5 jaw-dropping films of old London from the British Pathé archive

17:30 19 April 2014

Just one of the many delights the British Pathé archive has to offer

Just one of the many delights the British Pathé archive has to offer


Newsreel archivists British Pathé have deluged their entire collection of 85,000 films on to YouTube – and the impact on your productivity is going to be catastrophic.

London alone offers rich pickings in the enormous archive – from ridiculous footage of a chimp dressed in a suit cycling around the capital, to sobering shots of blitz-hit Walthamstow. Here are some of our favourites.

1. A piggyback race in Brixton from 1937 (who says news is dumbing down?).

2. Here’s footage, from the same year, of a London Zoo Ball, which is exactly what sounds like.

3. This 1966 video tries to tempt tourists to visit the capital with views of a “water motorbike” on the Thames and Peter Sellers driving out of a cake.

4. In a collection of such size, you’re also quite likely to find footage from your local area, such as these harrowing clips of destruction in Walthamstow following a V1 bomb attack in 1944.

5. And of course there’s this video of a chimp dressed as a man cycling a push bike, which the archivists hilariously offer without any context.

General manager of British Pathé Alastair White said: “Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them.

“This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.”