Members Films

A new selection of contributions from WIAS members

The first film below has kindly been supplied by Derek Billings. It features a family from the USA enjoying crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner and arriving in the UK at Southampton. The family then travel on via the GWR to Leamington Spa reaching their eventual destination, a house in Radford Semele. The precise year of the visit has now been indentified as 1934, (see below). The film is a delight in that we see steam ships, steam locomotives, views of Leamington Spa, Radford Semele, Warwick Town, Warwick Castle, London, Worcestershire and much more.  Sit back and enjoy a time gone by! (It’s a silent fim!).

Update from David Whitlock – ‘At 3.17 minutes there is a very brief shot of the Radford Semele shop at the corner of Lewis Road & Southam Road. My grandma, Jane Whitlock and her husband Alfred ran the shop for decades. It was my Dads home. I think it was filmed in 1934, so all three would have been living there then. Stayed there countless times in the 1950’s & 1960’s. Fantastic bit of film for me. Thanks for posting. Happy Days….’

Update from Derek Billings who provided the film with more detail – A DVD Bill Gibbons of  Leamington Spa gave me before he died. Molly French was at school with Bill and this is a film about her relatives from America who came over from the States in 1934 on the liner “Berengaria.” On the way up Southampton water you see a sailing ship, a warship with three funnels, a yacht, a submarine, steam tugs and men in a rowing boat handling the mooring ropes. On to Leamington by train for a visit to Radford Semele for a holiday. On the railway journey you pass, I think, through Harbury cutting? The house at Radford was called Waresley and is still there. Molly`s Uncle Stan lived there and it is his brother and his family who visits from America. You see scenes at Radford Semele and the post office which is next to the house. The family and children playing in the front garden. Molly French is the tallest girl. Her father was the post master at Leamington post office. That is all I know as sadly Bill Gibbons died shortly afterwards. In the film you will see; 

  • A car on an empty main road, a Midland Red bus passes, a SOS Q type.
  • Next a trip to London, hauled by a King class loco, 6014 “King Henry VII,” there is a good view of Leamington station with the iron foot bridge that spanned the railway from the Myton Road to Avenue Road, removed in 1939. Leamington Parish Church can be seen, and in time you pass through High Wycombe. Arriving at Paddington Station. London street scenes, Trolley Buses, Bank of England, Marble Arch, Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square, Eros, St Pauls, Daily Express Art Deco building, Ludgate Hill railway bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben covered scaffolding again! Buckingham Palace Guards on duty.
  • A view from a Guy bus on a trip to the Cotswolds, (you can see the Guy Indian Chief radiator cap), to see family I know not who. I would like to find out more  about the family, the film came from Molly French who, when Bill Gibbons was alive, lived at Alford in Lincolnshire. May be too late as when Bill passed away all contact was lost.
  • Views of Warwick Castle, the drive up to the Castle cut out of the rock. The gardens, Guy’s Tower. Returning into Warwick we see Lord Leycester Hospital and East Gate. Views at Lillington, Brampton House, (in Bordesley Crescent), the Lodge family lived here, the sparking plug manufacturers, and the church, at that time no other buildings between the church and Brampton House. Jephson Garden’s, the fountains as they used to be, a paddle boat in the Mill Gardens.
  • The final scenes are of the brother going by train from Leamington Station, (you get a glimpse of Castle class locomotive No 505?), to Southampton and returning to America aboard the liner Majestic, You see the brother from Radford Semele waving goodbye from the quay, view of the largest floating dock in the world at that time, tugs assisting the liner out of Southampton.  On the way up Southampton water you see the Forts, scenes at sea, and nearing New York a view of The Statue Of Liberty. On entering New York views of the New York skyline, Empire State building and lots of interesting ships and finally arriving home by car. Location not known.

Notes on the Liners.

The RMS Berengaria was built as the Imperator for the Hamburg-America Line in 1913 from August 1914 she was in Hamburg  harbour for the duration of the war. On the 5th of May 1919 she was seized by the U.S. Navy as a U.S. troop transport. In February 1920 she was handed over to the shipping controller, London as reparation for the sinking of the ”Lusitania” and sold to Cunard Line where she became the company’s flag ship and renamed “Berengaria”. In March 1938 she caught fire in New York harbour and in November was sold for scrap.  

