Collection Clifford Spain


Clifford Spain was the manager of the Capitol Cinema, Walton-on-Thames. He regularly filmed and compiled events of local interest and four of his films are in this collection. The collection also includes other commercial films and newsreels from the Walton area.

Collection ID480Reference codeS 030214
TitleClifford Spain
Dates1911 - 1973
ProductionMrs. Wallace Jones. Clifford Spain. Oatlands. Surrey County Council.
MaterialsFILM 16mm Audio 35mm Standard 8mm
Access statusContact Screen Archive South East for details


The Clifford Spain collection comprises four compilation films which were made for exhibition at the Capitol Cinema in Walton-on-Thames. The films contain footage of local events, edited together into a newsreel format. They would have formed part of playbill at the cinema, being screened alongside feature films, cartoons, etc.

Newsreels were integral to cinema programmes in the first half of the 20th century, supplying national and international news and current events to people on a scale hitherto unknown.The most prominent newsreel companies in Britain during this era were Pathé Gazette, Topical Budget and Gaumont Graphic. What is interesting about the films in the Clifford Spain collection is their almost complete devotion to local news stories. This devotion can be understood with reference to their production and exhibition context. It is believed that the majority of the footage was filmed by cameramen (including Clifford Spain himself) who worked at the Capitol Cinema - [A 'Capitol' Newsreel by Clifford Spain IV] (1932 - 1937) includes intertitles which credit 'The Capitol Jubilee Gazette' for two of the film sequences. The sequences were most likely titled and edited by Clifford Spain.

Clifford Spain had been interested in moving images from childhood when he came into contact with the other Walton-on-Thames cinematic luminary Cecil Hepworth (Hepworth had set up film production in the town in 1899). In 1910, aged 16, he initiated the first regular film shows in the area, at the Constitutional Hall in Chertsey. By the late 1920s and 1930s he had become the major figure in the development of cinemas in Walton-on-Thames. In 1927 he became the first manager of the purpose-built Capitol Cinema on the High Street.

Clifford Spain was progressive in his thinking, recognising that a local audience would be attracted to the cinema not only by images of local events, but by images of themselves at these events. Thus all of the four films contain prolonged sequences showing the people who attended the events, many of whom were conscious of the camera's presence. Consequently, the material in the Clifford Spain collection is of interest for many reasons. For example, it illustrates the types of leisure time activities being undertaken local communities in the 1920s and 1930s, and it serves to illustrate some of the cinematic exhibition practices occurring at this time (in many ways the forerunner of local television news programmes).

Films in this collection:

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