FORMER chocolate workers and York residents have been urged to check their attics, to see if they have priceless but potentially dangerous film footage.

Nestlé is trying to plug gaps in its archive collections in times for this summer’s celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Henry Isaac Rowntree beginning his world-famous chocolate empire, and the firm hopes city residents and former Rowntree’s staff can help.

Alex Hutchinson, Nestlé’s heritage assistant, has already tracked down hundreds of reels of old film but wants to find remaining lost footage so it can be made available to the public, and also so it can be protected. Some old nitrate film is highly flammable and other films can deteriorate quickly unless properly stored.

She is particularly looking for a collection of time-and-motion films from the 1920s and 1930s, believed to have been taken away from the factory for safekeeping in the 1980s or 1990s, as well as the full-length version of a film made about the Dunollie rest home in 1947, and some advertising footage that was made for release in cinemas.

Miss Hutchinson said: “I know that these films are out there. If we can find them now we may be able to save them for the future and share them with new audiences.

“People don’t realise just how quickly film footage and video tape deteriorate when they are stored at room temperature. To preserve them for the future they really need to be in a specialist facility like the Yorkshire Film Archive, which can care for them, and share them with a wider public.”

Nestlé has worked closely with the Yorkshire Film Archive in recent years to make much of its old material available online. Recent additions include a film from 1932 that had been thought to be lost until Miss Hutchinson realised it had been mis-filed at the British Film Institute.

A 1958 film about fruit gums and their ingredients was uncovered in an old scaffolding store, and a collection of more than 300 reels of film, some dating back to the 1920s, was uncovered in a wall cavity in Nestlé’s head office in Croydon.

Miss Hutchinson said her most surprising find was a reel of unfinished, pre-production rushes of the 1970s Disney film The Aristocats that had been hidden in the wall cavity.

She said anyone with any film of the confectionery industry in York should think about taking it to the Yorkshire Film Archive to be assessed.