The resting place of a long-forgotten British film pioneer has been discovered in Walthamstow Cemetery, but mystery surrounds why his grave is found there.
Dominic Stinton, 29, who lived in Church Hill Road, Walthamstow at the time, was waiting to pick up his step-daughter from Edinburgh Primary School across the road late last year when he spotted the grave of Birt Acres.
Mr Stinton, a self-described film buff who now lives in Merton, saw that the grave’s inscription read ‘In Loving Memory of Birt Acres (1854-1918) A Pioneer of the Cinematograph’ and, recognising the name, researched it after returning home.
He said: “If I was a bit early I’d walk around the cemetery and it just so happened I saw this inscription on the grave and the name sounded really familiar.
He said he discovered that Acres was an important figure in early British cinema and that his list of achievements was impressive – including organising the first ever public film screening in Britain.
The British Film Institute (BFI) credits Acres as an important figure in the invention and innovation of British film and cinema technology.
Born to English parents in Richmond, Virginia, USA on July 23 1854 he took up the profession of photographer later in London.
As a co-developer of an early movie camera he showed a friend walking outside his home in Barnet wearing cricket whites.
According to the BFI this untitled test film which was never exhibited commercially was the first true British film production.
He is also credited as gaving the first public performance of projected film in Britain in 1896, co-inventing the first British 35mm moving picture camera and being the first travelling newsreel reporter in international film history.
“He was famous in his lifetime but it seems that towards the end of his life he got a bit forgotten,” Mr Stinton said.
He said that Acres grave is a simple one, which is sinking and stained, in a cemetery that features some elaborate memorials.
Acres stopped film production soon after 1900 and continued in film processing and celluloid manufacture but was made bankrupt twice.
He died in Whitechapel on December 27, 1918 and it is not known why he is now buried in Walthamstow.
A number of Acres’ films are held in the BFI archives.