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Pioneers of Personal Film

At the dawn of the cinema age, these trailblazing early adopters brought filmmaking technology into the home.

Home moviemaking is older than the first cinemas: we've been filming ourselves for well over a hundred years. The birth of the cinematograph in 1895 inspired a plethora of inventions pitched at the domestic market: Kinoras, Kammatographs, Pictorialographs, Birtacs and Biokams - all cameras designed for amateurs and enthusiasts to film and project in the home.

This collection celebrates the earliest home movies preserved in Britain, and bears witness to the dawn of the amateur's long-standing fascination with family, travel and community.

"The object in introducing this apparatus is to endeavour to popularize this extremely fascinating branch of photography.... [I have] always looked forward to the time when animated photography would be within the reach of every one" - filmmaker/inventor Birt Acres, on his Birtac camera, 1898.

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Pioneers of Personal Film

RECOMMENDED

View Local Scenes and Family Pictures
Local Scenes and Family Pictures
Watch for free 14 mins

Local Scenes and Family Pictures 1927

Grandma and Grandad also join in the fun of this home movie - with beaches, swings & roundabouts and a medieval pageant led by Christopher Robin

14 mins United Kingdom

View Midsummer Madness - An Idiotic Idyll
Midsummer Madness - An Idiotic Idyll
Watch for free 1 mins

Midsummer Madness - An Idiotic Idyll 1933

Four bright young things enact a midsummer's love tryst among the daisies in this short, well-crafted amateur fiction film.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Psyche's Wedding
Psyche's Wedding
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Psyche's Wedding 1920

Bright young things thereto plight troth in a society wedding.

9 mins United Kingdom

View The Witch's Fiddle
The Witch's Fiddle
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The Witch's Fiddle 1924

Gotta dance! A bewitched violin gets everyone's feet tapping.

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Le Neve Foster

View Marjorie Glasspool Films Her Family in Alton
Marjorie Glasspool Films Her Family in Alton
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Marjorie Glasspool Films Her Family in Alton 1930

Marjorie Glasspool's home movie captures a variety of events and occasions experienced by a Hampshire family

8 mins United Kingdom

View The Scarlet Woman
The Scarlet Woman
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The Scarlet Woman 1924

Catholic fantasy starring Elsa Lanchester and Evelyn Waugh in an Andy Warhol fright wig.

43 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Greenidge

BROWSE THE COLLECTION

View Flying a Kite
Flying a Kite
Watch for free 1 mins

Flying a Kite 1903

In the year the Wright Brothers made their first flight, an Edwardian family film themselves taking to the skies… sort of.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Mermaids at Play at Bognor
Mermaids at Play at Bognor
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Mermaids at Play at Bognor 1903

Breathtakingly adorable home movie of an Edwardian seaside holiday on Bognor Regis beach.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Children's Party, Playing with Ball
Children's Party, Playing with Ball
Watch for free 1 mins

Children's Party, Playing with Ball 1902

What would a party be without balloons? The delight of these Edwardian children resonates across the years.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Girls Looking at Film and Giggling
Girls Looking at Film and Giggling
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Girls Looking at Film and Giggling 1902

One of the earliest amateur film portraits, and certainly one of the most charming.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Children's Party, "Oranges and Lemons"
Children's Party, "Oranges and Lemons"
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Children's Party, "Oranges and Lemons" 1902

Edwardian children play a quick game of oranges and lemons for the camera in this early home movie.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Playing on Beach
Playing on Beach
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Playing on Beach 1903

Utterly gorgeous Edwardian home movie of a family's day out with bucket and spade on Bognor Regis beach.

