Who was Albert Boston?

Benfleet's Film Studio Owner

Albert Boston was one of the founders of the Carter-Boston Film Company. We know little about him as we have no interviews with him. However various records exist which give us a picture of who he likely was.

Albert’s Birth

We certainly have evidence that links him to the Film Studio and the house where he lived. Among these is a key record from the National Probate Calendar that states:

“BOSTON Albert of 37 Clarence Road South Benfleet Essex died 10 April 1964 at The General Hospital Rochford Essex Administration London 23 July to Lucia Mary Boston widow. £7,093.”

This links Lucia to Albert and to the address. It also gives us the day of his death of 10th April 1964.

In the register of Births, Marriages and Deaths (BMD) there is only one death registered for a Albert Boston in the April to June quarter for 1964 in Rochford. This record gives his age at death as 89 indicating that he was born in either 1874 or 1875.

A search in the BMD for the Albert Bostons born in that period give us two possibilities – one in Cheshire and one in Hackney. However the one in Cheshire fails to fit the profile when followed through, which leaves us with Hackney as being almost certainly the one we are looking for. This record gives a birth registration date of between July and September 1874.

A further check of the records gives us a date for his baptism of 20th September 1874 with his older sister, Harriet, also being baptised. It seems highly likely that he was born about a week before his baptism. The baptism record also shows that his parents were James Boston, a painter, and Emma Boston. They lived at 15 George Street, London Fields, Hackney.

Albert’s Early History

We can now follow Albert through the Census records. In the 1881 Census he is shown as living with his parents and six siblings at 10 Cottage Place in Hackney. The parent’s names, father’s profession and sister’s name, Harriet, together show that this is almost certainly the correct record. The record shows a middle initial for Albert of likely an “E”, but this is not supported by any other records on Albert.

One of his siblings is an older brother called Thomas. In the 1891 Census he is shown as living with this brother at 126 Usher Street, Hackney with a profession of “Shirt Packer”.

Albert’s Marriage to Ada Sophia Bates

On the 25th December 1896 Albert Boston was married to Ada Sophia Bates both aged 23, at St Marks Church in Bow. Albert was then living at 11 Rushton Street. The church record shows his rank or profession as telephone wireman. He now has a job in technology which he appears to keep an interest in for the rest of his life.

No divorce record is shown for his marriage, which highly likely explains why no marriage can be traced with Lucia Mary. In addition only one death record can be found for an Ada Boston born in 1874 and she died between January and March 1963 at Rochford. So it seems highly unlikely that Albert and Lucia Mary were ever married.

In the 1901 Census Albert is living with Ada at 16 Haslemere Road in West Ham. He is employed as a Telephone Fitter. He is living with his widowed mother and a younger sister.

This article has a variety of data with different types of certainty. The following scale, as suggested by Kesselman, is used to give consistency:
Certain,
Almost Certain,
Highly likely,
Likely,
Chances a little better (or less),
Unlikely,
Highly unlikely,
Remote,
Impossible.

Albert’s Move to Southend

A number of interesting addresses appear in city directories that show that after 1901 Albert Boston moved to Southend-on-Sea. The 1904-05 Hattons Southend-on-Sea directory shows an Albert Boston living at Balmain, Richmond Avenue, Leigh Road. The 1906 to 1910 Kelly’s directories shows an Albert Boston living at 121 Leigh Road. However the 1911 Kelly’s shows no Albert Boston and no entry for 121 Leigh Road. Although this is not enough evidence to say this is the right Albert Boston, there is evidence from “The Stage” magazine and 1911 Census which makes it highly likely it is.

The 1911 census has no mention of Albert at all. However his wife Ada is shown as living at 85a Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff. She is living with her mother, who is shown as being the head of the household, and a younger unmarried sister. She has been married for 14 years and has no children. It is likely that she had been deserted.

Adverts in “The Stage” Magazine for Employment

The adverts in “The Stage” support his being in Southend. The first advert is in the 28th May 1908 edition under the “Engagements Wanted” section. It said:

“Wanted, Engagement, ALBERT BOSTON, Practical Electrician and Kinematograph Operator, 121, Leigh Road, Westcliff-on Sea. Own Machine. Accessories Complete, Up to Date.”

This ties in with the address in Kelly’s and also with what we know of Albert having been a telephone fitter. The fact that in 1911 Ada Boston is shown as living in Southend also supports it being the right Boston. The other factor is the fact he is a Kinematograph operator. At this time a Kinamatograph was a combined movie camera and projector.

