Title ID 8424Collection ID1191
TitleOyster Fishing at Whitstable
Date[ca. 1905]
CollectionEarly Films
ThemeEarly film in the South East Working Life
KeywordsWorkers Food Sea Fishing
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionKineto Company of America
DirectorCharles Urban
FormatBlack & White Silent
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Released through Charles Urban's postwar cinemagazine Movie Chats, but made much earlier, this film charts oyster fishing, packing, preparation and feasting in Whistable in around 1905.


"Oyster fishing at Whitstable England" opens the film, "Charles Urban Movie Chats" can be read in the bottom left corner. Men walk down the shingle beach to boats in the water. The boats are pushed out and rowed off shore to the fishing boats, three men per rowing boat. The fisherman are seen rigging larger boats. Footage of the sailing boats is taken from another, producing dynamic moving shots. The fishermen throw oyster tongs over the sides of the boats and haul them back in, shaking their catch onto the deck. These are decanted into baskets and emptied into sacks, which are loaded onto the rowing boats and taken to shore.

"Sampling oysters on the beach" follows. Men in overcoats are handed oysters by a fisherman on the beach, who opens the shellfish with an oyster knife. Oysters are cleaned and sorted through in "Packing the daily supply for London". In "Preparing for an Oyster Feast", chefs prepare the fish by slicing open the shells before men are seen with plates of oysters and glasses of champagne at a grand table. The film closes with "The End".

Contextual information

Charles Urban established the Warwick Trading Company in 1898 and began producing English films and marketing his own Bioscope projector, developed by Walter Isaacs. He later directed George Albert Smith to work on Lee and Turner's two-colour additive process Kinemacolour in 1903. Urban established the Charles Urban Trading Company, which supplied documentary film, and the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company, to exploit Kinemacolour. Urban published a manifesto in 1907 titled The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State and catalogues of educational films under the Urbanora trademark.

The Kineto Company of America was established after the First World War, producing the cinemagazine Urban Movie Chat. The magazine ran between 1919 and 1922, mostly releasing prewar footage. He moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York in 1921, where he established Urban Motion Picture Industries Inc. He returned to Brighton after his business collapsed in the mid 1920s.

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

BFI National Archive, 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.