BIRT ACRES (1854 - 1918)

Birt Acres was the first man to successfully take and project a 35 mm film in England.
And he lived in Barnet.
He was born to English parents in America and when or why he arrived in England is not clear but it is known he took up the profession of photographer in London.
In 1892 he became manager of Elliott and Sons Ltd, manufacturers of the famous Barnet Dry Plates, and he and his wife lived in Clovelly Cottage the managers house next to the factory in Park Road.

Birt Acres
  Clovelly Cottage 
 With his wife Anne

In December 1894 he was approached by the engineer and instrument-maker Robert Paul who had begun to produce replicas of Edison Kinetoscopes and needed someone with photographic expertise to collaborate on the production of a camera.

Together they developed a ciné camera and by February 1895 made their first film experiment showing their mutual friend Henry Short walking outside Clovelly Cottage, Acres' home in Barnet, wearing cricket whites. This untitled test film, never exhibited commercially, was the first true British film production. And it happened in Barnet

Using his portable cinematograph camera Acres began to build a portfolio of 35mm films which included 'The Henley Royal Regatta of 1895 and the University Boat Race of 1895.
Early in 1895 Acres left Elliott's and established his own company, The Northern Photographic Works, first at 45 Salisbury Road, later as a limited company at Nesbitts Alley Barnet where he developed his improved film projector Kineopticon.

When the film industry became a booming business Birt Acres expanded his activities and the Northern Photographic Works became the Whetstone Photographic Works Ltd, moving at the same time to much bigger premises at Whetstone

In August 1895 he gave his first semi-public film show at the Assembly Rooms in New Barnet but it was not until the beginning of 1896 that Birt Acres felt confident enough to give a public exhibition of his 'animated photography' as it was then called.

He showed his films to the Lyonsdown Amateur Photographic Association in Barnet on the 10th of January. This was certainly the first successful screen projection of films in England.
And it happened in Barnet.

Acres and Paul split acrimoniously that July and continued to attack each other through the photographic press as each made their separate way toward projected film and the emergence of a British cinema business.

Acres swiftly slid from the scene and ceased film production soon after 1900. He continued in film processing and celluloid manufacture but was unlucky in business and was twice made bankrupt. He died in Whitechapel London on 27 December 1918.