When Muswell Hill was Hollywood

Ham & High write… A new exhibition and book by local author Ian Christie tells how Robert W Paul made Britain’s first motion picture in Muswell Hill.

Film pioneer Paul, who lived in Sydney Road, Muswell Hill, produced scores of ground-breaking films at the UK’s first movie studios next in Muswell Hill.

In March 1895, Paul collaborated with Birt Acres on Britain’s first ever motion picture, shot on their own co-patented 35mm camera. A year later the electrical engineer screened the film at Regent Street Polytechnic.

Paul and Birt went on to produce around 800 genre-defining films; from elaborate comedies like The Unfortunate Policeman, shot on the streets of Muswell Hill, to the first drama, The Soldier’s Courtship.(1895)

By 1901 Muswell Hill was the hub of UK film production activity and the films were incredibly ingenious. Most famously, Paul & Birt recreated the Boer War on Muswell Hill golf course.

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