The sequence shot showing a group of people walking around a sunlit garden lasts barely two seconds, but the 24 frames shot by inventor Louis Le Prince at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds during October 1888 are considered to be the world’s first film ever made using a motion-picture camera.
From this modest beginning, the fledgling technology of cinematography was to develop rapidly during the remaining years of the 19th century. In Britain, an industry was already firmly established by the time film production began in Hollywood in 1911.
These first films shot during the Edwardian era relied heavily on access to available light, requiring open locations. As the technology and the operator skills developed, these open ‘stages’ became enclosed by glass, giving them the look of conservatories. Further technological advances then saw obverse development in studio design, with natural light kept out and stages artificially lit.
Across Britain, we can trace the flourishing development of film studios, along with their demise. Some of the sites of the earliest studios remain open spaces today. Some saw large-scale expansion into major film and TV producing centres. Others did not stand the test of time.
We will be attempting to develop a catalogue of early sites, drawing upon archival and archaeological sources, with site visits wherever possible to establish current status, visibility, and access. In some cases, we hope to excavate to explore early studio form and technology. The list will be a work in progress and will be periodically updated as new information becomes available.