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Topicals

The distant ancestors of today's TV news, 'topical' films captured news of their day - though typically that meant public events like parades, royal occasions or sporting fixtures rather than, say, politics.

It was a lucky filmmaker who managed to be on hand to capture real 'hard news', as in the disastrous launch of HMS Albion. The second Boer War, the biggest international story of the late-Victorian era, lured several cameramen to South Africa. Others responded to audience demand for moving pictures of such events by dramatising them for the camera.

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Factory Chimney Fire
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Factory Chimney Fire

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A veritable Victorian Towering Inferno.

Solar Eclipse
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Solar Eclipse

Non-Fiction19001 mins

The magic of a real solar eclipse filmed by a famous magician

Launch of H.M.S. Albion
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Launch of H.M.S. Albion

Non-Fiction18982 minsSilent Location: Blackwall

The launch of H.M.S Albion, which was marred by the collapse of a gangway which resulted in many spectators drowning.

Arrival of Train-load of Visitors at Henley Station
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Arrival of Train-load of Visitors at Henley Station

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Henley-on-Thames

Jolly boating weather as the hordes descend on Henley for the Regatta.

Blackburn Rovers V. West Bromwich 1898
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Blackburn Rovers V. West Bromwich 1898

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent Location: Ewood Park, Blackburn

A little piece of football history from the people's game: possibly the earliest surviving game on film

Bumping Race (Cambridge May Races)
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Bumping Race (Cambridge May Races)

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent Location: Cambridge

University teams navigate a bend on the river Cam in no ordinary rowing race.

Charity Costume Parade - Manchester or Salford, C.1900 -no.2
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Charity Costume Parade - Manchester or Salford, C.1900 -no.2

Non-Fiction19002 mins

A light-hearted parade makes a wonderful charity appeal - and film

Children's Procession
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Children's Procession

Non-Fiction18971 mins Location: Cockermouth

Lots of local colour as the town and its tots turn out to put on a show in the spring

County Gathering
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County Gathering

Non-Fiction19010 minsSilent

A vintage day at the races for Victorian gentleman - and a few ladies

Dewsbury Fire Brigade C. 1900
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Dewsbury Fire Brigade C. 1900

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent Location: Dewsbury

A particularly fine filmed demonstration of cutting-edge fire-fighting kit by the Dewsbury brigade

Football Final - Entry of Teams
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Football Final - Entry of Teams

Sport19011 minsSilent

Spurs prepare to clash with The Blades to decide the winner of the 1901 FA Cup - the earliest surviving final on film

Football Final - Play in Progress
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Football Final - Play in Progress

Sport19011 minsSilent

The 1901 FA Cup final replay between Spurs and The Blades sees William 'Fatty' Foulkes’ ample backside in action

Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Coming Ashore
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Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Coming Ashore

Documentary18981 minsSilent Location: Worthing

Stunning footage of a lifesaving demonstration

Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Emerging from the Boathouse
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Launch of the Worthing Lifeboat Emerging from the Boathouse

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent Location: Worthing

Lifeboat paraded through the streets of Worthing on way to demonstrate a launch

Me and My Two Friends
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Me and My Two Friends

18980 minsSilent Location: Worthing

A beatific image of Victorian childhood

Morecambe Parade
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Morecambe Parade

Non-Fiction18982 minsSilent Location: Morecambe

Seaside festivities captured by one of the world’s earliest amateur filmmakers.

Obstacle Race
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Obstacle Race

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent

It's sports day for the passengers on this ship, which means an assault course that's harder than it looks

Hyde Park Bicycle Scene
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Hyde Park Bicycle Scene

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

One of the earliest surviving films from pioneer producer RW Paul.

Rugby Football Match
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Rugby Football Match

Sport19012 mins

A hard-fought early filmed match

Savage South Africa - Savage Attack and Repulse
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Savage South Africa - Savage Attack and Repulse

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

Members of a South African performance troupe arrive for an Earl's Court date

Stockton Races
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Stockton Races

Non-Fiction18961 mins Location: Stockton-on-Tees

The finish of the final race at Stockton race track

The Donkey Derby
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The Donkey Derby

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

The simple hilarity of donkey racing escalates with the rapid arrival of clowns - and a very loose-limbed jackass

W.G. Grace Celebrates at Lord's on His 50th Birthday
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W.G. Grace Celebrates at Lord's on His 50th Birthday

Non-Fiction18981 mins

A cricket legend celebrates his half-century

A Corner of Barnet Fair
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A Corner of Barnet Fair

Non-Fiction18962 minsSilent Location: Barnet

Two for the price of one! This reel of film was among a small haul of early films and fragments, by then around one hundred years old, discovered and then donated to the BFI in the 1990s. In this case, two items were joined together on the reel. The first is believed to be A Corner of Barnet Fair, one of the films made by pioneer Birt Acres.

