FILM MAKING IN HOLMFIRTH
|DIRECTOR | the Lumiere brothers inspired a generation
It may come as a surprise, but Holmfirth was
once England’s answer to Hollywood.
Inside Out looks at how this Yorkshire village
has a special place in film-making history.
Only months after the first commercial films were produced
by the Lumiere brothers in France, small manufacturers such as Riley Brothers
of Bradford were making and selling movie cameras.
This led to film makers setting up all over the country.
One of the most successful was James Bamforth of Holmfirth.
was one of the earliest successful film makers|
Bamforth had already made his name as a manufacturer
of magic lantern slides, so it was a natural step for him to progress
to moving pictures.
He was a very talented artist and would paint spectacular
backcloths, use costumes and props from his magic lantern slides and film
in sets of tableaux.
Watch clips from Bamforth's early films:
There were no professional film actors at the time, so
Bamforth relied on local people for his movie casts.
Peter Bullock’s grandfather Fred was a blacksmith. Peter
says, "He’d get a call to come and do some filming, and had to down tools
in the smithy and go and get dressed up in whatever garb they decided
Bamforth’s biggest star was Reginald Twisk, who played
a Chaplin-like character known as Winky.
The local amateurs did not have very far to travel as
many of Bamforth’s productions were filmed around Holmfirth.
According to Derek Bamforth, grandson of James, the local
bank manager would allow his bank to be used for filmed robberies.
playing cricket in a James Bamforth film|
The local railway companies would also stop the trains
to allow Bamforth to film railway scenes.
Maureen Jessop, whose parents acted in the films tells
of how daily life came to a standstill when a film was in production.
She says, "When it was washday and they were going to
do a scene on the Holmfirth station they all had to go down and leave
Film historians see Bamforth’s films as the earliest
examples of British comic film.
Vanessa Toulmin of Sheffield University thinks Bamforth’s
should be remembered as the first to capture on film the music hall tradition
of northern slapstick comedy.
End of an era
When war broke out in 1914, movie-making in Holmfirth
came to an end. The material used to make film
was needed to make explosives.
After the war, they never resumed film production. By
then, Hollywood had the movie world in its grip and small British producers
would have struggled to compete.
Bamforth’s started to manufacture saucy seaside postcards.
Tens of thousands of these were sent home by British and American soldiers
fighting in France.
Nowadays, Holmfirth is a star of the small screen. For
the last 30 years The Last of the Summer Wine has been filmed there.
Famous actors are often spotted in the town, and there’s
a whole tourist industry based around the sitcom.
It also means that Bamforth’s comic tradition is carrying