The next advert was in the 23rd July 1908 edition:

“Wanted, Engagement. ALBERT BOSTON, Electrical Engineer and Kinematograph Operator. Own tools. Pathe’s machine, Accessories, etc., up to date. Late Electrical Contractor to the Royal Insurance Co.”

This does not give the address but agrees with the previous advert. It also shows he had a Pathe Machine and was also self-employed as an electrical contractor.

Albert Boston’s Company of Grand Varieties

Whether these adverts were successful we do not know however in the 29th October 1908 edition of “The Stage” a new series of adverts appears.

“Wanted, First Class Halls and Theatres for ALBERT BOSTON’S COMPANY of Grand Varieties, Bioscope and Orchestra. November 2nd Onwards with exceptions. Wire, BOSTON, Westclif-on-Sea.”

It appears he has formed his own travelling variety show which also displayed some short films, likely self produced. Similar adverts appeared in the 12th November 1908 and 24th December 1908 editions of “The Stage”. This time, giving the address as Grange Park Hall, Leyton which was an early cinema. These prove that he had bookings at the Grange Park Hall and the Bow Baths Hall. However after this there are no more adverts until 1910. This implies the venture either failed or it succeeded and therefore did not require any more advertising.

Albert Boston Vanishes

In the 3rd March 1910 edition of “The Stage” the tone of the adverts changes:

“Wanted, A position as Manager or Acting. Required to open at once. Straightforward business only. Please write – ALBERT BOSTON, perm ad. Westcliff-on-Sea Essex.”

This shows he wanted a managing position and that he was no longer running his own company.

On 18th August 1910 a new advert appeared in “The Stage”:

“Albert Boston, Professional Engineer and Operator, open to an Engagement with a Responsible Company – Write BOSTON, 145 Romford Road, Forest Gate, E.”

A similar advert appears in the 20th October 1910 edition but with a different address of 83, Broadway, Westcliff-on-Sea Essex. These show he is doing what he is good at but is not at his long established address of 121 Leigh Road.

By 1910 it is probable that his fortunes are at a low ebb. He has had to leave his home, his travelling show is no longer working and he has had to go back to working as an electrician.

Between 1910 and 1928

The next time that Albert appears in the records is 1928. Between 1910 and 1928 I can only speculate as to what happens.

We know it was reported that he was a “Major”. However we have no way of knowing if he volunteered or was conscripted into the army in WW1. Despite him being 43 years old in 1918 he still could have been conscripted up to the age of 51. However if he did serve his background means it was a remote chance that he was an officer.

We know he must have earned a living as he had enough money to build Boston Manor. The last advert about him in “The Stage” for 30th August 1928 says he was the manager for a hall, highly likely a cinema, in London for over ten years.

We do not know when he met Lucia Mary during this period. It seems unlikely to have been before 1925, but she is certainly with him around 1928 due to her appearing in the 1929 Electoral Roll among other mentions in articles.

1928 – The Bostons Move to Benfleet

However by 1928 there is a lot of evidence for him. He does not appear in the 1927 Electoral Register for the constituency, but he and Lucia Mary Boston appear in the 1929 register (her name being shown as Louisa Mary Boston).

Albert was now 53 years old and according to a report in the Southend Times can be described as “a middle aged homely, spectacled, reserved.” This and the photo that accompanied that article is the only description we have of him.

We know they live at Boston Manor which highly likely had been built for them in the last year. The reason being is due to the unusual design of it having a roof balcony and a flagpole in the middle of the roof. I speculate that calling it Boston Manor implies that Albert is trying to project an image being from the upper class.

According to The Benfleet and District Weekly Gazette they appear to have given a few good parties at the house as newcomers to the area. Albert also shot a documentary about Benfleet which was going to be shown in Scotland. No evidence of this documentary can now be found.

Starting the Carter-Boston British Film Company Limited

In the 30th August 1928 edition of “The Stage” the last reference to Albert Boston appears in the form of this advert:

“URGENT. MANAGER. “BOSTON.” Wanted, Appointment. Exceptionally long and wide exp. since 1907. Own (professional) Cine Camera Outfit. Over 10 years last hall, London. – Refs. And par., ALBERT BOSTON, Boston Hall, S. Benfleet, Essex.”

This advert ties in with the early ones showing he was involved in the cinema. But crucially here states he is looking for a job. There is no hint of him about to start a film studio. Also in the 1929 Kelly Directory there is a reference to “Boston Photoplay Co, proprietor Albert Boston of Boston Hall TN 92”. Photoplay mean a cinema or projection, and not film production.