Country Sports
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Country Sports

18972 minsSilent

A well-attended sports meet with sack-racing, high-jump and other games.

Cycle Corps Exercise
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Cycle Corps Exercise

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

The Bicycle Infantry train for action

Practising for the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race
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Practising for the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race

Sport18971 minsSilent

The Cambridge crew practising for the University Boat Race.

Royal Photographic Convention - Glasgow
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Royal Photographic Convention - Glasgow

18982 minsSilent

High spirited photographers disembark from a steamer ready for a shooting spree

Street Scenes and Salvation Army Meeting
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Street Scenes and Salvation Army Meeting

Non-Fiction19001 mins

Rare footage of Sally Army general William Booth.

Turn-out at Metropolitan Fire Brigade Headquarters
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Turn-out at Metropolitan Fire Brigade Headquarters

Non-Fiction18991 mins

The boys of the London Fire Brigade turn out for the cameras

AAA Championships at Fartown, Huddersfield (1901)
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AAA Championships at Fartown, Huddersfield (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Fartown Ground, Huddersfield

The annual championship meeting of England's premier athletics association.

Accrington Parade (1901)
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Accrington Parade (1901)

Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Accrington

Marching bands and local volunteers fill the streets of the Lancashire town.

Algie's Circus in Carlisle (1901)
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Algie's Circus in Carlisle (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Carlisle

The circus comes to town in wintery Carlisle.

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

Documentary19013 minsSilent Location: Halifax

Classic Victorian Punch and Judy show against a magnificent view of Halifax town.

Birmingham University Procession on Degree Day (1901)
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Birmingham University Procession on Degree Day (1901)

Non-Fiction19019 minsSilent Location: Birmingham

Female graduates and gents sporting spectacular Edwardian whiskers take part in Birmingham’s first Degree Day ceremony.

Bolton Football 1 (c.1900)
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Bolton Football 1 (c.1900)

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent

An Edwardian Bolton Wanderers football team file onto a threadbare pitch

Bolton Football 2 (c.1900)
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Bolton Football 2 (c.1900)

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Burnden Park, Bolton

Spectral images of a football match at Bolton's Burnden Park.

The Derby 1895
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The Derby 1895

Sport18951 minsSilent

An exciting finish suggests that this is one of the very earliest British films

The Derby 1900
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The Derby 1900

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

Climax of the big race

Drill of the Kansas City Fire Department
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Drill of the Kansas City Fire Department

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Brighton

Incredible scenes at Crystal Palace highlight cutting edge firefighting 1900 style

E. H. Williams's Merrie Men: Double Dance and 'The School' sketch
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E. H. Williams's Merrie Men: Double Dance and 'The School' sketch

Non-Fiction18992 minsSilent Location: Rhyl

Fun on Rhyl seafront as E. H. Williams and his troupe entertain crowds with much ducking and diving in this hectic act.

Fire Brigade
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Fire Brigade

Non-Fiction18960 minsSilent

Classic early fire brigade turn-out film sees engines emerge from fire station

Fire Brigade Turn-out in the Country
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Fire Brigade Turn-out in the Country

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Shere

Slightly leisurely fire turn out from the volunteer firemen at Shere, Surrey

Fire Drill: Crystal Palace
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Fire Drill: Crystal Palace

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

An impressive demonstration by the Kansas City Fire Department

Fire Turn Out
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Fire Turn Out

Amateur film18991 minsSilent Location: Cockermouth

A Cumbrian fire brigade demonstrates its readiness

Gosport: Camper and Nicholson Boatyard
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Gosport: Camper and Nicholson Boatyard

Non-Fiction19004 minsSilent Location: Gosport

Double-take of a giant yacht launched from Gosport dockyards into a bustling sea

Leeds Lifeboat Procession and Sports at Roundhay Park (1902)
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Leeds Lifeboat Procession and Sports at Roundhay Park (1902)

Non-Fiction190119 minsSilent Location: Leeds

Jolly japes and jumping in the lake - it's the water carnival in Leeds on Lifeboat Day.

Liverpool Church Parade and Inspection (1901)
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Liverpool Church Parade and Inspection (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

Crowds gather to watch hundreds of Edwardian policemen marching through a Liverpool street.

Liverpool Street Scenes (1901)
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Liverpool Street Scenes (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

Traffic and pedestrians - including an early motor car - in Edwardian Liverpool.

Liverpool v Small Heath (1901)
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Liverpool v Small Heath (1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

Early league football, with the team who will become Birmingham City losing at Anfield in a relegation year.

