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Reference number: 6774

Date: 1905, July 5th-6th

Sound: silent

Original format: 35mm

Colour: bw

Fiction: non-fiction

Running time: 2.30 mins

Description: General views of guests attending the wedding of the 4th Marquess of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart (1881 - 1947). The bride is Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham, 4th Baronet.

This press account in the Daily Express, dated 13th July - just one week after the wedding, was found by Andrew McLean in the Bute archives: "The Marquis and Marchioness of Bute are entertaining a party at Mount Stuart this week for the grouse-shooting. They provided for their friends the other evening a cinematograph show - the pictures given being a representation of their own wedding and the attendant festivities at Castle Bellingham. The marble hall at Mount Stuart, where the entertainment took place, is one of the most sumptuous apartments in the kingdom."

Later that summer - August 1905 - a further press story: “the Marquis and his bride entertained their friends and neighbours in a quite a novel way with an evening party at which a cinematograph representation was given. It was odd the see the whole proceedings repeated – the flags fluttering, the children flinging flowers, the pipers strutting down the road and the bonny bride herself in all her bridal bravery. Then there was the embarkment – the boats moving out from the shore and the farewell to Erin and the newly made Marchioness went off at her husband’s side. It is not given to many of us to see ourselves as others see us, but that power the camera certainly supplied to Lord and Lady Bute at Mount Stuart the other day.”

History of the film: In 2003 Lynsey Nairn, archivist at Mount Stuart, the seat of the Bute family found a film in one of the attic stores, believed to be of the wedding of the 4th Marquess of Bute in 1905. The film was 35mm positive - on nitrate stock - it was in a particularly parlous state. Nitrate film stock is short lived, prone to chemical deterioration and as it degrades can become unstable, spontaneously combustible, gives off an harmful odour and eventually crumbles to an explosive dust. This particular reel had begun to decompose - it was very shrunk. It had dried out to a state that we had never encountered previously – so brittle that the emulsion would shatter like glass if anyone attempted to unravel the reel.

Curator's Note: This is a personal wedding film - a record for the participants of their happy event. Nothing unusual in that except for its date - 1905. This was the era of the itinerant showman and the entrepreneur who would run picture shows at the fairground and music and variety halls. It would be another five years before purpose built cinemas - picture palaces - start to appear. In this early period of cinema film was predominantly an entertainment for the masses - for the working classes who thronged the fairs and the variety shows, with a creeping middle class audience at the better class of music hall and theatrical establishments.

The aristocracy rarely engaged with cinema in this period - unless it was to be on film as participants at a royal event, or a celebratory pageant, or national celebration. You didn’t see the nobility queuing for the music hall or trailing along to their village hall for the fortnightly travelling show.

This then makes this film particularly interesting. An aristocratic couple engaging a film company to record their nuptials. It is - we think - one of the earliest - if not the earliest family wedding film in this country. It would be another 20 years before the first generation of home movie cameras came into use, and it pre-dates the cinema newsreel when celebrity weddings would be filmed for the news.

The wedding was the society event of the year - no expense spared.
The groom chartered the steamer Princess Maud to take his guests, the Isle of Bute pipe band and sundry retainers across to Castle Bellingham in Ireland for the wedding. The press coverage in the Bute family archive is extensive - volumes of press cuttings and photographs, records of the details of the event – but intriguingly and frustratingly - no record yet discovered of which film company was engaged to make the film. There are photographs that show the still photographer and the film cameramen in position, taking their pictures. Would that we could find out who they were. There were only a handful of film production companies in business in Scotland at the time - but it may have been an Irish company commissioned for the work.

Visit the Mount Stuart website to find out more at [last accessed 3/4/2008]

Shotlist: The location is Castle Bellingham, County Louth, Ireland. Bride greets guests. (0.24) closer view wedding guests, large marquee in background. Gvs guests. Men wearing black suits and bowler hats. Women wearing white dresses (0.45) at Kilsaran Parich Church, before the ceremony, the wedding procession passes, including flower girls, Lady Bellingham and the Dowager Marchioness of Bute, officiating clerics Father Patrick Fagan and Father Frank Murtagh, the groom John Crichton-Stuart with Lady Mowbray, followed by the best man Sir Ninian Crichton-Stuart (1.02) altar boys and the choir of St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin pass wearing white smocks, all holding bibles (1.14) bride Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham with veil carrying large bouquet, on her father's arm, Sir Alan Henry Bellingham. Four bridesmaids, including groom's sister Lady Margaret, Miss Ismay Preston, Lady Norah Noel - Bute pipe band can be seen in background (1.28) wedding guests (1.30) after the ceremony, elevated view of hats and heads of crowd as they clear a path for the married couple and guests that follow, including Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart (2.07) at Annagassan, a fishing village, the bridal couple being taken out to steamer Princess Maud on a barge rowed by Bellingham retainers in white uniforms with Bellingham hunting horn symbols. She waves and he doffs his hat (2.26) The Marquess of Bute's own pipe band follows also in white barge (2.30)