Researching British Pathe

Wishing to know more about a photograph in Jimmy’s album of four men standing outside a Pathé building, I found contact details on their website and emailed this query:

  • Dear Sir or Madam,                                                       (sent 4/10/11)

I am writing to ask if you would be able to help me in my search of Pathe’s history in the 1920s, at Lisle Street.  Having just started the second year of my Master’s degree in Photography; my current research project is concerned with a photograph album which spans the years 1919-1932. In one of the photographs, four men are standing outside a building, with the caption ‘Lisle St W. Pathé (France or House) , May 1926 ‘. (Photo attached below.) Having read an article in British History Online I have matched my photograph with one taken in the 1960s with no. 5 Lisle Street. My main area of interest around this photo is what the men might have been doing there. Would you be able to give me any information regarding what the building was used for at that time? Did it show footage or was it used for offices? Were the public permitted inside? Was it a place that would have been primarily visited by the wealthy ? Perhaps it was a prestigious place to be photographed ? Is there any archival material from the building or film at that time that I might be able to use for the purpose of my MA? These are just general questions, but I would be very grateful if you are able to help with any details at all regarding Pathé in 1926. Many thanks for any information you are able to supply.

Yours faithfully

Teresa Williams

  • Dear Teresa                                                                       (received 5/10/18)

Many thanks for your email and your interest in our history! It’s really great to see these photographs.

I do wish I could be of more help to you, particularly since it is related to an MA. Unfortunately, our records have not been kept as well as they should have been over the years, mostly due to the fact that Pathé has changed hands so many times (the British newsreel division – which I work at – alone has had 12 different owners since it was founded, and the British feature film division and French production and distribution companies are all now separate entities with their own convoluted histories as well).

In fact, until you emailed, none of us here were aware we ever had an office on Lisle St at all! One reason for that might be that the newsreel offices were located on Wardour St. It may be that the feature film division was on Lisle St. Or the music record division, perhaps.

When British Pathé split from French Pathé in 1927, I’m assuming the building became part of British Pathé, though it is possible that the French company retained the building and had it as a UK office, like French Pathé does today on Ramillies St.

But due to the state of our paperwork records, it’s really not something I can work out with any certainty at all. Once again, apologies for not being of any use. But I hope you’re able to track down the information you need, and I wish you success with your studies.

All best                                                         
(…)

The photograph in question:  naturally I was delighted to receive a response so quickly, but disappointed not to have found any details about this image yet!

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