Lord Durham at Sunderland (1901)
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Lord Durham at Sunderland (1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Sunderland

Durham Light Infantry veterans collect their medals for valour in the Boer War.

Loreburn School, Dumfries (c.1901)
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Loreburn School, Dumfries (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Dumfries

Dumfries schoolchildren take their turn in the spotlight.

Magnificent Reproductions of the Great Yorkshire Show in Bradford (1901)
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Magnificent Reproductions of the Great Yorkshire Show in Bradford (1901)

Non-Fiction190115 minsSilent Location: Bradford

Great fashions, hefty livestock, horse jumping and a few spectacular falls on display at an agricultural show.

Manchester and Salford's Harriers Procession (1901)
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Manchester and Salford's Harriers Procession (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Manchester

A small boy impersonates military hero Lord Roberts, much to the delight of the crowds.

Manchester Band of Hope Procession (1901)
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Manchester Band of Hope Procession (1901)

Non-Fiction19017 minsSilent

A temperance society decries the demon drink on the streets of Edwardian Manchester.

Manchester Catholic Orphanage Boys (1901)
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Manchester Catholic Orphanage Boys (1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Manchester

Young orphans march through the streets of Edwardian Manchester with heads held high.

Manchester Spiritualists Procession (1901)
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Manchester Spiritualists Procession (1901)

Non-Fiction19017 minsSilent Location: Manchester

Exponents of Britain's newest religion don their Sunday best for a parade through Edwardian Manchester.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade Turn Out
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Metropolitan Fire Brigade Turn Out

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Westminster

"London's Burning, London's Burning"... A dynamic early film of horse-drawn fire engines 'turning out' at Southwark Bridge Road.

Morecambe Church Lads Parade at Drill (1901)
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Morecambe Church Lads Parade at Drill (1901)

Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Morecambe

Larking about during Church Lads' Brigade drill and parade in Morecambe.

Newcastle United v Liverpool (1901)
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Newcastle United v Liverpool (1901)

Non-Fiction19017 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

An Edwardian football match at Newcastle's St James' Park ground.

Preston Egg Rolling (c.1901)
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Preston Egg Rolling (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Preston

Easter Monday festivities in Avenham Park, Preston.

Oddfellows Procession in St Helens (c.1901)
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Oddfellows Procession in St Helens (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: St Helens

Members of this Friendly Society stream past the camera.

Old Poulton Parish Church, Morecambe (c.1901)
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Old Poulton Parish Church, Morecambe (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Morecambe

Worshippers stroll out of church after the Sunday service.

Oldham v Swinton (1901)
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Oldham v Swinton (1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Oldham

The evolution of Rugby League in a top of the table match between rival Lancashire clubs.

Parade of Widnes School Children (1901)
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Parade of Widnes School Children (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Widnes

A multitude of Lancashire schoolchildren is ushered past the camera.

Parade on West End Pier Morecambe (1901)
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Parade on West End Pier Morecambe (1901)

Documentary19014 minsSilent Location: Morecambe

Edwardian visitors promenade in front of the camera on sea-side pier.

Park V. Fernie at Musselburgh, 1898
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Park V. Fernie at Musselburgh, 1898

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent Location: Musselburgh

Fore! Clear the way for the earliest golf footage from the world's oldest course at Musselburgh.

Police Annual Inspection at Birchfields Park (1901)
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Police Annual Inspection at Birchfields Park (1901)

Non-Fiction19019 minsSilent Location: Manchester

Edwardian Manchester bobbies are put through their paces.

Procession in Accrington Park (1900)
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Procession in Accrington Park (1900)

Non-Fiction19005 minsSilent Location: Accrington

Accrington locals parade in their Sunday best.

North Sea Fisheries, North Shields (1901)
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North Sea Fisheries, North Shields (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: North Shields

Girls gut herring on the quay at North Shields while a Showman tries to stir up trouble.

Public School in Annan (c.1901)
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Public School in Annan (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Annan

A continuous stream of children dash joyously past the camera in the Scottish town of Annan.

Salford v Batley (1901)
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Salford v Batley (1901)

Non-Fiction19018 minsSilent Location: Salford

Batley go down to Lancashire rivals Salford in the very first season of the Northern Rugby League.

Race for the Muratti Cup at Manchester Wheelers' Annual Meet (1901)
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Race for the Muratti Cup at Manchester Wheelers' Annual Meet (1901)

Non-Fiction190115 minsSilent Location: Manchester

Exciting scenes of amateur cycling's 'Race of Champions' at Manchester's Fallowfield track.

Runcorn v St Helens (1901)
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Runcorn v St Helens (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Runcorn

Runcorn, Lancashire Senior Competition winners in 1900 and third in 1901, face a fierce challenge from visiting St Helens.

