Film: 5299

London | 1950 | Sound | B/W


Great film about work of Camberwell Council in South London with humorous courtroom scenes. Intertitle: "This film is designed to show how a local Council is elected, how it works, and how the rates are spent. Although the film deals primarily with a London Borough Council (Camberwell being selected as typical), the general principles apply to all Local Authorities throughout England and Wales." 1950's

Inside a courtroom, as court is called to order. People rise from their seats. Judge takes his seat played by Gilbert Harding, and others follow. A man walks towards us. The judge, in robes. The defendant in the dock, he is a chirpy cheeky cockney barrow boy in a spiv suit. The court clerk addresses him. Defendant identifies himself as Sid Simpson. Banter between clerk and defendant re "Sid" or "Sidney". Clerk tells judge Simpson hasn't paid his rates; judge asks him why not. Simpson shrugs, and says he knows nothing about them, "guv". Clerk corrects him: "Your worship". Simpson - "No flattery - I'm Sidney Simpson" (laughter). Judge asks if he would pay rates if he knew what they were for. Simpson: Yes, if they were worth the money. Judge invites someone to enlighten him. A man rises. Judge agrees. Invites him to witness box. The defendant. The witness identifies himself as the town clerk & solicitor to the London Borough of Camberwell; says he would like to illustrate what he says.
Intertitle: "Part I. The history of local government".
People milling in South London street. Women walking towards us; a banner ". . . FAMOUS . . .".
Drawing of Anglo-Saxon England (very dark). Drawing of England in Norman times. Four more drawings; commentary describes early functions of local government. Three more drawings - origins of county, sheriff. Three more drawings - origin of jury system. Four more drawings - duties of sheriff being taken over by justices of the peace. Two more drawings - their Quarter Sessions begin to develop administrative functions. Eight more drawings, as some of these functions are described. Two more drawings - nineteenth (19th) century develops local government as we know it today. Nine more drawings - individual types of boards named.
"1871" - Local Government Board set up to co-ordinate.
"1872" - Country mapped to urban and rural areas.
"1888" - judge interrupts; "1899" - judge pushes date numbers aside.
Town clerk tells judge that was date of creation of Metropolitan Borough Councils (MBCs); brings story forward to 1939. Close-up of the judge. Close-up of the town clerk, saying that was as far as London was concerned - when the powers of the London County Council (LCC) and MBCs were clarified and simplified. Judge asks if these councils are like others in the country. Clerk says Nearly. Simpson asks who these people are.
An election meeting. Intertitle: "Part II. Election & Organisation of Local Government".
The audience at the meeting. Candidate addresses them, as commentary describes elections. Close-up of 'Polling Station' sign. Inside, people voting. Councillors take their places on council chamber benches. All rise, and the mayor & mace-bearer process in. Three very dark shots, as election of mayor is described. The mace is set down, - aldermen to be elected. Close-up of the mace; behind, the chain of office is placed over the mayor's head; commentary says Camberwell has 60 councillors & 10 aldermen. Inside the Council Chamber as committees are described. Graphic showing council, committees and sub-committees, with Town Clerk at top.
A man in a garden deckchair, reading a newspaper; yelling children rush past him. He rises from the chair. He writes to the council, suggesting they need a playground.
Letter received & read at Town Clerk's office. Graphic shows issue referred to Works Committee. The committee - as an extract from the minutes is read. Graphic shows this referred to Subcommittee for Parks and Open Spaces. Two shots of the subcommittee in the park, concluding there isn't a nuisance from children. Graphic shows it referred back to Works Committee. Committee recommends no action. Another shot of the committee. Close-up of this recommendation on the agenda of the next full Council meeting. Graphic showing referral back. Five shots of committee members discussing it. The whole committee. Graphic showing what would have happened if they'd agreed. Letter drops on mat. Man sits in deckchair and reads notification of the decision. Close-up of him looking resigned, as children's noise continues.
