James Williamson

Photo:James Williamson

James Williamson

From a private collection

Early film pioneer

James Williamson could have been just another chemist but thanks to his association with George Albert Smith, he went down in history. The two men were among the early pioneers of film, operating late in the nineteenth century. Smith had a studio in St Ann's Well Garden, then privately owned, and Williamson had his shop in Church Road, Hove.

Born in Scotland in 1855
Born in Scotland, in 1855, Williamson moved south as a young man and was in Hove in 1886. Both he and Smith were members of the Hove Camera Club and Williamson was happy to give exhibitions. He went full time into films in 1898 and made 39 films that year alone.

Innovative silent films
Smith and Williamson made short, silent films which were innovative because they had a story line. Some of them were also comic. Williamson became a major producer in the first decade of the twentieth century with a thriving export trade to the USA. He made 50 films a year in the decade from 1902 and eventually moved to London after establishing a works in Cambridge Grove, Hove. In the capital he ran a successful business manufacturing film apparatus and developing film. He died in Richmond in 1933.

Thanks for this information go to Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company who have named a bus after James Williamson.
You can check out the list of names buses on their site HERE

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page

Is it possible to buy Williamson's silent films on DVD from Hove Museum? I have seen your exhibition upstairs in the museum and I saw the films. Where can these be bought?

By Mike Pearson (30/04/2009)

Two films by James Williamson (Stop Thief! and Attack On A China Mission) are available (along with many other early films) on DVD from the BFI: "Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers" £19.56. ISBN/EAN 5035673006436. (See http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk)

By Mike Pearson (30/04/2009)

Five Williamson films and seven G E Smith films are included in the five-DVD set "The Movies Begin: a Treasury of Early Cinema 1894-1913" issued by Kino On Video. UPC: 7 38329 023621.

By Michael Pearson (02/05/2009)

If anybody is interested, I now own the site and what remains of the original Williamson studio in Cambridge Works behind Cambridge Grove and am happy to allow any early film buffs to have themselves photographed there.

By Simon Ross (25/04/2010)