Discover Will Onda in Discover Preston


View of Horrockses display featuring Onda’s films.

Discover Preston is the new history gallery at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery. The first floor gallery contains over 30 displays, each feature a different story from Preston’s history and has welcomed over 70,000 visitors since opening in July 2012.

Display in Discover Preston about Will Onda.

Display in Discover Preston about Will Onda.

One of the displays in the Social and Commercial Hub section is devoted to Preston cinema pioneer Will Onda. Highlights include a poster advertising the Brothers Onda and a set of playing cards stamped ‘Will Onda’s Pictures’ promoting the silent film serial the Trey O’ Hearts. Onda’s own Cinematograph Licence also makes a special appearance. The objects chosen aim to tell his remarkable story. I am extremely grateful to all the people who supported this display.

Alongside the case is a large screen, each press of the button randomly selects a short clip of Onda film for you to watch and enjoy. There are 7 of his local films included spanning 1909 to 1934. This includes his first surviving film Empire Day, 1909 shot at Preston North End’s Deepdale ground and Preston Guild films from 1922. Onda appears in several of the films – see if you can spot him during your visit!


The model of Horrockses Yard Works and Onda’s film ‘The Cotton Industry’.

Onda’s films appear elsewhere in the Discover Preston gallery in the interpretation of Horrockses mill. His greatest film (in my opinion) ‘The Cotton Industry‘ is shown with the model of Horrockses Yard Works which was made for the Royal visit of 1913. Onda recorded all the industrial processes in the Yard Works ahead of the visit of George V and Queen Mary. He also filmed the visit to Preston and the Yard Works on the 8th July 1913. Following this momentous occasion, Onda hired the films to cinemas around the country.

I am currently researching the 1913 Royal visit to Lancashire in detail. More on this and plans to mark the centenary of the visit will be posted shortly.

Hope you enjoyed this post on Will Onda and Discover Preston. Please visit if you haven’t already!

About Emma Heslewood

I am a historian and museum curator with broad interests including early topical films, social and industrial history, numismatics, archaeology and WW1. I am an expert on the life and work of the Victorian acrobat and topical film maker - Will Onda.
This entry was posted in Discover Preston, exhibitions & displays, Film Research, Horrockses Yard Works, The Brothers Onda, Uncategorized, Will Onda and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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