Sunderland Bridge, County Durham, 1896

People often ask us what our oldest footage in the archive is and a quick search reveals there are only 38 films pre-1900. Some of this footage includes William Gladstone’s funeral (1898), Scenes from the Boer War (1899), Brighton beach bathing scenes (1898) and the New York Fire Brigade in action (1896). All of these films deserve blogs of their own but one of our most interesting newsreels (honestly) is a montage of clips filmed around the UK in the 1890s entitled Early Traffic Scenes.

Tower Bridge, London, 1890s

Admittedly, not many people would be interested in watching two minutes of footage taken in Piccadilly Circus in 2010 but it is quite different when the film is 110 years old. Whether it is of Sunderland Bridge or Bradford Square in Yorkshire, there is something quite absorbing and fascinating about a silent, grainy Victorian recording – especially when you are familiar with the location. 

Piccadilly Circus, London, 1896

Piccadilly Circus in 1896 – any similarities to today?  The horse-drawn buses look overcrowded and as the original mobile billboard, the buses flaunt rather bold and confident advertisements such as: “Cadbury’s Cocoa. ABSOLUTELY PURE – therefore BEST”.

Outside the Bank of England, London, 1897

If there was ever a time for the congestion charge – the traffic looks worse outside the Bank of England in 1897 than it does today. You can watch more of some of the oldest online moving footage here.


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