Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Early newsreel and locally produced films

Copies of rare and interesting newsreel items of local interest have been deposited, usually film on cellulose nitrate stock. The discovery of large holdings of nitrate newsfilms by British Pathe has prompted a rescue project by WFSA to duplicate items of local importance, so that they may be viewed in the search room and cinema. Military and naval subjects are particularly well covered, and these have been given priority, but there are also many topographical items showing the beauty and fascination of the area, along with the usual local events.

Examples of newsreel items deposited in WFSA include the following: King Returns from Durbhar (1912); Prince Edward visits Enham (1926); Mary Rose and Tidworth Tattoo (1930); Northumberland Fusiliers at Portsmouth (1913); Cowes Regatta (1913); Record Storm of 1910.

Locally-produced films of this early period in cinematography are even rarer, so they are cherished as surviving examples of early local records. Alfred J West is a pioneer of cinematography who began his career as a photographer in Southsea, and made his first moving film for the Royal Navy in 1897, showing the testing of the Whitehead torpedo off Portsmouth. He went on to make many more films under the banner of 'Our Navy' and 'Our Army', which were used as recruiting aids by the military, as well as subjects taken abroad and locally-commissioned items like Masonic Ceremony (1902), which showed a procession of freemasons in Southsea.

West's films were shown throughout the British Empire, but when he stopped in 1913 and sold all his stock, most of it disappeared, probably melted down for use in ammunition during the Great War, leaving only his catalogue and unpublished autobiography to show what had been achieved. WFSA holds copies of all known surviving films, of which there are sadly few.

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