The Anima lodge

Too many topics and too little time. There are so many subjects I have tucked away for research at some time, but many of them I will never get round to tackling. So the best thing to do is to offer them up in their raw state here on The Bioscope, in the hope that they may interest someone else sufficiently to take up challenge.

A case in point is the Anima lodge. I’m unlikely ever to get to the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, and indeed I would hardly know where to start, freemasonry being an entirely closed book to me. But the intriguing story nevertheless is that there was a British freemasonry lodge for those in the film business, and it was established in 1912. I have, from I know not where, a list of the subscribing members of the Lodge 1912-1920, and a fascinating document it is too.

These were the founder members (links are to the Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema and London Project websites):

  • Edward Thomas Heron [publisher of the Kinematograph Weekly]
  • J. Brooke Wilkinson [secretary of the Kinematograph Manufacturers’ Association and later of the British Board of Film Censors]
  • Edwin Houghton Rockett [inventor and general jack-of-all-trades]
  • Frederick Arton [managing director]
  • Francis William Baker [managing director of Butcher’s Film Service]
  • Will Day [film equipment supplier and later film historian]
  • Matt Raymond [Lumière operator, exhibitor, and future master of the Anima lodge]
  • W. Firth [not known]
  • George Henry Smith [British representative for Vitagraph Company of America]
  • James Charles Squier [can’t remember, involved in production]
  • Charles Urban [producer, particularly of Kinemacolor]
  • A. Pearl Cross [executive]
  • John Frank Brockliss [film distributor]

That’s a notable list of a few of the major figures in the British film business at that time. More joined in subsequent years – I’ll identify them where I can:

  • 1913 – Edward Henry Montagu [executive]
  • 1913 – Alexander Liddle
  • 1913 – E.H. Bishop [managing director]
  • 1913 – Walter Northam [executive with Provincial Cinematograph Theatres]
  • 1914 – H.S. Chambers
  • 1915 – Harold John Fisher
  • 1915 – Paul Kimberley [executive]
  • 1915 – Albert Simmons
  • 1915 – George Henry Saffell
  • 1916 – Reginald Charles Bromhead [executive with Gaumont company]
  • 1916 – Sidney Thornton Smurthwaite
  • 1917 – Thomas Arthur Welsh [producer]
  • 1917 – John Pearson
  • 1918 – John Charles Ernest Mason [cameraman]
  • 1918 – Solomon Gabriel Newman
  • 1919 – Robert Chetham
  • 1920 – Alfred G. Challis
  • 1920 – Edward Maxwell Heron
  • 1920 – Samuel Woolf Smith
  • 1920 – Ernest Edgar Blake [executive]
  • 1920 – E.W. Fredman
  • 1920 – Victor Sheridan
  • 1920 – Frederick Holmes Cooper [cameraman]
  • 1920 – George William Pearson [director]
  • 1920 – Chas. J. Miller
  • 1920 – Ernest Peall [executive]
  • 1920 – Lionel Phillips [distributor]

Well, there’s a fascinating line-up of the famous (in their small world, in their day) and the unknown. Figures like Urban, Wilkinson, Welsh, Kimberley, Pearson, Raymond and Heron were leading figures in the early British film business; many of the others were minor figures then, and are undoubtedly obscure now. What did the Anima lodge do? What advantages might it have brought to those who joined? How did the grand and the less-than-grand figures rub together? What alternative history of British silent cinema might some ingenious researcher draw from this line-up? Sadly, I cannot even tell you when the Anima lodge closed – if it ever closed. Perhaps it lingers somewhere. Someone will know.

Anyone who can identify the roles of the names I haven’t been able to identify, please let me know.