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Victoria's New Media Pioneers

Electrical instrument maker, inventor, photographer, chemist, magic lanternist, magician - these were the men who built British film. Among that first generation of filmmakers, there were a few whose ambition, ingenuity and business acumen lifted them above the rest. And even if today's filmmakers may not always recognise it, they tread in the footsteps of these intrepid pioneers.

R.W. Paul (1869 - 1943)

Sea Cave near Lisbon
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Sea Cave near Lisbon

18960 minsSilent

Breath-taking view of waves breaking at the mouth of the Boca do Inferno.

Rough Sea at Dover
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Rough Sea at Dover

Non-Fiction18950 minsSilent

Waves crash onto a jetty on the Kentish shoreline in one of Britain's earliest surviving films

Two A.M.; Or, The Husband's Return
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Two A.M.; Or, The Husband's Return

Comedy18961 minsSilent

A drunken spouse gets his just desserts in a timeless scene

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - Paul - York Road - Front of Procession
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Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - Paul - York Road - Front of Procession

18971 minsSilent

Carriages full of well-heeled guests continue in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession, filmed for RW Paul.

Launch of H.M.S. Albion
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Launch of H.M.S. Albion

Non-Fiction18982 minsSilent Location: Blackwall

The launch of H.M.S Albion, which was marred by the collapse of a gangway which resulted in many spectators drowning.

Comic Costume Race
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Comic Costume Race

Non-Fiction18961 minsSilent

Plenty of laughs to be had as these Victorian clowns attempt to run a charity race - if they can get their wigs on

Birt Acres (1854-1918)

Footpads
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Footpads

Crime18961 minsSilent

A simple special effect enlivens an early crime film

Opening of the Kiel Canal
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Opening of the Kiel Canal

Non-Fiction18950 minsSilent

This was one of a series of actuality films made by the Victorian pioneer Birt Acres during 1895. The film is thought to have been shot on June 20, on the occasion of the opening of the Kiel Canal by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Acres shot other films at the same time, but they have not survived.

The Derby 1895
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The Derby 1895

Sport18951 minsSilent

An exciting finish suggests that this is one of the very earliest British films

G.A. Smith (1864-1959)

As Seen through a Telescope
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As Seen through a Telescope

Comedy19001 minsSilent

A peeping Tom gets a shocking glimpse of stocking in this early take on film voyeurism.

The Kiss in the Tunnel
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The Kiss in the Tunnel

Comedy18992 minsSilent

A snatched kiss in a railway tunnel, played by real-life married couple GA Smith and Laura Bayley

The Miller and the Sweep
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The Miller and the Sweep

Comedy18971 minsSilent

A battle of soot versus flour

Grandma's Reading Glass
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Grandma's Reading Glass

Trick film19001 minsSilent

A boy examines things through his Grandmother’s magnifying glass, and early film takes a huge step forward.

Comic Faces - Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer
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Comic Faces - Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer

Comedy18971 minsSilent

How many faces can one man pull while drinking one glass of beer? Far more than you might think

The House That Jack Built
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The House That Jack Built

Comedy19001 minsSilent

All's well that ends well - which is exactly what happens when movie magic undoes a boy's wanton vandalism

James Williamson (1855-1933)

The Big Swallow
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The Big Swallow

Comedy19011 minsSilent

A classic early film gag - and a big leap forward for a fast-evolving new art

Washing the Sweep
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Washing the Sweep

Comedy18981 minsSilent

A washerwoman's work is never done - especially when there's a drunken chimney sweep at large...

Are You There?
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Are You There?

Comedy19011 minsSilent

Innovative early film, which invents its own 'split-screen' effect

Fire!
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Fire!

Drama19015 minsSilent

A dramatic rescue from a burning building by heroic firemen is one of our most important films

The Puzzled Bather and His Animated Clothes
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The Puzzled Bather and His Animated Clothes

Trick film19011 minsSilent

An entertaining early film 'trick'

Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue
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Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue

War19001 minsSilent Location: Brighton

Fictional treatment of a contemporary atrocity story from the 1900 Boxer rebellion in China.

WKL Dickson (1860-1930)

Me and My Two Friends
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Me and My Two Friends

18980 minsSilent Location: Worthing

A beatific image of Victorian childhood

Herbert Campbell As Little Bobby
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Herbert Campbell As Little Bobby

Comedy18991 minsSilent

A not-so-little variety star shows off his appetite

Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Coming Ashore
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Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Coming Ashore

Documentary18981 minsSilent Location: Worthing

Stunning footage of a lifesaving demonstration

Walter Booth (1969-1938)

Railway Collision
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Railway Collision

Drama19001 minsSilent

An impressive early film special effect

Undressing Extraordinary; Or, The Troubles of a Tired Traveller
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Undressing Extraordinary; Or, The Troubles of a Tired Traveller

Trick film19012 minsSilent

Entertaining example of early 'special effects'

Waif and the Wizard; or, The Home Made Happy
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Waif and the Wizard; or, The Home Made Happy

Trick film19012 minsSilent

A boy asks a magician to entertain his sick sister in this edition of RW Paul’s Sentimental Songs with Animated Illustrations.