Leeds, Film History and the Yorkshire Film Archive


Roundhay Garden scene

Roundhay Garden scene 1930s remastered stills of the film


I was reminded the other day of Leeds’ place in cinematic history: more precisely, the role of Oakwood Grange just at the end of my road in being the setting for Louis le Prince’s 1888 film of a garden scene. The film runs for less than two seconds, but it’s an exciting couple of seconds when I think about its historical significance, and the fact it happened at the bottom of the road.

Wikipedia talks of a series of mysterious tragedies  surrounding the aftermath of filming;

On October 24, 1888, only ten days after being filmed in Roundhay Garden Scene, Sarah Robinson Whitley, featured actress and Le Prince’s mother-in-law, died aged 72 and was buried nearby on October 27 at St. John’s Church, Roundhay, Leeds. On September 16, 1890, while about to patent his invention in London and to perform his first official public exhibition in New York, Louis Le Prince, director, mysteriously vanished in a train between Dijon and Paris. In 1902, two years after testifying in the Equity 6928 brief, Adolphe Le Prince, featured actor and elder son of the inventor, was found dead of a gunshot wound in New York..

Trying to find out a bit more about this pivotal moment in history (you can see that I have a real vicarious pride in this event), I happened upon the Yorkshire Film Archive. A treasure trove of local history; one of the gems I watched was a film of Queen Victoria visiting Sheffield in the 19th century. The vertically challenged monarch could be glimpsed bobbing and nodding in an open carriage looking like any other little old lady, but surrounded by ranks of guards on horseback.

It’s absolutely fascinating stuff, and I highly recommend visiting the site.


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