Edwardians at Work

Fun outside the factory gates: views of a long-lost world of working life.

Fun outside the factory gates: views of a long-lost world of working life. image

Some of Mitchell and Kenyon's liveliest, most joyous images can be found among the scores of films they shot outside places of work. From the cotton mills on their Lancashire doorstep the duo travelled to engineering factories and ironworks, collieries and shipyards - not to mention railway works, hat and boot makers, paint, paper and glass manufacturers, brewers and biscuit-makers.

These films show an early 20th century economy that was industrialised and relatively prosperous - and very hard-working. It's striking, too, how many children loiter in shot - some of them, no doubt, workers, at a time when child labour was regulated but not yet legislated away.

Indoor light was too dim for early film stock, so M&K never took their camera beyond the factory gate. But then, what they filmed outside was so much more alive: at shift's end the workers might be weary, but they were also relaxed, even playful.

Tens of thousands of faces passed before M&K's cameras, but these workers appear to us not just as a mass, but as individuals. They look out at us, eye to eye across a century and more.

Digitisation of this collection was funded by The National Lottery.

These pictures have been taken at dinner-time showing the factory hands leaving the Works. All should come and see themselves and friends as Living Pictures. Advertisement for Testo's Electric Exhibition, Shipley Times, 28 July 1900


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