This project explores how Surrey and its people responded to the Great War. Cinema had developed rapidly from its birth in the 1890s to become one of the most widespread and popular forms of entertainment by the time of the outbreak of the war. The earliest film showings were short novelty items in fairgrounds and converted shops known as “penny-gaffs”. However as films became more sophisticated, with ambitious storylines and longer running times, film colonised music halls and theatres. Kelly’s Surrey Directory of 1913 lists no less than 46 cinemas in the county, a number of which had been converted from theatres and music halls.
Surrey was home to some pioneers of the British Cinema industry. As early as 1899, Cecil Hepworth had set up a film company with his cousin, Monty Wicks, in Hurst Grove, Walton-on-Thames. Croydon was home to two early film companies. Percy Stow, who had worked with Hepworth, set up his Clarendon Film Company at Limes Road. George Cricks and John Martin had founded Cricks and Martin in 1908, in Mitcham, but in 1910 they moved to bigger studio premises at Waddon New Road in Croydon.
Geoffrey Malins – who had worked for Clarendon – and John Benjamin McDowell filmed the documentary of “The Battle of the Somme” in 1916. It is estimated that the film was seen by more than half of the adult population at the time.
Find out more about the film compilation “Surrey on film 1914-1953 – A community in peace and war” via this link to the Surrey County Council website.
Find out more about Cecil Hepworth’s 1903 film of Alice in Wonderland via the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.