It may not be Hollywood, but Barnet can claim to be the birthplace of British film, write PERCY REBOUL and JOHN HEATHFIELD

The London Borough of Barnet has been home to many famous people, events and inventions — a number of them commemorated by a blue plaque.

Among the inventions that first saw the light of day in the borough was that of moving pictures and it was an event that was to change the world.

Although the famous American inventor Thomas Edison was perhaps the first person to develop a practical machine for looking at realistic moving pictures, he did not appreciate the idea of projecting those pictures onto a screen.

Among the earliest to do so were two local men: Birt Acres and Robert Paul.

Acres had taken Britain's first moving pictures in 1895. They were only of 40 seconds or so duration but famously included the Derby and the opening of the Kiel Canal in Germany.

In 1896, he gave Britain's first public projected screening of films to the Lyonsdown Photographic Society in Barnet, although a little earlier he had given screenings to private audiences, including the Prince of Wales.

For a short period around 1903, Acres had a factory in Atheneum Road, Whetstone, which made the light-sensitive chemicals used to coat the negative film stock.

Acres' business partner Robert Paul was a skilled technician who had the technical expertise to make photographic apparatus to Acres' requirements.

He was also interested in the techniques of double-exposure, by which sensational ‘ghost' films could be produced.

He made mystery and adventure films and it was during the making of one of them in 1909 that the thatched roof Vine Cottages in Colney Hatch Lane were accidentally burned down.

His HQ during the shoot was the Orange Tree pub in Friern Barnet Lane.

The immense popularity of the movies led to phenomenal growth in the industry, not least in building cinemas to show the films.

The Odeon at the foot of Barnet Hill, for example, was opened in 1935.

It was designed by architect Edgar Simmons and built by John Kay at a cost of £29,130. It seated 1,001 people in the stall and 543 in the more expensive balcony seats.

The cinema had its own diesel generator for its mains electrical supply, daylight ceiling and acoustic panels on the side walls and, of course, its famous Odeon clocks throughout the building.

In 1974, following the trend of the day and at a cost of £50,000, the cinema was converted into three smaller cinemas with two 130-seaters under the balcony.

Restricted space meant that the image for downstairs was projected onto the screens via mirrors.

The Odeon cinema is still going strong, but the luxury image of former years has gone forever.