Walton Studios

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The Walton Studios (originally named Hepworth Studios and for some time later named Nettlefold Studios) was a British film studio situated in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The studios were opened in 1899 by Cecil Hepworth.<ref name="hep">hepworthfilm.org Retrieved 2011-12-28</ref> The studios were once a great contributor to British film-making. The decline of the British film industry led to the studios' sale to various owners, eventually being used for Television production, before being closed in 1961 and demolished.

History

The studios started life as the Hepworth Studios in 1899 when the early film pioneer, Cecil Hepworth, leased a house for £36 per annum in Hurst Grove, Walton-on-Thames.<ref name="brit">britmovie.co.uk Retrieved 2011-12-28</ref> He created a studio with electric lighting and a film laboratory.<ref name="hep"/> Along with Hepworth’s cousin Monty Wicks, he created the filmmaking production company Hepwix and started creating actualities, which are newsreel-like short documentary films. A 15 ft by 8 ft stage was also built in the house’s back garden.<ref name="stud">tvstudiohistory.co.uk Retrieved 2011-12-28</ref> By the turn of the 20th century Hepworth was making 100 films a year.<ref name="brit"/>

By 1905, Hepworth had built a larger glass stage and started making trick films<ref name="stud"/> as well as different types of genre. The studios continued production through the First World War, making short propaganda films. Many fictional films were made by Hepworth company making many stars as a result, including Ronald Colman.<ref name="stud"/>

In 1907, the studios were destroyed by fire, killing a young technician.<ref name="hep"/>

After the First World War, in 1923, Cecil Hepworth and what was then called Hepworth Picture Plays declared bankruptcy due to the competition of rival film companies in a post-war context.<ref name="brit"/> Hepworth's entire back catalogue of 2,000 films were destroyed, a disaster in which 80% of British films made between 1900 and 1929 were lost.<ref name="hep"/> In 1926, the studios were bought by Archibald Nettlefold and renamed the Nettlefold Studios. They made comedy silents until it was upgraded to sound in the early 1930s. The following years saw that the studios mainly made quota quickies.<ref name="stud"/>

During the Second World War, the buildings were used as storage by the government and the Vickers-Armstrong aircraft company built two new hangars due to a direct hit by an enemy bomb at their nearby factory in Kingston-Upon-Thames.<ref name="brit"/>

Nettleford died in 1944 and when the studios reopened after the war they were sold to Ernest G. Roy in 1947.<ref name="brit"/> The decline of the British film industry meant that only a few films were made in the late 1940s on a modest budget.<ref name="stud"/> To keep the studios afloat, an 'open door' hiring policy was deployed.

In 1955, Sapphire Films, owned by American Hannah Weinstein, started hiring the studios and they eventually bought the studios, renaming them to Walton Studios. Her company made 143 episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood for commercial television on 35mm film. Other successful TV series were made including: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956), The Buccaneers (1956), Sword of Freedom (1957) and The Four Just Men (1959).

In the 1960s, the studios were again in serious financial problems due partly to lack of funding. Unable to compete with other studios they closed in March 1961<ref name="hep"/> never to reopen. Most of the equipment was sold to Shepperton Studios and many of the 200 employees moved there.<ref name="hep"/>

Current State

The majority of the buildings were demolished and the site built over by housing and a shopping area. All that remains is the power generating house built by Hepworth and converted into a theatre in 1925. Since refurbishment it is now The Walton Playhouse, used as a theatre for amateur dramatics.

Filmography

Hepworth Era

  • 1900: The Beggar's Deceit
  • 1900: How It Feels to Be Run Over
  • 1900: Explosion of a Motor Car
  • 1903: Alice in Wonderland
  • 1905: Rescued by Rover
  • 1905: Baby's Toilet
  • 1913 David Copperfield
  • 1915: The Baby on the Barge
  • 1916: Annie Laurie
  • 1919: City of Beautiful Nonsense
  • 1919: Broken in the Wars
  • 1919: The Forest on the Hill
  • 1920: Helen of Four Gates
  • 1921: The Narrow Valley
  • 1921: Tansy
  • 1921: Wild Heather
  • 1923: Comin' Thro the Rye
  • 1923: Mist in the Valley

References

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