History of Welwyn Film Studios from the 1920s to the 1950s

With The Wheat Quarter plans for a Shredded Wheat location including a three-screen independent cinema, we take a look back at the days when Welwyn Garden City boasted its own film studios.




Shredded wheat silos in Welwyn Garden City
– Credit: Alan Davis

Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Attenborough Dracula Movie stars Bella Lugosi, Anna Nigel – one of the leading ladies of British cinema in the 1930s and 1940s – and Rex Harrison all made films a stone’s throw from a shredded wheat factory in Welwyn Garden City.

While Garden City became the home of breakfast cereals with the opening of the factory in 1926, movie stars were making films all the way at Welwyn Studios from 1928 to 1950.

The heads of The Wheat Quarter have announced plans for an art cinema as part of a new center for food, arts, and entertainment on the land north of Hyde Way.

They say this will be a “homage” to the site, which is located near the home of the historic Welwyn Studios.

The grain mill’s old boiler room will become a three-screen independent cinema with sofa seating, bars and food to provide a one-of-a-kind experience.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the area near the factory was home to the movie stars of the time.

Suspense master Alfred Hitchcock filmed scenes the 39 stepsadapted in 1935 of John Buchan’s classic adventure novel, Welwyn Garden City, with the background used to depict a number of street scenes.

While Brighton RockAs the name suggests, the movie is set in Brighton and filmed on a location on the coast in Sussex, where scenes from the gangster thriller starring Richard Attenborough as young leader Pinky Brown were shot on the stages of Welwyn Studios.


Aerial view of Welwyn Garden City, 1928. Welwyn Film Studios in the foreground

Aerial view of the Welwyn Garden City industrial area circa 1928. The Welwyn Film Studios are in the foreground and the grated wheat factory is on the left of the photograph. Photo courtesy of the Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service.
Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service.

So how did Garden City II end up owning famous movie studios in the 1920s?

Eager to attract new industries to the growing new city, Welwyn Garden City Limited approached in 1927 the pioneering documentary and feature film company British Instructional Films (BIF), which at the time was studying sites for its last proposed studio.


Black and white postcard from the British educational film studio Welwyn Garden City.

Black and white postcard from the British educational film studio Welwyn Garden City.
– Credit: Image from Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service

The new facility on Broadwater Road was designed by engineer H.P. Hoyle, with architects Louis de Soissons and AW Kenyon preparing the elevation drawings.

At a cost of £60,000, the studios were built by Welwyn Builders, with local Dawnay and Sons providing the steelwork for the structure. The aggregate was obtained from a gravel and sand pit at Stanborough Lane.

The then-modern studios officially opened on November 8, 1928, but the motion of the film industry from silent films to “talkies” shortly thereafter required them to be hastily shifted into the age of sound.

Film director Walter Summers horror room At Welwyn Studios. The 1929 horror film is considered the last major silent film made in England.


Information board at The Parkway, Welwyn Garden City.

Information board on the Parkway, Welwyn Garden City, around the Walter Summers main exit
– Credit: Alan Davis

Summers, who lived in Parkway during the 1930s, directed a 1939 thriller traitorous spy, And Dark eyes in London At Welwyn Studios, the last movie starring Bela Lugosi.

In 1931, Welwyn Studios was taken over by John Maxwell’s Elstree’s British International Pictures (BIP), later becoming part of the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC).

It was used primarily for BIP-supporting features and for conditioning overproduction from the main collector at Elstree.

Welwyn Studios was also leased to other production companies such as Gaumont-British, who used the backlot of a Belgian town square in the 1933 WWI spy drama I was a spy.

While Elstree and other British studios were taken over during World War II, filmmaking continued at Welwyn Studios.

Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock made several short propaganda films in 1944. Aventure Malagasy And Happy trip.

During the 1940s, some of the most famous studio films were shot.

Classic Brothers Bolting Brighton Rock there, as it was I live in Grosvenor Square (1945) and Piccadilly incident (1946).

Starring Rex Harrison and Anna Nigel, I live in Grosvenor Square The film revolves around an American sergeant who falls in love with the daughter of a Duke, who was the childhood sweetheart of an army major.

The wartime romance film, directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox, was released in the United States under the title Yank in London.

Neil, one of the leading ladies of British cinema at the time, also starred Piccadilly incident.

Once again directed by her husband Herbert Wilcox, and co-starring Michael Wilding, it was one of the biggest box office successes of the year.

Welwyn’s facilities became dated in the 1950s, and commercial pressures forced ABPC to close the studios in 1950. They eventually sold the site to a tobacco company, bringing the curtain down on film production.

However, location photography has returned to the area in recent years. East Enders Actor Danny Dyer filmed scenes near a shredded wheat factory.


Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory.  Photo: DANNY LOO

Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory. Photo: DANNY LOO
– Credit: Photo: DANNY LOO


Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory.  Photo: DANNY LOO

Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory. Photo: DANNY LOO
– Credit: Photo: DANNY LOO


Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory.  Photo: DANNY LOO

Danny Dyer (left) during filming on the site of the Shredded Wheat Factory. Photo: DANNY LOO
– Credit: Photo: DANNY LOO

Batman prequel series pennyworth She also filmed scenes outside of Broadwater Road, and the Paranormal Series Amazon Prime by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Truth seekers He was also shot on location in Welwyn Garden City.


An exterior view of the British Educational Film Studios building in Welwyn Garden City.

An exterior view of the British Educational Film Studios building in Welwyn Garden City.
– Credit: Image from Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service

Brighton Rock at Welwyn Garden City

Classic post-war Brighton Rock It is the most famous movie produced by Welwyn Studios.

The 1947 film The Boulting Brothers starring gangster Richard Attenborough is perhaps his most famous on-screen role as teenage killer Pinkie Brown.

Adapted from Graham Greene’s 1938 novel, Attenborough plays a violent gang leader who runs a protection racket in Brighton.

After a visiting journalist is murdered, Pinky becomes involved with Rose (Carol Marsh), a shy cafe waitress and potential witness.

To ensure her silence, Pinky marries a naive waitress who could implicate his gang in the murder.

But events escalate and a series of murders and double-crossing eventually lead to Pinky’s undoing and a thrilling, unforgettable climax.

The film also starred Hermione Badley and William Hartnell, was produced by Roy Bolting and directed by John Bolting.

Released in the United States under the title Young Scarface.

The BFI website states: “Worse than anything else in British cinema in the 1940s, Richard Attenborough’s intense performance as teenage gangster Pinky Brown elevates this adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel.”

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