Boundless Energy: British Pathé Go Beating The Bounds

Barking Mad

It’s Ascension day today, and do you know what that means? That’s right – it’s time to beat the bounds. ‘Beating The Bounds’ is a 2000-year-old tradition in which villagers parade around their parish beating everything with sticks, or ‘wands’ made from willow. The tradition was altered by the church at one point so that it was boys’ heads that were whipped with these wands, or whipped on their rears as this strange clip from Addlestone in 1938 depicts!  ‘Boy bishops’ is another feature of ‘Beating The Bounds’ where a local boy is selected and dressed up as a bishop in full religious regalia, as a symbolic parody and upturn of power, an idea that was superimposed over the pagan notion of ‘king for a day’. The website tells us that “Curiously, other marker points around the boundary would also be beaten by literally bumping a boy (often a choirboy) against the mark. The boy would be suspended upside down and his head gently tapped against the stone or he would be taken by the feet and hands and swung against a tree! Nobody knows why or how the tradition originated. One explanation advanced is that it was intended to teach the young their parish’s limits and that the bumping of choir boys – at one time all the local children would have been involved – was ‘to help them remember’.”

The British Pathe archive naturally has some footage of various villages beating the bounds – here you can watch 8 archive videos of ‘Beating The Bounds’

The photograph above is taken from our clip of a 1937 ‘Beating The Bounds’ in Barking.


Backstage video footage of The Dave Clark 5


The band share banter backstage at The Royal in Tottenham

BBC 2 have been making great use of the British Pathé archive for their hot series ‘I’m In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’. The next episode this weekend is focusing on drums, and one intriguing star their critical eye has descended upon is Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five (pictured above) –ring any bells?

The Dave Clark Five were the second of the British Invasion following the Beatles, their two major hits being ‘Glad All Over’ and ‘Bits And Pieces’ – both of which are performed live by The Dave Clark Five in the video clip above.

The video clip above really is something special. The Dave Clark Five are filmed grinning in the dressing room prior to a concert, combing their hair and readjusting their ties. Dave himself then kisses a bespectacled fan through a pair of glass doors and she nearly has a heart attack. The main bulk of the video is footage of The Dave Clark Five playing their concert. With their quirky knee-bends and cream trousers it really is hard to imagine how they blew the minds of an entire teenage generation!

Sam Wollaston praised this BBC 2 series in his Guardian column for the impressive rock royalty line-up the BBC have managed to pull out for interviews – “As well as Kelly the Stereophonic, there’s a quarter of Mötley Crüe, about half of Hole, three-quarters of Joy Division, all the Police (is that really Sting behind that big beard, or Brian Blessed?). There’s a Manic Street Preacher, a Stone Rose, a Happy Monday, a Foo Fighter, a Boomtown Rat, a Smith, a Special, a Door, and more.”

A bunch of unlikely British heartthrobs, The reason this cheeky 60s band are appearing in the next episode of ‘I’m In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’ is because lead man Dave Clark was actually the drummer. Legend (*cough* Wikipedia *cough*) states that he bought a set of drums in order to form a skittle band to raise funds for his football team so that they could go to Holland.

Only three of the band members are alive today. Saxophonist Denis Payton died of Cancer aged 63 and lead singer Mike Smith died of pneumonia aged 64, having been semi-paralysed for years following an accident in his Spanish villa.

It’s been an interesting life for Dave Clark since his glory days. Living as a near-recluse in his £12 million London home, Dave became very close friends with Freddie Mercury and was affected by the tragedy of his death from AIDS. Dave also wrote a musical called Time which starred Cliff Richard, David Cassidy and an old Laurence Olivier.

Learn more about BBC 2’s program ‘I’m In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’ here

Read Sam Wollaston’s Guardian column on the program –

France discover British Pathe

“Actualités de L’Histoire”

It’s official. France have discovered the British Pathé film archive! Over the last few days an increasing amount of French websites and blogs have started popping up with articles about clips from

We’re not entirely sure what they’re writing about us, but we assume it’s all good. One French blogger wrote this:

“De 1910 à 1970, 3500 heures d’histoire filmée sur quelques 90 000 sujets sont visibles en intégralité sur ce site et accessibles à travers un moteur de recherche en mode simple ou expert.  Par exemple, visionner le couronnement de Georges V le 22 juin 1911 et le Grand Durbar de Delhi qui s’ensuivit en décembre 1911 avec la présentation de Georges V comme empereur des Indes…”

If you search ‘FRANCE’ as a keyword in the British Pathé archive 5688 films show up. See for yourself here – old film footage of France.

