About this image
Showing Proctor's Bioscope sideshow on the left. (Another picture of Proctor's Bioscope sideshow with its impressive Gavioli organ can also be seen at Goose Fair, Nottingham - see NTGM001501 and at Chesterfield - see DCCC001571.) The travelling Bioscope Showmen who visited fairs and events (such as the one seen here) in the period 1890-1914 were the pioneers of the cinematographic world. These people played a very important role in the history of mass entertainment and no one should ever underestimate the part they played in bringing this medium of entertainment to the people. The bioscope shows began towards the very end of the reign of Queen Victoria and drew to a close at the time of the First World War. The showmen would buy their films at the beginning of each season for at that time film renting was unknown. These early films were made at Walton-on-Thames, by such people as Cecil Hepworth. Other well known makers were Walter Barker also George Jackson, who was well known for his comedy and short drama films. The Yorkshire firm, Frank Mottishaw's Sheffield Photo. Co. made what was probably the first film of Dickens's Novels-`Oliver Twist' and `Scrooge'-in 1904. The first 'Westerns' were made in England. Some showmen introduced sound effects to create a more realistic atmosphere and employed an effects worker who would work behind the screen. Between 1906-08 some showmen introduced sound films, the equipment was made by Gaumont Chronophone. Records were used in conjunction with the projector, amplification was unknown, but the idea was never developed until years later. Showman John Proctor, son of Robert Proctor who pioneered such bioscope shows, had a collection of 'singing pictures' which was one of the finest to be seen, he travelled around Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Artists such as Harry Lauder, Harry Tate, Stiffy' Weldon and George Formby senior were seen to be singing their songs of the day. Other popular films showed news events of the day such as Boer War pictures or Colliery disasters. The travelling cinemas began to go out of fashion with the erection of hundreds of permanent picture houses up and down the country.