Wednesday 13 August 2008

William Friese Greene - Kilburn as the home of cinema?

So, does Kilburn have the claim to be the home of William Friese-Greene and cinematography? There are certainly enough traces and claims that are fairly easy to track down.

The Tricycle Theatre has a plaque on it's wall for the grand opening that pays tribute to Friese-Greene's work.

But none of the biographies I have found to date suggest or confirm a north london connection and not yet a Kilburn link... other than the Kilburn plaque...

Well in fact at the bottom of the Kilburn High Road, where it becomes Maida Vale I found Friese-Greene House - nothing special or flashy but very much there...

So clearly the rumour, the story, the myth and the tradition that he was Kilburn has some credence, supporters or validity.

It is suggested that Kilburn High Road was the location for Friese-Greene's studio's - and that the Tricycle is on the site of the those. These were not successful cinema's and Friese-Greene's role in the development of cinematography. His supporters suggest that he in fact effectively invetned the moving picture and that Thomas Edison secured the patent... other suggest that he was heading on the right lines but his lack of success, business acumen and inability to secure the patent that took off means his reputation has been dimmed and then controversial.

In tradition with all great inventors (it would seem) he died in dramatic circumstances whilst addressing a convention of film enthusiasts so his place in history has been at least noted and enhanced.

The main claim to his story lies with Brighton who are very keen to secure him:

But there is one further piece in the Kilburn claim... just down the Kilburn High Road, a few yards from the Tricycle there is a row of late victorian buildings that has some stone tracery - in the form of film rolls! Now I am not suggesting that this is some kind of subliminal tribute to Friese-Greene, though it is possible (esp. given the lilely operational dates in Kilburn of 1888-1891), but I am saying that it feels like it adds some voracity to the claim that Kilburn has a cinematic tradition. It might be all those cinema's, but it might be the film experiment and development studios... any insights out there?

More on William Friese-Greene can be found here: which is a pretty balanced account.


Anonymous said...

There is a biography which might help by Ray Allister (pseud. for Muriel Forth), Friese-Greene: Close-up of an Inventor (1948, reprinted 1972), includes photographs from the John Boulting, 1951 film 'The Magic Box', based on this book.

Anonymous said...

Friese-Greene lived in a house that used to stand on the site of the block of flats pictured, Those of us who have lived in Kilburn some time will know all about the fight that took place to stop the council demolishing the little house that was wedged in between the two blocks of flats.
We lost and the council jobsworths had the historic house pulled down about 10-15 years ago.
Des Brittain.