Movietone and Henderson

There are two major British newsreel collections available online. The British Pathe collection is well known, having public money behind it and much publicity. However, the entire British Movietone News library is also available, at But for the early film enthusiast, this collection is worth an additional look because, although the newsreel ran 1929-1979, its library includes a substantial amount of pre-1929 material, much of it footage from the early 1890s and early 1900s from the Henderson Collection. George Henderson was a showman in Stockton, in the north of England, in the 1890s, and kept many of the films that he showed, a collection that was added to by his son James. The collection found its way to Movietone, though the nitrate originals ended up at the BFI and copies of the key titles can be found in several collections.

The films include Edison Kinetoscope titles such as Blacksmith Shop, Robert Paul‘s Blackfriars Bridge and The Launch of HMS Albion, the first film of Queen Victoria, taken at Balmoral in September 1896, the Prestwich film of W.G. Grace at Lords celebrating his 50th birthday, the English and Australian cricket teams in 1905, Anglo-Boer War film, and assorted processions and funerals for British royalty. There are early trick films, variety acts, comedies, and a lot of material that simply hasn’t been identified by scholars as yet. To find the films, just select “pre-1929” from the Decade option on the Search page (it is necessary to register with the site first). Do not trust the dates given for the films (most are guesses), nor the titles. The films are available as streams (modem / broadband), but cannot be downloaded. There are around 300 titles in the Henderson collection available here – a hidden treasure trove.