Vintage British Films - BFI Films

London scenePhotos of hometowns and people are great, but even better are vintage films, action of people and events as it happened. The BFI Films has quite a collection of such vintage films, many dating back to the 1890s, showing royalty and common people of the United Kingdom. They have a simple search box, where you select which format you wish to see (included besides film is books, scripts, posters, stills, etc). Place the location of ‘Manchester’ which is in central western England, 1,740 film listings, representing various time frames were available. These explain what is available, but are not view-able online. It does provide information how a copy can be secured.

Instead using YouTube many of these vintage films from the BFI Films archives are view-able. The following are just a small sampling of some of the films of interest to the life and times in England decades ago.

There is a color film of 1927 in London done by an early film pioneer, Claude Friese-Greene. He did a series of travel films using the color film process his father, William Friese-Greene had developed. As you view this 6 minutes, 48 seconds in length film you feel as if you are flying just above the street level to view everything. There will be the Thames River, Hype Park, Tower of London, London Bridge, Big Ben and Marble Arch, us a few of the locations. See the crowds of people, how they dressed, the vehicles, the double-decker buses and London Bobbies (policemen). There are description captions with background music. It provides you with a great view of London nearly 90 years ago, maybe when you have ancestors living there.

Some of the others to view included:

Bradford Town Hall Square done in 1896 with street scenes, the people and the lack of motor vehicles then.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years as queen in 1897) is a short film, about one minute, 59 seconds, but does provide a feel for the pageantry of the times.

A London street scene for 1903 is also interesting with many horses used on the streets. A good view of Big Ben then also. This is four minutes and 10 seconds.

In 1906 a film was done of laborers making bread dough. What makes it very interesting is the children working in such a factory.

The London Olympics in 1908 film show the track and field events. Also women in the archery completion and men in a tug of war completion. The marathon race is also interesting. You see in the stands the crowds in attendance.

George VI was filmed in 1929 visiting factories in Birmingham. This was before he became king and George was the father of the present-day Queen Elizabeth.

Colour on the Thames River was done in 1935 and runs 8 minutes and 28 seconds. Here this color film takes you on a journey along the Thames River, which does travels outside of London. Here are some wonderful scenes and people of the 1930s who lived near the famous river.

There are others from different time periods and covering other subjects from BFI Films on YouTube. This offers a whole new world to explore to learn more about how your ancestors lived.

Photo: London street scene of the 1920s.

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