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Watch: 7 weird and wonderful home movies through history

Thousands of wonderfully bizarre videos capturing the lives of ‘ordinary’ people in Britain from as early as 1895 have been made publicly available online for the first time

Published: July 9, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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The footage, released for free by the British Film Institute as part of its Britain on Film project, features such scenes as 1920s festival-goers dressed up as Vikings, families holidaying in Bognor Regis, and a man driving around the peaks of Ben Nevis.


Here, we round up our seven favourite videos from the collection.

1) Tame animals at work, 1909

Overzealous zookeepers at Ampthill House in Bedfordshire perform their party trick of mounting and riding various animals including donkeys, camels, ostriches and llamas, as well as a harnessed pig, a sheep and a zebra.

Click here to watch.

2) Old Norse Vikings Festival, 1927

Filmed at Shetland's famous fire festival, 'Up Helly Aa', this video shows re-enactors playing chief Guizer Jarl and his Viking cronies leading a torch procession and boat burning ceremony.

Up Helly Aa is held annually on the last Tuesday in January. The festival pays homage to Norse ritual and Shetland's Viking heritage, though it's actually a fairly modern custom, dating to around 1881.

Look out for the costume parade and ‘comedy skits’.

Click here to watch.


3) Motoring over Ben Nevis, 1911

This 1911 ascent up all 1,344 metres of Britain's highest peak in a Ford Model T is nothing if not impressive.

Intended to show that this 'affordable' assembly-line American car could more than match the hand-crafted British models, the video shows Henry Alexander Jr, the son of Scotland's first Ford dealer, make his way down the mountain.

The descent was made between 9 and 13 of May.

Click here to watch.

4) Bailey's Royal Buxton Punch and Judy Show in Halifax, 1901

In this weird and wonderful video, a crowd of men and children enjoy a Punch and Judy show featuring a real dog in Halifax.

Click here to watch.

5) Five Weddings – Cardiff and area, 1940

This video captures the wedding days of five couples – all friends and family – in Cardiff in 1940. It was filmed by Cardiffian Herbert Henry Merrett, who made a fortune in coal and went on to become life president of Cardiff City AFC. He was awarded a knighthood in 1950 for his public service in south Wales.

The touching video shows the happy couples being showered in confetti, and depicts the wedding-dress fashions of the day.

Click here to watch.


6) Sean Connery's Edinburgh, 1982

Sponsored by the City of Edinburgh District Council and aimed at increasing tourist trade, this video shows Sir Sean Connery visiting Edinburgh’s historic buildings and cultural highlights. The director can't resist the reference to Ian Fleming and his hero James Bond…

Click here to watch.

7) Father Neptune Ceremony on Brighton Beach, 1951

Scantily clad members of England's oldest swimming club feature in this video filmed on Brighton beach in 1951.

Included in the compilation of Brighton Swimming Club soirees is a ceremony dedicated to Father Neptune, which involves donning fancy dress and being dunked into the sea.


Click here to watch.

To find out more about the Britain on Film project, click here.

To watch the films on the BFI Player, click here.


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