Acres was the first man to successfully take and project a 35 mm film
And he lived in Barnet.
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 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.
his wife Anne
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
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
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.