It is unlikely that a film promoting a hospital today would show you the boiler room or the septic tank (unless both had revolutionary green credentials) but both take pride of place, along with the local engineers, the X-ray department and the Llandinam maternity ward, in a c.1942 film appealing for funds for the Khasi Hills Welsh Mission Hospital at Shillong in eastern India.
If you would like to view Shillong Hospital (with the permission of the Presbyterian Church in Wales) please get in touch via email@example.com.
In similar vein, Cardiff Royal Infirmary – please give generously provides detailed footage of milking at the Pentrebane Dairy, St Fagans, which produces the Grade A milk supplied to the hospital. There are also shots of the hospital’s butchery, its soda water and ice producing plants and its bread-cutting and potato-peeling machines, all modern innovations in 1937 when the hospital was appealing for funds for a planned extension.
Available for viewing on-line on the BFI Player: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-cardiff-royal-infirmary-please-give-generously-1937-online
The non-medical and the medical aspects of the hospitals receive equal attention, showing financial contributors where their money goes and emphasising how important modern facilities are – in every area – for patient and staff health and well-being.
But is pride in progress just pride before a fall? The global Covid pandemic, coinciding with the rise in right-wing extremism, climate change and Black Lives Matter protests, has led to a widespread re-examining of everything that may have been taken as a given for so long. The Archive’s films reflect the history of the times – geographic, economic, social and cultural – in which the footage was shot and so are as open to re-evaluation as anything else.
David Lloyd George, prime minister of Britain (1916-22), was all for modern, mechanical development and can be seen on his farm ‘Bron-y-de’ in Churt, Surrey, putting two enormous machines through their paces in 1938. Being a producer of honey and apples, he might have come to rue the kind of progress that such machines contributed to: industrial farming.
See Rotatiller and Caterpillar Tractor, Oct. and Nov. 1938 on-line on the BFI Player:
Cory’s “Motor Spirit” allowed the use of such heavy machinery and the rise in ownership of cars, and the promotional film Energy (1935) – with English and Spanish inter-titles – celebrates its collieries in south Wales and its oil refineries throughout the world. Cory’s fossil fuels made the industrialised world go round but the price for using such fuels is being paid today.
Available for viewing on-line on the BFI Player: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-energy-1935-online
‘Small is beautiful’ has rarely been used as strapline for progress in the industrial world and the Archive holds many films that commemorate enormous feats of concreting, of steel making, of human ingenuity, of environmental desecration. Jack Howells’ film Mine Shaft Sinking follows the making of “a fascinating hole in the ground” – shaft 4 at Cynheidre Colliery, near Llanelli. The work is shown in detail and the commentary gives the extraordinary concreting statistics of the project.
If you would like to view Mine Shaft Sinking please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Queen is always in demand for the opening of such major industrial schemes. On 26th October 1962 she was in Llanwern, Newport, for the opening of Richard Thomas and Baldwins’ new Spencer Works, which was recorded in the film A Great Day. The Speech of Welcome from RTB refers to the removal of 40 miles of hedgerow, the use of 10 million bricks, the laying of 39 miles of railway track, the building of 27 miles of road. It sounds similar, but on a smaller scale, to the felling of ancient woodland and hedgerows and the loss of nature reserves and SSSIs for the HS2 development, which in itself only highlights what must have been the scale of environmental damage undertaken to provide us with the original UK rail network (which, like HS2, was initiated to serve business interests). The RTB representative does goes on to remark that, “in all this upheaval and hub-bub, wildfowl and swans have declined to desert the area and we are leaving a few ponds on the site for their especial enjoyment and our own pleasure.”
Available to view on-line on the BFI Player: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-a-great-day-1962-online
See also Port Talbot’s Royal Day which is massive all round.
Available to view on-line on the BFI Player: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-port-talbots-royal-day-1970-online
Like the Newport wildfowl and swans, hedgehogs are small and beautiful and in need of help. They are in decline in rural and urban areas for a variety of humankind-made reasons, so we are glad to have an enchanting record of one filmed by farmer Ion Trant, in Powys. It is seen curled up, in close-up, and encouraged to unfurl by the wafting of a boiled egg under its nose.
Available to view on-line on the BFI Player: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-a-prickly-visitor-at-maesmawr-hall-welshpool-1956-online
Mary Moylett, Cataloguer (Film) Screen and Sound Archive