Carter-Boston Film Studio in the Newspapers
And the mystery of why nothing appears in The Benfleet and District Weekly Gazette after 1928
The Benfleet and District Weekly Gazette was the weekly local paper in Benfleet pre-war. It was free sheet similar to today’s free paper. It was published by Victory Press in the High Road.
The British Newspaper Archive at Collingdale has some bound editions of the papers starting in 1928 from about issues 200 or four years after it started. This paper provided the first evidence that a film studio existed in Benfleet. As we have now found out so much more I went to see what else was in it.
The first mention was a visit to Boston Hall by an important person reported in the May 30th 1928 edition :
A distinguished visitor to Benfleet on Tuesday, May 29th, was Walter Freer Esq. J.P. “Father” of Glasgow, who was on a visit to friends at “Boston Hall,” Clarence Road. He expressed himself delighted with the beauty of our countryside and the health giving Thundersley Hills, in the centre of which Benfleet stands, and declared his intention of paying another visit in the near future.
Walter Freer was a very competent public official in the Glasgow Corporation. For 35 years he ran the Public Halls Department Glasgow Corporation, including all the Music Halls in Glasgow, which he managed to run at a profit. He retired in 1921 but was much beloved by many including Music Hall performers. This may be the reason that the Boston’s knew him as there is strong evidence they were involved in Music Halls. In 1929 he published a book called “My Life and Memories” which describes the old music halls. He died in about 1930.
In the 20th June 1928 edition of The Benfleet Gazette we had:
“Father of Glasgow”
With reference to our Stop Press Item, May 30th re Walter Freer, Esq., J.P. Father of Glasgow, who visited Boston Hall, Benfleet, May 29th, we have had brought to our notice and item of interest from Mr. Freer dated June 13th. “I have read with interest your Stop Press in the “Benfleet Weekly Gazette. . . I have lived a very long number of years and have had very many congratulations and distinctions conferred on me, but I am overburdened with the thought that I am “the Father of Glasgow,” with a family of about a million and a half of sturdy men and women . . . . . I don’t know what I am going to do with them all . . . . . All going well I expect to back at “Boston Hall” about the middle of July, and I think we could make a rare old time of it. I hope to have Mrs Freer with me.
Yours very sincerely
(Signed) Walter Freer.
P.S. – On the occasion of our visit I shall present you with the Scottish Standard, which I shall have specially made, so that you can fly it from the centre of your beautiful “Boston Hall.”
And duly this was followed up with a report in the 19th July 1928 edition:
Putting Benfleet “on the Map”
Walter Freer Esq. J.P. of Glasgow, paid a return visit to Benfleet on Monday, July 16th and presented friends at Boston Hall with a Scottish Standard. A Cinematograph picture was taken of his arrival at Benfleet and the unfurling of the flag over Boston Hall, when Major Pearse, Major Boston, Chas. Courtney, Esq., Mr and Mrs Shrimpton and many friends were present. This Cinema picture, which shows many beautiful views in Benfleet will be shown in most of the big picture houses in Scotland, thus bringing Benfleet into prominence and giving it a “Place on the Map.”
Noticeably missing from the list of guests is any mention of Mr Thomas E Carter. I have a theory that Mr Carter only became involved with the Boston’s after August 1928. This item also shows that a film was shot and possibly distributed. It is also mentions that Mr Boston is a Major.
The next mention in the Gazette is an advert in the 5th October 1928 edition announcing the Film studio being started. At the same time a news report appeared in the 5th October edition of the Southend Times stating that the Chamber of Trade had been written to.
The Southend Times sent a reporter on 19th October 1928 who gave a sceptical report.
After that there is a long news report in the 16th November 1928 Benfleet Gazette along with a competition to name a new cinema.
The next mention is in the 23rd November 1928 edition of the Benfleet Gazette. It refers to the competition as well as reporting two official views on the British Film Industry.
With reference to the Carter- Boston Advertisement for a name for the New Picture House in last week’s issue of the “Benfleet Weekly Gazette,” a good number of interested people have written in asking for particulars as to the position of Cinema, which would help in the choice of a suggested name, therefore the closing date of the competition has been extended to November 27th, and those of our readers who have not yet sent in, can get a form from the offices of this paper.
The site selected for the erection’ of Benfleet’s Super Cinema is opposite the Council Schools on the corner of London Road and Thundersley Park Road, where a notice board to that effect has been placed.
Please do not hesitate to send in your suggested name.
British Film Production.
No doubt many thousands of people were delighted to hear over the Radio Monday evening, November 19th, the speech of Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the Home Secretary, at the dinner of the Film Group of the Federation of British Industries, when he stated that the Film Industry in this country was the third biggest Industry, and that there were great possibilities of it becoming second. We have pleasure in quoting extracts from his speech – “The British Film with an assured market in this country was extending its sway to other parts of the world, but above all to our great Empire Countries, he was told that profitable and desirable contracts had been made with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other places, for the production of British Films. The possibilities in the Empire Markets were great, and those of the foreign markets were equally so.”
A letter from Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade, also mentioned “that to-day British Films were welcomed on their merits all over the world.”
It is pleasing to think that Benfleet will play a great part in the near future in this important Industry, which involves the services of almost every trade.
The site mentioned is now the junction of Thundersley Park Road and the High Road opposite Benfleet Primary School.
I eagerly checked the next edition of the Benfleet Gazette to find out more details of the cinema. And the next edition and the following right up to the end of 1930. I never again found any mentions of the studio, the cinema, the Boston’s or any connection. It would appear that the relationship between the paper and the Boston’s had broken down. I do not know why.