Century-old unseen British home movies released for first time

Never-before-seen footage of men motoring around the peaks of Ben Nevis in 1911, ladies parading in their bathing suits at a beauty contest in 1946, and festival-goers dressed as Vikings in the 1920s, are among the weird and wonderful videos released to the public this week for the first time

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Remarkable videos dating from as early as 1895 have been unveiled by the British Film Institute. View seven of the best ones here. Now, as part of the Britain on Film project, the public can view hours of home movies and personal films from across the late 19th and 20th centuries for free on the BFI Player.

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The extraordinary collection of unseen films captures the lives of ordinary people in Britain. Highlights include local town carnivals from the 1920s, families holidaying in Ireland in the 1950s, and even James Bond actor Sean Connery touring Edinburgh’s most popular tourist attractions.

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Footage from the Old Norse Viking Festival. (Credit: British Film Institute)

Also available to watch on the BFI Player is footage from the Brighton Swimming Club in 1951, and some rare recordings of playwright George Bernard Shaw at his home in 1949.

The digital database also includes the world’s earliest known surviving home movies from 1902. These 10 home movies show the Passmore family holidaying in the Isle of Wight and Bognor Regis, along with some clips filmed at their home in Streatham, London.

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Footage of the Passmore family on holiday. (Credit: British Film Institute)

Michael Passmore, the grandson of the filmmaker, said: “I am very proud of my grandfather’s films; they have such a lot of movement and are never boring. The films capture the joys of family occasions and holidays so beautifully. I am delighted that they will be able to be shared with the rest of the country and hope they will continue to give pleasure to anyone interested in the history of home movies.”

Commenting on the significance of the project, Robin Baker, the head curator at the BFI, said: “For 120 years cameras have captured almost every aspect of life in the UK on film, but too often these have been inaccessible to all but the most determined researchers. Now, Britain on Film is transforming access to films from the UK’s archives and giving new life to them by making them available, no matter where you live.”

Throughout the summer, the BFI will be holding 85 special events showcasing the Britain on Film project, including a pop-up cinema in Glasgow and a London on Film event showcasing 200 films at the BFI Southbank.

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To watch the films on the BFI Player, click here. To view our seven favourite videos, click here