Judge addresses town clerk, who says he just carries out instructions. Simpson asks why ratepayers have to pay, if finance committee puts up the money. Town clerk asks him where he thinks they get it. Simpson looks round. Town clerk asks him his job. Simpson: travelling salesman. Judge: Travel in what? Simpson: Great haste, when I spot a copper! Courtroom - laughter. Court clerk tells judge Simpson is a barrow boy. Short exchange between judge and Simpson, re value for money. Judge tells Town Clark to tell Simpson what he gets for his money. Courtroom scene. Judge and court clerk. Borough Treasurer takes stand; is asked how Council spends its money; is given permission to call witnesses.
A church; intertitle: "Part III. Activities of Local Authority". A churchyard. A sunny cloister. Ducks in a pond. A boating lake, with a beached rowing boat in foreground.
A rural-looking street scene at dawn. A more urban-looking street scene. Close-up of tram tracks. A council workman wheels a wooden wheelbarrow L to R in front of the lake. A sweeper sweeping a tree-lined road. Close-up of the sweeper & his broom, with litter. Street houses. Trees. Close-up of street name 'Gilkes Place, SE'. A street lamp-standard. A dustbin. A lorry (?dust lorry) drives R to L. Dirty water running in a gutter to a drain. Feet walking at a kerb. The women and the banner again. A no. 12 bus passes R to L; BEA advertisement on front. A man raises the shutter on his shop. A woman gets off a bus, at the back. A broom sweeps a gutter. [Quick, indecipherable shot.] A woman inserts paper into a typewriter. A pile of official papers. A woman applies lipstick to her bottom lip. A secretary's hands typing. A woman stretches. The Plough public house by the bus terminal; and a bus. Inside the pub, a man approaches the bar and is served. The barman dispensing from an optic. He serves the customer and is paid. He puts the cash in the till. The customer shows his credentials as a Public Health Inspector; he opens his case. The landlord examines the ID (identification). Close-up of Inspector measuring the glasses of scotch he's been served. A woman dries a pint glass. With a naked flame the Inspector seals the measure. Close-up of the Inspector's head as he makes a label - Mayerling (?) Road, SE22. Another close-up, different angle. He labels three small bottles; the landlord takes one; the Inspector makes a note. A 'restaurant' sign. A 'dairy' sign. Food being packaged. A sample being weighed. A 'fishmonger' sign. Two analysts at work. An illuminated 'Confectionery' sign, above an advert for Player's Weights. An illuminated sign saying "Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. ... breakfasts, dinners, teas sandwiches, cakes etc.". Sign hanging perpendicular to wall, "luncheons & teas". Sign, "…n's Bakeries Ltd". Frothy dough being kneaded. Baker closes lid on the machine. A rotary bread-moulding machine - pan across to it delivering a loaf to the oven. A man approaches a machine. Man at the "…OMOLDA" machine. Baker pointing & issuing instructions. A machine over a moving conveyor belt. Moving belt with loaves.
In darkness, a council lorry pulls up at a house, a man gets out and approaches the door. He rings the bell and waits; a woman opens the door with her daughter; lets him in. Inside the house - commentary says street should have been condemned years ago. Man walks up carrying metal spray canister, passes girl at door. Man escorts woman out of door, to make way for man in cloth cap with disinfectant canister. The girl watches. He sprays the floor. The girl. ?The hearth. He sprays the walls; the girl runs in to get something. The girl clutches a toy dog, jumps onto her bed, and stows the dog under her pillow. The girl obscured as the man & woman pass her. Man and woman approach window, man opens it; he looks under the girl's mattress, her mother makes her get off the bed, she retrieves her toy. He removes her bedding. The girl watches. He rolls it all up with the mattress. He carries it all outside - neighbour comments on voiceover "Lice, I'll be bound." The mattress beside an industrial boiler. Man swings wheel lock on boiler. Opens boiler door. Two men pull rack out from inside boiler. They load the bedding onto the rack. They spread out the bedding, push the rack back inside, and close the boiler door.
The girl and her mother watching something. From behind, they're seen to be watching furniture being taken out of their house, and loaded onto a cart - they are being moved to alternative housing - commentary gives address of house they're leaving, but it is inaudible. A man sticks a notice up. Close-up of notice re demolition, address is in Coldharbour Road, Camberwell. Steam from a factory whistle. People emerge for their lunch hour.
