Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Welwyn Studios

Film Studio

Main image of Welwyn Studios

Now largely forgotten, the studio at the Hertfordshire new town of Welwyn Garden City opened in 1928 as a state-of-the-art home for British Instructional Films (BIF), who had achieved success with historical re-enactments and the innovative Secrets of Nature series. Though BIF's non-fiction output continued, chief H. Bruce Woolfe soon focused attention on the company's feature film operations, with early productions including Anthony Asquith's A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929). BIF was subsequently absorbed by John Maxwell's British International Pictures (BIP), and Welwyn, now hastily adapted for the sound era, became an extension of the larger BIP studios at Elstree. Welwyn was also hired out to external companies such as Gaumont-British, who made use of the extensive back lot to construct a Belgian town square for Victor Saville's WWI drama I Was A Spy (1933).

Many film industry personnel got their training on the 'B' pictures produced at Welwyn during the 1930s, often as a result of the much-maligned quota legislation of 1927, and a new production company, Welwyn Studios Ltd., was set up in 1935. Welwyn boasted some important contributions to the pre-Hammer horror cycle of that decade, culminating in The Dark Eyes of London (d. Walter Summers, 1939), with the fading Hollywood star Bela Lugosi. Unlike Elstree, the studio was not requisitioned during the War; subsequent propaganda titles included Mein Kampf - My Crimes (d. Norman Lee, 1940), while Alfred Hitchcock returned from America to direct two ill-fated shorts intended to aid the French resistance, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache (both 1944).

Welwyn continued to be used by various production companies throughout the 1940s, including its latest owner, Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC). The Boulting Brothers' crime classic Brighton Rock (1947) was made there during a productive period in the latter half of the decade, which also brought the Herbert Wilcox/Anna Neagle collaborations I Live in Grosvenor Square (1945) and Piccadilly Incident (1946), and Thorold Dickinson's eerie gem The Queen of Spades (1949). The facilities were becoming dated, however, and commercial pressures eventually forced ABPC to sell up in late 1950.

Simon McCallum

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Aventure Malgache (1944)Aventure Malgache (1944)

Hitchcock propaganda film about the French Resistance in Madagascar

Thumbnail image of Bon Voyage (1944)Bon Voyage (1944)

Hitchcock suspense short made as French Resistance propaganda

Thumbnail image of Brighton Rock (1947)Brighton Rock (1947)

Graham Greene thriller with Richard Attenborough as a vicious gangster

Thumbnail image of Cottage on Dartmoor, A (1929)Cottage on Dartmoor, A (1929)

Late silent feature by Anthony Asquith - a dark tale of thwarted love

Thumbnail image of Dark Eyes of London, The (1939)Dark Eyes of London, The (1939)

Some mysterious deaths seem to be linked to an insurance company

Thumbnail image of Piccadilly Incident (1946)Piccadilly Incident (1946)

Stirring Anna Neagle melodrama about a couple separated by WWII

Thumbnail image of Queen of Spades, The (1949)Queen of Spades, The (1949)

Darkly stylish adaptation of the Pushkin classic

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of Secrets of Nature (1922-33)Secrets of Nature (1922-33)

Groundbreaking early natural history film series

Related People and Organisations

Thumbnail image of Associated British Picture Corporation (1933-70)Associated British Picture Corporation (1933-70)

Production Company

Thumbnail image of British Instructional Films (1919-1933)British Instructional Films (1919-1933)

Production Company

Thumbnail image of British International Pictures (1926-33)British International Pictures (1926-33)

Production Company

Thumbnail image of Elstree StudiosElstree Studios


Related media