I believe the advert is very important to the story. It is almost certain that after this advert that he met Thomas E. Carter. He was then seduced into starting the studio. A number of articles appeared in the local press and the company was incorporated as the “Carter-Boston British Film Company Limited” on the 12th December 1928 with Albert Boston and Thomas E Carter as effectively sole shareholders and directors. In signing the documents Albert stated his profession was “Film Producer”, which is a touch of grandeur especially as Thomas E Carter stated his as “Merchant”.

Sometime during 1929 a second company was started called “Boston Carter Productions Limited”. I have not got the details of this one but I assume it is similar.

An entry in the Southend Standard for the 3rd January 1929 edition under “New Telephone Subscribers in the Southend Area” there is “S. Benfleet 92  Carter Boston British Film Co. Ltd., Clarence Road”. However by the 1929 telephone book the number had been changed to 124 with a branch exchange. The telephone number remained until the 1933 edition.

The Film Studio Struggles

Albert then spent 1929 up to 1932 struggling to make the studio work. He almost certainly shot two film shorts: East Lynne and Dante’s Inferno. However there is only Lucia Mary Boston’s interview in the 1970’s to substantiate this.

By September 1930 things were bad and they decided to voluntarily liquidate “Carter-Boston British Film Company Limited”. A notice was issued in the London Gazette for 26th September 1930 and the company was struck off on 9th January 1931. Similarly for “Boston Carter Productions Limited” a notice was given on 19th August 1932 and it was struck off on 29th November 1932. At this point I believe the film dream was dead.

I have not been able to find out what happened next as there are no records. However Lucia Mary Boston (Kitty Lee) ceases touring in 1933 and money gets very short. This may be because of depression at the collapse of the dream? It is highly unlikely that we will ever know.

The Boston Unit Started

However in 1939 Albert begins to work again. He starts the Boston Unit and gets a new telephone number. This number remains in the telephone book until Lucia Mary’s death in 1972.

The road has been rezoned as a residential area so he demolishes Boston Manor and builds twelve houses on the site. He and Lucia Mary live in one, while they let out the other eleven houses. They are continually rented out under their ownership until Albert’s death in 1963.

In the 1953 Benfleet Urban District Council Coronation Programme, The Boston Unit takes a full page advertisement as well as sponsoring two competitions. The Boston Unit is shown as “Builders and Contractors, General Electrical and Constructional Engineers.”

By this time Albert was 78 years old. There is also a phrase in the advert which puzzles me: “Donee of his most gracious majesty the late King George VI.” I see no reason why the late King would have given anything to Albert. Then I spotted a very emotional cinema trailer for people to donate to the King George VI Memorial Fund. I speculate that what Albert is saying is that he has made a donation to that fund.

The End of Their Lives

After this we know from Lucia Mary Boston’s interview that Albert started to lose his sight. He then died on the 10th April 1964 aged 89. Lucia Mary lived on in the house selling some of the others to sitting tenants during the 1960’s. She died in May 1972.

So who was Albert Boston? The evidence suggests that he was a hardworking technician. He could deal with electricity and film cameras – both high tech when he was younger. However he always wanted to better himself.

So Who was Albert Boston?

He had moved into high tech by becoming a telephone fitter. He bought his own professional film equipment and tried several times to start businesses. However he appears to want to be far more successful then he was, in particular calling himself a “Film Producer” before he ever was. Because of these dreams he sacrificed a lot when a realistic assessment would have told him they were just dreams and concentrate on being an electrician or film projectionist. With the number of film studios being set up in 1928 and 1929 he likely could have got work with any one of them. But it would not have been the same as owning his own studio.

In an earlier article I thought the studio was a vanity project for Lucia Mary Boston’s dreams. I now think that it was he, the technician, who was the dreamer, while she, the artist, was the realist.

Albert Boston in 1928
The Southend Times 19th October 1928
Boston Manor 1928
The Southend Times 19th October 1928
Boston Unit 1939 - 23 to 45 Clarence Road
Mark Thres
The 1953 advert for the Boston Unit in the Coronation Programme
Albert Boston's signature signed as "Film Producer"

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  • I lived at number 40 Clarence Road from 1946 to 1956 and didn’t know there had been a building known as Boston Hall on the site. The name Boston seems to ring a distant bell – maybe my memory will zoom into focus with more thought. Hope so. Thank you for the history.

    By Jenny Willson (06/03/2013)

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