The firm of Mitchell and Kenyon, founded in Blackburn in 1897 by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, released films under the trade name of Norden and were one of the largest British film companies in the 1900s, producing a mixture of topicals, fiction and ‘fake’ war films. The company had premises at 21 King Street and 40 Northgate until 1913 when their business went bust after the rise of fictional films. Until recently the company were more famous for their dramatised war films, ten of which were known to have survived and included titles such as The Dispatch Bearers (1900), Winning the VC (1900) and Attack on a China Mission (1901). However, the discovery of 800 negatives containing 28 hours of footage in the premises of their original Northgate shop in 1994 has led to a major revaluation of their contribution to film making in the United Kingdom.
The sealed barrels containing the films were uncovered by workmen clearing out the shop and were destined for the scrapheap until local film enthusiast Peter Worden was tipped off and he realised their significance. He rescued the footage and donated it to the British Film Institute.
After a £1 million, four-year restoration and a BBC TV series ‘The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon’, the historic films have now been declared one of the most precious pieces of footage in the world and added to the United Nations’ Unesco UK Memory of the World Register, created to raise awareness of historical archives.
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For more information about Blackburn’s history and heritage visit http://www.cottontown.org