If you want to know anything about the history of the San Fernando Valley, just ask .
A descendant of a 12-generation pioneer family, England has been in the West Valley since 1949. Growing up in the 1950s, he saw around him lots of film trucks and movie stars who lived nearby, such as and Wild Bill Elliott, rugged heroes of Westerns.
The actors worked in the studios in the Valley and bought their ranches there, too. “They [the stars] were a lot more accessible back then because the fans were less intrusive and more polite in general,” he recalled. “For instance, once at the Rose Parade I got handed a silver coin by Hopalong Cassidy [actor William Boyd]." That kind of personal contact "could never happen today,” he said.
When in 1996 England brought some horses from Wyoming to Chatsworth, he started learning about the movie-making that went on at the Iverson Ranch. He said, “I began to research it, got serious about it in mid-2005 and started collecting movie memorabilia having to do with Chatsworth locations.” He began collecting 8-by-10 or smaller movie stills and lobby cards that had recognizable images of the Chatsworth landscape.
A young producer named Chris Meagher asked England for a couple of horses to to help him produce a five-minute film about the Iverson Ranch. Hooked on the idea, England forged ahead and wrote the first of his two books on the history of filmmaking in the San Fernando Valley: Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas (2008) followed by Rendezvous at Boulder Pass: Hollywood’s Fantasyland (2010).
“In 1910 in New York City,” England explained, “Thomas Edison’s movie company had a monopoly on filmmaking. Edison dealt with other competing filmmaking upstarts with gang-like activity such as coming on their sets and destroying their equipment.” Fed up and seeking new opportunities, the other moviemakers gravitated to the better weather and light in California. The variety of terrain also provided more story settings: the American West, jungles, icy tundras and deserts.
“Whenever you write about specific subject matter,” England said, “some expert out there will tell you you’re wrong. I really doubled my knowledge in those two years [between books]." His first book was strictly on Westerns in the Valley, but the second book covered all the genres from the silent films to the end of the Iverson and other Valley ranches, when filming ceased in the late '60s and early '70s.
The founding president of the Chatsworth Equine Cultural Heritage Organization since 2000, England has been a passionate activist in preserving horse-keeping in the Valley. An avid horseman for more than 50 years, he is also a cowboy artist. His Old West-inspired furniture has won accolades from publications such as Southwest Art, Sunset, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine and Home Magazine. The collectibles offered on his website are from his own personal collection. There you'll also see his Iverson Ranch Tour and Chatsworth—The Most Shot-up Place in the West videos.