras were fairly small and portable, although they had to be put on a tripod, it being impossible to hand crank them otherwise. The more portable cameras were only able to take 100 ft. of 35mm film, which only lasted just about 1 ¾ mins., running at 16fps. – the length of this film. The larger cameras could take 400 ft., which ran for just over 8 minutes. It is not known for sure either who made the film or what kind of camera was used: the film isn’t listed anywhere. There are a number of possibilities, including the magic lantern manufacturers the Riley Brothers, who operated out of 55 & 57 Godwin Street, Bradford. They produced a machine called the Kineoptoscope in 1896 using a design patented by Cecil Wray. This was advertised at the time in The Era as, 'Steady as Lumière's. No breakdowns. Most portable and the most perfect known'. This was modified into the Kineoptoscope camera in June 1897, and it may be this which is being used in this film. The Riley Brothers did issue catalogues of their films in July and October 1897, but no copies of these are known to exist. Barnes states that it is likely they were making films in 1897 but none have been traced, although he does list a ‘Bradford (Street Scene)’ for 1898 (see Barnes, 1983, References). The Riley Brothers put on the first cinema performance in Bradford at the People’s Palace on 6th April 1896, now the site of the National Media Museum. There are several other contenders. It may be Cecil Wray himself who was involved with the film, as he, along with his partner of the time William Baxter, set up a business in Borough Mills, Manchester Road, Bradford. This pair patented a second apparatus on 6th May 1897 in conjunction with Bradford clockmaker Joseph Oulton, the ‘Perfection’ cinematograph. A third contender is John Henry Rigg, an electrical engineer from Leeds, who patented an early projector in 1896, the Kinematograph, which he subsequently converted so that it could be used as a camera. Little is known of his film production, but he did make a film in the locality in September 1897, Switchback in Operation at Shipley Glen. Another possibility is Richard John Appleton, who ran a photographic and magic lantern business from Manningham Lane, Bradford. He brought out the Cieroscope in November 1896 which combined the functions of camera, printer and projector. He made films and also put on film shows. Most famously he filmed Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession in London on 22nd June 1897, processed the film on the train journey back, and showed it in Bradford that same evening to an audience of thousands (one estimate has it as 250,000!). There are notices in the British Journal of Photography of his putting on ‘street scenes’ as part of his film shows. However, it may be that local cinema historian Geoff Mellor came up with the answer in his book Movie Makers and Picture Palaces. Here Mellor discusses a film made in 1896 in Bradford Town Hall Square, directly in front of City Hall, by George Henderson, from Stockton-on-Tees. Mellor states that Henderson – a filmmaker and exhibitor not mentioned in other sources – took moving pictures of steam trams, and that this was one of the few documented films made outdoors from 1896. Furthermore, Mellor states that Henderson’s film came to light in 1942, and ended up with Bolling Hall Museum. Henderson’s collection of films made their way, through his son Paul, to Movietone and the BFI. Mellor also notes that nearby to where this film was taken was the Kinetoscope Parlour owned by Fred Issott. One of the difficulties in knowing for sure who made the film is that there were several moving image cameras available on the market at that time: Wray and Baxter had already sold 200 of their machines, at £15 each, by November 1897. Amateurs could also make films using French cameras on sale in England in the latter half of 1896 (Barnes, 1998, p. 265). Whatever the truth of the matter, investigating the origins of early films reveals just how much activity there was in filmmaking and exhibiting at the time, and just how fascinating a time it must have been. Street scenes of this kind were common at the turn of the century, and there are many other examples. They form part of a genre of films often called actuality films because they filmed real life situations, such as workers coming out of factory gates. The filmmakers and exhibitors Mitchell and Kenyon, for example, made many of this kind. John Barnes (in the 2002 edition of Pioneers of the British Film, the third volume of his history) states that this film may be one of theirs. Yet of the over 800 Mitchell and Kenyon films discovered in 1994, none go back before 1900; although they certainly were making films before then. However, they didn’t form their partnership in Blackburn until 1897. With such a short length of film there is very little information in the film to go on. The building in the background is the old Mechanics Institute, with offices and shops in the foreground, which formed a triangular island next to the Town Hall Square. Looking very similar to Thorpe Buildings, built in the same year of 1871, the Mechanics Institute was a grand lecture hall and library, standing between Tyrrel Street and Market Street. It was demolished 100 years later to make way for the Provincial Building Society, also now gone. The steam engine and tram look to be heading towards Manchester Road. As to the tram, the steam engine should have a number on the front, but it is very difficult to spot on such a grainy image. However Stanley King, in Bradford Corporation Tramways (1998), in discussing the film, states that 'a brief foretaste of the 20th Century was glimpsed about 1896 when a Shelf tram hauled by engine number 5 was captured on an early, flickering cine film as it steamed across Town Hall Square' (p. 18). The Bradford and Shelf Tramway ran trams along Manchester Road to Wyke and Shelf for twenty years from 1884. The steam engine, or locomotive, would have been one of the earlier engines, built by Green and Son, and both engine and double-decker trailer would have been painted chocolate brown (see Coates). As well as the buildings and clothes people are wearing, also of interest are the other modes of transport. There are no cars, although a few were around at this time – the first person to be run over was in 1896, by a vehicle going at just 4mph.! There are several people riding bicycles, and special note might be made of the man right at the end who disembarks from his bicycle as if it is a horse! But the filmmaker might well have had a special interest in filming the steam tram, heading towards Manchester Road. Bradford built its own tramway in 1880, leasing the first sections to the Bradford and Shelf Tramway Company and the Bradford Tramways and Omnibus Company. The lines were operated from 1884 using both horse drawn and steam tramcars along Manchester Road to Wyke and Shelf, until 1904. [Special thanks to Sarah Powell of Bradford Local Studies in taking time to help provide much of this information]. References John Barnes, The Beginnings of the Cinema in England, University of Exeter Press, revised, 1998. John Barnes, The Rise of Cinema in Great Britain, Bishopgate Press, London, 1983. John Barnes, Pioneers of the British Film, University of Exeter, 1996. D.M. Coates, Bradford City Tramways 1882-1950, Locomotives International. 1984 Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan eds., Who’s who of Victorian Cinema, British Film Institute, London, 1996. Geoff Mellor, Movie Makers and Picture Palaces, Bradford Libraries, 1996. Geoff Mellor, The Cinema Heritage Trail, Bradford City Council, 2000 Emmanuelle Toulet, Cinema is 100 Years Old, Thames and Hudson, London, 1995. Vanessa Toulmin, Simon Popple and Patrick Russell, The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film British Film Institute, London, 2004. Further Information Stanley King, Bradford Corporation Tramways, Venture Publications Ltd, 1999.