The RMS ”Majestic” was built as the SS ”Bismarck” for the  Holland America Line as the “Bismarck.”  The keel was laid by the Kaiser Wilhelm ll in 1913 and at the time was the world’s largest ship, it was the sister ship of “Imperator” and the “Vaterland.” The outbreak of war in 1914 meant that work was suspended. In 1919 she was handed as war reparations to the British Government and sold jointly to Cunard and White Star Line. In 1920 the work was further delayed as she was damaged by fire. Sabotage was suspected as the Germans had no wish to part with the ship. Work was completed at Hamburg in 1922 and the ship was delivered to Liverpool at the end of the month. After sea trials she was renamed the “Majestic”. In September she broke the record for crossing the Atlantic in 5 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes. In 1925 she went on to cross in 5 days. In 1936 she made her last voyage for Cunard and was replaced by the ”Queen Mary.” 

Derek Billings 2008
( Copyright © 2020 D.Billings)


Crossness Pumping Station. Next in the list is a film Derek Billings took on a trip to Crossness Pumping Station 2019, a veritable cathedral of industrial archaeology if ever there was one! Built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette for London’s sewage system and opened in 1865, Crossness Pumping Station is a Grade 1 Listed building and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork found in the world today.


Crofton Pumping Station, filmed again by Derek Billings in 2017, in Wiltshire is one of the most significant industrial heritage sites in the United Kingdom and a fascinating visitor attraction that invites you to step into our industrial and social history and turn back the clock to a time when steam was king. The station was built in 1807-9 to supply water to the highest point of the Kennet & Avon Canal which links London and Bristol.


Statfold Barn Railway. From Derek Billings comes a day out at this amazing railway. If you ever thought of having a garden railway, this is the way to do it!


David Hulse. The final meeting of the 2016/2017 season was a talk by engineer David Hulse from Stone in Staffordshire. It was truly amazing and inspiring! If you were not able to get to the meeting, which opened with a 10 mins video about David, you can watch it here. Highly recommended viewing! Visit David’s excellent web site for much more information  – click here


Wickman, Coventry. Take a tour of the Wickman Group’s UK location to see the 51,000 square foot factory, how a CNC multispindle machine is put together by highly-skilled engineers, the variety of machines, and thousands of spare parts and attachments.


Cleaning historic coal mining plans. From John Willock, a short film on how the records office cleans old plans of North Warwickshire Collieries.


Cast Iron Cooking Pot. ‘The immense historical significance of the cast iron cooking pot’ was a talk presented to WIAS in 2017 by Richard Williams. This video takes the subject to a higher level!


President Steam Narrow Boat & Others. Coventry Steam Canal Boat Rally by Tracklamp Videos. Enjoy the convoy of steam canal boats. Shot on the Saturday of the 3 day rally (15th – 17th June 2012) organised by The Steam Boat Association Of Great Britain.

In the new boatyard at Fazeley Street they built five steel-plate steam-powered boats. After an initial period of use they were found unsatisfactory because of the excessive wear on the hull’s steel.  In 1896 Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd tried iron in the construction of their boats. The boat had an elm bottom and iron sides. This proved much more effective and 3 of the 5 original steel steamers were rebuilt. Between 1898 and 1899, 8 more iron composite steamers were produced from the Saltley dock and 9 more between 1905 and 1911. The steamers were known as fly- or express-boats and kept mainly on main-line long-distance routes. On the timetable, a trip from London (City Road Basin) to Birmingham (Fazeley Street Depot) would take around 54 hours. It was a non-stop service and the crew of four would change shifts along the route. The main drawback was the lack of carrying space on the boat due to the size of the engine and boiler. The boats picked up coke at preset points along their routes.


Blenheim Palace Miniature Railway. A short film showing this lovely little line linking the palace to the pleasure garden. The current loco is diesel powered with a steam outline. The railway was adapted to provide an actual transport facility between the Pleasure Gardens and Blenheim Palace itself, and during the tourist season trains run in each direction every half-hour. The line is now an end-to-end operation laid out roughly in the shape of a figure ‘7’, and extending over a distance of 1,000 yards (910 m). There are run-round loops at each terminal station, and there was a central passing loop allowing the operation of two trains. This loop has now had one set of points removed, thus changing it into a siding. The line also has a three-road engine and stock storage shed.


‘Mail Rail’ – The Royal Mail Underground Railway. Thanks to Robert Caldicott and his daughter for todays addition, fortunately saved from the scrap man the narrow gauge postal railway is now open for the public to travel under the streets of London.