United Kingdom

View Joan's Birthday Party
Joan's Birthday Party
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Joan's Birthday Party 1929

It's party time in Bournemouth in the pioneering decade that set the standard for change

2 mins United Kingdom

View Joce and Gill at Home
Joce and Gill at Home
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Joce and Gill at Home 1936

Joseph Emberton's marvellous film captures the early years of daughters Jocelyn and Gill - with birthdays, Christmas and a trip to Blackpool

28 mins United Kingdom

View Early Film Making at Welsh Camp
Early Film Making at Welsh Camp
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Early Film Making at Welsh Camp 1929

Men on holiday from work at a Staffordshire firm - and on leave from home – enjoy themselves camping at Penygeulan farm, Llanymawddwy.

6 mins England

View 1934 Spirits from the Vasty Deep
1934 Spirits from the Vasty Deep
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1934 Spirits from the Vasty Deep 1934

A new baby holidays with London-based lawyer Goronwy Moelwyn Hughes, his wife and sons, and Lloyd Georges David and Megan discuss a new deal.

14 mins Wales

View Royal Silver Jubilee 1935 - Cardiff
Royal Silver Jubilee 1935 - Cardiff
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Royal Silver Jubilee 1935 - Cardiff 1935

Yards of bunting have been put up in Cardiff to celebrate King George V’s 25 years on the throne and the Wade home in Park Place has its share.

14 mins Wales

View They Forgot to Read the Directions
They Forgot to Read the Directions
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They Forgot to Read the Directions 1924

The 1920s elite let their guard down... Amateur antics from media baron Lord Beaverbrook and friends, including HG Wells and Rebecca West.

19 mins United Kingdom

View Crossing the Great Sagrada
Crossing the Great Sagrada
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Crossing the Great Sagrada 1924

A silent satire with hints of Monty Python.

12 mins United Kingdom Director. Adrian Brunel

View Aberaeron - Alban Square
Aberaeron - Alban Square
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Aberaeron - Alban Square 1929

Aberaeron’s pharmacist, with ready access to film, takes a camera out with his family and records them in town, on the beach and by the river.

12 mins Wales

View Pinner - 1926 - Osborne Personal Film
Pinner - 1926 - Osborne Personal Film
Watch for free 12 mins

Pinner - 1926 - Osborne Personal Film 1926

Evocative film capturing the suburb of Pinner succumbing to modernity, as we watch roads being constructed and the countryside retreating.

12 mins United Kingdom Director. William James Tigg

View Harrow Events - C.1927 - Osborne Personal Film
Harrow Events - C.1927 - Osborne Personal Film
Watch for free 7 mins

Harrow Events - C.1927 - Osborne Personal Film 1927

Watford, Harrow and Pinner let down their hair in a 1920s smorgasbord of funfairs, fire displays and Tudor pageantry.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Tenby Races 1931
Tenby Races 1931
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Tenby Races 1931 1931

Highlights of the rural year: The Milkmaid of the Year event, the Prince of Wales at the Royal Welsh Show at Llanelli, horse racing at Tenby and a ploughing match at St Clears.

16 mins Wales

View Barnstaple Fair in the 1920s
Barnstaple Fair in the 1920s
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Barnstaple Fair in the 1920s 1926

Join the crowds in Barnstaple for fairground attractions

4 mins United Kingdom

View Outing on the Thames
Outing on the Thames
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Outing on the Thames 1933

An interwar outing on the River Thames with a reminder of the Great Western Railway's influence in Birmingham.

8 mins England

View Our Holidays 1932
Our Holidays 1932
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Our Holidays 1932 1932

With the luxury of a beach hut as their base, the Mann family from Southend took any opportunity to head up the coast to spend many happy days at Walton-on-the-Naze

5 mins United Kingdom

View Memoirs of our Holiday at Aberystwyth August 1931
Memoirs of our Holiday at Aberystwyth August 1931
Watch for free 9 mins

Memoirs of our Holiday at Aberystwyth August 1931 1931

Waterfalls, rocks and St. Catherine’s Fort, Tenby, are just a few of the wonderful highlights in this short film that explores the west Wales area

9 mins United Kingdom

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