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Report - Bamforth's & Co. Ltd, Holmfirth - July 2013

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by tweek, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. tweek

    tweek Huddersfield Tourist Information Board
    Regular User

    Jun 14, 2011
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    Bamforths & Co. Ltd, Holmfirth - July 2013


    Now, bit of a risk this one, as there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of interest left to see here. Other than some really purist derpology. I'm sure none of you will actually want to visit the place itself, so in that sense I know it goes against this website's FAQ's... but for me, that's a good thing... as the easiest access is up through my mate's garden terrace, where he was thankfully feeding me barbecued pig and providing the ales for this visit, so don't bother him or he'll rugby tackle you!



    bamforthsbrap9_zps37bf30e2.jpg bamforthsbrap12_zps3ded17f1.jpg

    So, why are you posting it? I hear you cry in dismay.

    Well, Bamforths has a unique and surprising history which I hope you will appreciate me relaying. You see, a lot of people don't believe me when I say Huddersfield is epic. And I need to find ways of educating them. It may come as a surprise, but Holmfirth was once England’s answer to Hollywood.

    Many people will be familiar with Holmfirth as the setting of three old men getting into questionably exuberant antics for their age, rolling down valleys in wheel-barrows and suchlike, on BBC's The Last of the Summer Wine. But Holmfirth's history in film-making goes back much further. About as far back as you can go, actually. And what's more, through a company that is most known in this country... for making saucy seaside postcards. Pardon...?


    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. In 1883, Bamforth's specialised in making magic lantern slides, and this knowledge was crucial when they moved into partnership making silent monochrome films using a camera designed by Bradford cine inventor Cecil Wray.


    For three years between 1898 and 1900, two British Companies, Bamforth & Co. Ltd of Holmfirth (founded in 1870 by James Bamforth) and Riley Bros. of Bradford produced a catalogue of films to rival anything that Hollywood was then producing - in terms of both volume and quality. Bamforth's silent films had a truly international reputation at the turn of the last century.

    bamforthsbrap16_zps65201111.jpg bamforthsbrap17_zpsb9801049.jpg

    There were no professional film actors at the time, so Bamforth relied on local people for his movie casts. A son of a local blacksmith is quoted as having said, "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 to wear."

    Bamforth’s biggest star was Reginald Twisk, who played a Chaplin-like character known as Winky. Film historians see Bamforth’s films as the earliest examples of British comic film and as the first to capture the music hall tradition of northern slapstick comedy on film. It is even believed the company invented 'film editing' with their 1899 film, The Kiss In The Tunnel. A long shot of a train entering a tunnel away from camera is cut to a close shot of a couple embracing in the carriage, followed by another long shot of the train moving towards the camera.

    And, in 'Women's Rights' (a satire on the suffrage question), is contained the earliest known example of a cut to another direction within a scene with time continuity. These were innovative examples of film-making for the date, and it is fascinating to speculate what Bamforth's might have gone on to achieve. But although the films were shown locally, they were not included in the Bamforth's catalogues.


    But then it all stopped.

    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. The film production did continue under the name of Holmfirth Producing Company after 1915, and that company quickly moved to London... as you do. By then though, Hollywood had the movie world in its grip and small British producers would have struggled to compete. Bamforths had decided that their future lay in the production of picture postcards, which they had been making anyway since the 1880's. In the First World War, Bamforth's produced tens of thousands cards which were sent by women to their sweethearts on the front.


    Bamforth's major line in postcards was the saucy seaside postcard. Although they were being produced as early as 1910, the explosion in the saucy postcard occurred in the 1930's. From this point on, with a brief interlude in the 1950's, Bamforth's produced such cards right up until they officially closed down in 1990. The Bamforth's name and assets are currently owned by the Leeds based company Fresh Faces.


    One of Bamforth's strong suites was its maintenance of a distinctive house style with bright colours and exaggerated characters. Indeed, over the years the company only employed four staff artists. One of the original Bamforth family, Derek Bamforth, once explained the success of the cards. He said: "We never publish anything obscene, we know where to draw the line. But the more vulgar the card, the better it sells."

    A postcard I found on the derp tour bus in Gwasg Gee Printworks in Wales...



    :Not Worthy

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