Daw Mill Colliery, North Warwickshire. A short film taken from a drone showing the once very extensive colliery works at the deepest mine in the UK.


The Brown Betty Tea Pot. A fascinating short film,  brought to our attention by Marianne Pitts, on how this classic tea pot is made at Stoke on Trent. The red clay used was first mined in the 1600’s.


Beer at Home means Davenports! From WIAS Chairman, Martin Green. The current focus on home deliveries reminded me of the Birmingham firm of Davenports who championed the home delivery of bottled beer, with that familiar slogan of “Beer at Home means Davenports”.  The original brewery has gone, but the name has been revived in a range of craft beers produced in Birmingham. The website www.davenports.co.uk offers some interesting historical material, a number of short adverts and longer films of the Davenports story are available on youTube. One advert shows a stressed housewife struggling with her duties reaching for a creamy, nourishing bottle of Davenports stout as the ideal answer to her prayers! Interestingly, Davenports supplied beers to many parts of the UK, not just the Midlands, and did also, of course, have their own public houses. Many Warwickshire pubs served their beers including the Maid of the Mill in Atherstone, the Woodman in Warwick and the Old Tramway in Stratford upon Avon. One of the films available online is from the 1940s, with stills taken from the 1930s publication ‘Fifty Years of Progress’, two examples of which included below – the brewery in Bath Row Birmingham and early delivery lorries.


Knowle in the 1960’s. This was originally an 8mm film taken by Barry Holland of his parents garage in Knowle and surrounding area in the early 1960’s. Good shots of Knowle and Dorridge High Streets and Knowle and Dorridge Station. Plus all the old cars. Available on our ‘Members Films’ page. Click here to view or visit YouTube at this link here. Stuart Robertson 4th June 2020


Kempton Steam Museum – Mercury Arc Rectifiers. Kempton Steam Museum volunteer David Walker describes the history and operation of the museum’s Mercury Arc Rectifiers. Alain Foote. 8th September 2020


Traditional Brickmaking in the Rhineland. John Brace recommends this German film from 1963. Whether you speak German or not this film is very watchable and graphically illustrates what can be achieved with the the most basic of equipment and manpower.


Brass Steel Fire Exhibition. This exhibition was co-ordinated by Anthony Coulls and  opened in March of this year at the NRM York. When it closed it was relocated to the Science Museum in London, with the current restrictions this film was made last Thursday and provides a snapshot of the exhibits on display. A number of exhibits have been placed on loan from private collections including some from abroad, currently the Exhibition is scheduled to run until 2nd May 2021. This short film is an appetiser. Peter Coulls.


‘Birth of a Spa Town’. Leamington History Group have released their excellent new film and we are very pleased to display it here. It’s a new short film about Leamington’s transformation from a small village to a thriving spa town in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the origins of Leamington’s spa industry, the creation of the Pump Rooms and the demise of the original baths in Old Town. Extremely well made, read more about how it came about on the Leamington History Group website here LHG, 15th June 2020


Leamington’s Victorian Legacy. Thanks to Mark Ellis, our speakers and generous sponsors, in spite of the doom and gloom currently surrounding us, Leamington History Group has produced a second Leamington History Video, live from today. Please circulate the links below as widely as you can, – and of course, enjoy it yourselves! Margaret Rushton


The Story of Leamington’s Water Supply. The Story of Leamington’s Water Supply compiled and narrated by Jeffrey Burgess. Jeff describes the water supply to the town, the sort that comes out of your taps not the towns famous Spa water. This is history beneath your feet!


Martin Green, WIAS – Old Warwickians Talk, March 2021 – Thanks to Anne Douglas, Alumni Relations, Warwick School, WIAS is able share the following film. 175 OWs from across the globe and decades zoomed in to Martin Green’s fascinating talk on Warwickshire’s Industrial Heritage and Warwick School. From Scotland to San Diego and Sydney to South Africa, OWs reconnected with each other, with Martin and with the school.


The Friendly Midland Red. In an extensively illustrated presentation, Transport Author Roger Torode, will talk us through the 70-year history of this fascinating company, covering: its substantial growth from early horse bus operations through to its segmentation prior to privatisation; its distinctive and largely self-build vehicle policy; its people; its style; and its similarities (and differences) with parallel developments in London.

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