Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Visit to Peek Frean and Co.'s Biscuit Works, A (1906)


Main image of Visit to Peek Frean and Co.'s Biscuit Works, A (1906)
35mm, black and white, silent, 2169 feet
Production CompanyCricks and Sharp
By permission ofPeek Frean

A demonstration of biscuit making at the Peek Frean factory.

Show full synopsis

A Visit to Peek Frean & Co's Biscuit Works (1906) is one of the earliest films that can accurately be described as a structured documentary (although the term wouldn't be coined for many years) as opposed to a simply actuality record of the kind that had dominated British film-making over the previous decade. It was commissioned by the biscuit manufacturing firm in question, and made by Cricks and Sharp.

The film seeks to illustrate every stage in the biscuit manufacturing process (delivery of raw materials, production of steam, moulding dough, baking biscuits, packaging and distribution), and it does this by concentrating on the physical mechanics: throughout, the focus is largely on the machinery, with the factory workers depicted as small cogs in the overall operation. All this takes place at the Peek Frean factory in Keeton's Road, Bermondsey, which remained in operation until 1970.

The quality of the photography is very striking, an issue that goes beyond the fact that the film has survived in impressive physical condition. The images have great depth of field, whereby objects are in sharp focus regardless of whether they are close to the camera or nearer the far wall. To achieve this, the lens aperture had to be reduced and the light levels increased, the latter achieved by setting up powerful arc lights in the factory. This in itself further distances the film from its actuality predecessors: the shots may look caught on the wing, but they were carefully set up, and all the factory workers must have been well aware of what was going on.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (35:59)
Production stills
Making Christmas Crackers (1910)
Whaling Afloat and Ashore (1908)
Cricks, George (1861-1936)
Cricks and Martin
A Year in Film: 1906
Industrial and Corporate Films