Birt Acres (23 July 1854 – 27 December 1918) was an American and British photographer and film pioneer. Among his contributions to the early film industry are the first working 35 mm camera in Britain (Wales), and Birtac, the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector. He also directed a number of early silent films.

Birt Acres
Birt Acres.jpg
Born(1854-07-23)23 July 1854
Richmond, Virginia, United States
Died27 December 1918(1918-12-27) (aged 64)
Frames from Incident at Clovelly Cottage, 1895.
Clovelly Cottage, 19 Park Road, Chipping Barnet.
Birt Acres' Kinetic Camera, 1895.

Early lifeEdit

Born in Richmond, Virginia, on 23 July 1854,[1] to English parents. He became an orphan at the age of 14, during the American Civil War and was raised by an aunt.[2]


Acres invented the first British 35 mm moving picture camera, Birtac which was the first daylight loading home movie camera and projector; he was also the first travelling newsreel reporter in international film history and the first European film maker who had his films shown in the United States in public performances. He contributed much to the introduction and development of cinematography in all its aspects, from the construction of cameras, projectors, film viewers, coating and slitting machines and the manufacture of highly sensitized 35 mm raw film stock, to mobile newsreel reporting and the public projections of moving pictures.[citation needed]

With his partner Robert W. Paul, he was the first person to build and run a working 35 mm camera in Britain. Incident at Clovelly Cottage was made in March 1895[3] and featured Acres' wife with their infant son in a pram[4] outside Acres' then home of Clovelly Cottage, Park Road, Chipping Barnet, which still exists.[5] Acres and Paul fell out after Acres patented their design in his own name on 27 May 1895. He made some very early silent films during the Victorian era including in 1895: a film of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, The Arrest of a Pickpocket, The Comic Shoeblack, The Boxing Kangaroo and Performing Bears.

On 10 January 1896, he gave a display of moving pictures to the Lyonsdown Photographic Society at the Lytton Road Assembly Rooms in New Barnet.[1][6] This was the first public film show to an audience in the United Kingdom.

Acres was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. On 14 January 1896, he demonstrated his Kineopticon system to members and wives of the Society, at the Queen's Hall in London.[7] Robert Paul's first solo theatrical programme was at the Alhambra Theatre on 25 March 1896.

Acres is buried in Walthamstow, London.[8]

Most important achievementsEdit

  • 1889 Apparatus for washing prints (patented).
  • 1891 Printing process for stereoscopic photographs (for continuously contact print making) (patented).
  • 1893 Hopper feed installation for rapidly projecting slides in a biunial (two-in-one) lantern to create the illusion of movement (patented).
  • 1895 Kinetic Camera with appliance for loop forming (patented).
  • 1895/96 Electroscope, apparatus for continuous viewing by more than one spectator of 35mm film.
  • 1896 Installation for wholesale production of raw stock 35 mm film.
  • 1896 Kineopticon, improved apparatus for projecting 35 mm film (patented).
  • 1897 Cine camera with 2 lenses to resolve flicker problems and to enhance brightness.
  • 1898 Birtac, home movie camera for daylight loading of 17.5 mm film (patented).


Date Title Role Notes
1895 Incident at Clovelly Cottage Director "the first successful motion picture film made in Britain"[3]
1895 The Arrest of a Pickpocket Director
1895 Charge of the Uhlans Director, Producer
1895 Crude Set Drama Director, Producer
1895 The Derby Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 The German Emperor Reviewing His Troops Director aka Kaiser Wilhelm Reviewing His Troops (USA)
1895 Opening of the Kiel Canal Director, Cinematographer, Producer aka Inauguration of the Kiel Canal by Kaiser Wilhelm II (UK)
1895 The Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Performing Animals; or, Skipping Dogs Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Rough Sea at Dover Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Shoeblack at Work in a London Street Director
1895 Smith and Machinery at Work Director, Cinematographer, Producer
1895 Tom Merry, Lightning Cartoonist Director, Cinematographer, Producer aka Tom Merry, Lightning Cartoonist, Sketching Kaiser Wilhelm II (four films were made of Tom Merry drawing notable figures, the others were Lord Salisbury (1896), William Ewart Gladstone (1896) and Bismarck (1895))
1896 The Boxing Kangaroo Director
1896 Boxing Match; or, Glove Contest Director
1896 Dancing Girls Director
1896 Golfing Extraordinary, Five Gentl Director
1896 Landing at Low Tide Director
1896 Pierrot and Pierrette Director
1896 A Surrey Garden Director
1896 Yarmouth Fishing Boats Leaving Harbour Director
1897 Henley Regatta Director
1897 An Unfriendly Call Director
1900 Briton vs. Boer Producer


  1. ^ a b Robert Shail (2007). British Film Directors: A Critical Guide. SIU Press. p. 13. ISBN 9780809328338. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Birt Acres Collection - Collections at the National Fairground and Circus Archive - National Fairground and Circus Archive - The University of Sheffield". 3 August 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Image of frames from 'incident at clovelly cottage', 1895. by Science & Society Picture Library". 23 April 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  4. ^ "FIGURE_03-01_PAUL_ACRES". Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  5. ^ "A Barnet business start up that changed the world". 20 November 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  6. ^ Allen Eyles~; Keith Skone (2002). Cinemas of Hertfordshire. p. 7. ISBN 9780954218904. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  7. ^ "". Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  8. ^ "British film pioneer Birt Acres' grave discovered in Walthamstow (From This Is Local London)". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2017.

External linksEdit