R.W. Paul and Birt Acres

Robert William Paul: Early Films UK 1895-1896

Rough Sea at Dover (1895)
Footpads (The Arrest of a Bookmaker) (1896)
The Derby (1895/96)
Hyde Park Bicycling Scene (1896)
Scene on the River Thames (1896)
Royal Train (1896)
Comic Costume Race (1896)
The Twins’ Tea Party (1896)
Blackfriars Bridge (1896)
Westminster Bridge (1896)

Birt Acres
“Birt Acres was born to English parents in Richmond, Virginia, USA on 23 July 1854, and took up the profession of photographer in London. He became the manager of a dry plate works in Barnet, and experimented for himself with chronophotographic time-lapse studies of clouds. In December 1894, he was approached by the engineer and instrument-maker Robert Paul, who had begun to produce replicas of Edison Kinetoscopes and needed someone with photographic expertise to collaborate on the production of a camera. Together they developed a ciné camera and by February 1895 made their first film experiment, showing their mutual friend Henry Short walking outside Clovelly Cottage, Acres’ home in Barnet, wearing cricket whites. This untitled test film, never exhibited commercially, was the first true British film production. Acres operated the camera for this and all the succeeding Acres-Paul productions up to June 1895, made for exhibition in Paul’s peep show Kinetoscopes. They included Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, Rough Sea at Dover, The Arrest of a Pickpocket, The Carpenter’s Shop, Boxing Kangaroo, and the film of the 1895 Derby (the last film the pair made together).
Quite incompatible as personalities, Acres and Paul split acrimoniously that July, and continued to attack each other through the photographic press as each made their separate way toward projected film and the emergence of a British cinema business. Acres travelled to Germany in June 1895, sponsored by the German chocolate company Stollwerck, and filmed several scenes, including the Opening of the Kiel Canal. On his return, he turned his attention towards film projection, evidently achieving success by the end of the year, for he gave the first public performance of projected film in Britain at Lyonsdown Photographic Club on 10 January 1896. (…) In Acres and Paul, there were the two sides of the coin offered by the invention of cinema: high-minded science versus hard-nosed commerce. While Acres hid behind science as an excuse for his business failures, Paul was able to reconcile the two disciplines and establish a leading position in moving pictures in Britain. Acres could boast some important ‘firsts’ in his film career, but he never built upon the head start that he gave himself as one of Britain’s film pioneers.”
Luke McKernan
BFI Screenonline

Opening of the Kiel Canal
R: Birt Acres. P: Birt Acres/Robert W. Paul. UK 1895

“Born in Richmond, Virginia to English parents, Birt Acres was working in London as a photographer in November 1889. During 1892 he joined the large photographic materials company of Elliott and Son and became manager of their ‘Dry Plate’ works at Barnet, in North London. Acres had become interested at this time in photographing clouds, and in order to be able to reconstitute his time-lapse studies, devised a rapid lantern slide changer which he patented in December 1893. This would appear to represent the extent of his chronophotographic work before the arrival in England of Edison‘s Kinetoscope in October 1894. By December 1894, an electrical instrument maker, Robert Paul began to pirate these machines, and urgently needed an independent supply of films for them. Acres’s assistant at Elliott’s, Henry Short, was Paul’s friend, and suggested Acres to Paul as someone who had an existing interest in the area, and the necessary photographic knowledge required to design a workable camera, and take and develop the films for it. (…) Unlike Paul, who was careful to retain his existing business, Acres committed himself wholly to the new enterprise, and resigned from Elliott’s in April 1895. This gave him the freedom to travel and he entered negotiations with the Stollwerck company, who in June supported a trip to Germany, where he took several films of the opening of the Kiel Canal. While he was away, Paul began to advertise himself as the ‘Sole European Manufacturer’ of the films, and on Acres’s return to England in mid July, the association between the two men ended in acrimony and mutual recriminations.”
Richard Brown
Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

“The Kiel Canal (German: Nord-Ostsee-Kanal, literally “North-[to]-East [Baltic] Sea canal”, formerly known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal) is a 98-kilometre-long (61 mi) freshwater canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The canal was finished in 1895, but later widened, and links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau. An average of 250 nautical miles (460 km) is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula. This not only saves time but also avoids storm-prone seas and having to pass through the Danish straits. The Kiel Canal is the world’s most frequented artificial waterway with an annual average of 32,000 ships (90 daily), transporting approximately 100 million tonnes of goods.”
Wikipedia

The Arrest of a Pickpocket
R: Birt Acres. P: Birt Acres. UK 1895

>>> The Date was 21 June 1898