Scholars Leaving St Andrew's Roman Catholic School, Dumfries
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Scholars Leaving St Andrew's Roman Catholic School, Dumfries

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Dumfries

A lively group of Scottish primary-school children plays up for the camera.

Schoolchildren at Dalbeattie Public School (c.1901)
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Schoolchildren at Dalbeattie Public School (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Dalbeattie

Scottish primary schoolchildren parade for the camera in well-regimented groups.

Show Jumping
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Show Jumping

Sport19001 minsSilent

The camera captures the sense of being part of the audience at this Victorian sporting event.

Special Parade of St Matthews Pupils and Special March Past of St Joseph's Scholars (1905)
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Special Parade of St Matthews Pupils and Special March Past of St Joseph's Scholars (1905)

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent Location: Blackburn

Rival displays of orderliness and frivolity in a parade of Lancashire schoolchildren.

St George's Day Procession in Liverpool (1901)
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St George's Day Procession in Liverpool (1901)

Non-Fiction19018 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

Remarkable scenes of St George's Day celebrations in early 20th century Merseyside.

St Helens v Swinton (1901)
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St Helens v Swinton (1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: St Helens

The crowds at Knowsley Road await a Rugby league match between the Saints and the Lions.

Procession of Children at Tyldesley Church School (1901)
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Procession of Children at Tyldesley Church School (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Tyldesley

Waves of children fill the frame in an Edwardian school parade.

Turn Out of the Leeds Fire Brigade (1901)
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Turn Out of the Leeds Fire Brigade (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Leeds

Scenes in Leeds city centre as Edwardian firemen roll through on drill.

Turn Out of the Newcastle Fire Brigade (1901)
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Turn Out of the Newcastle Fire Brigade (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Glistening brass and galloping horses thrill the crowds at a municipal Fire Brigade drill.

Turn Out of the Rochdale Fire Brigade (1901)
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Turn Out of the Rochdale Fire Brigade (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Rochdale

A fire drill for the benefit of residents of Edwardian Rochdale - and the camera.

Tynemouth Swimming Gala in the Haven, North Shields (1901)
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Tynemouth Swimming Gala in the Haven, North Shields (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Tynemouth

Edwardian crowds enjoy a fancy-dress swimming race.

Prince of Siam in Liverpool (1901)
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Prince of Siam in Liverpool (1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

The future King of Siam takes a trip across the Mersey.

The Derby
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The Derby

18981 mins

Gatlee More romps home as part of his 1897 Triple Crown

Warrington v St. Helens (1901)
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Warrington v St. Helens (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Warrington

Match action and scenes of an Edwardian rugby crowd at Warrington's Wilderspool stadium.

Water Polo Match (c.1901)
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Water Polo Match (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent

A team demonstrate their skills in the increasingly popular sport of water polo.

York Road Board School, Leeds (1901)
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York Road Board School, Leeds (1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Leeds

A small battalion of Yorkshire schoolchildren lines up for a playground photograph.

West End Pier, Morecambe
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West End Pier, Morecambe

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Morecambe

A stunning seaside snapshot of Edwardian high-fashion on Morecambe's West End Pier.

Circus Parade
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Circus Parade

Non-Fiction19002 mins

Roll up, roll up! An outlandish circus parade wows the streets of Victorian Huddersfield

Turn Out of the Winsford Fire Brigade (1901)
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Turn Out of the Winsford Fire Brigade (1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Winsford

The streets of the Cheshire town are lined with spectators to see their fire brigade.

Football Match at Preston C.1900
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Football Match at Preston C.1900

Sport19002 minsSilent Location: Preston

Relentless pressure from the Lilywhites leads to some cracking action but no goal for the camera

Launch of H.M.S. Albion at Blackwall
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Launch of H.M.S. Albion at Blackwall

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent Location: Blackwall

Fine images of a mighty ship's launch - but missing a crucial bit of the story...

Turn Out of the Preston Fire Brigade (c.1901)
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Turn Out of the Preston Fire Brigade (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Preston

Locals line the streets for the fire brigade's procession through Edwardian Preston.

Fire Brigade Turn Out
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Fire Brigade Turn Out

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

Lively example of a popular early film genre

Turn Out of the Dundee Fire Brigade (1901)
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Turn Out of the Dundee Fire Brigade (1901)

Non-Fiction1901 minsSilent Location: Dundee

Two horse-drawn fire engines gallop past the camera.

Foundling Hospital Sports Day
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Foundling Hospital Sports Day

18992 minsSilent Location: London

A sports day gives the young residents of the Foundling Hospital a chance to let off steam

Parade of the Leeds Police 1900
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Parade of the Leeds Police 1900

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent Location: Leeds

Leeds' policemen on parade - on horseback and in marching bands.