Search for vintage film

editorial image

An appeal has gone out to trace a ‘lost’ 1920s film based on a Charlotte Bronte novel which was shot on location in North Kirklees.

The big-screen adaptation of Charlotte’s book Shirley was filmed around Oakwell Hall in 1921 and the silent black-and-white movie released in cinemas the following year.

Now staff from the modern-day museum at the Birstall stately home are hoping to track down a copy as they prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth.

So far, they have been unable to find a recording of the film, which was directed by A V Bramble and starred Clive Brook, one of the leading British actors of the day who later became a Hollywood star with Paramount Pictures.

Other cast members were Carlotta Breese, Elizabeth Irving and Mabel Terry-Lewis.

Shirley, published in 1849, was set in the Spen Valley and tells the story of the Luddite uprising in the local textile mills.

Oakwell Hall is the fictional Fieldhead, home of the book’s main character, and Red House in Gomersal also features.

The work was inspired by Charlotte’s father’s time spent as the vicar of nearby Hartshead Church, as well as her own friendships in the area.

At the time, local residents were recruited as extras to appear in the film, and Joanne Catlow from Kirklees Museums and Galleries is hoping that some of their relatives may still be living locally.

“We have many events planned to commemorate the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth and it would be wonderful if we could find some information about the film version of Shirley,” she said.

“Despite many searches, we have been unable to trace a copy of the film, however, we know that many local people acted as extras in the film and therefore there may be photographs, letters, diary records or even a script still in existence somewhere.

If anyone has any information about the film, we would love to hear from them.”

If anyone can provide any information about the 1921 film version of Shirley, has a relative that took part in it or can help trace any remaining copies they can contact Joanne by email on or contact 01484 221000.