This film is part of Free

Workmen Leaving Platt's Works, Oldham (1900)

A visually memorable film of staff exiting a turn-of-the-century Lancashire machine factory.

Non-Fiction 1900 2 mins Silent


Teeming workers on a sloping street are shot from a low angle, with strong perspective and a foggy vanishing point, making this a visually striking and rather haunting film. Towards the end, one man lingers in front of the camera. With his direct gaze, inscrutable expression and ethereal presence (he's too close to the camera to stay in focus) he seems to us like a ghost staring at the living.

You have to feel for the boys who also loiter in front of the camera, much more joyously no doubt but, unfortunately, largely below the frameline! The horse, and later a tram, travelling away from the camera add to the film's visual power, while the drinks vendor offering to refresh the exiting workers is an interesting social detail. Over and above their cinematic qualities, Mitchell and Kenyon's 'factory gate' films make fascinating entry points into the late Victorian and early Edwardian economy. As this crowded film suggests, Platts was a large employer. It produced machinery for Lancashire's cotton mills and for Yorkshire's wool trade. Both industries are themselves heavily represented, with many more women workers than here, in the M&K collection.