March 2002

Alexander Archive documentaries featured on the BBC and Channel 4

The Alexanders, one of ValleyStream's rare historical film archives, featured on C4's Richard and Judy chat show in March 2002 - with Gemmell Alexander, the sole surviver of the 42-year 16mm film archive, discussing some of its historical background.  ValleyStream's producer Stef Bate then co-produced with Peter Trollope of BBC North a 3-part mini series entitled The Alexander Archive, BBC Inside Out series It was screened in September 2002 with a
Landmark screening on BBC1 in June 2003 and
BBC2 in July.
See the Alexander pages for an historical glimpse into the Alexander Archive.

March 2002

Daily Post Regional News Revealed: Wirral woman's secret tryst with prince

Feb 28 2002 By Stuart Dye Daily Post Staff

THE amazing discovery of a giant film archive has revealed how the life and loves of a Wirral family could have changed the face of the monarchy and altered the course of 20th-century history. For nearly 40 years, reams of cine film sat in a dusty attic, in dated and labelled Kodak boxes, accompanied by their original projector and case.

When, in 1996, it was discovered, the reels totalling 29,000ft attracted an array of fascinated film experts and historians. And, after six years of work, the archive, recorded on 16mm film, will be released as a video in the summer. The film diary that has emerged charts the lives of an upper-class family growing up in Wirral and North Wales. It provides one family's personal history against a backdrop of some of the most important events of the 20th century. And it offers a suggestion that the monarchy could have been a very different one today as it reveals the young love between the man who was to become King Edward VIII and a fellow Oxford student.

The archive, shot with painstaking dedication for 44 years, has been hailed as one of the most important and rare finds in the film world.

The camerawoman, Marjorie Alexander, was a noted personality in Wirral. In 1946, she became the first woman councillor for Heswall and the first female chairman of Wirral Urban District Council. Miss Alexander, who was in her 80s when she died in 1983, had a local community hall built for elderly people which was named after her and still stands in the town today. A keen traveller, Miss Alexander recorded specific world events she attended such as Hitler and the Nazis at Nuremberg in 1934, the film set for Ingrid Bergman's movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, in Wales, George V's Jubilee in the 1930s and Queen Elizabeth's visit to New Zealand in the 1950s.

Steve Bate, producer from Valley-Stream, the company behind the video, said: "The Alexander Archive is a fascinating 44-year film diary. "Miss Alexander filmed extensively from 1919 up to 1963. "It has been a huge project to restore this unique collection. "After being hidden and unseen for nearly 40 years, it's a miracle that the collection still exists today - it was at one time only days away from being sold at a car boot sale for 50p a can."

The camera, projector and films were discovered in the attic of Miss Alexander's home in Heswall after her death. The house was cleared by her nephew Gemmell Alexander, then aged 67, and her effects came up for sale in a local auction. An unknown Chester man bought the projector and film footage. When he died, his daughter in Ruthin inherited them. On little more than a whim and to raise money for home improvements, she contacted ValleyStream, specialists in archive film footage, and the company began to research the film's origin.

ValleyStream media developments, a film production studios based in the Conwy Valley, North Wales, produce a wide arrange of special interest media and possess several large image archives. Researchers from the company traced the Alexanders' ancestors across the globe to New Zealand, and were put in touch with Gemmell Alexander, the last member of the family still alive who features in the video. Now living in Cumbria, Gemmell, now aged 83, has been working on the Archive with ValleyStream.

He was brought up by Miss Alexander after his mother Winifred's death. Winifred, who lived in Hooton, Wirral, met the Duke of Windsor while she studied at Oxford University. They formed a close relationship and were officially "courting" for two years from around 1914. As a couple, they often attended student parties and university functions together, with Edward driving. The Duke gave Winifred a signed photograph of himself as a keepsake and a sign of his affection, and Gemmell still has the original picture.

It is not known why the relationship ended, but circumstantial evidence suggests the couple could have been separated when Edward went to serve as a staff officer in the Grenadier Guards during the Great War. By the time the war ended and he would have returned, Winifred was married and had her first child, Gemmell. Historians believe that the few details of the relationship thrown up by the discovery of the film suggest that 20th-century history could have been very different. Winifred died of Hodgkinson's disease in 1930. Four years later, Edward considered himself "deeply in love" with divorcee Wallis Simpson and two years on he abdicated for her after just 11 months.

Copyright and Trade Mark Notice owned by / licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2002.

Alexander TV documentary in nomination for Royal TV Award

ValleyStream's Alexander Archive TV Landmark documentary produced with the BBC (Peter Trollope) was nominated for a Royal TV Society Award for Best Regional TV Programme!  The awards were held at Liverpool's Central Hall in November 2003 and around 1000 celebs and TV producers turned up.  The Alexander Archive was 1 of only 3 nominees chosen from the hundreds of programmes put forward - and it came runner up! A Granada TV drama won about a convict in prison.  The other was a doc about bondage sex.  Ours was about an innocent girl and her non-vibrating clockwork camera - strange mix - and who says crime doesn't pay!