Blue plaque will mark Gorleston site of first ‘moving pictures’ taken in East Anglia

The first moving pictures to be taken in East Anglia – from the end of Gorleston’s south pier.

The first moving pictures to be taken in East Anglia – from the end of Gorleston’s south pier. - Credit: Archant

A blue plaque will celebrate the first moving pictures to be taken in East Anglia – from the end of Gorleston's south pier.

In the summer of 1896 two strangers to Gorleston walked along the pier and set up a tripod mounted wooden camera, and pointed it inland towards the harbour bend.

By then the locals must have been used to seeing photographers like Alfred Yallop and James Liffen with their cumbersome mahogany and brass cameras recording scenes and events in the neighbourhood. But on this particular day, East Anglian photographic history was about to be made.

The cameraman was Birt Acres or his assistant Arthur Melbourne Cooper and their camera was no ordinary one, as it took moving photographs. The camera had been made the previous year by engineer Robert W Paul.

It's possible the very same camera had been used by Birt Acres to record the finish of the Epsom Derby in the summer of 1895.


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Acres or Cooper shot the very first moving pictures to be taken in East Anglia and their first subject was a paddle tug towing the fishing smack Thrive YH120 out of Great Yarmouth harbour. A second shot in the sequence shows the smack I Will YH723 also leaving the harbour. YH120 was owned by William Buckle of 67 South Quay, Yarmouth and YH723 was owned by A Bland of 57 St George's Road, Yarmouth.

The film was one of 21 shown by Birt Acres on July 21, 1896 to the Royal Family. This was the day before Princess Maud married Prince Charles of Denmark. The audience enjoyed the performance so much that Acres was invited to film the wedding.

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The Gorleston pier film was shown to Yarmouth audiences at the Royal Aquarium in March 1897 as 'introducing the Cinematograph with local pictures of fishing boats leaving Yarmouth Harbour.' This was one week after the very first presentation of 'living photographs' in Yarmouth at the Liberal Club Assembly Rooms in the Market Place.

To celebrate this event Gorleston-on-Sea Heritage Group (GOSH) has invited Great Yarmouth Mayor Cllr Malcolm Bird to unveil a blue plaque on the lookout building at the end of Gorleston Pier on Monday, October 17 at noon. The plaque will carry information so tablet and smartphone users with access to the internet can look at the archive footage while standing where Acres or Cooper stood over 120 years ago.

Unlike most blue plaques that celebrate a person or a building this plaque celebrates a little known event that was an East Anglian and Gorleston first.

The archive cinematograph footage can be viewed on the East Anglian Film Archive web site http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/1410

or on the British Film Institute's YouTube pages https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua2MStD2J00

Gorleston-on-Sea Heritage Group is grateful to Peel Ports Group Ltd for allowing them to fix the blue plaque to the lookout building on the end of Gorleston, and to Cllr Barbara Wright for funding from her locality budget.

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