A wrought-iron gate, people passing in front and behind. A librarian issuing books. She speaks to a borrower. Close-ups of each, talking. Close-up of the books being issued. Close-up of boxes of book-tickets. A ticket is inserted into a book & the book closed. The borrower speaks. Four more shots of books and ticket boxes in use. Man selects book from shelf, opens it. Books on shelves; commentary gives numbers of books in collection. Overview of library, with tables and chairs. A librarian and a library user beside reference shelves, card indexes in foreground. Librarian finds book for a student. With the student, the librarian consults a file drawer below the card index, selecting a picture. Close-up of a photo of a building.
A bus and a coach pass in front of the building itself. Boys & young people looking at pictures in the art gallery. Closer view of the boy. Close-up of boy looking at picture.
Two men inspect a plan, on a building site. A man tends a cement mixer. Close-up of the mixer, turning. Cement in a wheelbarrow - commentary says we are on a council estate. Barrow tips out the cement. Man shovels cement or concrete. Man smoothes concrete with edge of plank. Man picks up hollow block. Block added to others in wheelbarrow. Man climbing ladder, from below. Man with hod, at top of ladder; bricklayers building a wall; scaffolding. Seven short shots of bricks being laid. A man trimming a brick with a cold chisel. Five people standing around building plans. A man talking to a woman. A woman drawing; commentary talks of planners' dreams of the wonderful post-war borough. Two shots of the woman at the drafting board, with a set square. Two shots of architects' models of 7-storey housing developments - 11,000 Camberwell families being housed. A 7-storey flat block. A 4-storey block. Two shots of balcony features on blocks. Two new street properties - commentary refers to assistance of LCC. A new street.
In a schoolroom, a police sergeant gesticulates with a ruler, lecturing on road safety. A view of the class. Children raise their hands. The class. Close-up of the sergeant. Close-up of two schoolboys. Close-up of a schoolgirl.
A van drives in, R to L, in front of an ivy-clad building on a smart suburban street, probably Dulwich; on the side of the van is "Camberwell Old Peoples' Welfare Association - Meals on Wheels". Close-up of the van, as man and woman get out and open doors at the back; the woman takes a meal towards a house, a napkin over her wrist. A dustman crosses a road, a bin over his shoulder. From inside the lorry, a dustbin is seen being emptied into it.
A large van drives past, "Borough of Camberwell" on its side; parks, and the driver gets out, opens doors a the back - it is the mobile library. Librarian with a handful of books walks up a garden path. Children run towards us, in the road. Gardener in cloth cap, raking - lifts his cap to scratch his head. Children's lower halves, from behind, leaning, apparently watching something. Small birds in a large cage. Children looking in at a glass ? vivarium. A busy council playground, a turning roundabout in left foreground. Children run away, in the park. Two shots of men & women perambulating on a path in the park. Crowds milling in the park. The bandstand, people in deckchairs in the foreground. Ballet dancing on the stage. The audience. Ballet dancer on points. Swans on the lake, people leaning on iron railings, watching. A toddler walking among pigeons. Two rowing boats on boating lake. A couple sip tea at a cafeteria table. A cricket match. A man serves at tennis. Several shots of each player, playing. A man bowls on a bowling green. A man lying on the ground, a newspaper over his face. A couple stroll in the park. Exterior of the Baths, of which Camberwell has three. A woman at a large sink, washing clothes with a washboard. Women folding or arranging washing. Two boys in swimming trunks. Several boys beside swimming pool; one is pushed in; we follow his descent; boys splashing. A shuttlecock falls to the floor and is picked up by a badminton player; play resumes. Two young men boxing. Boys watching, egging them on. The boxers.
A violinist plays, his piano accompanist in foreground; role of the Camberwell Arts Council described. People dancing, at day's end. Civil Defence workers meeting. Fire Brigade change watches, inside Fire Station. Cinema-goers, at night, hurry for the last bus. A couple approach a seat. They sit and embrace. Watchmen guard council road works. A policeman checks a shopfront's security. Camberwell dustcart starts up, drives past - Council day starting again.
The judge sums up - what good work the Council does, its value for money.

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