Lights, Camera, Burslem! Step into the little-known 'Hollywood' era of this historic Potteries town

· 3 min read
Lights, Camera, Burslem! Step into the little-known 'Hollywood' era of this historic Potteries town
The Meat Market and Town Hall are to the left and The Leopard is to the right. In the background, you can see The Big House.

"A Pottery Girl's Romance" is a silent melodrama filmed in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in 1918. This film is notable for being commissioned by William Rhodes, the Manager of the Burslem Picture Palace, and was a significant local production of its time. The film is set in the context of the pottery industry, a vital part of the local economy and culture in the Stoke-on-Trent area.

The plot revolves around a young woman working in a pottery factory. In a dramatic sequence, she is followed by two men as she leaves work. One of them, under the guise of needing help for a sick old woman, lures her into a trap. This leads to a confrontation and an eventual rescue by the woman's employer. However, the drama escalates when the woman and her mother are in danger due to a fire at their home.

This scene unfolds with a daring rescue operation by the Burslem Fire Brigade, a stirring depiction of heroism that was a hallmark of early cinema. Centred around a pottery worker and her mother trapped in a fire on Stubbs Street, Middleport, the film vividly captures the urgency and bravery of the era's fire brigades.

Immerse yourself in the authentic local flavour of Burslem, with familiar streets and landmarks forming a picturesque backdrop. Notably, the film features show horses, used by the fire brigade, that also starred in agricultural shows, as seen in existing photographs from the time.

A unique aspect of this film is the ingenious use of the town's single motorized fire engine, filmed twice to create the illusion of a larger fleet. This creative approach highlights the ingenuity of early filmmakers.

Witness historic Burslem come to life, with significant landmarks such as the old Meat Market, known as 'The Shambles' by Arnold Bennett, and the Red Lion public house. The anticipation of local women awaiting the fire engines and the bustling streets with tramlines and onlookers add a dynamic and engaging layer to the scene.

While only one reel of the original four-part feature survives, it provides a fascinating insight into the storytelling styles and filmmaking techniques of the era. This film is not just a piece of cinematic history but a cherished part of Staffordshire's heritage, offering a glimpse into Burslem's social and cultural landscape during the early 20th century.

'A Pottery Girl's Romance' remains a significant testament to the region's contribution to the early days of cinema.

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