The Pheasant. From egg to Larder is part of a collection of cinefilms attributed to Colonel Arthur Sydney Bates. Dating from 1929, it showcases the work undertaken during pheasant rearing on the Manydown Estate located on the outskirts of Basingstoke.

Screen still from AV1153/4 The Pheasant. From Egg to Larder

The film forms part of the Wessex Film and Sound Archive contribution to the BFI’s Britain on Film project and as such can be readily shared across our social media channels. Social media can be a great way of connecting people with film from their local area – but it is also a fantastic means of reconnecting people with their own family’s past. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does -it can be magic!

“Here’s a film from 1929 starring my Great-Grandad Albert ‘Bert’ Childs, gamekeeper at Manydown for 60 odd years”

was the comment from Scott Childs that led to this incredible insight into the film’s heritage.

Albert Childs was born in 1885 and lived at The Lodge sited at the main entrance to the Manydown estate. There he lived together with his wife Lilian (née Moore) Childs. Through this new connection with Albert’s great grandson we learned that Albert, affectionately known as ‘Big Bert’ had a long career of service to the estate spanning an impressive 65 years.

A newspaper clipping shared with us by Bert’s family, marks the celebration of such dedicated service which earned him a medal of gratitude. Bert started work as a boy under the gamekeeper of Sir Edward Bates, one of the owners of Manydown Estate. Learning the skills of the trade he grew in experience and knowledge later taking on the role of head gamekeeper himself.

Above: Albert Childs receives a long service medal from Anne Bates. Anne Bates, daughter of wife of Arthur Sydney Bates presenting Big Bert with a County Landowner’s Association medal for long service. (Image courtesy of Scott Childs.)

Bert and his wife had a son together, who, on return to the estate as gamekeeper would be known as ‘Little Bert’. This was when Bert senior acquired his nickname ‘Big Bert’. Little Bert, however, was not the only one to continue the family legacy of this line of work:

 “Our family is still connected with the estate,” Scott writes, “my younger brothers both worked on the estate. Martyn as a tractor driver and Greg was the estate shepherd before it was leased to HCC/BDBC, and Greg still runs a flock of sheep grazing parts of the estate. I on the other hand took a different path, and part of my job now involves helping shoots and gamekeepers on several local estates”.

Above: Screen stills from AV1153/4 showing Albert ‘Big Bert’ Childs (1929)

The film itself has stayed close to the family’s heritage too. Scott and his family knew that the film existed before they saw the social media post earlier this year.

“I knew [the Bates Collection] contained cinefilm, but I had always been led to believe it was full of celebrational occasions most notably Anne Bates (Mrs John as we knew her) marriage to Colonel John Oliver-Bellasis. We were certainly not aware that any of the estate workers had been filmed”.

So when Scott saw The Pheasant. From egg to Larder upon one of his Google searches, he was quick to ask his family for confirmation that this was Big Bert.

“We have very few photographs of previous generations, mainly wedding ones where nobody knows who anybody in the picture is. So, coming across a movie of one of them doing the job he loved was just amazing. Thereafter we contacted the records office and obtained a copy”

A few years ago, Scott and his family gained a collection of medals from several ancestors who had served in the wars. They were a link to their past which they previously had not had. Once a copy of The Pheasant. From egg to Larder was in their hands, Scott placed it alongside the medals in their cases so that his daughter will have “a film to look at showing at least one of her ancestors story”. Alongside their own preservation of the film, information about Big Bert has been added to the archives of the Bates Collection, safekeeping the memory of this family’s heritage as well.

Thanks to Scott Childs’ chance comment on a social media post, new knowledge has been obtained about this silent film’s heritage as well as an insight into a personal connection with the film and estate.  Enhancing our understanding of films such as this provide an opportunity to learn more about the context in which the largely wealthy amateur filmmaking populace were working – telling us more about the working people seen on screen whose lives are so often undocumented.

With this experience, social media and today’s technology showcases an important new level of accessibility to records and history that previously did not exist, not to mention a new important means of collecting data. Without social media this chance interaction between the archive and the family might have never happened.

AV1153/4 The Pheasant. From egg to Larder can be viewed online on the BFI Player (Free)

With thanks to Scott and his family for sharing details about Albert and their shared family history.

Yvonne Classen, Wessex Film and Sound Archive Volunteer

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