HISTORIC films of Blackburn literally saved from the scrapheap have been declared one of the most precious pieces of footage in the world.

The Mitchell and Kenyon films have been listed alongside copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and the death warrant of King Charles I.

They have been added to the United Nations’ Unesco UK Memory of the World Register, created to raise awareness of historical archives.

Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon were two pioneering Blackburn filmmakers in the early 20th Century.

They shot silent movies of ordinary folk going about their business and put on screenings in booths at funfairs.

In the days before Hollywood, people loved going along to try and spot themselves on screen.

However in 1913 their business went bust after it was hit by the rise of fictional films.

Some 81 years later their Northgate shop was being renovated when workmen found 800 long-forgotten film reels containing 28 hours of footage, in air-tight cylinders.

They were set for the scrapheap until Blackburn optician and local film enthusiast Peter Worden was tipped off.

He rescued the footage and donated it to the British Film Institute which described it as ‘the film equivalent of Tutankhamun’s treasure’.

After a £1million, four-year restoration, a premiere was shown at King George’s Hall, Blackburn, in 2005 and a series was run on BBC2.

Yesterday Mr Worden said he was delighted for the footage. But he was modest about his role, saying: “It just happened. It was fortunate in that the film fell into the lap of someone who knew what it was and what to do with it.”

Heather Stewart, creative director at the British Film Institute, said the films deserved their place on the register.

She said: “Mitchell and Kenyon's films are transforming our knowledge of early 20th century Britain and of early cinema. The film-makers never intended their films to last but they have become the single most important source for modern British history.”