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Edwardian Britain on Film

Welcome to a lost world. These amazing films, lost for nearly a century, offer something close to time travel - a journey into the Britain of our great grandparents, courtesy of filmmakers Mitchell and Kenyon.

Their films give us stunning images of ordinary life in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain: factory workers, church congregations and schoolchildren, street scenes, tram rides, local events and sport. This isn't the stuffy, middle-class world we usually see. These Edwardians laugh, grin and point at the camera, even make rude gestures. Film brings them to life in a way that no painting or photograph could.

The story began in 1994, when three metal churns were found in a Blackburn basement. They were stuffed with hundreds of rolls of 35mm film, dating from around 1900 to 1913. The films ultimately passed, via their initial custodian Peter Worden, to the BFI, beginning a five-year project of cataloguing and restoration. With great skill, BFI archivists reproduced superb image quality from the often damaged original negatives.

Meanwhile a team uniting the University of Sheffield and the BFI researched the films' background. In the process, the story of early film was rewritten. Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon had been thought minor figures. We now know that their Blackburn-based company belonged to an important world of local, non-fiction filmmaking that thrived in the early 1900s. Touring northern and central England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, they made films to order for fairground operators and other showmen to screen to paying audiences, offering punters the chance to 'see yourself as others see you'.

A 2005 BBC series, cinema screenings and DVD releases brought the films to national attention. Now, for the first time, the collection (some 28 hours) is available in full. So dig in and enjoy. And spare a thought for your great grandparents, some of whom thrilled to these images when they were fresh from the camera.

Digitisation of this Collection was funded by The National Lottery.

"Pepys, the Domesday Book, the films of Mitchell and Kenyon – there are certain works of record without which the lineage of our lives would be lost."

Danny Boyle

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Edwardian Britain on Film

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