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Lancashire at Work

An epic and electrifying portrait of the county that cradled the industrial revolution.

Documentary 1933 22 mins


The Face of Lancashire changed'. This lesser-known early film from Britain's celebrated documentary movement is an exhilarating portrait of a county that cradled the industrial revolution. Lancashire is defined here by its historic boundaries, stretching from the yards of Barrow to the waterways of Manchester ship canal. It's a superficial overview, maybe - but a stirring and visually impressive one.

In the early 1930s there were still plenty of silent projectors about, and quite a few specialist and educational films continued to be released without sound. The director of Lancashire at Work, Donald Taylor, would make a shorter sound film (titled So This is Lancashire) two years later using the same footage. But it's far stronger the first time round, playing as a true silent movie, obviously influenced by Soviet cinema (with a nod to the American Western). It's a thrilling but chilling hymn to science-driven progress - impersonal and implacable. Fusing the elemental to the futuristic, it weaves watermills and cable masts, pitch-dark modern mines and Lowry-like satanic mill-towns, big factories and bustling stock exchanges into one electrified epic tapestry of intertwined industries. The film seems to have survived slightly incomplete, however, and ends abruptly - as if suddenly short of power.