Louis Le Prince

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Louis Aime Augustin Le Prince had begun designing a single lens camera in 1885 and applied for a US (United States of America) patent on 2 November 1886

He first produced a 16 lens camera but went on to produce the worlds first successful single lens camera

Oakwood Grange Lane used to continue another 40 meters past Oakwood Hall (formerly The Acacias) to end at the gates of a mansion called Oakwood Grange

A development of modern 'Georgian' style houses has been built on the site of the mansion and its ‘Roundhay Garden’. All that remain to be seen from Oakwood Grange Lane are the gateposts of Oakwood Grange now blocked by random-stone infill, and part of its high, cut-stone garden wall

During October 1888 in the garden at Oakwood Grange, Louis made the world's first moving pictures with a single lens camera, now referred to as 'Roundhay Garden Scene'

Louis’ mother-in-law Mrs Sarah Whitley, who lived at Oakwood Grange and appears dressed in black, died on 24 October 1888 which dates the film with some certainty

He is perhaps most famous for the film known as ‘Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge’ the only footage that exists with a definite title. This is probably Louis’ most famous film and it is often mistakenly described as the first. It was filmed from the upper window of a building at Bridge End, on the south east corner of Leeds Bridge. A Blue Plaque has been placed to mark this important location

It is not certain whether Louis ever managed to project his pictures. There are various testimonies claiming that he succeeded in doing so though E Kilburn Scott, who installed an arc lamp as a projector light source for Le Prince, does not mention ever seeing pictures projected

The National Media Museum at Bradford displays a camera which is believed to be that which filmed ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’ and ‘Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge’ and a replica can be seen at Leeds Industrial Museum. None of Louis’ films, cameras or projection apparatus is proven to have survived. All that remain are copies of paper prints from sections of three films. His third film is known as ‘Accordian Player’

The Le Prince Single-lens Cine Camera held at The National Media Museum at Bradford is described on the Science and Society web page as follows:

“This camera is believed to be that used by Le Prince in October 1888 to take moving picture sequences at his parents-in-law's garden in Roundhay, Leeds, Yorkshire and of Leeds Bridge. At the front, the lower of the two lenses is the taking lens; the upper is the viewfinder lens. The complete lens assembly can be moved backwards and forwards for focusing, using the lever on the right. Behind the taking lens is a rotating disc shutter. The cover on the side of the camera is drawn back to show the viewing aperture which is covered with red glass. This allowed the operator briefly to look inside the camera without fogging the film - at this time photographic film was sensitive only to the blue and ultra-violet parts of the spectrum.”

Louis Le Prince was unable to perform a planned public demonstration in the US because on 16 September 1890 he mysteriously disappeared. He was last seen at Dijon boarding a Paris train after visiting his brother. A photograph from 1890 of a drowning victim resembling Le Prince was discovered at the Paris police archives in 2003




Oak Leaves ODHS

Part Three - Summer 2002

Louis A.A. Le Prince and the Whitley Family

by Peter Kelley

Louis Le Prince - National Media Museum  

PDF 0.2 Mb


National Media Museum


Science and Society Picture Library

Leeds Industrial Museum - Armley Mills

YouTube - Roundhay Garden Scene 1888

YouTube - Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge 1888

YouTube -  Accordion Player 1888

Roundhay St John Church  The Whitley Grave



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