Bamforth and Co., Limited

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Bamforth & Co. Ltd. was a publishing, film and illustration company established by James Bamforth (1842-1911).


The firm was established in 1870 by painter and portrait photographer James Bamforth of Holmfirth. By the early 1880s, he had begun producing magic lantern slides, photographed at his studio at Station Road, Holmfirth.

By late 1897, the company, in partnership with Riley Brothers of Bradford, was producing cinematographic films which were exhibited at local events.[1] In January 1899, James' son Harry Bamforth exhibited 30 of the company's films at the "annual treat to the aged poor" in Lockwood. According to the Huddersfield Chronicle, "the living pictures which were thrown upon the sheet [used as a screen] excited much wonder and admiration, and were intensely amusing to the whole company".[2] The company's first phase of film productions ended in 1902, with around 20 known shorts including "The Tramp and the Baby's Bottle", "The Kiss in the Tunnel" and the suffragette mocking "Women's Rights" — the latter based on a set of Bamforth magic lantern slides.

By the early 1900s, the firm had begun publishing sets of postcards, many of which were in the style of the company's lantern slides. Some of the early postcards were humorous and, under the directorship of Edwin Bamforth, the firm became increasingly known for their colourful "saucy seaside" postcards.

The firm of Bamforth & Co. Ltd. was registered on 30 June 1910 with a capital of £5,000 in £1 shares "to take over the business of photographic lantern slide manufacturers, fine art publishers and photographers carried on by J. Bamforth, H. Bamforth, E. Bamforth and F. Bamforth at Holmfirth".[3] The separate firm of Valley Picture Theatre Co., Ltd. was formed on 14 April 1921 with James Bamforth's sons Edwin and Frank named as lifetime directors.[4]

Following the death of James Bamforth in 1911, his son Edwin restarted film production[5] and well over a hundred shorts and a small number of multi-reel drama films were produced between 1914 and 1918. According to obituary articles, local cinema owner Harry Vernon commissioned the initial films. Around 50 "Winky" comedy shorts were made, starring repertory actor Reginald Switz in the title role. By March 1915, Switz had been joined by other comedic actors, including the young Baby Langley[6], Lily Ward and her husband Alf Scotty.

In 1972, Huddersfield historian Stanley Chadwick recounted that in one film Lily Ward performed a stunt jumping "from an upper-storey window into the Holmfirth Fire Brigade's jumping sheet" but "when she had done this, it was discovered that there was no film in the movie camera".[7]

From October 1915, a subsidiary company Holmfirth Producing Co. Ltd. handled the filmmaking wing of the business, with the final film Meg o' the Woods released in 1918. However, the company's final four films were made at studios in London rather than Holmfirth.

According to J. Derek Bamforth, "the war meant it was extremely difficult to get hold of the necessary materials to continue production":[7]

The firm had never really made a profit out of making films. And after the First World War it would have meant starting from scratch. A lot of people went off to the war and never came back. I know that when production ceased, Frank Bamforth said we were streets ahead of America in production methods and technique. Two of our cameramen were immediately snapped up by Pathe Gazette.


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Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. An early example being Harry Bamforth giving "cinematograph view" at Holmfirth Parish Church in December 1897. Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Jan/1898).
  2. Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Jan/1899).
  3. "New Companies Registered" in The Bioscope (07/Jul/1910). The four initials are James and his sons Harry, Edwin and Frank.
  4. "New Companies" in Kinematograph Weekly (02/Jun/1921).
  5. In May 1913, Bamforths advertised in The Bioscope, "Wanted: good short stirring plots, comic and drama".
  6. Langley was the younger of several performing "sisters", the others being Mildred and Dorothy Beatrice. An advert in The Stage (28/Jan/1915) described Mildred as "the Beethoven of today, both in likeness and genius".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Holmfirth - everyone could have been in the swim" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (05/Feb/1972).