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The Prestwich Manufacturing Company of Tottenham (London) made cine cameras, and made several basic innovations in them. The company was founded by John Alfred Prestwich (1874-1952) in 1890, according to the BFI,[1] or 1895 according to the London Project.[2] Prestwich was an engineer, and held patents for a number of inventions, not limited to cinematography. After the early 1900s, his work (at least as evidenced by his patents) was focused on internal combustion engines, gearing and other systems of motor cars and cycles. He also held patents relating to cash registers and (during the First World War) hand grenades.[3]

Prestwich's Model 4, a hand-cranked, wooden-bodied camera, was the first cine camera to have detachable film magazines;[4] an auction listing at Westlicht also states that it was the first to have interchangeable lenses.[5] In the Model 5 camera (still hand-cranked and wooden), the film magazines are enclosed inside the body.[6] Frank Hurley used a Prestwich camera (as pictured here) on Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica in 1914.[7]

The Prestwich company made a number of films itself, including documentary films of great events in London. These include a controversial film of the launching of a battleship, HMS Albion, at which the wave created by the launching led to the drowning of many spectators.[8] The company was also a distributor of its own and other films.[9]


  1. Prestwich company listing, previously at the British Film Institute.
  2. Prestwich company listing at The London Project.
  3. List of patents held by J.A. Prestwich between 1880 and 1952, at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  4. Prestwich Model 4 cine camera at the National Media Museum, Bradford, UK.
  5. Prestwich Model 4, serial no. 208, dated to 1898, with Dallmeyer two- and three-inch lenses. The camera was owned by Gaumont and supposed to have been used to film the funeral of Queen Victoria and the 1908 Olympic Games. Sold at the 22nd Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 24 November 2012.
  6. Prestwich Model 5, serial no. 1390, dated to 1900, with a Cooke Cinema two-inch f/3.5 lens, sold at the fifth Westlicht auction, on 29 May 2004.
  7. Classic motion picture cameras A-P at Albert Steeman's International Encyclopedia of Cinematographers.
  8. The Launch of HMS Albion at Blackwall (1898) at BFI Screenonline.
  9. Prestwich filmography at IMDb


Patents relating to cinematography held by J.A. Prestwich, at Espacenet:

  • British Patent 22609 of 1894, An improved tripod stand.
  • British Patent 17224 of 1896, Means for taking and reproducing kinetoscopic pictures, granted to J.A. Prestwich and photographer William Friese-Greene; the patent describes the mechanism by which the film feed and uptake drums rotate continuously, while the length of film between them is slack, and fed in fixed steps, either for exposure in a camera or for projection.
  • British Patent 17831 of 1898, Improvements in apparatus for animated photography and optical projection, describing improvements to the same mechanism. Also the corresponding US Patent 627526, Film-actuating mechanism for kinetoscopic apparatus.
  • British Patent 7668 of 1900, Improvements in kinematographic apparatus. The patent describes three basic improvements in projectors: (i) a mechanism to adjust the register between the film frame and the projection gate; (ii) a mechanism to allow the film to be run backwards (i.e. reversed in time); and (iii) a mechanism to protect the film from the lamp's heat in the event that the film feed stops, comprising an air-pump connected to the projector motor, which feeds air to a cylinder in the projector, where it holds up a piston attached to a shutter in front of the lamp, so that if the motor stops, the shutter closes automatically.
  • British Patent 15226 of 1900, Improvements in kinematographic apparatus. The patent describes: (i) a different method of adjusting the registration between the film frame and the projection gate (by moving the film-advancement mechanism up or down); (ii) a method attaching film spools to the spindles in the projector; and (iii) a method of attaching the end of the film to the spool.
  • British Patent 18324 of 1901, Improved means of exhibiting kinematographic photographs. The patent describes a method of mounting frames of a cine film around the edges of a series of cardboard discs, which are then slit radially, and the radial edges of the discs joined to form a long helix. It describes a device to display the film mounted in this way, to a single viewer, with their eye at an eyepiece. This was intended as a low-cost way for cine films to be viewed. Also the corresponding US Patent 730964, Means for exhibiting kinematographic pictures, filed 1901 and granted 1903.