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. In real life, Peace’s leap from the train took place just past Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, and a similar, but more daring stunt, was re-enacted in the 1949 film The Case of Charles Peace – which see.