THE LIFE OF CHARLES PEACE

GB
1905
14mins
Dir: William Haggar
Starring: William Haggar and Violet Haggar

The story of Charles Peace, one of Britain’s most notorious criminals

This is the earliest extant example of a British one-reel story film, and it features one of the earliest references to a railway. It was the beginning of a period of one-reel dramas that lasted until 1909. The quality now is quite poor, but their popularity helped spawn the cinema movement that we know today. Peace was an expert in cat burglary and the film reconstructs his real-life leap from a train on his way to trial in Sheffield for the murder of Arthur Dyson. The sequence sees Peace and the police board a train at an unknown station. The train consists of early compartment stock and it appears that a very small open cab loco is at the head. This is likely to be a branch terminus on the GWR network as Peace’s leap from the train takes place just short of a small halt with a pagoda-style waiting shelter, a design synonymous with the region. Although the title card above states 1903 this is an error as the film was made in 1905.

The railway station scene in the film, a station that is almost certainly somewhere on the GWR.
Visible through the arch of the stone bridge is a small GWR wayside halt. Although at first glance the line appears to be double track this is not the case. The train is in fact standing in a siding as the next shot will show.
As the police run to arrest Charles Peace the siding is on the left with the single track branch passing through the bridge to call at the small halt beyond.