Mitchell & Kenyon

Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon
R & P: Sagar Mitchell / James Kenyon. UK 1901-1905
Print: BFI National Archive, London

Audley Range School Backburn / Morecambe Church Lad’s Brigade at Drill / University Procession on Degree Day Birmingham / Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester / Lord Robert’s Visit to Manchester / Lieutenant Clive Wilson and the Tranby Croft Party Hull / Opening of the Drill Hall in Accrington by General Baden-Powell / A Sneaky Boer / Messrs Lumb and Co Leaving the Works Huddersfield / Pendlebury Colliery / Parkgate Iron and Steel Co. Rotherham / North Sea Fisheries North Shields / Cunard Vessel at Liverpool / Whitsuntide Fair at Preston / Manchester Band of Hope Procession / Blackpool Victoria Pier / Leeds Athletic and Cycling Club Carnival / Dewsbury vs Manningham / Sedgwick’s Bioscope Show Front / The Great Local Derby: Accrington v Church Cricket Match / Halifax Catholic Procession / Burnley v Manchester United / Sheffield United v Bury / Preston Egg Rolling / Living Wigan / Tram Ride into Halifax / Electric Tram Rides from Forster Square Bradford / Jamaica Street Glasgow / Ride on the Tram Car through Belfast / Wexford Bull Ring / Manchester Street Scene / Panoramic View of the Morecambe Sea Front

Visual tour of a snowy, cold Halifax
R & P: Sagar Mitchell / James Kenyon. UK 1902
Print: BFI National Archive, London

“The firm of Mitchell and Kenyon, founded in Blackburn in 1897 by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, released films under the trade name of Norden and were one of the largest British film companies in the 1900s, producing a mixture of topicals, fiction and ‘fake’ war films. (…) Until recently the company were more famous for their dramatised war films, ten of which were known to have survived and included titles such as The Dispatch Bearers (1900), Winning the VC (1900) and Attack on a China Mission (1901). However, the discovery of approximately 800 negatives in the original premises in 1994 by Peter Worden and their acquisition by the British Film Institute in 2000, has led to a major revaluation of their contribution to film making in the United Kingdom.(…) The company filmed scenes of local interest, including factory gate films, sporting events, processions and phantom rides through town centres in the North of England. (…)

With the outbreak of the Boer War in October 1899, the company turned to the production of war films of events in the Transvaal and the Boxer rebellion in China. These were filmed in the countryside around Blackburn and consisted of fictionalised scenes of events from the battlefronts. The films were available direct from the manufacturers but were also distributed by Gaumont, Walturdaw and Charles Urban, who advertised A Tragic Elopement in November 1903. By 1901 the company were selling factory gate and other non-fiction titles to travelling exhibition companies, of which thirty-eight are represented in the Peter Worden collection. (…) Their geographical range encompassed the North and North West of England, Glasgow and Dundee in Scotland, North Wales, the Midlands and Bristol and Portsmouth in the South West, with the largest percentage of titles relating to Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Fiction production was not as copious as their non-fiction output, but by 1903 their premises in Clayton Street included an outdoor studio and they also filmed on location. Sixty-five fiction titles are now preserved in the Cinema Museum, London, including Diving Lucy (1903), billed in the United States as the ‘biggest English comedy hit of the year’, and five by Lobster Films of Paris. Approximately 800 non-fiction titles form the Peter Worden Mitchell and Kenyon Collection at the British Film Institute. The discovery and preservation of this material reveals a pattern of commissioning and exhibition that existed between film companies and early travelling exhibitors in the early 1900s. The films were either commissioned, purchased or sent to Mitchell and Kenyon to be developed and printed and shown by the exhibitors in temporary venues in the locality, including music halls, fairground cinematograph shows and town halls. (…)

Throughout the 1900s, Mitchell and Kenyon continued to film local scenes and to produce fiction titles such as Black Diamonds or the Collier’s Daily Life (1904) and the comedy The Interrupted Picnic (1906). One of their most innovative titles was the Arrest of Goudie (1901) commissioned by Ralph Pringle of the North American Animated Photo Company in Liverpool. The film was shot incorporating the actual crime locations and depicts the arrest of Thomas Goudie, an employee of the Bank of Liverpool who embezzled £170,000 to pay of his gambling debts. It was exhibited three days after Goudie’s arrest in December at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Liverpool. By 1904 they were referred to as one of the leading film manufacturers in the country by the trade press. (…) However, by 1909 Mitchell and Kenyon appear to have restricted their activities to Blackburn and its surrounding locality. Their last surviving titles are between 1911 and 1913. Although the company continued to be listed under the ownership of both men until 1915, no films have been found from this period. James Kenyon retired to Southport in 1915 leaving Mitchell to run his separate photographic business in Blackburn. Kenyon returned to Southport in the early 1920s and the partnership was dissolved in 1922. James Kenyon died 6 February 1925 and Sagar Jones Mitchell died aged 85, 2 October 1952.”
Vanessa Toulmin
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

>>> Diving Lucy on this website: The Biggest English Comedy Hit of the Year