Burning celluloid?


Edgar Pritchard in a self-portrait. Clearly a remarkable and talented man.

An interesting question was posed to me a few weeks ago by Shire Oak specialist and old friend of the blog Sheila Norris, and the more I think about it, the more interesting it gets – and it’s all to do with a chap we’re really interested in, Brownhills filmmaker Edgar Pritchard.

Edgar, as regular readers readers will recall, made the astounding 1934/5 Brownhills Carnival film, and we later featured his short story Hope Springs Eternal. The Pritchard story then really opened up with the contributions of Margaret Thompson and the film The Poacher’s Apprentice (featured below), which caused a real stir.

Well, we know Edgar made other films like the one of local cadets, but we either don’t know where they are, or have access to them; and Sheila thinks there may be yet another somewhere:

Hello Bob,

Have just been talking to my father, 93 next month, about all matters Brownhills etc.

He says that when he was a teenager before the war he remembers a special bonfire being built in a field just off The Parade, a road running towards Lichfield from near Brownhills Bridge. He can’t remember why it was built but thought it was some sort of celebration or commemoration – not the usual Guy Fawkes night anyway.

Everyone round about brought stuff to pile on it and it was enormous – as big as a house, Dad thinks! (although Dad might have been quite small at the time!) – It was built in a special way with a sort of tunnel at the bottom. Two men had a pole with a straw bale threaded on it, soaked in parafin. The bale was lit and the men ran with it, rammed it into the tunnel and the bonfire went up with a whoosh!

Dad recalls that Mr. Pritchard was there and filmed the event and he later went to see the film at Brownhills Central School. Dad says it was just a bonfire, no fireworks.

Hope this snippet is of interest.


I’m hoping the history-heads tuned in may well be able to link this to a particular event, and perhaps some of the older readers can recall it – Reg, what do you think old chap?

Thanks top Sheila for a tantalising and fascinating enquiry – you folks know what to do by now! Comments please – or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

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6 Responses to Burning celluloid?

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Could the bonfire have had anything to do with King George V’s jubilee in 1935?

    • Sheila Norris ( nee Jones) says:

      Good thinking, Andy. Dad would have been 12 in October 35, so that’s a possibility, I would say. I will mention it to him and see if it jogs any memories.

  2. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Think you’ve nailed this one, Andy. I wasn’t aware of the bonfire. Salters Road was a long way from the Parade, Brownhills, in those days, but I do remember the enthusiastic celebrations if the event. And bonfires were lit all over the kingdom. My main memories were of Elkes, the biscuit people sending around people who pushed a small metal box of commemoration biscuits through every letter-box in the village and the ‘Silver Jubilee ‘ mugs issued by the local school. Nearly every house boasted a flag, often large enough to be hung from a window. Though barely five years old at the time, the term ‘Silver Jubilee’ still evokes those old memories, rather than the similar celebrations of the present monarch. Perhaps in those far-off days we appreciated the all-to brief colour and celebration these events brought into the otherwise grim lives of the 1930’s working-class .

  3. aerreg says:

    hi bob you have done it this time the grey matter is red hot first the bonfire i remember it well it was located on the common behind the hussey arms a date for the boffins the 12 of may1937 ive still got my mug in mint condition it was coronation year ,as ive often remarked carnival was my childhood years my dad was carnival a great time before tv companies would supply bunnting fancy dress as a means of advertising that year number 113 was covered in the blue bird toffie bunting companies would also supply playing cards i also remember elkes biscuit band as our dear friend david knows i have an orignal programe from the 193o’now st james magazine that was my brownhills days brenda and i were married there happy days ‘ finaly the dear old edger legend as i hve quoted so many times the last time i saw sid he asked ne to go over the back kitchen table was covered with edgers memorabiliar un edited film spools paper items a skirt his mother made and other bits and pieces i recall seeing the atc film among them i still have in my mind sids last words reg what am i going to do with all this as there were only him and myself there i said sid i cant say mate but some one will look after them sadly did i know so mutch was to end up on a bonfire god bless him i apolagise to readers who may be saying aer reg is off again but to me yesterdays days are todays jewells so today treasure your stories pholos papers because the speed of todays wonders they will become co dot flash not to be held and loved by hand god bless thanks for the memory

  4. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    So there we have it, folks, straight from the red-hot memory of ‘aerreg’. The big bonfire was to celebrate the Coronation of George V1 in 1937, and not the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935, or could there have been two celebratory bonfires ?? Certainly both occasions were the cause of great national celebrations, within only the brief passing of two years. Souvenir mugs were issued for both events and pop up every now and then via ebay. Elkes ‘band’ as referred to by Reg was the “Elkes Girl Pipers” a prime favourite at shows and carnivals. Best wishes, Reg, we old’uns must stick together.

  5. Sheila Norris ( nee Jones) says:

    Thanks gentlemen for all these great memories! Have been passing on the info to Dad who says “his” bonfire was not behind Hussey Arms but as described in my original posting. So yes, probably bonfires all over the place. Dad thinks Mr. Pritchard, as well as filming the occasion, put still photos in the local papers. So perhaps the newspaper archives for 1935 and 1937 may hold the key? Bound to be written accounts of local celebrations in any case. Any volunteers?

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