Channel 4 Blitz British Pathé

Looting the wreckages of shattered London homes

The archive footage in Tony Robinson’s latest high-profile history series Blitz Street was taken from the British Pathé archive. The series didn’t receive glowing reviews, with many TV critics doubtful as to whether the program’s makers even achieved their goal. Tony Robinson himself was criticised for being too gleeful about a sensitive subject that still haunts many Britons today. Still, the archive clips of the Blitz are a brilliant slice of history and offer priceless insight into this terrifying war at home. Watch all of the Blitz videos here in the British Pathé archive.


Read Stewart Turner’s review on the Orange TV blog here

Read Brian Viner’s review in the Independent here

Read Nancy Banks-Smith’s review on here

The undying glamour of Joan Collins

Joan has been red carpet royalty since the 1950s, winning hearts with every step.

It was somewhat surreal to see Joan Collins pop up on our TV screens last night at the BBC’s election party as part of their live coverage. The 76 year-old actress dazzled in a silver sequined jacket as she talked about her support for David Cameron and The Conservatives. Joan placed an emphasis on her belief in the nuclear family, a declaration that left some people confused considering the star has been married five times and is renowned for her glamourous party lifestyle, as opposed to the domesticated, house-proud and sometimes anti-feminist connotations of the “nuclear family”.

We had a rummage in the archive to see if Joan was in there anywhere. Of course she was. The photo below is a still from Roman Polanski’s 1968 wedding to Sharon Tate. Joan attended the Playboy Mansion reception party. Sharon Tate, the then love of Roman Polanski’s life, was famously murdered the following year by the serial killer Charles Manson. She was pregnant at the time.

Going back further we found a 1952 video clip of Joan Collins sitting on a panel of ballroom dancing judges with Ceser Romero.

Moving forwards again into the early 60s There’s also this rare clip of Joan Collins meeting the Queen Mother in 1961  with Tony Hancock and Max Bygraves in the West End.

The British Pathe archive is brilliant for showing us just how long some of these A-Listers have been doing the rounds! There are plenty more rare Joan Collins treats in the archive, but you’ll have to set out to find them yourselves. Have fun!

Large Girls Club!

Today we’re intrigued by this late 1950s colour video called ‘Large Girls Club’. Set against the aristocratic backdrop of the Duke of Bedford’s home Woburn Abbey, a rather grand woman arrives by helicopter at the start of the clip, Madame Mag Cournou, described as being “prominent in the world of fashion and in practically every other way”. Three photographers who look more like amateur actors cower before her, camera poised.

According to the narrator Madame Mag is a bit of a big deal in France, as the owner of the Large Girls Club over there, and has arrived to launch the British branch, already 7000 strong. (?!) Any information on these characters or this bizarre club would be much appreciated. One guest seems to be a Nigerian prince with a flair for womens fashion, Simon Oyeniyi, who stands outside Woburn Abbey looking thoroughly thrilled. Just watch it.

1950s Large Girls Club launch party newsreel

Blast Off: The First American Sent Into Space

Alan inspects his capsule

The first American was sent into space on this day May 5th, back in 1961. Guess what? Yep – British Pathé have the video of it. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This unissued clip shows liquid oxygen being pumped at night into the rocket from a fittingly space-age looking white tanker. The astronaut Alan B Shepard is filmed arriving out of a van in his dashing silver jumpsuit and white crash helmet before being lifted in an elevator to the top of the rocket. A frenzical crowd of technicians dressed in white boiler suits and navy-like hats rush about preparing the mercury capsule whilst Alan B Shepard inspects their work before climbing into the tiny capsule, called Freedom 7.

Being entirely mute this video is shrouded in suspense and mystery to the uninformed viewer, with its variety of exciting clips: Men with clipboards in sunglasses, the TV control room, US military trucks packed with soldiers egging the astronaut on and of course the episodical glimpses of the magnificent rocket. Finally we see Alan B Shepard being hauled from his mercury capsule into a helicopter and then driven off in a sports car. Priceless.

Watch the first American to travel into space here.