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Local History

A building facing potential demolition in South Norwood hides fascinating links with the British film industry. Few will be aware Henderson Film Laboratories in St Dunstan's Road had a hand in producing a huge number of British films for the big screen between the 1920s and the late 1960s.

The company, which developed camera film negatives into reel for cinemas, had such a good reputation it was bought by a Hollywood studio and then the British Film Institute, according to New Addington resident Adrian Falks.

Now Mr Falks wants to keep the memory of Hendersons alive before the site is bulldozed and redeveloped. He said: "My mother and aunt worked at Hendersons and I knew it well. As far as film labs go this one was an absolute leader in the field. You wouldn't realise it by looking at its modest premises but Hendersons was world renowned. "A huge proportion of black and white films made in Britain from the 1920s, and particularly after World War Two, was processed through Hendersons."

The laboratories were founded in the early 1920s by the Henderson brothers, who were very well-respected in the industry. "During the 1970s the business was taken over by Warner Brothers - apparently at that time labs in the US couldn't match Hendersons for black and white work - and then later the British Film Institute, when it became the National Film Archive Laboratories. Almost any black and white film you've seen on television during the past 45 years was almost certainly restored for transfer to video at these unprepossessing buildings in St Dunstan's Road."

Adrian believes the digitalisation of film eventually led to the demise of Hendersons, which is believed to have stopped trading in the late 1990s. Adrian added: "Between them my mother and aunt worked there for almost 50 years. The laboratory really came into its own during the war, when the Government put enormous emphasis on the film industry, both for propaganda and morale. To demonstrate just how important the War Office regarded films, if you worked in the industry as my uncle did, you were less-likely to be called-up, as it was regarded as a reserved occupation."

"Hendersons has a fascinating history which many are unaware of. It would be a shame to forget about it after it's been demolished."

By Kerry McQueeney 

© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group

Henderson Film Laboratories still stands today and has been re-named Henderson House


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