Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports Review

Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports is released simultaneously to Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland, and I refer you to that review for background on Mitchell, Kenyon, the films they made in the early years of the twentieth century and their recent rediscovery.

Although none of the films are duplicated across the two discs, In Ireland did conclude with a couple of sporting films, showing the Irish football team playing away. On the other hand, though most of the material on Edwardian Sports was shot in the filmmakers’ home region (the North of England), there is some Irish material on the disc. That’s unlikely to be an issue for many people who, unless they have exclusive interests or disinterests in Ireland or in sports, are likely to want to buy both discs. As there are four Mitchell & Kenyon DVDs on the market now, and plenty of scope for further ones, what price a boxset?

This selection includes material shot between 1901 and 1907, roughly the first half of Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon’s company’s lifespan. This was an era when working hours became shorter and holidays longer, causing an increase in public interest in sports and the growth of an industry to cater for it. Given that the constituency for Mitchell & Kenyon’s films were the Northern English working classes in industrial towns and cities, it’s no surprise that football and rugby dominate this disc. That’s not to say that other sports don’t get a look in: cricket and cycling are seen, as well as a charmingly eccentric swimming gala race carried out by men in top hats carrying umbrellas. Amateur sports are shown as well, not to mention a school sports day.

Of the two cricketing films, the first one depicts what was at the time a matter of public controversy and debate. On the first day of Lancashire v Somerset, Lancashire and England bowler Arthur Mold had been no-balled (i.e. had his bowling disallowed) some fifteen times by the umpire for his unorthodox action – he was accused of throwing the ball instead of actually bowling it. Mold was a deadly fast bowler who had been playing for England since 1889 and the controversy provoked huge crowds for the second day – and Mitchell and Kenyon were there with their camera to watch him bowl to another Lancastrian star cricketer, Albert “Monkey” Hornby.

Football was very much the people’s game, its rise in popularity coinciding with many men being given Saturday afternoons off work. Mitchell & Kenyon filmed this sport more than any other. This disc contains a mere eleven, out of fifty-six that survive. Some of the greatest players of their day can be glimpsed, not least the legendary Sheffield United goalkeeper, William “Fatty” Foulke, who at 6’3” and 22 stone (as per The Guinness Book of Records) was one of the largest men ever to play professional football, certainly in goal.

Second only to football in popularity in the North was rugby, and the examples on the disc are of the recently-formed all-amateur Northern Union, which had broken away to form its own league, which eventually became Rugby League. The following the game had can be demonstrated by the 32,500 spectators at the Challenge Cup final, which concludes this section and the disc.

Sport and Leisure
Manchester to Blackpool Road Race (1903)
Day School Sports at Park Avenue, Bradford (1902)
Manchester and Salford Harriers’ Cyclists’ Procession (1901)
Tynemouth Swimming Gala in The Haven, North Shields (1901)
Trotting Match at Springfield Park, Wigan (1904)
Kingston Rowing Club at Practice (1902)
Final of International Cup at Cork Regatta Between Leander and Berlin (1902)
AAA Championships at Fartown, Huddersfield (1901)
Champion Athletes at Birmingham (1902)
Race for the Muratti Cup at Manchester Wheelers’ Annual Race Meet (1901)
Manchester Wheelers’ Annual Race Meet (1901)
Arthur Mold Bowling to A.N. Hornby (1901)
The Great Local Derby, Accrington v Church Cricket Match (1902)
Professional Football
Newcastle United v Liverpool (1901)
Rotherham Town v Thornhill (1902)

Sheffield United v Bury (1902) [above]
Everton v Liverpool (1902)
Notts County v Middlesbrough (1902)
Bradford City v Gainsborough Trinity (1903)
Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa (1904)
Preston North End v Wolverhampton Wanderers (1904)
Bolton v Burton United (1904-5)
Preston North End v Aston Villa (1905)
Sunderland v Leicester Fosse (1907)
Rugby Football (Northern Union)
Salford v Batley (1901)
Oldham v Swinton (1901)
Hunslet v Leeds (1901)
Halifax v Salford (1901)
Dewsbury v Manningham (1901)
Warrington v St Helens (1901)
Hull FC v Hull Kingston Rovers (1902)
Hull Kingston Rovers v Wigan (1902)
Northern Union Challenge Cup Final – Halifax v Salford (1903)

Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports is presented on a dual-layered disc in PAL format and encoded for Region 2 only. As with its labelmate, the films included were all shot in black and white and silent, at sixteen frames per second. They have been speed-corrected for this DVD. Although print damage inevitably crops up, many of the films here are in astonishingly good condition for material so old.

As before, there are two soundtracks to choose from. You can listen to just the music score, by Stephen Horne and Martin Pyne, which plays in Dolby Surround. Or you can add the commentary, read this time by Adrian Chiles, with optional subtitles available.

The BFI’s enclosed booklet contains notes written by Dr Vanessa Toulmin, which expand on the commentary, which she wrote. Both are informative and interesting. Otherwise there are no other extras – if there additional films as Easter Eggs, as there were on Electric Edwardians, I failed to find them. But the selling point is, after all, the films: of interest not just to historians, but to anyone interested in a look at a world so far removed from our own – remember, no-one you see on screen is alive today – that it is fascinating in its own right.

8 out of 10
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