Title ID 8392Collection ID1188
TitleThe Old Chorister
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeEarly film in the South East Rural Life
KeywordsReligious Activities Religious Buildings Children Old Age
RegionalBrighton and Hove
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionJames Williamson
DirectorJames Williamson
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Superimposition conveys an old man's reminisces and apparitions after hearing choral singing in this James Williamson production.


An old man with a stick walks down a path [park?]. He pauses briefly when he hears singing in the distance. He continues, shaking his head, and finds a place to sit with his head in his hands. He remembers singing in a choir as a boy before he returns to the path. The screen fades to black. By a hedgerow he locates the source of the singing he can hear, a country church. The screen fades to black. Four boys play-fight outside the church's entrance before they are told to enter by the priest. Others follow them in. Another priest asks the old man if he would like to join them. Inside, choir boys lead the group of singers into the nave. All carry hymn books, including the old man at the rear. He sees an apparition of a winged angel above the altar. The old man exits the pew and walks towards the vision, where he falls down to the floor, attended by the vicars.

Related resources


Sopocy, Martin. James Williamson: Studies and Documents of a Pioneer of the Film Narrative n.p. Madison/Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press

Date: 1998

Barnes, John. The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901. Five Volumes, n.p. University of Exeter Press

Date: 1996-1998 All five volumes of John Barnes’s archaeological study of early cinema charts its development between 1894 and 1901. Barnes founded the Barnes Museum of Cinematography with his brother William in the 1960s. The collection provided primary material for Barnes’s study of early cinema.

Low, Rachael. The History of the British Film 1896-1906 n.p. George Allen & Unwin

Date: 1949

McKernan, Luke. “The Brighton School and the Quest for Natural Colour” in Simon Popple and Vanessa Toulmin (eds.) Visual Delights – two: Exhibition and Reception. n.p. Eastleigh: John Libbey

Date: 2005

Gray, Frank (ed.) Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema. n.p. University of Brighton

Date: 1996 Published on the occasion of the 1995 University of Brighton exhibition concerning the work of George Albert Smith and James Williamson. Essays included are by John Barnes, Ine van Dooren, Frank Gray and Martin Sopocy.

Gray, Frank. “James Williamson's 'Composed Picture': Attack on a China Mission - Bluejackets to the Rescue” in Fullerton, John (ed.) Celebrating 1895. n.p. Sydney: John Libbey & Co.

Date: 1998


The Barnes Collection

Location: Hove Museum and Art Gallery Twins John and William Barnes founded the Barnes Museum of Cinematography in the 1960s. After the closure, the early part of the collection moved to Hove. The collection includes cameras, projectors and material relating to the Brighton School of film pioneers.


Location: BFI National Archive, British Film Institute, London Holds many films made by George Albert Smith between 1897 and 1905.

Further Information on File at Screen Archive South East

NFTVA copies kept on file SASE 950000.


Screenonline: James Williamson

British Film Institute site containing biographical information and film synopses.

Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema: James Williamson

Biographical overview and further reading.