H. Spencer Clarke


Clarke was the exhibitor of film shows sponsored by Messers Lever and Nestlé during a nation-wide advertising campaign undertaken in 1897-8. Equipped with Lumière apparatus, Spencer Clarke was responsible for a great number of performances throughout Britain, and at one time employed as assistant the future British film producer Cecil Hepworth. Clarke was also a capable cinematographer in hs own right and some of the films he shot were included in the shows. William Hesketh Lever, the first Lord Leverhulme and founder of Port Sunlight where the famous soap was manufactured, was one of the first industrialists to realise the value of the cinematograph as an advertising medium, and in association with the Nestlé milk company, recruited Clarke to undertake the task of promoting their products by means of popular film shows at greatly reduced prices. A Swiss by the name of Henri Lavanchy-Clarke is also known to have been associated with Lumière and to have reached an agreement to exploit the Cinématographe in Switzerland for one year, with a preference right for Lever & Nestle in England. Whether or not Spencer Clarke was related in some way to Lavanchy-Clarke has not been determined. Hepworth recalls that no less than twelve complete Lumière projection outfits were purchased, indicating that the Lever-Nestlé undertaking was on quite a considerable scale. In 1897 a series of Cinématographe performances were given throughout the country, featuring Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee procession. All persons presenting Nestlé Milk or Sunlight Soap wrappers were admitted at half price to all seats, the normal price of admission being sixpence. Among the films which Clarke himself shot were four scenes of the Oxford and Cambridge University boat race (26 March 1898) which was taken from the coach's launch and included a Moving Panorama of the River Bank. By 1900, Spencer Clarke had already severed his connection with Nestlé and Lever and also with Lumière, and although he continued to function as an exhibitor, his performances were now billed under the name of 'Clarke's Royal Bioscope', which seems to suggest that he was operating a Warwick machine.

John Barnes